Someone sent this to me a couple of days ago, and it was the second time in as many days that she privately tagged me with a picture attached. Both contained a bird. My mythically inclined self was unable to keep quiet on the arrival of the second and not-so-quietly suggested that it may be appropriate to take a closer look and maybe ponder on the deeper significance which may lurk beneath the random gestures of a faraway friend. Because it appeared in both images, the first symbol I needed to look at was the bird. Whenever a large black bird appears in imagery, it can be incredibly difficult to know if it’s a raven or a crow. When I’m analysing an animal for its symbolic significance, I usually start by looking at its basic characteristics, and obviously, I can only do this if I know what it is. There are clearly similarities between crows and ravens, but they also have subtle differences which change the overall meaning of the symbolic interpretation. Crows are known to be social but ravens less so. Both birds have shown high intelligence with the ability to problem-solve as well as being capable of understanding displacement. The main difference I can see is the social aspect and the diet. If we’re dealing with ravens, then it points towards rural landscapes and less trusting interaction with humans. Ravens are featured in many myths both good and bad; the Greeks associated it with Apollo and was considered an omen of good luck, the Irish saw the raven as a common feature of the battleground and therefore gave a connection to The Morrígan. In Norse mythology there are a pair of particularly significant ravens who were known as Huginn (thought) and Muninn (mind), they flew around the world gathering information for the chief god Odin who had given Huginn and Muninn the ability to speak. And here in good ol’ England, we have a superstition that the monarchy and Britain will fall if the ravens leave the Tower of London.
The first image I received (pictured right); the hand of a woman holds a bird close to her body, the wing was open and symbolic of reciprocity. Overall the picture is leaning towards the gothic. The Girl and the Raven by Elena Helfrecht suggests a woman at one with the bird and bird being at one with the woman but the hue of the picture gives the impression they’re in a cold place and part of me wonders if the raven is suggesting of warmth and companionship or maybe a desire to nurture. The second picture (shown above) is more complex than the first. Dani Rolli’s Feed the Birds has an element of grunge thrown into it, and the figure comes complete with thorns and halo. The bird is somehow attached to a scarf which is wrapped around the person’s face and covers the mouth; interestingly the bird has its mouth open, and to me, this is saying the bird is speaking for the human. The twig-like hair could be suggesting the nest of the bird, and I wonder if this is a subtle reminder of the Huginn and Muninn myth and the raven being representatives of thought and mind. The halo stresses there’s a holy element in all of this, whatever ‘this’ may be. If we look more broadly at the halo, it’s a representative of being able to elevate oneself above the mortal coil. Obviously, this isn’t possible in a literal sense, but we can adjust our thinking to gain a wider perspective of a situation or person. In a broad sense, halos can be symbolic of compassion towards that which is human. The chest of the figure is male, yet the visible wound on the breast could be saying that gender is irrelevant here, or maybe it’s not about nurture at all, breasts being symbolic of feeding…or maybe it’s a man? The head and face look more feminine to me which takes me back to the gender irrelevance message contained within the image, and it certainly has the effect of desexualizing the nudity.
But what does is all mean for me?
Well, usually with these types of pics I take it as a reminder that I have a handcrafted self who likes to play with the elements every now and again. It’s not so much the wild woman in me, but the one who likes witchcraft and all things lunar, dark, hidden, and mystical. They tell me it’s time for black candles and incense. Winter is here, and it’s time to retreat from the outside for a while; it’s also time to pick up the books and learn some more…
Ahhhh, I think I get it now.
Let the mind speak.