Raven Symbolism

Symbolism of Raven in Literature

Raven, as symbolism in literature, is mostly depicted as a sign of death, supernatural, and evil. However, these intelligent birds are also powerful representations in cultures like Native America, symbolizing a connection to the spirit world and teachers of magical studies. One of the famous poems, The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, uses the Raven as personified being with profound symbols such as grief along with death and evil. The word ‘Raven’ is derived from the Old English word ræfen which also has roots in the German word ‘Rabe’ and the Dutch word ‘Raaf’.


A Raven is a symbol of good luck in English culture and is kept in the tower of London to avoid disaster. Native Americans believe that a raven is a sign of luck and brings positive change in life. In Africa, the sound of a raven symbolizes an arriving rainfall, as they are also called the harbinger of rain, including a sign of good crops. Africans also wear ravens as good luck charms. The black raven tribe in Africa believes that the raven can travel between spirit worlds to carry rain for abundance and prosperity.  Dreaming of a dead raven symbolizes luck. In Greek mythology, the raven is a symbol of bad luck because ravens are associated with apollo, who’s the god of prophecy.


Raven symbolizes loss, death, and ill omens in Eastern cultures. . In Celtic mythology. Ravens are symbols of destruction and death as Celtic gods of war, Morrigan and Badbh, often took the form of a raven. According to Chinese mythology, ravens are rulers and symbolic of the sun, along with a crow. In the Philippines, the raven symbolizes escaping death when a person is visited by one. In Hinduism, if a raven crows in front of the house, it represents death.

Cunningness & Intelligence

A Raven is a symbol of intelligence, especially young ravens, as they go after shiny objects, symbolizing cunningness too. the Japanese believe the raven is an intelligent bird and use the raven tattoo to represent Yatagarasu, the raven who carried the emperor from Jimmu to Nara. According to Native Americans, the Comanche tribe, the raven zodiac sign represents the intelligence and high energy that can lead to success.


Raven symbolizes survival. The Inuit culture believes the raven represents survival. In Christianity, the raven symbolizes belief and survival. It’s based on the story of Elijah, where God sends a raven to feed him when he escapes Kings Ahab and his wife, Jezebel.  Raven’s survival with their self-awareness and self-reflection. Along with urban areas, raven symbolize survival in an arctic circle as well as dry deserts where the habitat is difficult for humans and other creatures to survive.


Ravens are symbols of transformation because they were originally considered to be both creator and destroyer gods. The black raven is a symbol of transformation. raven is a positive and negative transformation. the raven comes to your life to help with the anxiety that often accompanies positive transformations. Native Americans believe the raven symbolizes rebirth and healing transformation or change in your life.


In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with apollo, the god of prophecy. white raven is a symbol of prophecy. In Nordic mythology, the raven represents wisdom, prophecy, and cunning. In Norse mythology, ravens bring information and insight to prophecy.

Visitations and Dreams

Dreaming about the raven symbolizes joyful news. black raven in a dream symbolizes short-term bad luck. dreaming of a dead raven represents a very good sign of breaking off from difficult situations and problems in life. Raven chasing in a dream symbolizes a warning about love life. In Christianity, dreaming of a raven symbolizes satan and brings bad luck. In Celtic culture believes, ravens are associated with battle and Celtic goddesses, so dreaming of ravens represents the god of Morrigan. In African culture, dreaming of a raven gives advice in times of trouble. In Chinese and as well as Japanese beliefs, dreaming of the raven is a messenger from the gods. Native Americans represent the dreaming about raven symbolizes being the keeper of wisdom and intelligence strength of mind.


In Celtic mythology, the raven symbolizes Morrigan, the god of Celtic wars. In Greek mythology, ravens are associated with apollo, the god of prophecy, and represent bad luck. In Norse mythology, Odin is depicted as having two ravens, Hugin and Munin. Huginn means thought, and Munin signifies memory. In South Asian mythology, ravens represent the ancestors. In Indian mythology, ravens are associated with lord Shani, the mentor lord who rides them. In Norse mythology, the raven was a symbol of both death and rebirth. According to Native American mythology, a raven dropped stones into the sea and created islands; thus, ravens symbolize the divine.

Examples of Raven as Symbolism in Literature

Example #1

Ravens Hiding in a Shoe By Robert Bly

There is something men and women living in houses
Don’t understand. The old alchemists standing
Near their stoves hinted at it a thousand times.

Ravens at night hide in an old woman’s shoe.
A four-year-old speaks some ancient language.
We have lived our own death a thousand times.

Each sentence we speak to friends means the opposite
As well. Each time we say, “I trust in God,” it means
God has already abandoned us a thousand times.

The above poem describes the raven in a positive light. Here raven symbolizes the divine as per Christianity and hope.

Example #2

Noah’s Raven By W. S. Merwin

Why should I have returned?
My knowledge would not fit into theirs
I found untouched the desert of the unknown,
Big enough for m feet. It is my home.
It is always beyond them. The future
Splits the present with the echo of my voice.
Hoarse with fulfilment, I never made promises.

In the above example, the raven represents intelligence, hope, and mystery.

Example #3

Speech: The Raven Himself Is Hoarse By William Shakespeare

(from Macbeth, spoken by Lady Macbeth)

The Raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood,
Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry “Hold, hold!”

The above example is taken from the famous play Macbeth written by William Shakespeare. The words by Lady Macbeth describe the raven as a sinister creature and haunting spirit of King Duncan. Hence, the raven symbolizes the supernatural, death, and cunningness.

Example #4

Business of Ravens By Louis Untermeyer

What are these ravens doing in our trees,
Calling on doom and outworn prophecies?–
Flying in threes.

Their sinister shadow, their funeral wing
Blots the fresh color out of everything.
They do not sing,

No shake their throats like all the other birds;
But, in cracked monotones or broken thirds,
Their crooked words

Cowardly and contemptuous are thrown
At scarecrows who, with business of their own,
Let them alone.

In the above example, the raven symbolizes bad luck, darkness, and death.

Example #5

Heartless By Marissa Meyer

“Why is a raven like a writing desk? They are both so full of poetry, you see. Darkness and whimsy, nightmares and song.”

In this example, the author describes the raven’s color and its character as per their appearance. Hence, the raven here is a symbol of mystery, the divine, fear, and the supernatural.

Example #6

The Painted Drum By Louise Erdrich

“Ravens are the birds I’ll miss most when I die. If only the darkness into which we must look were composed of the black light of their limber intelligence. If only we did not have to die at all. Instead, become ravens.”

Here the author expresses the desire to remain in the darkness and fascination with ravens. Here ravens are the symbol of mystery, knowledge, intelligence, and rebirth.

Example #7

A Fine and Private Place By Peter S. Beagle

Ravens bring things to people. We’re like that. It’s our nature. We don’t like it.

In this simple example, ravens symbolize caring, kindness and community.

Example #8

 Solomon Gursky Was Here By Mordecai Richler

Obviously the raven with the unquenchable itch was at it again, playing tricks on the world and its creatures. Once by air, he thought, and now by water.

In this example, the raven is shown as a restless bird who loves playing tricks. Here the raven is a symbol of intelligence, happiness, and cunningness.