Latin speakers interpreted the raven’s call “Cras! Cras!” to mean “Tomorrow! Tomorrow!” And this soon became the symbol of the foolish sinner who puts off conversion. While others thought it symbolized the hope of something new or a better day. Here is an example from the 15th century depiction of a crow saying “cras cras”, which is not only an onomatopoeia but also means, according to the author, in Latin: “Tomorrow… you’ll die”. Actually it can be translated by an ominous “Tomorrow, tomorrow” and again, what this meant to different people could be very different. This picture makes it a little more ominous!
To the North American Eskimos, the raven’s cry sounded like “Kak, kak, kak!” which means ‘a deer-skin blanket.’ According to their legends, the raven’s cries warned people not to forget their blankets when they moved.
As intelligent as these birds are, it isn’t such a stretch of the imagination that the ravens could have been trying to help the Eskimos so they could survive. If they survived, then the ravens could eat the carcasses of the animals hunted. They could live near by and thus reduce their own work hunting. Who knows?
After learning all about Saint Benedict of Nursia and his affiliation with crows, I did some research on other saints and crows. I found St. Kevin, the Patron Saint of Crows! How cool is that? Who knew? Well, apparently some people. He was born in 498 and reportedly died 120 years later in 618. He is also the Patron Saint of Ireland, Dublin, Glendalough and crows to be exact. Saint Kevin of Glendalough. He is often depicted with crows and is said to have preferred the company of animals to humans. So strong was his preference for animals, songs with his story tell of him drowning a woman who tried to seduce him. Yet, he was said to have infinite patience and kindness? ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_of_Glendalough)) Even deemed the “gentle one”. Legend says he once allowed a crow to lay an egg in his palm and he held it safely until the egg hatched and the little bird flew away. It would seem those who thought him gentle were much more impressed by his skills with animals than his people skills.
Seamus Heaney wrote the following about St. Kevin, ((http://asinnersguidetothesaints.blogspot.com/2010/06/st-kevin-of-glendalough-498-to-june-3.html))
“And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.”
While driving around a beautiful university campus I came across a monastery with a lovely statue in front. It was a bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia with a book in one hand a crow on his shoulder. I had not previously read about this saint or his story. But I found it interesting that he is depicted most times with crows. Here are a couple pictures of the statue I saw on the lawn near the abbey at Saint Martin’s University in Olympia, Washington. (They are not the greatest because I felt rude going on the lawn to get head on shots. Maybe next time I go I will ask if for permission.)
According to the Saint Martin’s University website, ((http://www.stmartin.edu/about/tour/BenedictStatue.aspx))
The dynamic, larger-than-life, bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia, Father of Western monasticism and patron saint of the Catholic Benedictine order, stands near the Abbey Church. The statue, by Russian-born artist Simon Kogan, is a reminder of the 1,500-year-old Benedictine heritage that is part of the fabric of Saint Martin’s. Among the hallmarks are hospitality, service and a commitment to work, prayer and learning.
Crows were important to Saint Benedict of Nursia according to the French legend of the monk, Benedict of Nursia, who is known as the father of the monastic rule of the Benedictines. In French, a saying, “D’or aux trois corbeaux de sable posés deux et un” which translates into “Of gold, three sand crows posed two and one” denotes this very legend. It was said that Saint Benedict lived within a cave far away from the people and shared his food faithfully with a crow who visited him daily. This crow grew to love the monk and Saint Benedict grew to love the crow(s). A jealous priest sent poisoned bread to kill Saint Benedict but he was wise and gave it to the crows telling them to throw in a place far, far, far from any man. And so the crows did as he said and became the symbol of obligingness, intelligence and fidelity. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoenheim)) ((http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm)) ((http://www.idahomonks.org/sect501.htm)) ((http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2008/07/feast-of-st-benedict.html)) ((http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/benpamphlet.html))
When as the foresaid monasteries were zealous in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and their fame dispersed far and near, and many gave over the secular life, and subdued the passions of their soul, under the light yoke of our Saviour: then (as the manner of wicked people is, to envy at that virtue which themselves desire not to follow) one Florentius, Priest of a church nearby, and grandfather to Florentius our sub-deacon, possessed with diabolical malice, began to envy the holy man’s [Benedict’s] virtues, to back-bite his manner of living, and to withdraw as many as he could from going to visit him.
When he saw that he could not hinder his virtuous proceedings, but that, on the contrary, the fame of his holy life increased, and many daily, on the very report of his sanctity, took themselves to a better state of life : burning more and more with the coals of envy, he became far worse; and though he desired not to imitate his commendable life, yet fain he would have had the reputation of his virtuous conversation.
In conclusion so much did malicious envy blind him, and so far did he wade in that sin, that he poisoned a loaf and sent it to the servant of almighty God, as it were for a holy present. The man of God received it with great thanks, yet not ignorant of that which was hidden within. At dinner time, a crow daily used to come to him from the next wood, which took bread at his hands; coming that day after his manner, the man of God threw him the loaf which the Priest had sent him, giving him this charge: “In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, take up that loaf, and leave it in some such place where no man may find it.” Then the crow, opening his mouth, and lifting up his wings, began to hop up and down about the loaf, and after his manner to cry out, as though he would have said that he was willing to obey, and yet could not do what he was commanded.
The man of God again and again bide him, saying: “Take it up without fear, and throw it where no man may find it.” At length, with much ado, the crow took it up, and flew away, and after three hours, having dispatched the loaf, he returned again, and received his usual allowance from the man of God.
In my research on Saint Benedict of Nursia, I found this other statue depicting him with crows, as well. The legends all include his love for crows and how he helps them and they help him. This makes him a memorable saint for me. An old-school corvid lover. =)
I love my crows. And I love books. And I really love books about crows.
I recently read a charming story of Jimmy Fastwing, a young crow, in the journey of his first year of life. This book walks you through the life of a young, clever crow named Jimmy Fastwing. Life isn’t easy being a crow. It is easy for us to forget how very few crow actually survive through their first year. Less than half of the crows hatched will survive each year. The odds are not in their favor. Add in the constant danger from dogs, cats and humans who despite crows, and the first year of a crow’s life is as action packed as any blockbuster movie. Our Land is the Sky: The Adventures of Jimmy Fastwing by Frank J. Croskerry gives us a peek into the day to day life and struggles of one little brave crow. From the publisher, a more articulate description of this lovely little book,
Spring has been a violent affair this year, and many new crows have not survived the high winds and rainstorms. For the few who have, there are still the very dangerous exercises of learning what birds need to know to exist with the rest of the clan. While flying comes naturally to them, there is much more they need to know if they are to stay out of harm’s reach. Young crow Jimmy Fastwing has his grandfather to teach him the basic things a young crow needs to know. If he can manage the first stages of take-offs and landings, there will be other family members to assist him in his learning. He’ll have to know about things like finding food, hiding it, and socializing with the clan. Join Jimmy in his first year of life as he grows, learns, and avoids one calamity after another. If he’s lucky, he’ll learn quickly enough to become an important member of the clan.
One of my favorite quirky parts of this story is that Frank Croskerry adds in little cute crow puns like “crow-sing” for cruising, “crow-d”, and cawcaphony… I have a penchant for such puns. I used them here on CorvidCorner myself with “crow-tations” and so each time I read one of his clever little puns I smiled and chuckled to myself. Fun!
I recommend this book for all who love crows, birds or just a good fictional story of the natural world. Our Land is the Sky: The Adventures of Jimmy Fastwing is a juvenile fiction book, 88 pages. I read it in an hour or so. I even read it aloud for a friend. I think it is a great story to read to your children, to your friends, to anyone interested in learning more about crows and their social nature and their struggle to survive the first year of life. Thank you Frank J. Croskerry for this charming read. It now has a permanent place in my ever-growing library of crow-related books.
Of course, most men would say they are far more intelligent than crows. And perhaps the crows would say they were more intelligent than men. Henry Ward Beecher said,
If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.
Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.
I came across a fantastic limited edition graphic novel about a crow named Jim. It is geared towards children and has a moral story to it. It looks lovely! Anyone know how I can get my hands on a copy?
A fantastic short animated film all about the dynamics between crows and humans. I won’t try to articulate a description, I’ll just copy and paste the original from the maker.
What is Black Storm?
Black Storm is an animated short film set in Malaysia, about a man and a crow who must learn to trust each other and unite their tribes.
This amazing short film brings together what a lot of us already know, that crows are extremely intelligent birds.
They have extraordinary memories. They have good tool-making skills, can read numbers, judge threat levels and communicate in more than 20 different caw sounds.
If you have ever wondered about the cunning thinking of a crow then you are sure to enjoy the story of “Black Storm” – the Island of Katuki is threatened with deforestation and if the crows and humans can’t settle their differences they are doomed to die apart.
DESCRIPTION of the plot…
Driven from their homes, if they can’t learn to live together, they’re doomed to die apart…
The fable takes place on the majestic tropical island of Katuki. But when the food runs out, this island sanctuary becomes a battleground. In this place, the only currency is whatever will keep you from going hungry, and the only allies you can afford are your own people.
Jungle Crow Leader Storm was born into power, and acts like it. He’s a talented mimic, skilled with locks, brave beyond all reason, and has been crossed by only one group: the humans. They stole his flock’s historical home and left them homeless for weeks. Now he intends to get his fair share of that land by any means. However, Storm may yet need their help in ways he never expected…
Village Leader Abraham is the wise grandfather of Katuki. He’s watched his village be forced from their ancestral lands, and now looks on as his people barely scrape by. Plagued by constant attacks on their crops by the savage crows, he knows his advisers are right when they tell him that guns are the only solution. But in the back of his mind, Abraham wonders if there could ever be another way…
“It’s an animated short film that explores tolerance and mutual understanding, underpinned by an ecological concern. With a hint of Avatar about it, this story of a man and a crow is a complex narrative that turns and develops nicely. The team is very experienced. The storyboards are truly excellent; this would make an excellent family animation.“
– New Zealand Film Commission
UPDATE: This short animated film has been launched on Kickstarter.com. You can watch it here.
I love Pinterest. =) And I love corvids, so what better than the two together?
You can visit the site here.