Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When crow calls back

So what does this literary crow want me to write about?

How about this:

Crows are marvelous messengers. And like their larger cousin, the raven, they can be impeccable allies in shamanic lucid dreaming and tracking. We know this from legend and folklore.

In the Iroquois story of the real Hiawatha, a force is gathering to challenge the dark power of the tyrant-sorcerer, Tododaho. They need scouts to report on his defenses. The scouts who perform this task, unerringly, are Crow People, shamanic dreamers who take on the form of crows, fly to the tyrant's redoubt, and return to Hiawatha with accurate intelligence. I recount this story in full detail in my book Dreamways of the Iroquois.

Raven has an even larger history as a seer. Odin, who was a shaman before he became a god, works with two ravens, who are found perched on his shoulders when they are not out and about gathering information for him. Their names are Huninn and Muninn, Thought and Memory. When I teach the arts of seership, I often encourage members of my workshops to borrow the wings and the sharp sight of Thought and Memory as they go out on assignment - powered by shamanic drumming - to collect information for a partner. Sometimes the assignment involves traveling a certain distance into the future to scout out a possible future situation or event. Sometimes it requires opening a path for healing, or breaking the terror of a nightmare left unresolved.

We worked this way in my last Active Dreaming workshop in southern France. I noticed that there was an especially gifted shamanic tracker in the group named Anne, who came with a previous connection with the crows, and used it to deliver excellent results.

When we call on an ally, it sometimes calls back. Anne's friend, Jean-Alain, sent me these photos of some recent close encounters.



  1. Strange. I remembered and noted that the ravens you introduced us to during our workshop were called Time and Memory. I love these ravens and have continued to play with them in many ways since we've met. Because they feel so personal, like real ally-friends, I think I'll keep calling them Time (not Thought) and Memory. It feels right (for me).

    Thanks for the photo! It's as good as the bear at the pick-nick table. Animal guides playing human.

  2. Just wanted to add that the photos of Anne are quite magical. Birds such as ravens travel with us in the Imaginaire, but what a wonderful gift to be able to play with them in waking reality. These pictures are quite extra-ordinary. Thanks to Anne & Jean-Alain.

  3. Irene - I think you may call the ravens whatever you please. Now you have traveled with you and you have seen with their sight, they are YOURS. And yes, it is splendid when something desirable from the realm the French call l'imaginaire comes swooping into the diurnal world. And a further gift when someone is able to capture it with a camera lens.

  4. I'm gifted with the company of a crow tribe of five large crows who have who have lived here for many, many years, nesting in the tall neighboring pines. Many mornings they perch in the maple tree by my bedroom window and call me awake from a night of dreaming to a day of different dreaming. Well I remember waking one morning to the clear call of crow, but this time it called from an open window within me, only later to find rhyme in tree top conversations.

    Very recently I met my first raven in the wild.

  5. Diane - what a lovely expression, "calling from an open window within me". I must confess that if I am going to be wakened by crows, I would rather have them do it this way than by making a racket outside my bedroom window! Merry Christmas!