15 January 2011


Claude Lévi-Strauss, French anthropologist proposed a structuralist theory that suggests the raven (like the coyote) obtained mythic status because he was a mediator animal between life and death.

Pacific Northwest Mythology
The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.

For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the same individual as the Owner of Daylight. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry.
Other notable stories tell of the Raven stealing and releasing the sun, and of the Raven tempting the first humans out of a clam shell.

Carved by Bill Reid

University of British Columbia

Museum of Anthropology

Norse Mythology
The Ravens Hugin and Munin sit on the god Odin's shoulders and bring to his ears all the news they see and hear; their names are Thought and Memory. Odin sends them out with each dawn to fly over the world, so he can learn everything that happens. 

Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory) flank Odin

Irish Mythology
The goddess Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn's shoulder in the form of a raven after his death. In other ancient Celtic mythology, ravens were associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (Welsh: Bendigeidfran,  literally "Blessed Raven"). According to the Mabinogion, Bran's head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion.

According to Livy, the Roman general Marcus Valerius Corvus (c. 370-270 BC) had a raven settle on his helmet during a combat with a gigantic Gaul, which distracted the enemy's attention by flying in his face.

A raven is said to have protected Saint Benedict of Nursia by taking away a loaf of bread poisoned by jealous monks after he blessed it.

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