The Raven ItselfOut of all the birds in mythology and symbolism, there is no greater or more recognized than the crow, or raven. This large, black bird has long been known as one of the smartest animals on earth, a lover of shiny objects, and perhaps even an intuitive trickster. Man could not always escape the raven as a portent of death and bad luck, and its black color told us that was how we needed to view it. Despite this, as the centuries wore on, people began to understand the positive aspects of this animal, treating it not just as a deadly sign but also as something we can look to for hope and meaning all throughout our lives. This transformative quality makes a crow tattoo one of the most mysterious and interesting tattoo designs of the modern age.
What does a black raven symbolize?A tattoo symbolizes the life and personality of its wearer, and the crow is no different. As for the bird itself, the crow is intelligent to the point of being clever and tactile in its implements. The wisdom of this bird is proof that it can learn from its mistakes, making them incredibly hard to trap or trick in the real world. Known collectively as a “murder”, crows are notoriously and ironically difficult to kill due to their inherent smarts. Because of this, they can become quite the nuisance in urban areas where they tend to flock together and create a lot of noise and consequent destruction. This sort of “rebellion” is another symbolic aspect of this creative bird.
The Crow: A Film with Symbolic MeaningMany of us are familiar with the movie The Crow, in which Bruce Lee’s son Brandon played the infamous character of Eric Draven, a reborn rock star out to take revenge for his murder and that of his wife. Draven’s name itself is a play on the word “raven”, and the character that he comes back as has all the same dark and tangibly “evil” aspects that we associate with the bird. Popular culture such as The Crow has made the raven even more of a symbolic interest for artists, creating a character that is equal parts pain and hope for a better outcome, even in death.
Native Americans MythologyA tribal raven is a popular form of tattoo worn by those with an interest in Native American myths. Most tribes saw the raven as a bearer of wisdom as well as trickery, though oftentimes the positive outweighed the negative. The spiritual realms that the raven inhabited and was able to pass through due to its intelligence lent it to be a hero in many a story, or at the very least a harbinger of good luck to the story’s hero. With a raven to lead them and provide clues, anyone could progress even through dire straits. In other words, the crow “brought light” to the path of the adventurer, and gave them the opportunity to take their wisdom and turn it into action for themselves, as long as they understood its meaning and significance.
What does the raven symbolize for Vikings?The Vikings have their own meaning and mythology for the crow. Known as a “hrafn” in Old Norse, it was also a personal name that some men carried all those years ago. As well as this, Odin, the major Norse god, had a pair of ravens named Huginn and Muninn. These birds are described as perched on Odin’s shoulder and whispering in his ear, somewhat similar to the “good and bad” devils that are supposedly perched on every man’s shoulder, telling them what path to take for a particular decision. This old tradition says that Odin used his ravens to travel all over the world, and report back to him at the end of the day about what was going on in each particular part of it. Due to this association with their main god, many Vikings held deep and sincere respect for these creatures, perhaps more than any other culture in ancient times. As a symbol of balance and bearer of certain protection magic, ravens would help the Vikings win battles as well as tell them that they had a seat in Valhalla if they died on the battlefield. Unlike other societies, where the presence of meat-eating birds would disturb and deter soldiers, Vikings preferred to see crows flocking over a battlefield, as any pair of them could be Odin’s ravens, who would tell him of the valiant efforts of the warriors who perished.
The Celtic RavenAs one of the world’s most ancient European cultures, the Celts had many different uses and mythology for the raven, most of which can be included with Old Norse mythology, the two blending together to form the type of mythology that we recognize today. Often a portent of death or foreboding, the raven vulture feasting on flesh was never a good sign for the Celts. Its black color and hoarse voice lent to this sense of dread. Yet because of this association with the dead, ravens were seen as messengers between the world of the living and the deceased, creating an easy flow between both worlds in which they could travel at their whim. Celtic tattoos of the raven often have a bit of tribal flair to them to mimic the sort of elaborate metalworking of this culture. Minimalist yet exquisitely intricate designs are a hallmark of this style.
What does a raven symbolize in literature?Many people also recognize the raven from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, which is a poem in which a raven is said to speak “nevermore” to the narrator over and over. This raven was a reminder of the ever present nature of death that comes to us throughout our lives. While we may fuss about trivialities while we’re alive, in the end death comes for us all, so we must remain aware of our mortality in order to fully accept it.
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