These days, I am often met by crows when I walk from the house to the barn and back again. I find crow feathers flowering the yard and the walkway. I bring them in and stick them into the holes of the deer vertebra that graces my altar. Crows cluster outside the windows of the barn as I work and chatter at me from the trees when I pass underneath. Sometimes I cannot believe how many of them there are!
I love Crow medicine and am happy when I see it make an appearance in my life. Ted Andrews, in his classic book Animal Speak, says Crow is “The Secret Magic of Creation Calling.” He even notes the importance of its black color. “Black is the maternal color, and thus the black night gives birth to a new day.”
When I first was diagnosed with cancer fifteen years ago, crows followed me everywhere. I’m talking legions of them. One evening during this time, I was attending my older son’s baseball game. At one point, an enormous crow parked itself on top of the batting cage and began to squawk away. After a while, one of the other mothers looked at me and said: “Jeez, what’s with this crow?” I laughed and said: “Oh, he’s with me.”
A common belief folks hold about crows is that they are harbingers of death. What the presence of Crow says to me is that I am being urged, for the sake of healing, into something new. I am being called to an initiation of some sort, and in order to proceed, I must let something pass away and die.
What is “passing away” is usually an outmoded way of being, a rigid belief that is creating an obstruction or is in conflict with a truer and more accurate self-image. This process is what Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm in their book The Druid Animal Oracle call “the resolution of the opposites.” It is the opportunity to resolve deep and lasting conflicts that reside in your psyche in order to heal and give birth to something that the soul is urging you toward.
I see it as the decisive and final victory after a long series of skirmishes between two opposing thoughts, for example: “I don’t measure up.” vs. “I have a unique gift to bring to the world.” Within the same person, there can be longstanding emotional history and conviction behind both of those ideas. Sometimes one side is winning; sometimes the other, and the ongoing tension between them is what produces strife and struggle for that individual. This is the heart and soul of Crow medicine.
Think about opposing thoughts that you hold about yourself within your own psyche. You may well have a whole list of them. On the one side of that list are all those deep longings in your heart, pipe dreams perhaps, that seem so improbable and yet, when you focus on them, there is a undeniable knowing that these are the things that describe the truest, most quintessential you. On the other side of the list are all the things you say in order to talk yourself out of simply dropping everything right this minute and rushing forward to live those dreams and recapture your own sovereignty.
In shamanism it is said that everything has a spirit. Negative self-talk has a spirit too. What is the energy resident within those disabling beliefs that keep you from gamely stepping forward into your own initiation, that keep you from just picking up your staff and walking off in your own direction? That is a journey in which Crow would happily assist. And it for this reason, crows should be welcomed, not feared.
I have been letting go of many things over the last several years, and as much as I would like to take a breather and hold still for awhile, Crow urges me forward, saying there is more to let go, more to leave behind. You’re so close, he says.
I sigh, but nod. Alright, then, I say.
I remember a day, shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer, when I was lying on a massage table having a Reiki treatment. Suddenly, I felt the presence of my dead brother come into the room and stand beside me. He leaned down and waved his finger over me. “You have to let all this go, kiddo,” he said. “Let what go?” I asked. “All of it,” he said, nodding “all of it.”
I smile when I remember that now. I’m working on it, Don. I'm still working on it.