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Myths about crows tell tales of happiness, woe

Sunday, July 02, 2000

By Ljubica Gojgic, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If you see a crow flapping its wings, beware: A big accident is about to happen.

Nor do you want to see a crow facing your door, because that signals danger. And if a crow is sitting on top of a house with a red thread in its beak, call the fire department posthaste, because the flames aren't far behind.

These superstitions come from Asia, and they're just a few of the scores of myths that surround the unfortunate crow and its slightly larger cousin, the raven.

Not all the predictions involving Corvus brachyrhynchos and its relatives are scary.

A romantic soul couldn't hope for anything better than seeing a crow, because it means the heart's wishes will be fulfilled. The only tricky part is that the bird has to be flying from the southwest at sunset. The same bird coming from the same direction at noon means your enemy is coming, not your lover. Other directions and different hours change the message, but the ebony messenger remains the same.

Crows have long been associated with death in many cultures, because they often could be found feeding on animal and human remains at battlefields or cemeteries.

And while such birds as swallows and storks are welcomed as signs of spring or childbirth, a gathering of crows is sometimes called a "murder," stemming from yet another myth that says crows will sit in judgment of their own and then kill them.

Those who think the crow is getting a bum rap can blame it partly on Apollo, a Greek god known for venting his anger on any number of mortals. According to Greek mythology, the raven was originally a beautiful, silver-white bird, until it had the misfortune to tell Apollo that his human lover, Coronis, had rejected him for a mere man. Apollo turned the bird's feathers black.

Not everyone engages in crow bashing.

Many American Indian tribes saw the crow as a wise adviser and the spirit of wisdom and the law.

The Norse god Odin used two crows -- Hugin and Munin, representing thought and memory -- as his daily observers of the world.

And members of the American Society of Crows and Ravens, founded in 1982, like to quote American writer and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, who said:

"If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows."


For more information about crows, check these Internet sites:

American Society of Crows and Ravens, www.azstarnet.com/~serres

For the love of crows, www.zeebyrd.com/corvi29

For crow mythology, www.crowasylum.com/myths/myths_main.html



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