As day gave way to dusk last night, two ravens came tumbling down the valley. They flew in a broad arc, cutting through the air, diving and twisting as they chased each other until they passed right over my head and disappeared into the twilight.
Ravens at dusk: always a sign that magic is at hand, but even more powerful when seen on the eve of the Winter Solstice.
Raven magic is deep, old magic. The Raven is a harbinger of many messages. It is a bird long associated with magicians and enchantresses. And it is at its most powerful at the Winter Solstice, when the darkest day of the year matches the bird’s dark plumage.
Ravens appear in myths and legends all over the world. Sometimes they are the tricksters, sometimes they are omens of a coming death, but more often they speak simply of change and birth. It was the raven that Noah sent out from the Ark after the waters had begun to subside. That bird never returned. But it was also a raven that fed the prophet Elijah when he was hiding from King Ahab.
In Celtic lore the Raven is associated with the god Bran, who in turn is associated with the cycles of life and the seasons through his ownership of a wondrous cauldron that could bring the dead back to life. This was the very same cauldron that was once owned by the White Goddess, Cerridwen…but that’s a story for another time!
Bran is linked with the Tower of London (his one-eyed head was supposed to have found its resting place there) and the old superstition that ravens must live at the Tower if the country of Albion/England is not to fall prey to invaders is still very much alive. To this day you’ll see plenty of ravens there, as well as Beefeaters!
Most ravens are black and black is the colour of creation, for it is from darkness that all life springs. Black is the colour of the sacred feminine, representing the primordial soup from which life first began, the yin of the yin/yang balance, the black holes that surround us in the universe and are a part of our own cells.
When you see a Raven, take note that mysticism and magic are calling you in equal measure. The Norse god Odin had two ravens as his messengers. Their names were Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory). Odin himself was a shape-shifter who could turn himself into a raven when he wished to.
Ravens are honoured in the tales of the Africa and Asia, as well as in the totem poles of North American Indians. The bird’s black feathers gleam with every colour under the sun and moon, showing us that light can be brought forth from darkness – perhaps the most important lesson of all on this particular day of the year.
When Raven makes an appearance in your life, learn from its ability to be both wary (ravens will disappear quickly and quietly when necessary) and its ability to stand tall and not be intimidated by life. Listen to the messages from its voice, which is one of the most versatile in the animal kingdom. It is saying to you that you can go into the void of darkness and bring forth whatever life you choose. You can stir the primordial cauldron to create the sustenance you desire.
Each of us is magician and enchantress: so says the raven. Each of us shifts shape as we go through life. Each of us has the ability to create form from the unformed.
Today is the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere), the day when darkness has its greatest power. Yet it is the day when we begin the shift towards light, too, inexorably drawn back on the wheel of seasons towards the time when light and warmth will play their part. As each day passes, a little more light is drawn from the wings of darkness. And soon the summer will be here.
Raven teaches us that we are instrumental in this process, that we can each of us bring forth light from dark: that we are all creators.
Raven also teaches us to celebrate the darkness, for without it no candle would shed light, nor would the stars gleam so brightly in the night sky.
Enjoy your Solstice celebrations and if Raven appears for you, listen well!