Last Wednesday was One of Those Days. Somehow I was wrong all day, over and over, or at least that was the message I kept getting.
In the afternoon I made a visit to White Horse, a shop filled with beautiful fabrics, jewelry, cards, and inspirational items of all sorts, as well as a wonderful feeling of healing energy. I picked up an amazing card that showed a woman in a reverent posture, having perhaps just been given the huge black wings which stretched out above her. Crows flew and perched in the background. It was a little dark and spooky, but I fell in love with it and took it straight to the cash register.
“My Crow is more fun than this,” I said to Jennifer, the proprietor, “but still, I think this card was made for me.”
Jennifer told me that the bird on the card was actually a raven.
Okay, here’s the thing: When the Crow was first brought to me, the shamanic workshop student who had retrieved him told me, “It’s a crow.” But I’ve always had to take his word for it. It’s another “who’s who” issue. The big black bird has never identified himself to me directly, and I’ve never seen him clearly enough to make out the distinct beak shape of either crow or raven. I can certainly tell the difference between the physical creatures, but that doesn’t help. I do know, as I told Jennifer, that at times one of our local crows seems to be trying to catch my attention. I acknowledge them, I explained, and assume that they are the relatives of my special avian friend, while keeping in mind that he just might possibly be a Raven rather than a Crow. Raven is such a popular figure in the spiritual world, one of the rock stars of the power animals, but I’m fine associating with an ordinary, loud and obnoxious, intelligent and perceptive, good old New Mexican Crow just like the ones that hang out in the cottonwood tree next door. If that’s what he is.
So: My feathered mentor is a member of genus Corvus, is solid black, and is profound but lighthearted. I feel that he’s male. That will have to be enough for the moment. And looking at that card again, it seems to me that the birds’ beaks are drawn in a rather noncommittal way, and that they could belong to either species.
Here is something I wrote on March 5, 2005 (Chopin’s name-day, by the way), in the midst of reading a book* by Tom Cowan, one of Michael Harner’s original students of shamanism:
Yesterday, reading about specifics of our relationship with the power animals, I again felt a great longing to get closer to those who have appeared to me. I thought of the Crow, and immediately saw it in front of me. It was only a mental picture, but I saw it as if it were in the room with me. The Crow hovered before me with its wings outspread as if it wanted to embrace me. I saw its heart as a spot of light, and aimed myself for that spot, projecting my own heart toward it. This time I did not quite become the Crow myself. I asked it what it wanted to tell me and what it wanted to do, or liked to do, as Cowan had suggested. I could see the Crow cawing and cackling joyously, and it struck me that crows are very noisy. Now, there’s a no-brainer for you, but the issue that I have been mainly working with lately is not being allowed to make noise, feeling that even the slightest sound I make is too loud and is bothering somebody. The Crow definitely did not care that he was making a great deal of noise. I saw his head tilting and turning energetically, his beak wide open and pouring out sound in every direction.
I also saw the Crow picking and tearing at objects on the ground. That reminded me that crows are among the most intelligent of birds, and they can efficiently pick out the materials they need for food and tools— they have no problem knowing what they want. They are strong as well as smart, and their beaks can easily tear apart carrion or whatever else may be necessary. What those things mean to me, I’m not sure.
At that point, Lenore, my 17-year-old daughter, came into the dining room, where I was sitting with tears running down my cheeks because I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that this wonderful being was willing to speak to me. She asked if I was all right, and I explained that I was having a journey and that it was still going on. She understood and got out of my way. Fortunately, the vision didn’t leave me.
Next, the Crow took me flying. We had flown together before, but though I had a strong sense of soaring movement, I had never seen anything. This time I saw a stereotyped sort of vision of green fields marked out in squares across the landscape. Still better than nothing.
After a little while, I asked the Crow the question Cowan had recommended, about whether I had a mission and what it might be. The answer astonished me. I felt myself expanding into a ball of brilliant yellow light. At the center was another bird, quite different from the Crow, a dark blue abstract of a bird shape with the wingtips pointed up. It reminded me of a peyote bird, but perhaps it was more like a phoenix. At any rate, it seemed symbolic of the soaring and expansiveness of my (our) true nature. I have had this kind of vision before, and I believe it is a glimpse of the real me, the being behind this momentary human form. It grew larger and larger, reaching out into the world. I experienced huge, tremendous energy and power, something far too powerful to fit into this body. At some moment, I felt the Crow lifting off the ground with me again; I could see its feet picking up under its body as we rose. It was all overwhelming, and I felt more tears streaming down.
Instead of pushing me toward a bit of vanity, as you might expect, this kind of experience leaves me humbled and in awe. I gave profound thanks to the Crow for helping me to remember this fundamental truth. It was time to go back to my ordinary dining room and get ready to head for the office.
The next day, I was getting into my car when I heard a sudden, loud caw, very close. A single crow, no others around, was sitting in the cottonwood tree that overhangs my driveway. Perfectly centered in the doorframe of my car, it was looking directly at me and seemed to be speaking right to me. I sat there for a while and told it how much I appreciated the message.
A few years ago, well after that experience, I worked with a patient who had elaborate tattoos that covering much of her body, all of which she had designed herself. On her back was a large, fairly abstract blue bird, exactly the the color I had seen in my vision, and very similar overall. At one point, when I felt we knew each other well enough to discuss such things, I asked her if it might be a phoenix. Indeed it was. I would expect to associate fiery colors with the image of a phoenix, but my patient and I had both seen that same blue. Perhaps this is the “real” color of the Phoenix, a strong archetype if there ever was one.
*This was probably the book: Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life
White Horse website
The beautiful card with corvids:
See the difference between crow and raven faces here: