Wiley ravens playing tricks and predicting the future

Ravens are the foxes of the bird world. Their brains are larger than that of any other bird. They open doors, make tools, salve their plumes with ant-oil, steal laundry, play with toys, hide their food, cheat on their partners, then lie about it. Oh and yes, they can speak to us in our language and have even been known to bark.

No wonder a group of ravens is called ‘a conspiracy’ or ‘an unkindness’. Ravens are the only animals (apart from humans, bees and ants) that are capable of deception and ‘displacement’ – communicating about objects and events that are distant in space and time e.g. tell other ravens about a carcass they intend to eat the next day, and, if they are feeling ‘unkind’, hide the meat so that they won’t have to share it out.

The Druids believed black raven = bad luck, white raven = good.  The Sioux tribes of Alaska tell of how a white raven used to warn buffalo of approaching hunters until a shaman caught the bird and threw it into a fire, turning it black.

The Norse god Odin had two – Hugin and Mugin, representing Thought and Memory, flying high and low to bring him back the hidden truths of the world. From Native America, to Britain, to Japan, they have been seen as messengers of Truth and, more often than not, Doom. The Tower of London prophesy states: ‘The kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress’.

They’re opportunists and inventors, somewhat ruthless and untrustworthy, never ones to jeopardize their own interests or delude themselves about what’s necessary to stay alive. These survival tactics and a healthy dose of clairvoyance are perhaps what’s needed when it comes to getting us out of various political pickles…

In these uncertain times, I’m hoping they are not planning to leave the Tower any time soon…




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