Shame and Integrity
Ayers: Masculine Shame
Crows are adaptable and intelligent. They have a varied and evolved language and can mimic sounds made by other animals. Well-adapted to diverse habitats, they thrive in cities and suburban areas where they live in close association with humans.
Crows are omnivorous eating insects, small amphibians, snakes, earthworms, eggs and nestling birds, clams, mussels, and other salt-water invertebrates. They also scavenge carrion, garbage, and eat wild and cultivated fruit and vegetables.
Crows often appear in groups. Their complex vocabulary is one sign of their intelligence. When a crow explores something new, others watch closely to see what happens and then learn from it. They typically make great noise when hunters are around, warning deer and other birds. Crows recognize potential danger and hence always post lookouts when feeding. Crows roost at night in large flocks of up to several thousand during the winter. Crows can be deceptive in their actions. They have been known to build false nests high in treetops to confuse predators.
A group of crows is called a flock, muster, or storytelling of crows. The most widely used term for a flock is a “murder.” Crows and ravens are often associated with battlefields, medieval hospitals, execution sites and cemeteries because they scavenged on human remains. In England, a tombstone is sometimes called a ravenstone.
From ARAS, (5Dk.334) we learn:
“Rabbinical texts relate that when Noah put the raven out for the third time, he stayed away gorging himself on corpses. According to Proverbs (30:17) ravens pluck out and eat the eyes of the ungodly. Isidore of Seville in Etymolgiae characterizes ravens as seeking to pick out the eyes of the dead. The 14th century English Cursor Mundi relates that the cursed crow found a dead beast and of that flesh he was so fain that he came not to the ship again. Ambrose in De Noe et Arca contrasts the raven equated with vice with the dove equated with virtue.”
And in The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus:
“The virtue of this fowl is marvellous, as Evax and Asron rehearse. If her eggs are sodden, and be put again in the nest, the Raven goeth soon to the Red Sea, in a certain Isle where Aldoricus or Alodrius is buried, and she bringeth a stone wherewith she toucheth her eggs and the eggs be soon raw as they were before. It is a marvellous thing to stir up sodden eggs.”
Recognizing the link to alchemy:
“The Black Crow sometimes also the Raven is the beginning of the great work of soul alchemy. This indicates the initial stages of the alchemist’s encounter with his inner space, through withdrawing from the outer world of the senses in meditation, and entering what is initially the dark inner world of the soul. Thus this stage is also described in alchemical texts as the blackening, the nigredo experience, and it is often pictured as a death process, as in the caput mortuum, the deaths head, or as some alchemical illustrations show, the alchemist dying within a flask. Thus in the symbol of the Black Crow we have the stepping out in consciousness from the world of the physical senses the restrictions that bind us to the physical body.” (The Birds in Alchemy by Adam McLean, Hermetic Journal #5)
“In Buddhism, the Dharmapala (protector of the Dharma) Mahakala is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms. Avalokiteśvara/Chenrezig, who is reincarnated on Earth as the Dalai Lama, is often closely associated with the crow because it is said that when the first Dalai Lama was born, robbers attacked the family home. The parents fled and were unable to get to the infant Lama in time. When they returned the next morning expecting the worst, they found their home untouched, and a pair of crows were caring for the Dalai Lama. It is believed that crows heralded the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth, Twelfth and Fourteenth Lamas, the latter being the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.” (from Wikipedia, entry: crow)
In the iconography the hermits, crows are often shown flying down with a loaf of bread or the Eucharist to feed the solitary.
Imagining a crow:
As a crow, I imagine darting through a valley at daybreak, alternately chasing and being chased by my companions, our syncopated cawing disrupting the silence that lingers from the night. A shiny object in the field below catches my eye and I swoop before the others to nab it with my beak. The others erupt in a deafening envy as I rise and turn in order to let the wind accelerate my getaway flight, our storytelling heading into a new chapter.