Ravens and Midwinter

Friday, 22 June 2012

It was officially Midwinter yesterday, the winter solstice, the longest night of the year and the shortest day.  It has been the bottom of the light trough for several days in a row now where the sun has set at 5.08 pm.  From a few days hence, the days will slowly, incrementally begin lengthening again in the continuous cycle.

I guess it’s no coincidence that I have been seeing references to ravens/crows everywhere for the past three weeks.  It is quite delicious when this happens, even though I don’t quite know what they represent for me.  Three weeks ago I went and saw two men, Bill Gammage and Bruce Pascoe talk, as part of indigenous week, about the depth and breadth of land management that the indigenous people right across Australia practiced before whitey came and fucked it up (more on that at some other point in the future).

At the end of their fascinating and inspiring talk, Bruce looked out the window and said, “See those two crows sitting out there on that tree?  They've been sitting there and taking an interest in us the whole time.  Talking about us."

Crows are a totem of one of the two Wurundjeri moieties.  From my greatly limited understanding, a moiety is a way of dividing a particular group, and served (probably many) functions, one which was to keep genetics strong, as people from the Bujil moiety (the wedge tail eagle) could only marry someone from the opposite moiety, the Waang (the crow).

After hearing Bruce talk about those crows taking an interest in what we were doing in there, my interest was piqued.  Which seemed to in turn set something in motion out there, because ever since then I have been delighted by the disparate places where references to these birds have come from.  There was Sam writing  an awesome poem about The Raven Bride, and then one of my Facebook friends was talking about how she was exploring the Celtic Raven goddess, Morrigan.  An episode of Ace of Cakes around the same time saw them making a cake for an Edgar Allen Poe-themed restaurant that of course had a raven on its top.  I was paid a visit by one of the crows with the strange eyes who live roundabouts here and who come visiting on rare occasions.  I was delighted, but somehow not surprised, to see it at that time.  And then the other day I watched a video for Book of Days, the ongoing art journaling group I’ve been taking an interest in, and semi-participating in, where of course at the end she came up with a picture of a raven.

The harder part is working out what all this means.  Ravens/crows have got a bad rap because of their propensity to hang around places where dead people dwell to see if they can get a slice of the action.  Their folklore and symbolism ranges from culture to culture.  In Celtic mythology they are associated with war.  In Greek mythology they are cast as the portenders of storms and rain (and indeed, it has been raining almost constantly here for the past couple of days, ever since the earthquake on Tuesday).  In Native American lore a raven is both a trickster and a keeper of secrets. 

But what resonates most are the associations of the raven with the underworld, the darkness, the unconscious, with far-seeing prophecy and with mysticism.  “Raven encourages us to experience transformation, so that we can be reunited with the mysteries of the universe, and rid ourselves of our inner demons.” (http://www.squidoo.com/raven-symbolism-lore).

Which fits right into this time of year, where Winter is an encouragement to let go of that which no longer serves, to let die what needs to die, to make way for the new growth that shall come in the spring.

Seems I’m right on time :)


  1. such syncrhonicities are always interesting to observe
    to see what rustles up from underneath when we allow ourselves to pay attention
    looks like you're an A+ student here my dear :-)

  2. that's a lot of raven references for sure. I hope you can make some sense of it all. Here of course the sun sets about 9.30pm these days and we start the descent back to winter. Funny how that goes. 


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