The raven is a very interesting creature in terms of symbolic meaning. Although it has a widespread reputation for ill fortune, this is not the case everywhere you go, and even where it is, there are subtle layers of meaning assigned to this bird that some may not be aware of.
In Western culture, the raven often carries negative symbolism (though there are exceptions, as we’ll see later). In the story of Noah, for example, the raven is the first bird sent out from the Ark in an attempt to locate dry land, but it returns empty-handed. This sets up a dichotomy between the "dark" symbolism of the raven and the “pure” symbolism of the dove, which is sent out later and returns with a branch. Among the Celts, the raven is closely associated with death and is a symbol of the battle goddess Morrigan. In this case, the symbolism has roots in reality; like crows and vultures, ravens are carrion birds that feed on dead and decomposing bodies, just as there would be following a battle. Taking this association further, the raven's mere appearance is said to be an omen of death, as seen in Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven”, published in 1844.
On the other hand, there are also plenty of examples where the raven is seen as a positive symbol. By many standards, the raven is a highly intelligent bird and has been known to imitate human sounds and words with uncanny accuracy (as in Poe’s poem). This gives the bird a strong reputation as a wise and clever creature. In Norse mythology, two ravens named Huggin and Muggin (meaning ‘thought’ and ‘memory’) are the messengers of Odin, the king of the gods who is famed for his knowledge and wisdom. Among certain Native American tribes, as well as the Inuit people, the raven is an even more significant figure. Depending on the story, the raven is seen as the creator of life, as a hero figure that brought light to the world, or even the one who instructed the first humans how to live.
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