By Isabella @TheWandCarver
They get very bad press, crows do. Some farmers would as soon to shoot one as to suffer its existence in many cases and people in general are afraid of them simply because of the rhymes, poems, and stories which have caused superstition to run rampant over the course of time. The fact is, crows are amongst the most intelligent of birds, with the Australian crow being the cleverest of all. And, they have been found to be more of a saviour of crops than harm for they indeed eat many pests which cause harm to growing fruit and veg.
The crow, or Corvus, the genus which comprises all crows, ravens, and rooks are part of the Corvidae family, which includes jays, magpies and nutcrackers. There are more than thirty species but the science and biology of corvids is not why I’m writing this.
I simply love crows and ravens. Watching them live their lives and learning the meaning of what they do and say [or caw?], is a favourite past-time of mine. I’ve had a murder, or probably should say “family” of crows, living in a nearby Oak tree for a very long time. Their cheery morning caws when I walk outside with a cup of tea on a nice morning makes me feel special, in a way. Of course, I say “Good morning, crows!” and they stop cawing. Coincidence? I don’t believe in it. It has been proven that crows recognise faces. And if they see one they aren’t familiar with or who looks like a bad character, they will kick up a right old fuss and in some cases, mob the dodgy so-and-so if he seems to be a real and present danger. The main reason for the cawing down of said suspect is so the other crows will remember this ones’ face if seen again. How clever are they?
Crows, like many birds, predict the weather as well. Many have been the times when “my” crows would leave their roost in the Oak tree ahead of severe weather. Generally, when crows leave the roost, they have a call which alerts the rest of the murder and then leave at dusk. Predictably, they stay away for several days until the danger has passed. There is an old saying that if a crow is the first bird you hear of a morning, you will have rain that day. Not so with my crows…they are almost always the first bird I hear and it does not always rain that day.
And a good time was had by all?
Did you know that the North American crow will literally stand on an anthill to allow the ants to climb all over them? Then, the bird will rub the ants into their feathers. This behaviour is called “anting” and is used to ward of parasites. Ants can also cause birds to get drunk from the formic acid released from the ant’s bodies. Not my idea of a night out!
Why are crows thought to be unlucky?
Because of superstition, I say. After battles, the crow was usually the first to pitch up after the battle was finished to feast on the dead. Mind you, the crow was only doing its job – to clean up! But for ages now the crow has the symbology of death hanging above it. And I love the old rhyme “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for girl, four for boy…” Who knows? I count one crow as lucky as two, personally. They are not harbingers of death and doom. At least, if they are around, I know the weather will not be horrible! It’s more likely when they leave you should worry.
Perhaps the reason one crow seems to be associated with dreadful things is the story of the Morrigan where she is mentioned in the Tain Bó Cuailnge, Queen Medbh’s famous Cattle Raid of Cooley. Here she shape-shifts into the form of an eel, a wolf and a cow, as well as her more habitual crow. She has various interactions with hero Cúchullain, finally showing him an omen of his own death. Mortally wounded, he ties himself to a standing stone so that he can die on his feet; she alights on his shoulder in her crow form to show his enemies he is dead.
I think it only makes sense she should take on the form of the crow as I very much doubt Cúchullain would have liked her in cow form sitting upon his shoulder!
There are many reasons crows are thought to be unlucky but they really are not. They are the amongst the cleverest birds around. Just take the time to observe them; get to know them! They can teach you some pretty wonderful things, my crows 😊
Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings x