What Does the Raven Symbolize?


In Native American Indian lore, the raven symbolizes metamorphosis, change or transformation. Some tribes consider the raven a trickster because of these attributes, and holy men often call upon ravens in rituals to clarify visions that are difficult to understand.

Native Americans also believe that ravens bring messages from the cosmos and deliver those messages to those in the tribe who are worthy enough to receive them. In addition, ravens are thought to help people find answers to thoughts that they are unable to face. It is believed that ravens help to expose these secrets to help a person begin the process of healing from their effects.

The Norse god Odin is represented by a raven. Odin is the god of many things in the Norse pantheon, but primarily wisdom, war and death. It was thought that if a raven appeared, Odin was watching. Another god of war, Apollo, was also represented by a raven. In ancient Greece, for Apollo to appear in the form of a raven flying from the East or South was a sign of good things to come. The raven is crucial to Celtic mythology, in which it is not only representative of the goddess Morrighan, but also of witches and wizards, all of whom could transform themselves into a raven to spy on people. The raven was also a symbol of death in Celtic mythology. Although the raven was not always a bad symbol in ancient cultures, in literature, the appearance of a raven generally does not mean that good things are to come. In Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven," a man is so bothered by the foreboding presence of a raven over his door that he literally drives himself insane.