Ravens

29 10 2013

Vonnie

A guest blog from Vonnie Winslow Crist.

Ravens are often associated with dark deeds, death, ill omens, and Halloween. Perhaps this association is due in part to Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem where the narrator addresses a raven.

At first, Poe’s narrator views the Raven as comical: “this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore…” Soon, the poem’s narrator decides the Raven is ominous: “What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking, ‘Nevermore.’” And finally, Poe calls the Raven a demonic creature haunting the narrator: “’Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked…Take thy beak from my heart, and take they form from off my door! Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’”

But ravens aren’t viewed as demonic bringers of ill fortune by all. Corvus corax (Northern ravens) are intelligent birds of prey that aren’t only the dreaded scavengers of battlefields, but excellent hunters. They sometimes work in groups to hunt game too large for a single raven and spend winters in large flocks foraging for food during the day and roosting together at night. Ravens mate for life, and both parents are attentive to their children.

In many Native American cultures, ravens are viewed as pranksters because of their cleverness and playful nature. In Juneau, Alaska, I witnessed a raven prying open a parked car’s sun-roof to get to a bag of groceries. Though I didn’t stick around and witness the bird entering the vehicle, I have no doubt it managed to do so. When the vehicle’s owner returned, I’m sure they were surprised to see a feathered burglar had eaten a portion of the bread, fruit, and other food they’d left in their car.

While in Juneau, I also saw a mural depicting Raven welcoming the first man as he emerges from a clam shell and introducing him to the other animals. Raven is credited with stealing the sun and moon and placing them in the sky so humankind could benefit from their light in addition to bringing the first berries and salmon to humans. And not only in the myths of the Pacific Northwest Peoples, but in many cultures ravens are advisers to shaman and messengers between the spirit world and this world.

In my Young Adult fantasy adventure novel, The Enchanted Skean, I feature ravens as guardians and residents of Raven’s Haunt, an abandoned fortress which the protagonist must enter using magic. Later in the story, the ravens come to the aid of the main character, Beck, and his comrades as they fight an army of Ogerhunches led by a Skullsoul and dark mage. After the battle, the ravens kindly volunteer to carry the souls of long-dead men to the sea to be released from bondage. In the book, I referenced the raven’s role as a battlefield creature, messenger between worlds, loyal member of the flock, and a bird able to speak – plus the Raven’s association with magic.

Still, in this time of harvest moons, dark-as-a raven’s-wing nights, and open doors between this world and the next, ravens are a frightening presence. But remember, though Poe called the Raven “Prophet…thing of evil,” according to legend, if ravens abandon the Tower of London, both the fortress and the United Kingdom will fall – so maybe we want ravens to stick around after all!

Skean front cover

About the guest writer: Vonnie Winslow Crist is author of a YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, 2 speculative story collections, The Greener Forest and Owl Light, and other books. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie celebrates the power of myth in her writing.

Read an excerpt of The Enchanted Skean: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt
Learn more about Vonnie and her writing: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com and http://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.com
Become her fan: http://facebook.com/WriterVonnieWinslowCrist and http://goodreads.com/vonnie_winslow_crist
Follow her: http://twitter.com/VonnieWCrist
Purchase Vonnie’s books: http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-Amazon and http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-UK-Amazon

The Wicked, Weird and Whimsical Words Halloween Blog Tour runs every other day October 23-October 31. Join us all five days for Halloween fun! Be sure to say hello on any post to be entered in a giveaway at the end of the tour!

Be sure to check out the entries on my fellow participant’s websites:
Elizabeth Black (blog may contain adult content)
A Novel Friend (Trisha Wooldridge)
and L.C. Hu at elsiewho.com

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4 responses

29 10 2013
vonniewinslowcrist

Thanks for hosting me, Justine. I hope your readers enjoy my post about ravens. Happy Halloween to all!

29 10 2013
Mary Jolles

I am a bird watcher and I enjoyed the background information about ravens. Where we live in the “north country” ravens abound because of the prime nesting sites on rocky cliffs. My husband and I have seen ravens often on our hikes. One particular behavior many of them exhibit is the “barrel roll” which they perform in the air, especially when there is a strong wind– pulling in their wings close to the body and then rolling in midair at least one complete rotation before spreading their wings again and soaring off. I guess I would say they appear to be playing, since they do this again and again. Clever birds!

29 10 2013
justinegraykin

Ravens are among my favorite birds. They are smart, social, and have a certain mystique about them. Like Mary, I often see, or more often hear, them while hiking in the high country. Thanks, Vonnie, for an excellent piece on these marvelous creatures!

31 10 2013
vonniewinslowcrist

You’re welcome. I’ll dig up a photo of the raven breaking into the car in Alaska and post it on my blog next week sometime.

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