The Alchemical Process of the Crow: Part One

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“The Black bird singing in the dead of the night” “The alchemical process of the crow.” Part one… The Crow my son, that which is born of the crow is the beginning of Art.” ~ Hermes.

Black birds like the Crow or the Raven seem to capture our imaginations, for these intriguing iconic birds seem to have imprinted on the collective unconscious psyche of nearly all people of the world, in so many ways. As their seen to be brash, inquisitive, mysterious, evasive, birds, cloaked in their dark plumage of secrecy, magick, mystery and wisdom, they are cunning, curious, playful and show remarkable examples of intelligence. Often considered as an omen of bad tidings and death, seen to be symbol of evil in some cultures and traditions, but in other traditions they’re represented as messengers from the Divine. In fact in many cultures there associated with being messengers between the worlds of the living and the dead and possessing knowledge of ancient magic, divination, sacred law particularly with shamans, witches and sorcerers, It’s believed that crows hold ancient memories, and knowledge of the secrets of the universe, our creation and perhaps the future ?. The historical mythologies of these birds, shows how they have etched themselves in to the collective unconscious minds of mankind.

The symbolism of blackbirds across many different cultures and mythologies have very similar meanings and archetypes that contribute to many pieces of information, that posses the data that could help to explain the ontological unity and divide of this collective archetypal phenomena that occurs within our beings. Anthropological studies show how these blackbirds have spread their wings in the subconscious minds of many cultures. Seen to be messengers in Japanese, Chinese and Indian cultures, In ancient Babylon, the crow was seen as a Death symbol, as they watched the gate to the underworld also associated with the 13th month of the Babylonian calendar that was seen as an auspicious month.

In Greek mythology theirs a few stories about the “Crow or Raven” The greek word for crow, Corone, Coronis, koronis, Κορωνίςa, Was said to have been derived from the princess of Phokis, who was the daughter of king Coroneus. She was said to have mesmerizing beauty. One day she was walking on the shore and the Sea God Poseidon – Neptune, seen her and fell crazy in love and In his trying to woo and seduce her, she fled in fear and in the pursuit, she cried out pleading for help to the Goddess Athena, hearing her cries the Goddess transformed her into a crow. Also the stories of the God Apollo, who had important relationships with crows. The daughter of Phlegyas, King of the Lapiths, Coronis, was said to be Apollo’s mistress, pregnant with his son, Apollo asked the White crow to watch over the princess Coronis and to keep her from having affairs, the crow failed and according to Ovide, Apollo got angry at the Crow and turned its feathers from white to black to punish him for bringing the bad news. It’s said Apollo even took the form of the crow to guide Santorin’s people to Cyrena. He also placed the Crow – Corvus in the constellations, in the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. One of 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy, it depicts the crow perched on the back of the water snake Hydra. This constellation was also sacred to the Babylonian God of rain and storms, Adad. Theirs the Crow and the Pitcher, one of Aesop’s Fables, Also a raven that stood near the Pythie of Delphes during her predictions and its said that two crows showed Alexander the Great, the road to Amon’s sanctuary.

In many cultures they’re seen as guides and protectors, In the Mithraic cult, it was said that crows could fight off evil spells, Mithras, who was said to be a powerful Genii – ford of the sun, known for his sincerity, justice and trustworthiness, an original soul Was seen accompanied by a crow, it’s said he was sent a crow by Ahura Mazda or Ormuzd, who was the Spirit of Good and Truth, Who Entrusted the Crow as a messenger to tell Mithras that it was his duty to track down and kill the bull. This Is Seen in many monuments, artefacts and sculptures to Mithra.

In Australian Aborigine mythology, the Crow is seen as a trickster, culture hero and ancestral being, similar to the Native American Tribes who often seen the crow or raven as a bit of a shithead trickster. A confident mischievous bird with character and the keeper of secrets. There are a number of tales regarding the mischief of the Raven, who was also seen as a symbol of Transformation. In the legends of various tribes, like The Menominee, The Caddo, The Tlingit, and the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico. Seen the crow as a divine character who organises the world, gives civilization and culture, who stole the sun from the sky’s master, to give it to the earth’s people. Seen as a personification of the Supreme Being, who also carried the souls of the dead to the other side, for they’re seen as an intermediary between life and death. Crows where also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures because of their uncanny intelligence which the Native Americans recognized and respected. Tribal clans with the Crow include the Chippewa, whose Crow Clan and its totem are called Aandeg and the Hopi whose Crow Clan is called Angwusngyam or Ungwish-wungwa.

In Old Norse mythology, Odin had two Ravens to serve as his eyes and ears called “Huginn-Hoo’gin – Thought” and “Muninn-Moo’nin – memory-mind” it’s said these pair of ravens fly all over the world and bring information to Odin, this is why he is referred to as the ‘raven-god’. The story goes that, Two ravens sit on his shoulders and whisper all the news which they see and hear into his ear; they are called Huginn and Muninn. He sends them out in the morning to fly around the world, and by breakfast they are back again. Thus, he found out many great things.

Theirs many Druidic, Celtic legends of crows and ravens, like the three “birds of Rhiannon” A moon goddess whom it was said to appear accompanied with her triad of magical blackbirds, and that their song could put its listeners into a trance state, ‘by lulling the living to sleep’ which was said to enable them too travel to the other worlds, well as raising the dead with their song. Also there is the goddess of war known as The Mór-ríoghain, comes with a triad of birds called the three, primarily associated with fate, doom and death in battle, she’s often said to appear in the form of a raven to observe the battlefields like the Valkyries and the Badb, seen accompanied by a trio of crows. Waiting to consume the flesh of the dead in battle they’re wailing, cries and cawing leading to comparisons with the ‘Banshee’. Interestingly the Druids believed that in the crows cawing, there was a hidden language and if understood it could help decode old mysteries and higher wisdom and help reveal many hidden, unknown secrets, perhaps even future events. Also believing if you could teach these birds to talk they would make good familiars, with their gifts of flight, intelligence and ability to spy, they could revel unknown insights in to nature and hidden secrets. Interestingly scientists and Ornithologists today say the cawing of the crow isn’t just noise and squawks, but is the fact that these birds are communicating verbally and talking to one another, and doing so in a very advanced fashion. with some researchers also acknowledging that crows have regional dialects, A difficult thing to have without a language, leaving Ornithologists and Scientists debating whether or not crows actually do have what we call language and there for culture.

The crow was also linked to Brân the Blessed, Bendigeidfran or Brân Fendigaidd, meaning “Blessed Crow” it’s said Bran was the son of sea God, a semi-humanized giant, residing at Castell Dinas Bran, the later home of the later Kings of Powys in Wales. The legend goes, after a great battle with the Brytons and Irish king Matholwch, for mistreating of Brâns sister the Brythonic princess Branwen. He went to war with the Irish king and was shot with a poison dart, he asked for his men to cut his head off and it to be buried at the ‘white tower’ said to be where the Tower of London is now situated. The story goes as long as his head remained there, Britain would be safe from invasion. Many years later, it’s said King Arthur who had transformed into a Crow in some tales and would transform and return one day, dug up the head of Brân declaring the country would only be protected by himself. Because of this tale, and a few others there has been many links with Brân in the Arthurian legends and to the still-current practice of keeping ravens at the Tower of London, under the care of the Ravenmaster – Yeomen Warder. The Ravens at the Tower of London today are captive ravens which live at the Tower, there said to be Six in number for their presence is believed to protect the Crown, tower and the nation. Myth and superstition holds that if the Towers ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it. Brân was also associated with sailors and said to be the watcher or patron saint type thing of sailors, superstition says this is why crows were kept on boats as they could be released at sea and they would find or fly to direction of land.

The same idea is seen in the Bible after the flood, Noah released first a raven in Genesis 8:7 To find land: “And he sent forth the raven, and it went out, back and forth until the waters dried up off the earth.” Also Elijah was fed by Ravens: I Kings. 17.3.4.6. “Go from here and you shall turn eastward and hide in the brook of Cherith, which is before the Jordan. And it shall be from the brook you shall drink and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there. And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and from the brook did he drink.” Theirs also a Talmudic Midrash states that the raven, is credited with teaching mankind how to bury the dead after Cain slew Abel: “Adam and Eve were sitting there, weeping and mourning, a raven came and buried a bird in the sand. Thereupon Adam said, “Let us do the same” and he dug up the earth and buried his son.”

So we see these mysterious Blackbirds have spread their wings through most, if not all cultures and imprinted their selves in to the Collective unconscious mind and psyche of mankind, with their colour, mystery and brazen manor. That has bound all of us together through our myths, folklores, traditions, fairytales, superstitions and history, that which has been handed down to us from generation to generation, preserved in our oral traditions, folklores and myths.

For we see that Blackbirds have similar meanings and archetypes in the collective cultural psyche, known as that layer of unconsciousness in which, all people on this planet share, Its like ? An inherited unconscious frequency we are all tuned in to, a world-wide web of mind or Psychic Mitochondrial DNA, that links us not only to each other today, but also to our ancestors, this deep connection ties all of us together and could help explain why the same images, symbols, and archetypes, are so important in many different cultures, revealing an important window into human nature that offers us great insights and understanding into our own being, and the distinguishing characteristics that make us, Us. For no matter where we are located or where we are born on this planet, or race, or religion, we all share lots of the same cultural characteristics and the same collective archetypes there in, that show a unity within us as all as a species.

Paul Francis Young.

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