Kim Steele Photography~Recent Raptors & Ravens Series
Showing, Thursday 11.3.2011, 5:30-7:30 pm, through 12.31.2011
Scott Nichols Gallery, 49 Geary Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 415.788.4641
Raven Lore from Around the World~
Black, to Native Americans, is a color of magical power, and only to be feared if misused. Raven symbolizes the void – the mystery of that which is not yet formed. Ravens are symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms. The iridescent blue and green that can be seen in the glossy black feathers of the raven represents the constant change of forms and shapes that emerge from the vast blackness of the void. In Native American tradition, Raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles. She is also the patron of smoke signals.
Ravens are considered a solar symbol in Chinese mythology. The three legged raven lives in the sun, representing the sun’s three phases – rising, noon and setting. When the sunlight hits their glossy black feathers just right, they seem to turn to silver.
To Egyptians, ravens represented destruction and malevolence. However, Arabs call raven Abu Aajir – the Father of Omens.
Since ravens can be taught to speak, and have such a complex vocabulary of their own, they are connected symbolically to both wisdom and prophecy. But in Europe, at least from Christian times, ravens have several strikes against them: black is considered a negative color; ravens are carrion eaters; and they have a symbiotic relationship with man’s oldest enemy, the wolf. In many western traditions raven represents darkness, destructiveness and evil. They are sometimes associated with deities of evil and of death. Both witches and the Devil were said to be able to take the shape of a raven.
Raven is the messenger of the Greek Sun Gods, both Helios and Apollo. She is also associated with Athene, Hera, Cronos and Aesculapius.
The pagan Danes and Vikings used the raven banner on their ships, in Odin’s honor. These flags, usually sewn by the daughters of great warriors and kings, were tokens of luck on their voyages. Houses where ravens nested were also thought to be lucky.
In the Norse shamanic tradition, Odin’s ravens represent the powers of necromancy, clairvoyance and telepathy, and they were guides for the dead. This poem expresses a shaman’s fear of his loss of magical powers.
In Beowulf, an Anglo Saxon poem, is written ” . . . craving for carrion, the dark raven shall have its say, and tell the eagle how it fared at the feast, when, competing with the wolf, it laid bare the bones of corpses.”
Irish and Scots Bean Sidhes (Banshees) could take the shape of ravens as they cried above a roof, an omen of death in the household below. “To have a raven’s knowledge” is an Irish proverb meaning to have a seer’s supernatural powers. Raven is considered one of the oldest and wisest of animals.
The Scottish Goddess of winter, The Cailleach, sometimes appears as a raven. A touch from her brings death.
In Welsh folklore, the raven is also an omen of death. If the raven makes a choking sound, it is a portent of the death rattle. A crying raven on a church steeple will “overlook” the next house where death will occur. A raven could smell death and would hover over the area where the next victim dwelt, including animals. Ravens were heard to “laugh” when someone was about to die. Welsh witches, and the Devil, would transform themselves into ravens.
~Kim Steele is a San Francisco based photographer whose work has been exhibited, and is now, in museum & private collections in the U.S. and overseas.