Symbolism of Crow in Literature
Crows are generally associated with haunting, mystery, and death around the world. It is also one of the most misunderstood birds and is also compared to ravens, which are different and larger than crows. Crows are not solitary birds and are often seen in large flocks. They also dwell around people’s property. Crows are called scavenger birds as they are omnivores. They feed on both plants and the dead bodies of animals. Thus, keeping their surroundings and the environment clean. The word crow means ‘straight line. It comes from the ‘old English word crāwe derived from the German word Kräke or the Dutch word kraai.
Seeing a crow in a dream is usually a bad omen. It might be a warning or a message of misfortune, the death of a loved one, or loss of property. When a person dreams of a black crow, it symbolizes a series of misfortune. A flock of crows indicates bad news. Also, being attacked by crows can mean lacking privacy or a warning of illness. On the other hand, dreaming of killing or saving a crow means victory over an enemy or situation. Dreaming of dead crows is symbolic of a transformation in a situation or a relationship.
In Asian cultures, especially in Indian traditions, the visitation of a crow symbolizes the arrival of guests or the announcement of good fortune. Hindus in Southern India also wait for crows to visit as they prepare elaborate meals to honor their deceased loved ones. In Native American tribes seeing a crow means good news from the spiritual realm. Surprisingly, native Americans do not see crows as a bad omen. According to Celtic traditions, crows symbolize messengers from prophetic or spiritual entities. Also, in Welsh Culture visit from a crow mostly means a wizard or a shapeshifter in disguise. In Christianity, crows are shown in a negative light. After the great floods, when Noah sends a crow to look for dry land, it doesn’t return. Visitation from two crows also means good news, good luck, or the possibility of gaining a fortune.
Crows are undoubtedly one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet because of their observation skills. The crow and pitcher story from Aesop’s fables proves its intelligence as it fills the pitcher with stones to drink water. In Indian mythology, crows are known as kakabhusandhi and are guardians of a wish-granting tree called kalpatru. According to the Native American tribes believe, the crow is a trickster. In Greek Mythology, the crow is associated with Apollo as the deliverer of oracles or dreams due to its intelligence. In Tibet Buddhist culture, the crow represents protect of Dharma, which means cosmic law. Crows also are known for excellent memory as it remembers human faces and can also communicate with them.
Crows are also the symbol of adaptability or adjustment as they are omnivores. They are also adaptable in rural or urban settings due to their adaptability and lack of fear while approaching humans. Hence, crows also represent the spiritual adaptation of a person when inspired or visited by them.
Apart from being exceptionable and adaptable, the crows are also symbols of mischief but harmless. When a person leaves their kitchen open or has utensils or food in an open area, crows are known to scatter things like spoons and even fly away from them. In Native American culture, crows were often associated with tricksters but also someone who brought respectable changes and good fortune. In Japanese culture, crows are called ‘heavenly dogs’ or ‘Tengu’ and are in charge of punishing persons who try to enter against heaven’s permission. They are also known as spirit guides for Japanese emperors.
Crows are the symbol of transformation because of their wisdom and foresight. The symbol of transformation mostly represents spiritual changes or personal growth in life that includes attitude, career, or place. According to Welsh mythology, crows can transform into witches, a physical transformation that represents evil. Seeing a dead crow in a dream or in real life also symbolizes transformation. In most cultures, the crow represents transformation through physical death because death is not considered as the end of life but rebirth.
Crows are symbols of luck as well as bad luck, depending on the culture and the number of crows seen by a person. In Welsh tradition, if a crow crosses a person’s path, it is meant to bring bad luck. Seeing a single crow following a person and cawing brings bad luck. In Christianity, if there is a flock of crows in a church, it is meant to be a warning and bad luck. On the contrary, according to Native American culture, especially Chippewa, Hopi, Menominee, and Pueblo tribes believe that crows bring good luck and good fortune. In Chinese mythology, crows are connected with the sun and represent good luck too.
Crows, as a symbol of magic, are often used in art and literature. According to Celtic mythology, the goddess Morrigan is believed to take the shape of a crow and fly over a battlefield to influence the winning side. In Chinese mythology, all the crows gather to build a bridge for the Weaving Maiden to help her cross the Silver River and meet the Herd Boy. It is also believed that all the crows disappear from the rest of the world to be part of the bridge. In Shamanic culture, the crows are used in magical rituals to manipulate or influence the powers of the universe. In Welsh culture, the crow represents black magic and warning of death with the power of transformation from witches and wizards into crows. Also, in the Appalachian Mountains, it is believed that a flock of crows flying low is a warning of an illness.
One of the lesser-known Native American tribes from the Great Plains is the Crow religion, and the residents are called as Crow People. They believe the world was created by the crow, an omnipotent god, and the creation was divided into three parts: the physical world, the spirit world, and the home of their god. Hence, it is also believed that crows were really close to their god. When the crows stopped praying to the god, they were cursed, and as soon as they started praying, they reformed a stronger bond with him.
Examples of Crow as Symbolism in Literature
Two Old Crows By Vachel Lindsay
Two old crows sat on a fence rail.
Two old crows sat on a fence rail,
Thinking of effect and cause,
Of weeds and flowers,
And nature’s laws.
One of them muttered, one of them stuttered,
One of them stuttered, one of them muttered.
Each of them thought far more than he uttered.
One crow asked the other crow a riddle.
One crow asked the other crow a riddle:
The muttering crow
Asked the stuttering crow,
“Why does a bee have a sword to his fiddle?
Why does a bee have a sword to his fiddle?”
“Bee-cause,” said the other crow,
B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B B-cause.”
In this poem, the crow is a symbol of mischief and intelligence as they talk about their surroundings including bees, nature while teasing each other
The Crow By Kaelum Poulson
but often unseen
a maid of nature
the street cleaner that’s everywhere
so elegant in a way no one sees
but without it we would
be in trash up to our knees
with the heart of a lion
the mind of a fox
the color of the night sky
the unpaid workman
that helps in every way
each and every day
Here, the crow represents resilience, kindness, and adaptability as they are scavengers keeping their surroundings clean even though they are neither recognized nor rewarded for their hard work and contribution to the human world.
Crow Song by Margaret Atwood
ln the arid sun, over the field
where the corn has rotted and then
dried up, you flock and squabble.
Not much here for you, my people,
but there would be
In my austere black uniform
I raised the banner
which decreed Hope
and which did not succeed
and which is not allowed.
Now I must confront the angel
who says Win,
who tells me to wave any banner
that you will follow
for you ignore me, my
baffled people, you have been through
too many theories
too many stray bullets
your eyes are gravel, skeptical,
The above poem is a satire and a metaphor for the conditions of humans because of corrupt politicians. However, here the crow represents hope and transformation that is yet to come.
The Crow by James O’Barr,
People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.
In this example, the crow is a symbolism for death, mystery, and transformation as the reader believes that the crow can carry souls from one place to the other and correct the things in supernatural realms.
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb,
“My dragons!’ she insisted.
‘She has finally found a flock to join,’ he observed to me. ‘Her own kind always pecked her. But the dragons have taken her in.’
…’If a flock of crows is a murder, what should we call a group of dragons?’ … ‘A catastrophe of dragons.”
In this example, the crow represents death as well as bad luck as it is described ‘murder’ when a person sees a flock of crows.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer,
“Ghost bird, do you love me?” he whispered once in the dark, before he left for his expedition training, even though he was the ghost. “Ghost bird, do you need me?” I loved him, but I didn’t need him, and I thought that was the way it was supposed to be. A ghost bird might be a hawk in one place, a crow in another, depending on the context. The sparrow that shot up into the blue sky one morning might transform mid-flight into an osprey the next. This was the way of things here. There were no reasons so mighty that they could override the desire to be in accord with the tides and the passage of seasons and the rhythms underlying everything around me.”
In the above example, the author uses the crow as a symbol of mystery or magic. It also represents transformation as it takes the form of other birds ad changes as per the seasons.