Monday, May 23, 2016

A Conspiracy of Ravens

It is exceedingly interesting to see what events or experiences capture people's attention. It reflects their tendency of consciousness. In this fast-paced world, most people pay attention to… other people. As most communication between humans is non-verbal, these signals are received in a variety of ways. Some pay attention to other’s eyes… the windows to the soul. Others observe body posture. Still others read auras, the subtle energy nexus, surrounding the body.

Many, who are insightful and observant, go beyond the individual and pay attention to culture-wide signals. They observe the “Zeitgeist” or the spirit of the times. Within the synchromystic realm of observation, specific pop-cultural signs are recognized as having meaningful significance. Perceived signals from a variety of mass media, such as film or television, resonate with insightful epiphany in the minds of the synchromystics. As such, their attention is placed upon the machinations of media… the cerebral world of words and imagery.

One of my very favorite bloggers and author of Our Gods Wear Spandex… Christopher Knowles... over at the Secret Sun, had recently recognized and reported on a significant gathering of birds: Quiscalus quiscula …commonly known as Grackles. Chris had a meaningful encounter with… the birds. The context in which Chris described his encounter was one of signs and portents. The fact that Chris paid attention to this phenomenon illustrates a certain level of intuitive consciousness. More precisely… a specific type of intuitive consciousness.

Chris’s awareness tended toward reading the signs delivered through the medium of nature. He “paid attention” to the subtle signals conveyed by the natural world… by the peculiar gathering or flocking of the Common Grackle. In this case, the communication was anything but common. Such attention takes the form of spiritual insight and the Grackles Chris observed, assume the role of Totem. An Animal Totem is an important symbolic entity recognized by the observer, and used to get in touch with specific sympathetic qualities found within said animal… which the observer aligns, connects with, or feels a deep affinity toward.

Throughout the ages, birds have been harbingers of fortuitousness... of consequence. Owls, crows and especially the crow’s big brother… the Raven… have foretold of ominous events. It is widely known that a gathering of crows is known as a "murder of crows." It may not be as well known that a gathering of Ravens is called a "Conspiracy of Ravens."

On May 7th, just before dusk, I was roused from my Saturday evening reverie by a god-awful racket, coming from my back yard. At first, I assumed this commotion to be those rascally Scrub Jays… stealing catfood. Slipping out the sliding glass door, onto the back deck, I soon realized that this was no mere catfood heist.

Situated on the edge of a mountainous watershed, my neighborhood is full of towering conifers… Douglas Fir, Incense Cedar, Ponderosa Pine. What I suspected to be Scrub Jays, proved to be a growing gathering of Ravens. There were 50 or 60 flocked in several large Cedars. More were kiting in to perch as the sky darkened. They were squawking and gurgling and carrying on as even more ravens sailed in from the mountain, till at least 150 birds were... conspiring. That may not sound like a lot of birds… but ravens are large creatures and as they conversed… now perching… now circled above the cedars… this conspiracy was quit impressive.

The common raven (Corvus corax) is a large all-black passerine bird. Found across the Northern Hemisphere, it is the most widely distributed of all corvids (crow family). At maturity, the common raven averages 25 inches in length and 2.6 pounds in mass. Common ravens can live up to 21 years in the wild, a lifespan exceeded by very few species. Young birds may travel in flocks but later mate for life, with each mated pair defending a territory. Amazing feats of problem-solving provide evidence that the common raven is unusually intelligent.

Common ravens have coexisted with humans for thousands of years. Over the centuries, they have been the subject of mythology, folklore, art, and literature. In many cultures, including the indigenous cultures of Scandinavia, ancient Ireland and Wales, Bhutan, the northwest coast of North America, and Siberia and northeast Asia, the raven has been revered as a spiritual figure or “Trickster” god.

Whatever was going down within their realm, these ravens were loud and rowdy. As darkness fell, the Conspiracy of Ravens appeared to come to terms with whatever issue that had gathered to discuss. I had been watching the conspiracy for around twenty minutes. I stood, transfixed as they suddenly took wing. Within a minute, the entire conspiracy was gone… back up to the mountain from whence they came. 

I am still amazed by this incident and continue to process it.

Like Chris’s Grackle incident (which by Chris’s account, evolved into an encounter with another Trickster totem, the Fox… but that is another story), I have long affiliated with the Raven as one of my totems. They have come to me at times of consequence, throughout my life. Another of my favorite bloggers and author of Star.ships: Gordon White, over at Rune Soup had this to say about paying attention to animal totems…

“It would be safe to say that a majority of totem animals have a physical representation that their human counterparts are at least passingly familiar with. Totem animals can often serve as a way to amplify or enhance your relationship to your immediate environment. This is both fine and worthy. And even when you’re not engaging in this way, animal ‘wisdom’ at its most superficial level is about matching a trait or behaviour displayed in the wild to a lesson in your own life.”

Again, it is exceedingly interesting to see what events or experiences capture people's attention. To commune with other species is an ancient, time-honored, magical practice. Those who have a certain affinity for specific non-human species, display a certain generous or inclusive consciousness. The Lakota people have a phrase for this awareness… Mitákuye Oyásin.

Mitákuye Oyásin is a phrase that reflects the world-view of interconnectedness held by many indigenous peoples of North America. The phrase translates in English as "all my relatives" or "we are all related" or "all my relations." It is a prayer of oneness and harmony with all forms of life: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, and even rocks, rivers, mountains and valleys.

So it is that we welcome and honor all our relations… the two-legged, the four legged, those who crawl and those who fly. We learn from these… if we take the time to listen. Together, we all describe and share this crazy zeitgeist we are all living in… interesting times, indeed.

Update: Winter, 2016

I have been haunted by this post. The mysterious conspiracy of the Raven Clan that night proved to be a prophetic event, in the traditional sense of such portents. It was as if the Ravens were drawn to and spiraled around… rode, or surfed upon (just as large birds often ride swirling updrafts)… a vortex of energy. It was as if the birds had tuned into this occurrence energetically… and rose up with it… riding the psychic thermals.

Traditionally, the Raven archetype has been, among other things, considered a harbinger of death. Several weeks after the Conspiracy of Ravens incident, I noticed a moving van parked in front of our neighbor’s house. Our respective homes shared the towering conifers. The elderly woman who lived there was the very picture of grandmotherhood. Warm and welcoming, she was well liked in our neighborhood. In the ensuing days, there was much activity next door.

Several days later, noticing our neighbor’s granddaughter out front, I took the opportunity to check in. Indeed, our neighborhood grandmother had passed. At the time, and out of respect, I didn’t inquire about the exact date of her passing, although I gathered that it had been several weeks. We exchanged pleasantries and I express condolences.

They say that funerals are for the living… For me, the Conspiracy of Ravens took the form of “spirit guide” in taking grandmother home. This thought, like many such notions… in such times… is one of comfort. And isn’t this where the ancient beginnings of ritual are born?

- J♥

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