A large cocky bird with deep blue-black wings struts confidentially across the road in front of my car. The same kind of bird swoops me as I walk down a footpath, landing several feet away. My reaction is not one of awe at its beauty but fear of its legendary message. The crow has represented news of death in one of the those quirky myths that are a so much a part of spiritual beliefs and superstition. It made me more aware of my relationships.....and that may just be one of its spiritual purposes. I phoned people I hadn’t been in contact with for some time. Then I did what I normally do in these situations. I asked a question of the universe. “What is it that I am meant to take notice of here?”
Like all myths a story is told, repeated and embellished and then becomes embedded as a cultural conviction. The foundational story of this amazing bird, by many accounts, is simply that as carrion eaters, crows followed armies and were present post-battle field, to feed upon the bodies of the slain. Being intrinsically curious they would follow a group of marching soldiers, presumably to find out what they were doing, but learned that food would be the probable outcome. Being present both before and after a mortal event gave them their identity as harbingers of death.
The world of synchronicity, (that there are no coincidences), sent me my answer. Unexpectedly (?) an acquaintance posted a link on Facebook to a documentary on “The Murder of Crows” which I share with you here. It was with some trepidation that I decided to look at it because I wasn’t in the mood to watch a documentary on the abuse of birds. It turns out that a flock of crows is called a “murder”!
I discovered a different perspective on these ancient birds. They are survivors, clever, intelligent and have the cognitive ability of humans; being able to solve problems and adjust to changing environmental conditions. They are strongly family orientated which includes an extended family unit of community (aunts and uncles) and they actively educate their children. They are loyal, mourning their dead in a ritual of silence, have a quite sophisticated language and they have the ability to remember people. The scientists involved in the making of this 52 minute show have been quite flabbergasted that a species other than a primate can display such human-like qualities.
There are times in our lives when we require answers. Shamanism teaches us that if we focus on our environment of animals, trees and sky, illumination will follow. It is simply a matter of taking timely notice and interpreting the information. The crow taught me that sometimes I have to think outside of the square to move forward. It taught me that when something is destroyed I can rebuild, perhaps with a little better planning. And it taught me that family is important.