Trigger warning: dead animal, animal predation.
One of the hardest things to do, once we start opening our awareness up to the idea of signs and omens, is discerning the difference between an interesting encounter with an animal, and a message in the form of an animal. I’m a priest-in-training of The Mórrigan, and corvids are particularly sacred to Her, so much so that She often takes the form of a crow or raven (or, sometimes, other carrion birds). So of course it’s easy to think of Her every time I see a crow.
But I also live in a neighborhood that is nearly overrun with crows. At any given moment there are likely to be at least one or two crows on the power lines or trees in front of my house. They’re everywhere here. While this is delightful, it doesn’t necessarily mean that She is constantly confirming Her presence in my life by sending crows my way. Sometimes, no matter how dedicated I am to my Gods, a crow is just a crow. Even a crow sitting in the plum tree close to my kitchen window and shouting at the house probably just means they want us to throw more peanuts out the door for them. Not everything is a sign. Not every close encounter with a wild animal is a message from the Gods.
But. Sometimes there are THOSE moments. I recently had one of THOSE moments.
It began just over a week ago, during the big, dramatic winter storm that shut so much of the country down. Here in the Willamette Valley we didn’t get hit as hard as Texas, but we got hit plenty hard. And on the second morning of unprecendented snowfall and howling winds, we opened our front door to find the body of a dead crow on the landing.
There was so much snow, and the ground was frozen, so I couldn’t bury him right away. I found a sheltered place in the back yard to put him, and waited for the storm to end.
Of course at that point, I had to tell all my witch friends about it, and they all agreed that a crow right against my door might be significant. It felt significant, too, but I don’t like to assume that I’m so special the Gods are flinging birds at my house to get my attention. So I did some divination. And yes, there was a message there, according to the cards: one you can bet I immediately made plans to heed. The message was quite personal, so I won’t be sharing it here, but the point is that if you think an encounter is significant, take some steps to confirm it. This will give you perspective and will help you hone your intuition.
This story doesn’t end with divination to receive a message.
Once the ground thawed, I went out to bury the crow. But his body wasn't where I’d left it. I wasn’t entirely surprised. “Something hungry must have carried him off,” I thought, and headed back around the house to go inside.
But as my foot hit the curve in the path that would take me back to my front door, a murder of crows came wheeling into the yard over my head, cawing at top volume, and settled in the upper branches of the tree closest to me. More and more gathered above my head, screeching their beaks off. I stopped. Held still. Looked up. I’m not in any way an expert on avian behavior, but this was very obviously ABOUT something. So I gave myself a second to put out my witchy feelers, and that’s when I felt the pull to the Northeast corner of the yard.
There I found the dead crow, half eaten.
And still the crows kept shouting at me.
"Okay okay," I said, and got my shovel.
Those crows screamed at me until I dug a hole near my baby hawthorn tree, buried the dead crow, put three grapefruit-sized stones on top of his grave, and sang him a song.
Then they flew away like nothing ever happened.
At this point, I knew this was a sacred experience EVEN IF there was no “message” in it for me, even if it had nothing whatsoever to do with me. Because for some reason, the crows saw fit to communicate a need to me, and I did what they wanted. Service to the Land and her spirits is a sacred act in and of itself, and often we are called to act for the benefit of the Land, or animals, or plants, instead of for ourselves. In this case there was ALSO a message for me, bound up in the small act I was asked to do. But it’s important to remember it isn’t always about US. Sometimes we’re only there to serve, and that’s a beautiful thing.
And if you aren’t sure, ask for guidance. Use a divination system you understand well, or get a reading from a trusted source. Not all crows are omens, but SOME crows are. It’s important to be able to tell which is which.
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Background image of crows in a bare tree by Ospan Ali, courtesy of unsplash.com