Crows have been experiencing a bit of a revolution lately. After years of being thought of as bad omens, macabre symbols, and urban nuisances, the popularity of the crow is on the rise. In recent years, these birds have begun to be recognized for their impressive intelligence and cooperative social behaviors. (1)
The symbolism connected with crows is complex and contextual. Something about these exceptional birds has cast them as important figures in the mythologies and traditions of several cultures worldwide. Although their connection with death persists, likely due to their scavenging behavior with regards to carrion, crows are now recognized as symbols of insight, intellect, curiosity, and playfulness. Read on to discover the many meanings of the mighty crow, both ancient and new!
For a comprehensive look at the intelligence of crows, check out our article on why crows are so smart.
Table of contents
- Crow Symbolism and meaning
- Crow Native American Symbolism
- Crow Christianity Symbolism
- Crow Celtic Symbolism
- Crow in Dreams
- Crow Encounters and Omens
- Crow Mythology and Folklore
- Crow Spirit Animal
- Crow Totem Animal
- Crow Power Animal
- Crow Tattoo Meaning
Crow Symbolism and Meaning
Crows, as well as other lookalike corvids such as ravens and jackdaws, are often thought of as signs of bad luck or danger. They hold prominent places in art, poetry, and storytelling as symbols of death and doom. (2)
More broadly, though, crows seem to be associated worldwide with foresight and vision.
Ancient Greeks connected crows with augury, the practice of using birds as oracles to predict the future. Norse mythology features a pair of crows belonging to Odin whose names mean “thought” and “memory.” Although the trend of appreciating crows feels recent, they have always been recognized to some degree for their unique sense of insight, knowledge, and mental acuity. (3)
Crow Native American Symbolism
Native American cultures are some of the many exceptions to the macabre rule of associating crows with death. Throughout various Native American traditions, the crow appears as figures associated with wisdom, wit, selflessness, and occasional mischief. Overall, these birds are usually recognized as good luck. (4)
One of the most noteworthy Native American crow myths is that of the Rainbow Crow. According to this Lenape story, the crow did not always have black feathers or a hoarse cawing voice. Once, the crow was a vibrant bird with feathers in all of the colors of the rainbow. The crow was a beautiful singer and a kind soul. Because the crow was so kind, it risked everything to bring fire down from the heavens to the animals and people who were freezing on earth. In the process, crow inhaled smoke and lost his beautiful voice. The fire was so hot that crow’s feathers turned black as soot. In the end, crow chose selflessness over beauty. (5)
The following Native American cultures are known to have utilized the crow as a clan animal:
- The Hopi tribe – their crow clan was known as Ungwish-eungwa or Angwusngyam
- The Chippewa tribe – their totem and crow clan was called Aandeg
- The Pueblo tribe of New Mexico
- The Tlingit tribe
- The Menominee
- The Caddo tribe
Amongst these tribes, the crow is a powerful symbol for the clan and its traditions, history, and future.
Many crow myths use the terms “crow” and “raven” interchangeably. These birds are notoriously difficult to tell apart from one another. A good rule of thumb is that ravens are larger and have thicker bills. Some tribes treat the crow and the raven as separate entities, however, both are typically associated with wisdom and benevolence.
Crow Christianity Symbolism
The confusion surrounding crows verses other lookalike corvids persists in Christian traditions. Although there is no mention of the word “crow” in the bible, ravens do appear in the story of Noah’s Ark. According to Genesis, the first bird that Noah sent to look for a sign that the floodwaters were subsiding was a raven. The raven did not return, prompting Noah to send the iconic dove. (6)
The primary symbolism of crows and ravens in Christianity is often related to one of the following things:
- The reference to Noah releasing a raven/crow from the Ark. The raven is sometimes interpreted as untrustworthy based on its failure to return.
- The community associates crows with death because of their color and their feeding style.
- In contrast to other birds, people identify crows as being earthly. They spend most of their time on the ground, close to their feed, instead of flying in the air.
Crow Celtic Symbolism
Like the Native Americans, Celtic traditions also tend to hold the crow in high esteem. Although they are more connected to death on the battlefield and scavenging in Celtic myths, crows also signify arcane knowledge, prophecy, strategy, wisdom, and messages.
According to some Celtic traditions, crows were the bearers of prophecies and could carry secrets between their feathers. In some cases, crows were thought to be battlefield messengers, bearing strategic messages between the various war gods and heroes.
The Celtic crow is primarily connected with the female deities Medb and the Morrigan. Medb is a war goddess who sets in motion the events of the Tain Bo Cuailnge by attempting to steal a powerful bull from the men of Ulster. Medb is ruthless and power hungry. Her ambition results in many battles and bloodshed. The Morrigan, on the other hand, is more mysterious. She is the hand that moves fate. Although she often brings about war and conflict, her actions are typically necessary to bring the heroes their fated victories. The Morrigan is powerful, strange, and deeply feminine. (7)
Crows in Dreams
It is common for dreamers to feel a sense of doom or danger after dreaming about a crow. This is understandable due to the somewhat gothic symbolic identity which crows have long held. Note, however, that a crow in a dream can have many positive meanings.
A crow dream often connects with the ways in which we think about death and our mortality. Rather than signifying impending death, such dreams may indicate anxiety or contemplation surrounding death or impermanence. It may mean that you are worried about what your legacy may be when you pass on, or that you are afraid of the inevitable changes which come with the passage of time.
A crow in a dream can also signify intuition, insight, or curiosity. Dreaming of crows indicates opportunities to learn and to grow. Foster the curious crow inside of you by trying new things and stimulating your mind.
Some say that seeing crows in your dreams is also a sign of positive change, especially when you see them following or watching you. As with any symbol connected with death, there is always a chance that this “death” symbolism actually represents a rebirth. Closing a chapter in one’s life is often an opportunity to improve and prosper.
Overall, crows are a symbol of transformation. It is up to you to determine the nature of the changes.
Crow Encounters and Omens
What does it mean when you see a crow?
Encountering a crow is often interpreted as a message. This message can be a piece of advice, an omen, or a warning depending upon whose path it crosses. To determine the meaning of a crow encounter, it is important to look inwards. Note any big decisions, struggles, or diverging paths before you. Crow encounters may present wisdom which can help you to choose a path.
Crows can also be a warning of the presence of duplicitous figures around you. They are a symbol of transformation and intuition; this is why they are the first to know if a person around you has “transformed.” You should also trust your instinct and avoid anyone who feels untrustworthy.
Crow Mythology and Folklore
The mythology and folklore involving crows is vast and varied. Crows are discussed worldwide in terms of cleverness, virtue, and creativity as well as ill fortune, death, and precariousness.
Native American Mythology:
Native American mythology emphasizes the intelligence of crows. Some tribes believe it to be a trickster, recounting many of its tales of mischief. Other tribes credit the crow with conveying divine wisdom from heaven above. (8)
In Celtic mythology, the Morrigan, the warrior goddess of fate and prophecy, often assumes the form of a crow or is accompanied by a group of them. It is said that when you see a group of three crows approaching, it is a sign of her watching. (9)
In Welsh mythology, witches and sorcerers could transform themselves into crows or ravens, enabling them to avoid capture. The bad reputation of witches was connected with these intelligent birds, casting them as a symbol of black magic and a harbinger of death.
In Greek mythology, the intelligence of crows links them to Apollo. He is said to have turned the crow’s feathers black in anger after learning that his lover had married another. Because Apollo is the god of prophecy, crows in Greek mythology are connected with oracles and visions. (10)
In Chinese mythology, crows are often depicted in connection with the sun. Chinese people usually take crows as a sign of good luck, but this is far from universal.
Crow Spirit Animal
People who are blessed with the spirit of the crow have the unusual ability to see far beyond all that is apparent.
The crow is an intelligent creature that has a unique talent for observation and intuition that many other animals lack. People with the crow as their spirit animal often inherit a strong memory and a deep well of insight. Usually, people with this spirit animal are defined by their curiosity about the world around them and their creative thinking and problem-solving ability.
Crow Totem Animal
People with a crow totem are well-known for their outside-the-box thinking. Additionally, people with the crow as their totem animal tend to have a knack for creating things. For some, this is a purely artistic pursuit, but for others craftsmanship is key.
People with the crow totem are excellent at reading others. They are chameleons who quickly analyze the appropriate response to their situation and adapt accordingly. For this to be possible, individuals with the crow totem must be able to empathize with others instantaneously.
People with the crow as their animal totem have a lot of personal integrity. They are not only insightful but also mindful of their actions and opinions. As a result, they live their lives whilst undergoing constant self-analysis. It is impossible for someone with the crow totem to comfortably live the “unexamined life.” As a result, people with this totem often hold themselves to a high standard set by their own internal code.
Crow Power Animal
In addition to the qualities mentioned above, crows provide the very potent power of protection. These intelligent birds are fiercely protective of their territories and their nests. They can usually manage to ward off trespassers that are much bigger than themselves.
This power, when transferred to a human, translates to vigilance and courage, especially with respect to the safety and well-being of loved ones.
The crow power animal is particularly helpful when you are most in need of creativity, especially when the stakes are at their highest. These birds can help you think of unusual solutions to avoid negative outcomes.
Crow Tattoo Meaning
Crows are very smart, intelligent, and very creative. Yet, many tattoo experts admit that people usually choose the crow symbol as a dark, mystical, or ominous sign. They also say that although it has a significant positive meaning, it tends to get second billing to its dark side.
However, we see different crow meanings throughout different cultures. For instance, the middle ages considered spotting a dead crow as a sign of good fortune, and the Chinese considered it a loving symbol representing the creative side of people.
When a person gets a tattoo design with a crow symbol, it usually is a representation of an experience or a point of view that has greatly affected them. The detailed interpretation of a crow tattoo may lie within the intricacy of the design.
Many people say that we carry the symbols that we tattoo on ourselves to our afterlives. If this is true, then a crow tattoo can be an excellent way to signify that one’s earthly life was filled with rich experiences and self-exploration.
Although there is much much more that can be said about the crow, hopefully the above information has communicated this: crows are not evil. They do not bring death or danger with them as they navigate their habitats. Instead, the crow is an animal that we can all learn a lot from. They are uniquely intelligent and capable of so much more than we have even discovered.