Monday, May 21, 2007

The Raven

The Raven shows up in many cultures. I am fortunate that the Raven is my Totem animal. This I know, finding out by trial and error. I know that when I see a Raven cross my path, and I get that creepy hairs on my neck standing-up feeling, that my day will soon take a chaotic turn. It never fails.

However, my adventures with Mr. Raven are a story for a different day...

This story is about the significance of the Raven in regards to culture, myth, and religion. The Raven appears in most northen cultures, generally worldwide. The Raven is a highly significant deity and totem animal with the Native American community, particularly on the West Coast. Raven also appears in other cultures as well, but since I know the most about the Native myths of Raven, this is what I will concentrate on.

Most Northwestern Native traditions consider Raven to be the bringer of light and knowledge to Mankind. He is also seen as the creator of our world in several of their cultures. In the myth of the Raven stealing fire from the Sun Chief, he is shown as an interloper between the world of the gods, and Man. He fills this role in most indigenous cultures, including those of Europe, as evidenced by his role as messenger to the War Goddess, Morrigan, in Celtic Ireland. He is also a "Trickster" deity, originally painted by the early Christian missionaries as an antagonistic figure, similar to Lucifer or Satan. This is a complete misunderstanding, since the viewpoint they shared was from a monotheistic religion and were unable to see the significance of Raven's different aspects, particularly how they are intended to teach us about ourselves. Raven's trickster qualities lie from the fact that he sometimes acts out of compulsion, with no real awareness of how it will affect him in the end. In many stories, Raven ends up on "the crap end of the stick", or is changed in some way beyond his control, even though he knew better to do what he did. The underlying meaning of this is of dynamic transformation. He is the dark journey of the soul that leads to enlightnement. Raven is the long, hard road that leaves the traveller changed forever, whom even if they have failed, have gained wisdom in the process. He "tricks" us into learning about ourself.

It is truly unfortunate that within my own Choctaw traditions, the Raven is simply seen as an evil, black, portent of doom.

In a "magickal" sense, Raven is useful to us as a direct connection to the great Void, or Spirit, which is the ultimate source of life and the universe. He can be visualized or meditated on to great affect, using his messenger of the Gods status. I typically use Raven for Sigil work, imagining Raven carrying my intent to its final destination after "charging" it.

Seems to work very well for me, however, mileage may vary for others....

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