What Are Some Superstitions About Ravens?

Superstitions about ravens are common in legends including the belief they are the ghosts of murder victims and are hosts for the souls of the damned. The raven has long been considered a bird of ill omen, probably because of its black plumage, croaking call, and taste for the dead and decaying flesh of other animals.

A group of six ravens, their wings clipped to prevent escape, inhabit the Tower of London. It is believed that if the group is lost or flies away, “the Crown will fall and Britain with it.” Wild ravens have lived there for centuries, first attracted by the smell of corpses from the the Crown’s executed enemies. According to Danish folklore from the late 19th century, when a king or chieftain was killed in battle and later eaten by ravens, the ravens became a “valravne.” The valravne that ate the king’s heart gained human knowledge. It could then perform great malicious acts, could lead people astray, and had superhuman powers.

Literature has not been kind to ravens. Edgar Allan Poe, William Shakespeare and Stephen King have all contributed to the bad reputations of the birds.

The Common Raven (Corvus corax) is found across the Northern Hemisphere. A large bird, ravens measure 25 inches in length and weigh about 2.6 pounds. They live up to 21 years in the wild and mate for life. The brains of ravens are among the largest of any bird species. They watch where other ravens bury their food cache in order to steal from them later. As a result, ravens have even been observed pretending to bury food without actually doing so just to throw off their brethren.