|It was a raven who was the first bird released from Noah's ark in the flood. The Raven abandoned Noah, preferring to fly above the waters alone rather than go back to the ark. In the myths of the Norsemen, Odin kept two oracular ravens named Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory) who kept him informed of all that went on in the world with their whispers. The Muslims call the raven Abu Zajir, which means the Father of Omens. The Elizabethan writer, Christopher Marlow, wrote in his play, The Jew of Malta, this passage describing a raven:
"Like the sad-presaging raven that tolls the sick man's passport in her hollow beak. And in the shadow of the silent night Doth shake contagion from her sable wing."
The raven is known throughout history as both portent and prophet. Among the Irish the "Raven's Knowledge" is used when describing seers. These people with extra senses and often some ability to prophesy are compared to this bird which man has attributed supernatural abilities.
A group of crows is known as a "murder" of crows. A "murder" of crows is based on the persistent but fallacious folk tale that crows form tribunals to judge and punish the bad behavior of a member of the flock. If the verdict goes against the defendant, that bird is killed (murdered) by the flock. The basis in fact is probably that occasionally crows will kill a dying crow who doesn't belong in their territory or much more commonly feed on carcasses of dead crows. Also, both crows and ravens are associated with battlefields, medieval hospitals, execution sites and cemeteries (because they scavenged on human remains). In England, a tombstone is sometimes called a ravenstone.
Which brings me on to the subject of a "crow funeral". Here is a report of a crow funeral which I found on the Internet written by Carl Cook:
"The sound of many crows calling at once filled the air. I peeked out the window, and everywhere I could see, crows, maybe a couple hundred of them. They were on the sidewalk. They were on the power lines. They were on the logs that served as stops for parked cars, and they were in the trees. Almost hidden against one of the logs, I saw a dead crow. There were a few crows standing near the body. The noise continued for about a minute or so, when suddenly, an unseen conductor waved his baton, and the cawing stopped. The silence was equally as loud.
There was a pause.
Then, the invisible conductor again waved his baton, and there was a great and noisy flurry of feathers, as the crows took off and flew in all directions. Soon they were gone, leaving their lifeless kin to the elements. I continued my watch in silent awe, feeling that I had just witnessed something few have seen. In the various articles and books I have read about the corvids and their behavior, the authors cannot agree as to whether the Crow Funeral is fact or legend. Based on what I observed, and barring evidence to the contrary, I believe that I indeed observed the crow's version of what we would call, a funeral.
So the next time you see a murder of crows eating from a garbage can or cawing loudly from the top of a lamppost, don't throw a stone at them or shout abuse at them, but as someone once said "... if you meet me have some courtesy, have some sympathy, have some taste..."
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