Raven Spirit Animal
This massive black creature brushes his wingtips along mountainsides. His black eyes drink in entire landscapes as a subtle breeze holds him aloft. Once he decides to go somewhere in particular, his undeniable determination is audible in the whir of his heavy wingbeats. He does not keep many companions. On occasion he will join with a troop of two or three others to cackle at the wind and tease the two-leggeds that clumsily lumber along on the ground below. His voice cuts through the silence of the forest. His inside-out gurgle like water down a seep-hole is an invitation to other worlds. Is he calling those worlds forth or us to those worlds? This is for him to know. He is incredibly clever. We admire him for his ability to use tools and solve puzzles we create. The trick is we haven’t even begun to solve the puzzles he creates.
The Trickster God
To the Northwest Coast and Alaskan Athabaskan tribes, Raven is a hero God who either created or helped create the world. Many tribes know him also for both providing aid and trouble for people. He’s a trickster who causes hardship for humans and other creatures by convincing them to do foolish things, but his conniving can also result in him putting things right again as with the Athabaskan myth of him stealing the sun and moon back from a greedy chief who had them hidden away. This is an example of how trickster energy can often change the course of things for good or at least teach us a good lesson.
Have you ever had something go terribly wrong and later been grateful for the detour? In looking back do you now realize that there was a Divine hand in the event? Did what you learn in this experience make you all the richer? Or did the redirect take you to a state of being better than what you could have imagined? Remember that when considering raven spirit animal, that you aren’t looking for ways he brought you material wealth or outstanding recognition. He brings us to know deep mysteries and mystical truths that go beyond our small lives and help us breathe into the infinite.
Ravens vs. Crows
Ravens have wedge shaped tails and long fingers on the ends of their wings. This is how even the novice can tell them apart from their close cousins, crows. Crows have square tails and rounded wingtips. It is important to know one from the other because crows carry aspects of community, civilization, and play. They understand more of what it means to be in society.
(View article on Crow Symbolism here)
Ravens, on the other hand, are closer to the heavens, to solitude, and to wilderness. They keep company with clouds, hawks, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wolverines. They scavenge carcasses of big game. Raven spirit animals relate to what we experience when we spend time alone contemplating the big game, the big questions in life, and how we relate to this mystery.
Raven’s Illusions and Magic
So much is shared about this beast that engulfs the mystery with his black coat of feathers. Jamie Sams and David Carson write in Medicine Cards: “If you have chosen Raven, magic is in the air. Do not try to figure it out; you cannot. It is the power of the unknown at work, and something special is about to happen. The deeper mystery, however, is how you will respond to the sparkling synchronicity of this alchemical moment. Will you recognize it and use it to further enhance your growth? Can you accept it as a gift from the Great Spirit? Or will you limit the power of the Great Mystery by explaining it away?”
Often ravens come to assist us with ceremonies such as weddings and land blessings. They come to the opening of the veil we create when we invite the sacred into a space to do ceremony. Ceremony involves working with what we call magic. Magic is simply an unseen force that adds power to a setting and it relies on the power of illusion. When magic is in the air surprising omens appear and events outside the laws of nature seem to take place.
Raven spirit animal, like a magician, can weave intricate illusions that cause us to see things we would never believe. When you have an experience you don’t think anyone else will believe, raven is often afoot. He helps shatter our preconceptions and shows us new possibilities. He captivates us with his tricks and causes us to question everything we once thought was certain.
The catch to it all is that power is never created or lost. When you direct power into creating the dazzling illusion, you’ll often find that another area of your life seems to lose power or attraction for you. There is nothing wrong with this situation, just something to be mindful of. The part of your life that now seems mind-numbingly boring hasn’t changed a bit, but the balance has shifted. Give the illusion some time to fade away and things will seem less uneven, but, ultimately, once raven comes to visit you will never be the same. Adjusting to this new world view will be your new task.
A Story About an Alchemical Moment
One morning I sat in my car parked outside of a large metal building mindlessly gazing up at a raven on the roof. The sun shone behind him as he turned his head sideways and bowed down to scoop the pooled dew off the edge of the metal roof. I did not register what he was doing for quite some time being distracted by the conversation I was having on my phone.
I did not stop to drink in the scene or the sheer wonder and intelligence of a raven drinking dew in this fashion. A half an hour later, my whole world disintegrated into the ferocity of a heated argument. I fell to pieces struck by my rage and then the shame of it all. It was not until that evening that I remember what I hadn’t really seen – that raven drinking dew.
That was an “alchemical moment” and I missed it. I glazed through the brilliant sunshine glancing off the dew stained metal. I numbed past the gleam off the raven’s coat. The slow intention with which he went about turning his head to delicately lap up the drops of condensation was utterly lost on me. This had been a calling to a deeper mystery.
Had I been engulfed in that deeper mystery I would have completely missed the argument. I would have been cloaked in the divine. In the company of the mystery, of my soul, my attachment to power struggles is obsolete. When obvious miracles slip past me I am on a downward spiral to misery. Raven spirit animal knows this because raven lives in the land of shadow, but did you know that a raven flying into the sun turns white with the reflection of the light? I know it because I have seen it with my own eyes.
The Flight into the Dark
The path to enlightenment is the same road into the dark. It is our ability to hold awareness that allows us to heal rather than tumble into suffering. Can we notice if the darkness is our own shadow or the vastness of the void stretched out before us? When does our shadow merge with the void? How do we choose the unknown over our fear? Raven has the skill to navigate these currents, to steer through this whirlpool, and come out more robust than before.
So, next time you notice a raven in your field of view, pause to watch what he’s up to. Remember you have much, very much, to learn about the illusion and the magic of existence. If you’re luckily enough to notice and engage, raven spirit animal just might offer you some flashing insights of brilliance.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With over ten years of experience in the field of shamanism and thirteen years experience working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.