Saint Benedict of Nursia

Original photo from the Saint Martin’s University website.

 

 

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.)

Bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia seen at the Saint Martin’s University in Olympia, WA.

 

 

According to the Saint Martin’s University website,1

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.

 

Bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia seen at the Saint Martin’s University in Olympia, WA.

 

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.23456

Another spin on the legend makes it Saint Benedict and the raven from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great,7
 

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.

 

Bronze statue of Saint Benedict of Nursia seen at the Saint Martin’s University in Olympia, WA.

 

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. =)

“Saint Benedict” by Br. David Paul Lange OSB – Photo: Mary van Balen
  1. http://www.stmartin.edu/about/tour/BenedictStatue.aspx []
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoenheim []
  3. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02467b.htm []
  4. http://www.idahomonks.org/sect501.htm []
  5. http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2008/07/feast-of-st-benedict.html []
  6. http://www.indiana.edu/~engs/benpamphlet.html []
  7. http://www.fisheaters.com/animals4.html []

Omens related to a Crow according to Vastu Shastra

Here are some omens related to crows according to Vastu Shastra (an ancient Indian doctrine):

  • Crow is probably the most common bird in India and hence they are often ignored as mere scavengers. But Vastu Shastra associates a number of omens with it. These omens are as follows:-
  • If a crow coming from the south-west side in the evening is seen it is an indication for some approaching calamity.
  • If a crow coming from the South-East direction in the evening is seen it indicates monetary gain.
  • When a crow drops a piece of burnt wood, bone or meat on the bed of a person it indicates approaching danger or death in the near future.
  • If a crow passes from the left crowing it is considered a good omen.
  • When many crows start crowing together in a corner or around the house it indicates approaching danger.
  • Early in the morning when a crow comes flying from the North-East direction it indicates some good news.
  • The crowing of a crow on the roof is inauspicious.
  • If it sits on someone`s head it is inauspicious.
  • When a crow is calling out with its face towards the South the head of the family will have a nice time.
  • In case one sees a crow sitting on the back of a pig it indicates legal complications. However if it is sitting on a camel or a donkey if it is seen it is considered a good omen.
  • When a person sees a crow flying in the clockwise direction he or she faces bad relations with his relatives.
  • When the ear of corn, flower or sand stone is seen in the beck of a crow it indicates monetary gain for that person.
  • When a crow carries a vessel or some costly article it is associated with danger. When a crow brings grass or burnt wood in our place he indicates danger from fire.
  • When a crow starts crowing with its face towards the South-West it indicates monetary gain for the person who watches it.
  • A person is likely to gain jewelry when a crow crows with his face towards the South-East direction.
  • If a person sees a crow sitting on a tree laden with fruit he will receive wealth and honor.
  • When a crow calls out facing the North-West the head of the family gets grain and arms as gifts.
  • When a crow crows with its face towards the North the head of the family has chances of getting new clothes or vehicle.
  • If a crow comes into the house and crows it indicates the coming of guests.
  • The person who sees a crow sitting on the back of a horse gets a new vehicle.
  • When a person sees a crow sitting on the tail of a cow and crowing he or she faces ill health.
  • Seeing two crows together brings bad news.
  • When the crow crows facing the North-East the head of the family will be subject to monetary gains.

Make a Joyful Noise Audio Recording

Make a Joyful Noise by Charles DeLint

A few weeks ago I posted about Make a Joyful Noise written by Charles de Lint (read post here). I enthusiastically shared two of my favorite literary characters, the Crow Girls, Maida and Zia. This story is not available to purchase anymore but since I had a copy I thought I would ask the author if I could record it and post it on Corvid Corner to allow other crow lovers to enjoy it as well. Much to my surprise, he said I could! =)

And without further delay here is the story…(don’t forget to bookmark it!).

Make a Joyful Noise (Part 1)

Make a Joyful Noise (Part 2)

Make a Joyful Noise ( Part 3)

Make a Joyful Noise (Part 4)

Make a Joyful Noise (Part 5)

Make a Joyful Noise (Part 6)

A friend made the following graphic to go with this audio recording. Thank you.

Please do NOT redistribute this recording elsewhere or re-post it on other sites. If you enjoy it and wish to share it you can send a link to this post to as many people as you would like. We want to be respectful of copyright laws and issues and not take advantage of the kindness of Charles de Lint in allowing me to share this here. =) Thank you and enjoy!

Update 1/10/2011: I started a new post for more information on these two beautiful characters, the Crow Girls here. Perhaps together we corvid lovers can find all references to them and share them with the world.

Legendary Ravens

Ravens are majestic birds and thus inspire great and terrible legends, myths, folklore and superstitions. It is no wonder with their capacity for intelligence. Ravens have exactly the same brain-to-body ratio as dolphins and almost the same as humans. “If crows were human, their average IQ would be 135 (the average for humans is 100!)”1 With such a proclivity for intelligence it is no surprise many cultures have created elaborate myths, stories, legends, and superstitions about the raven.

The Raven in many mythological traditions was often reported to be the creator of the world. The raven is tied to the flood many thought once overtook the earth as well.

The Koyukon people, hunters living on the Koyukuk River in Alaska, believed that the great raven Dot-son-paa made the world, and that when the great flood came he placed two of every animal, bird, and insect upon a raft so that they would survive. To this day, the Koyukon people treat all wildlife with the courtesy that they accord to human beings, but make a special point of showing particular respect to the raven.

For the neighbors of the Koyukon people, the Tlingit Tribe, the raven is also important as is depicted in their beliefs.2

The [Tlingit Tribe] believed that the raven was the mythical ancestor of their race and performaned many deeds at the beginning of the world. Among these was deciding what particular task each bird should perform, where they should live and what colour their plumage was to be. One story relates that the raven decreed that the (American) Robin should give pleasure to man through its beauty, and the hummingbird through its song; another tells how he commanded all birds to dress differently so that they would be able to recognize each other—the blue jay, for example, was told to pile its hair high and tie it with a string. As for himself, the magical raven could transform himself into whatever shape he chose and could remove his feathers like a coat. As a spirit of creation he had no beginning and no end.

Ravens were worshipped and revered by the Vikings. The raven was the symbol of one of their Gods, Odin and it was said that the shields and banners of his men donned raven images. Such was the case with the Landeyda or Land ravager war banner which bore the emblem of the raven and was reputed to have been woven in one day by the granddaughter of Sigurd, a hero of Norse mythology who had the power to understand the language of the birds.((Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.))

Odin owned two ravens named Hugin and Munin. Hugin represent thought and Munin, memory.  You can read more about them in this post. This myth is also belived in Ireland where the phrase ‘raven’s knowledge’ is still used to refer to anyone who appears to see and know all.3

The Vikings so admired the ravens powers of observation they even sang about them in this song:

How is it with you ravens, whence are you come

With gory beak at the dawning of the day?

You lodged last night I ween [suppose]

Where you knew the corpses were lying.

Many references in literature can be found that indicate the negative superstitions believed to be true about ravens such as found in Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta,

…the sad presaging raven, that tolls

The sick man’s passport in her hollow beak,

And in the shadow of the silent night

Doth shake contagion from her sable wings.

Or in Shakespeare’s Macbeth when Lady Macbeth welcomes the man she wishes dead, Duncan with these words:

The raven himself is hoarse

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan

Under my battlements

This is definitely not all the legends, myths, folklores, superstitions or beliefs about the raven. We will write more in the future.

  1. Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. []
  2. Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. []
  3. Tate, Peter (2008). Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend and Superstition. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. []

Ravens in Norse Mythology

Ravens have often been featured in myths and legends, stories, poems, and religious beliefs. For example, the Norse God Odin was said to have a pair of ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory). They were said to travel the world from early morning to late into the evening each and every day in search of information and news from every corner of this planet to bring back to Odin. Upon their return every evening they would whisper what they learned into his ear as they perched upon his shoulder.

It is the story of Huginn and Muninn from which Odin’s nickname, the raven-god was born.

In Grímnismál the ravens are mentioned:

The whole world wide, every day,
fly Huginn and Muninn;
I worry lest Huginn should fall in flight,
yet more I fear for Muninn.

Another translation reads,

Every morning the two ravens Huginn and Muninn, are loosed and fly over Midgard; I always fear that Thought may not wing his way home, but my fear for Memory is greater.1

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugin_and_Munin []