We have a peculiar behavior at our house that involves rotisserie chicken. Once we’ve picked off all the meat we can use, my husband will take out a ladder and climb up to a little platform he positioned on the roof of our garage and leave the carcass there.
Before too long, our neighborhood crows will come along, and peck away the last few bits.
We love this closer look at our corvid friends. They look at us cautiously, curiously and I wouldn’t be surprised if they know who we are. There’s a story about a little girl who fed crows and they recognized her and started bringing her gifts.
Crows are different from the other birds we feed. Other birds flit about nervously and if they see us and we move, they quickly fly away. Crows act like a confident aunt in the kitchen, strutting around their food, tasting it, stirring it up with a their beaks with an air of entitlement, then eating some more. If our eyes meet, a penetrating gaze startles me. It is said that when we make that eye connection with a crow, we get a glimpse of our authentic self.
I feel like crows carry generations of mystery in their wings. They are feathered in stories, legends, and superstitions.
Because crows eat dead animals, and ate human bodies before burials became common, they have been associated with death. Their congregating in battlefields made them seem like harbingers of death, and their reputation for hanging around cemeteries makes them seem like gatekeepers to departed souls.
In some cultures, it is believed that crows help communication with the departed. When death is near, a crow will hang around more than usual. After the death happens, the crow will linger. It is said it is important to pay attention to the crow because a message is being sent from the dead.
The legend of the rainbow crow makes me see crows as martyrs and heroes. It goes like this:
Shortly after creation, people were freezing to death and wanted to talk to the Creator about ending the snow and ice. Because the Rainbow Crow had such a beautiful voice, they sent him. He told the Creator that the people were freezing to death and to please stop the cold. The Creator said since he had thought of cold, couldn’t unthink it, but he could give them fire to help ward off the cold. He poked a stick into the sun and gave the burning stick to the crow to bring to the people. The crow flew to earth and along the way, the fire singed his beautiful feathers turning them black. And the smoke from the fire made his voice hoarse. But when he arrived, the people celebrated because they wouldn’t freeze to death. Now, if you find a crow’s feather, look closely and see there are still colors in it.
I don’t know if our crows will someday bring us gifts, but gifts aren’t necessary. Getting that penetrating stare that makes me sense a visit into another world is gift enough.