According to a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, there once was a virgin princess, a girl so beautiful that she attracted the attention of the lecherous sea god, Poseidon. When sweet words failed to seduce her, the hot-blooded Poseidon attempted to take her by force, and the girl called to the heavens for help. Her plea was answered by the virgin Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, who turned the vulnerable princess into a hard-to-catch crow.

“I was stretching out my arms to the sky,” Crow says, in Ovid’s telling;”those arms began to darken with soft plumage. I tried to lift my cloak from my shoulders but it had turned to feathers with roots deep in my skin. I tried to beat my naked breast with my hands but found that I had neither hands nor naked breast.”

Once airborne, Crow escaped with her virtue intact and entered Athena’s service. ((Savage, Candace. Crows : Encounters with the Wise Guys. New York: Greystone Books, 2005. Via Ovid’s Metamorphoses.))

Demon Bird

Creative Commons -- I did NOT take this photograph

During the witch craze in Western Europe, ravens and crows were sometimes feared as demons. In Strathnaver, Scotland, for example, in the seventeenth century, an entire congregation of prayerful souls was seized with dread when they sensed a spectral raven in the house with them. Evil emanated from this shadowy presence, and the people were paralyzed with fear. A day passed and then another, and the group decided to sacrifice the house-holder’s son to the bird spirit. And so they would have done had it not been for the intervention of a servant. Eventually, neighbors rallied to tear the roof off the house, and the raven’s dire spell was broken. ((Source: Savage, Candace. Crows : Encounters with the Wise Guys. New York: Greystone Books, 2005.))