Raven symbolism takes on different meanings, from culture to culture. In most cases, though, ravens are associated with negative associations.
In this guide, we will talk about the raven’s meanings and symbolism across different cultures, in dreams, in mythologies, and also the meaning of ravens as a totem or spirit animal.
Understanding these different raven symbol meanings can help you decipher why it may be making its presence felt in your life.
Table of contents
- Raven Symbolism and meaning
- Raven Native American Symbolism
- Raven Christianity Symbolism
- Raven Celtic Symbolism
- Raven in Dreams
- Raven Encounters and Omens
- Ravens’ Mythology and Folklore
- Raven Spirit Animal
- Raven Totem Animal
- Raven Power Animal
- Raven Tattoo Meaning
Raven symbolism and meaning
Across many cultures, ravens and crows symbolize the sun because their plumage shines so black and bright that it suggests “an ability to have survived the sun.”
Greeks believed that the white raven was the bird of Apollo – the God blackened the bird’s white feathers as it had revealed secrets. (1) Ravens and crows are considered sacred in many cultures.
In Hindus, after the death of a loved one, families prepare the departed individual’s favorite foods and feed it to the crows and raven god. If a raven eats/touches the food, it means that the departed soul is happy and will rest in eternal peace.
Raven symbolism is also tied to shape-shifters and they are thought to be spell-casters. They also represent a change in consciousness and raven bird meaning is an ‘offering of its knowledge of the world to the people for safe-keeping.’
The ravens’ sign symbolizes wisdom, affection, healing powers, longevity, death, and fertility. It’s jet black color represents the night, the great void, and even the Earth.
Some say the raven was born of the primordial darkness; others believe that it brought to light. This bird has been granted great power and is a symbol of mystery, memory, and thought.
Raven Native American symbolism
Some Native American tribes link the Raven deity with the theft of the sun. As per animal totems, which hold great importance in the Native American culture, raven totem symbolizes a change in consciousness and also represents a shapeshifter.
Native elders believed that the raven had the power to draw secrets from the Shadows. Their ‘songs of the raven’ were supposed to be a symbol of temptations, especially sexual ones.
In the book Symbols of Native America (2), author Heike Owusu states that the raven is a bearer of magic. It is the messenger from the great void beyond time, space, and ether, from where ‘everything originated’ and into which everything eventually goes.
The raven was sacred to Native American ceremonies. It always had to be present to transport the energy of the message to its destiny. The raven’s powers also healed people from a distance.
Raven’s magic was used as black magic, but those who did always feared it. After all, the negative energies always return from where they originate. Native Elders believed that the raven could help one change their outlook and give them the courage to enter into new realms.
Raven feathers are iridescent and change colors and shape – that symbolizes that man should have the courage to change too. The black emptiness of the raven tells us that all answers to our questions are all within.
Raven Christianity symbolism
What does the raven symbolize in Christianity and the Bible? According to Noah’s story, the ravens did not return to the ark and instead fed on corpses killed by the flood.
It was therefore considered the evil beast, the filthy carrion eater – a creature distracted by its appetite. The raven failed Noah and it failed God. Christians looked at raven’s non-return to the ark as the symbol of Satan.
They believed that the raven is arrogant and shamelessly impudent so that in expelling the raven from the ark – Noah was actually escaping the darkness in the mind that leads to folly. The raven is black and has a different appetite for the dove.
St. Augustine, therefore, believed that raven meaning was tied to impure men and procrastinators. Sometimes, the ravens appear as creators. They are an ideal guide on the deep path of mysteries.
Raven’s work in teams. Some distract the hawk or eagle while the others steal the bird’s meals. In many representations of ravens in the bible, Noah gets into an argument with the bird.
The latter argues that ‘if he leaves the ark and succumbs to the cold or the heat,’ there would be only one raven left and the species would die out. Some experts also suggest the raven refused to go on Noah’s missions because it believed that Noah had designs on its mate. (3)
Raven Celtic symbolism
The Celtic mythology is full of examples of birds either individually or in flocks acting as informers or messengers or serving divine beings in some way, meaning that the deity the bird accompanies invariably transforms itself into that bird.
In the Hebrides, it is mentioned that giving a child his first drink from the skull of a raven will give the child great wisdom and the power of prophecy.
A famous legend is about Odin – the Norse God on whose shoulders sat two ravens: Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory). These two ravens would fly hungrily all around the world and whisper news into Odin’s ears. (4)
Celtic warriors deemed the ravens ‘birds of battle par excellence. They considered the birds as cruel and they scavengers of dead flesh – so they represented pitilessness and carnage of war.
In many Irish folk stories, the association of ravens with destruction and war are found. The Goddesses of war – Morrigna, and Badbh – could both change their form from human to raven.
Sometimes the same animal or bird will have different characteristics in different parts of the Celtic world. Where in some Celtic symbolism, the raven symbolizes war and is dear to Morrigan – the Goddess of war and sexuality; in Wales, the bird symbolizes protection and prophecy.
Raven in dreams
It is recommended tying raven feathers to a dream catcher and hanging it over a child’s bed to filter out negative dreams. The feathers trap the spirits traveling in the dreams.
Dreaming about a raven is commonly misinterpreted as foretelling the death of a person in a dreamer’s social environment. A raven signifies attaining sovereignty for one who is worthy of it or else symbolizes the uttering of truth that will be unacceptable.
To see a raven fall on someone means not finding thieves anymore. A spotted raven denotes a stingy, arrogant man. To dream of oneself hunting a raven means attaining gains in an immoral and proud manner. To catch a raven means false arrogance.
If one sees he has a raven, which is the fruit of a hunt, it indicates that he will obtain booty by unlawful means. To dream of oneself eating the flesh of a raven indicates that the dreamer will obtain money from thieves.
Dreaming of a raven near the door or at the window represents death or even committing a serious crime one will regret. He who dreams of raven perching upon his head will die or perching on someone’s head, then that person will die as ravens lurk near the dying.
If one dreams of ravens flying in front of him is good luck or he might find his livelihood. Dreaming about ravens flying over one’s bed indicates that one’s wife has prostituted herself. (5)
Raven encounters and omens
What do ravens symbolize when you see them flying overhead or perhaps when you see a dead raven? The raven has a long history of being associated with omens.
In most cultures, the raven was and still is, considered as the bird of death. Eagles, ravens, and wolves were the beasts of the battle. They were considered symbols of victory and death.
These consumers of corpses on the battlefield symbolize the grim finality of human death. (6) Seeing a raven is symbolic of death and uncleanliness. It feeds on dead and decaying matter and that makes it a symbol of diabolical evil.
But the raven is also a sign of transformation and hence associated with magicians and sorcerers.In the Middle Ages, the croaking of a raven was believed to foretell the death or outcome of a battle.
Some people also believed that when a wicked person died, he became a raven. To date, old-timers may tell you that you can expect very hot weather when you see a raven facing the clouded sun.
In Great Britain, finding a dead raven or crow on the road is good luck, but finding many ravens in Church is a bad omen. A single raven flying over the house symbolized death. (7)
Raven mythology and folklore
In Native American mythology and folktales as well as in Christianity, the raven is considered as an ill-omen and a diabolical character. In Norse, Celtic, and Druid mythology, the raven is considered an animal of great wisdom and intelligence.
It has spiritual and magical powers and although they are harbingers of death, they also are symbols of rebirth and the afterlife. They are oracular birds. Druid poet Taliesin says, “I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech.”
These birds are quick of mind and temper – not to be trifled with. The Welsh Triads (mystical poems) say: “Very black is the raven – quick the arrow and the bow.” The crow or the raven is familiar with witches, wizards, and druids.
In Norse mythology, the god of war ravens perch on Odin the War God’s shoulders in the form of thought (Huginn) and memory (Muninn).
In Japanese mythology, the Karasu Tengu or Raven Tengu is a trickster spirit that is mischievous and smart. As per the mythology of the Unalit Indians of Bering Strait, Tu-Lu-Kau-Guk is the Raven God – the Father of All Things.
In Great Britain, it is said that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, it will fall and so will the Crown of England. In Wales, having one raven cross your path was ill luck, but two crossing the path could reverse the bad luck. If a raven perched on the house, it meant prosperity for the family. (8)
Raven spirit animal
Raven spirit animal indicates that you are on the verge of manifesting something that you have been working towards for a while. Be watchful over the next few days as the raven omen will guide and teach you.
Expect a big change soon. And watch out for any imbalances. If there is some injustice happening, speak against it. The raven may point you to a future event that will be impacting you directly.
Call upon the Raven goddess or raven spirit animal if you are unsure about someone’s character or feel that someone may be tricking or deceiving you. You can even call them if you are expecting a significant change in your life and need guidance.
You may be experiencing a sharp surge of creativity but are also unsure of what the different signs and omens mean.
Ravens are playful, intelligent, and excellent tool makers. They can use stones, sticks, and other tools available at their disposal to help them crack nuts and shells. Ravens are fast and they won’t let other birds intimidate them. They are great at vocalization and can be taught to speak.
In return, they can teach you to understand the language of animals. So, if you are wondering what is the spiritual meaning of a raven, it may be that you need to use the resources available to you to create or get what you need. (9)
Raven totem animal
Crows and ravens are highly spiritual totem animals that indicate you have a deep spiritual connection, which you mustn’t ignore. You are also on the brink of transformation and your divine purpose may be revealing itself.
The raven encourages you to connect from the physical or materialistic plane and move to the spiritual realm. It is a deeply beautiful and sensitive bird that asks you to observe and see things from all angles.
It can offer you supreme foresight, insight, and hindsight. If a raven totem animal shows up, it is asking you to connect directly with it instead of using tools like angels, crystals, or cards.
And as a part of this deep and meaningful spiritual connection, the raven will align you on all planes: physical, emotional, and spiritual. People spend a lifetime trying to align in this manner; therefore, having a raven show you how is very powerful.
That is why; raven medicine is special to healers because they always invite the ravens and crows for this balanced alignment that is central to clearing the channel for healing.
Ravens will always be present when you are undergoing transformation and this can be any kind of transformation- good and bad. A raven can also fly into the underworld of deceased loved ones and help you connect with them. There is no need to fear the underworld for it is full of secrets, messages, and learning. (10)
Raven power animal
Raven power animals are an ally to those who have had difficult childhoods. The raven is very child-like and spontaneous. He can fly between worlds and bring messages to and fro.
He indicates transformation and change. He also forewarns of danger and that is why many tribes and hunters mimic the cry of the raven to signal to their friends about impending dangers.
A raven can get into dark places where danger and fear and tensions lurk. He can help you break down these tensions and fears get rid of them.
He can detect emotional abuse and lighten it up so you can set on the path of healing. A raven power animal can help you reclaim the joy that once was and that you missed.
A raven is very direct and clear in what he wants. He will use whatever tools he has on hand to get those things: be it a jewel or a safety pin. A raven does not understand words like ‘should’ or ‘don’t.’
He can help recapture that lost childhood and heal the Inner Child. For people who have managed to retain their childhood, mischievous selves and other positive qualities of a child should channel their Raven and have fun! (11)
Raven tattoo meaning
Traditionally, Raven tattoos are not very popular; however, one has been seeing an emergence as a tattoo motif in recent times.
In Japanese tattoo art, the raven or crow does not have the evil or negative meaning the bird has in the West.
In the country, a crow named Yatagarasu led the Emperor Jimmu to Nara, which then became his Empire. Therefore, in Japanese tattoo art, the crow or raven is often shown surrounded by rays of the sun.
In the west, crows or raven symbolism may be negative or evil, but in the Orient, the crow or raven is depicted in Rising-Sun style and even seen in Shinto shrines. No wonder the crow is the symbol of the Japanese national soccer team!
If you are planning to get a raven tattoo, understand that it can have both negative and positive meanings. It can stand for evil and omen of death, but it also symbolizes change and transformation.
The raven is also an intelligent bird that can resourcefully use any tools available at its disposal to serve its needs. So, please discuss your vision with your tattoo artist and tell her/him exactly what symbolism you are trying to achieve with a raven tattoo.
Raven symbolism denotes the good and the bad of the self, an archetype, and its shadow.
The connotations and meanings change from culture to culture and depending on whom you ask; raven meaning can be good or bad.
We hope this guide helps you determine your own meaning of raven based on your situation and circumstances in the past and the present.