By Phoenix of Elder Mountain – As a dreamer (shaman), I have both a relationship to crow, raven and magpie through my own animism souls attained but know much of the totem aspects and relationship as well. The medicines of the soul-birds are a very powerful path for those who connect with them, or experience their wisdom. All I did in my path was bow deeply to mother earth, both her consciousness and her beauty to teach me. I served her for decades and passed all of her tests of both mysticism and her wrathful initiations.
For those who get Crow, Magpie or Raven Totems including their feathers, you’ve been given a gift to listen to your intuition side regardless of its underdevelopment when young, or the peaks of experiences at your midlife transformations of your 40s or 50s. In animism, which is the deeper and much older teaching than totem, is a path or walk of living attainment through the decades of karmic purification of the emotional body, soul body, mental and physical body. Those who soulshift into raven, crow or magpie consciously like myself, we know them best and they never seem to get hurt by life, we on the other hand, must experience much pain if its a life lesson totem.
Lets go back into our story as souls first before the totem wisdom. The evolution of the loss of our animism souls and how the artists from ancient time to today show it in their work…
1. First was the animals (in which animal and human shared a separate soul that had a relationship to each other) the living animism through the forces of the shamans and medicine elders;
2. Beginning losses as the Sun cults rises in all cultures, even the indigenous. The ancient effigy’s and totemism of half bird half woman are the oldest of earth until the sun (god) cults began.
3. As the sun cult kingdoms were built by government (war, science and religion) the art began to shift of ancient artists, and rather than just a bird, animism was expressed in art as “half animal and half human” like the centaur, or lion with wings etc (zoomorphic). These expressed the several animal and bird souls of one human being.
4. Complete loss of grandmothers shamanic cultures in art is where the human, is “riding” the animal or bird” or being drawn by a cart like the goddess Freya, reduced to cats and pigs as the animals. Even in indigenous cultures were pretty much was destroyed between the 3rd and 8th century as well.
5. Modern pets and domestic animals, farm animals, which are in great abundance, and the lowest form of the “human-animism soul” of shamanism today is more prevalent.
Crow, Raven and Magpie Totem and Folklore…
Crow and Raven can be either dark (shadow warnings or the inner self much change and become more aware). These feathers when give, have a karmic attributes, and a strength building story, or they can be light (a helpful friend, protector in the form of watcher or guide). With crows, what I have witnessed as a shaman is much darker than Raven when it comes to humans and their animism soul. Crows are very complicated, Ravens are not. But both have a strength and so the meaning of the feather when you receive one is to practice increasing strength and healthy boundaries in order to overcome some personal fears.
The magpie carries a unique balance of both and neither and is the great bridge of finding center between light and dark. Magpie is found only in a few cultures teachings, and has both black and white colors. Raven and Crow correlates to the struggle between shadow and light, good and evil, empowerment verses power, which is the relationship of soul (water) and spirit (fire).
This is why in mythology and folklore, the crow and raven shifted from the light side of shadow (white crow) into the dark sides of the dark in the sun cults (the sun) mythologies of all people. Societies and tribes alike were building and building more and more karma. War and killing is the main destroyer of the animism soul besides shamanic plants, drugs and pot.
The sun stories related crow and raven as thief (trickster), shapeshifter and messenger of both sides. The bird who was white and transformed to black, bringing luck to some and to others, a messengers warning of the presence of shadow. Magpie is always referred to as a Heavenly Messenger, this has to do with overcoming the duality of crow and raven’s light verses dark battles. Or its much more of a trouble makers than Crow himself.
This is the meaning of the “triple footed crow” behind the art of the Chinese, represent in their mythology. This also has been seen in some art in ancient coins from Lycia in Greece and Pamphylia, an Ancient Region of Anatolia. But like the Chinese they too pushed out the grandmothers older shamanic cultures.
The Chinese had lost their original grandmother shaman culture’s connection, so too Native American and Aboriginal when the sun cults arrived three-thousand years ago. What was left over from prehistory, is in all crow and raven teachings today and are all very similar. What also remains, especially in Chinese mythology, is the direct connection of the “three” (magpie, crow and raven) in visual ancient art connected to the older time before the sun cults, when moon and sun cultures ruled together before paganism and that is the “three legged crow legends.”
Raven and crow and magpie, all fall into neutral territory as a bird soul shamanism teaching, they live in-between the worlds in their respective order, and this makes me associate them with both the dawn and dusk goddesses and the shape-shifting of shaman’s animism reality. They are not truly night or day, I have seen ravens and crows out at night and the daytime, but mostly day, as they are not nocturnal. As a totem raven and crow can go both ways, they can be messengers to warn of shadow, to those of the light. Or they can be messengers of light, giving warnings to the shadow people or the walking dead.
In local modern folklore or folk teachings, I have seen many pot farms associated with the more shadowy sides of Crow (but not raven), which mean the more warrior aspects of men (dark side of the light) have crossed the line and gone over to the shadow sides (dark side of the dark). I have also seen groups of warrior types of people, native or non-native who have taken their dark side (karmic side of their own past life warrior killing) and carry that integrated past life of the demonic astral shadow body, into this life, again, Crow displays this but not raven.
All this is what makes raven, crow and magpie very unique as soul totems, and why they are associated with the double standards of Gemini. In the archetype of Gemini, is the symbol of magic, and trickery, and the self indulgent thief who can walk the two way doors of deception. An example is the charismatic spiritual leader who is really dark underneath, but those who cannot see, only see their charming or charismatic side. For those with the light side of crow and raven animism or totem, will always see the shadow of these people who use trickster medicines. This is why crow and raven are complicated totems, they are not straight forward and fall into the difficult spiritual task of overcoming “illusion”.
When it comes to the esoteric or mystery, crow and raven are self serving both to its shadow attributes and its light attributes and why its similar to coyote aspects of totems. Owl and Vulture are straight forward in their dealings with the dead and darkness.
Ravens and Crows are black representing the night, but live during the day in the Sun, and that has helped them to obtain mystical and then mythic status as the birds who govern both night and day, life and death, but not the underworld. Those who are stuck between life and death, or those who are the living (dead, because of their sickness, or addictions etc). Vulture, unlike raven or crow, is associated with the underworld and death, the dead and with lost souls and the nourishment or fertility that comes from the breaking down of the physical life into the spiritual. But raven and crow do not carry these qualities, they are strictly messengers like hawk.
So to sum up the Totem: Raven and Crow are dualistic in nature, they are either the “dark side of the dark” (demonic) or they are the “light side of the dark” (fighting against the dark for purposes and intent of the light) and why the black raven and crows colors, once white, not fight the dark, and their coloring is black.
Prehistory Shaman Grandmothers, into Goddess cultures and lastly the earliest parts of Paganism
In Japan, the Shinto Goddess, Amaterasu is sometimes represented as a giant raven, Yata-Garasu. The raven has long been used in religious and astrological symbolism across China and Japan, particularly among those involved with sun worship and onmyōdō. Raven represent heaven, the earth, and the soul (bird). Also while the crow itself represents the sun. This was a time when the sun was a Goddess who rules over wisdom and benevolence, since then many of the sun goddesses were changed into the sun God.
In England, tombstones are sometimes called “ravenstones”. Among the Irish Celts, Raven was associated with the Triple Goddess, the Morrigan, who took the shape of Raven over battlefields as Chooser of the Slain. Before pagan traditions in the purer or older Goddess traditions she sat as the grandmother who was protector of her female warriors, later in the pagan cults, she was a protector of warriors, such as Chuhulian and Fionn MacCual.
Raven in paganism and druid traditions is also the totem of the pan-Celtic Sorceress and Goddess Morgan le Fay, called the Queen of Faeries. In some tales, she is Queen of the Dubh Sidhe, or Dark Faeries, who were a race of tricksters who often took the form of ravens.
The Scottish Goddess of Winter, The Cailleach, also shape shift into raven. A touch from her brings death (rebirth). The Cailleach is also older than Paganism and in the Shamanic eras would be called a Bone Mother which the raven is the smallest level of the animism souls of the shaman, for there are many.
Before the Apollo political cult took over the oracle and mystery women’s temples and centers of pre-Greece, Apollo consumed Athena’s Raven. The goddess Athena turned Coronis white crow into a black crow like many of the worlds cultures did.
Raven had brought bad news of the changing societies of the Minoans, Dorians and Ionians and their destruction by the rising Greeks, so long to Athena that she changed the light side of the dark of raven, into the dark side of the dark (Coronis from white to black). Then the rising Greek men had banished the Raven altogether from the Acropolis because it spoke the truth of the political men’s destructive behaviors of building the Greek political agenda against the soul (birds represent the soul in ancient traditions.)
Raven and Crow are not oracular birds like the owl is because they are ‘day’ birds, they are messengers of the waking life when it pertains to shadow. Owl is oracular and prophetic as night birds (the soul at night). Athena use to carry both birds, making her older than paganism, of the earlier tribes of the Dorians, Ionians and Minoans and their shamanic tribes.
Prehistory into History
Kutkh (also Kutkha, Kootkha, Kutq Kutcha, Кутх), is the Raven Ancestor Spirit traditionally revered in various forms by various indigenous peoples of the Russian far east. Kutkh appears in many legends as a key figure in creation, as a fertile ancestor and as the mighty trickster of the shaman female and sometimes male. Its a popular animist stories of the Chukchi people and plays a central role in the mythology of the Koryaks and Itelmens of Kamchatka.
Many of the stories regarding Kutkh are similar to those of the Raven among the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, a long history of indirect cultural contact between Asian and North American peoples. Kutkh (raven) is known among a wide group of people that share a common Chukotko-Kamchatkan language family. Raven is also known as Kutq among the Itelmen, KútqI, KútqIy, KúsqIy in the southeastern Koryak language; KúykIy or QúykIy in northwestern Koryak; and Kúrkil in the Chukchi language.
In Koryak it is employed commonly in its augmentative form, (KutqÍnnaku, KusqÍnnaku, KuyÍnnaku) all meaning “Big Kutkh” as creator, which is also a sun cult myth. The tales of Kutkh come in many, often contradictory versions. In some tales he is explicitly created by a Creator and lets the dawn onto the earth by chipping away at the stones surrounding her.
In others (sometimes out of an old fur coat) Raven takes pride in independence from the Creator. In some, Kamchatka, a feather is dropped while flying over the earth. In others, islands and continents are created by defecation, rivers and lakes out of her waters. The difficult volcanic terrain and swift rivers of Kamchatka are thought to reflect Kutkh’s capricious and willful nature.
The bringing of light in the form of the sun and the moon is also a common theme. Sometimes, tricking evil spirits which have captured the celestial bodies much in the style of analogous legends about the Tlingit and Haida in the Pacific Northwest. In others, it is Raven who must be tricked into releasing the sun and the moon from its bill. Kutkh’s children who are ravens, copulating with other animal spirits (animism) and creating the peoples who populate the world.
In the animistic tradition of north-Eurasian peoples, Kutkh has a variety of interactions and altercations with Wolf, Fox, Bear, Wolverine, Mouse, Owl, Seal, Walrus and a host of other. Many of these interactions involve some sort of trickery in which Kutkh comes out on top about as often as raven is made a fool of. An example of these contradictions is given to the Chukchi legend of Kutkh and the Mice….
The great and mighty raven Kutkh was flying through the cosmos. Tired from constant flight, he regurgitated the Earth from his gut, transformed into an old man, and alighted on the empty land to rest. Out of his first footsteps emerged the first Mice. Curious, playful and fearless, they entered the sleeping Kutkh’s nose. The fury of the subsequent sneeze buckled the earth and created the mountains and the valleys.
Attempts to stamp them out led to the formation of the ocean. Further harassments led to a great battle between the forces of snow and fire which created the seasons. Thus, the variable world recognizable to people emerged from the dynamic interaction between the mighty Kutkh and the small but numerous Mice. Although Kutkh is supposed to have given humankind variously light, fire, language, fresh water and skills such as net-weaving and copulation, raven is also often portrayed as a laughing-stock, hungry, thieving and selfish.
In its contradictions, raven’s character is similar that of other tricksters, such as Coyote and sometimes Fox. The early Russian explorer and ethnographer of Kamchatka Stepan Krasheninnikov (1711–1755) summarizes the Itelmen’s relationship to Kutkh as follows:
“They pay no homage to Raven and never ask any favors; they speak of Raven only in derision. They tell such indecent stories about Raven that I would be embarrassed to repeat them. They upbraid Raven for having made too many mountains, precipices, reefs, sand banks and swift rivers, for causing rainstorms and tempests which frequently inconvenience them.
In winter when they climb up or down the mountains, they heap abuses on him and curse Raven with imprecations. They behave the same way when they are in other difficult or dangerous situations.”
The image of Kutkh remains popular and iconic in Kamchatka, used often in advertising and promotional materials. Stylized carvings of Kutkh by Koryak artisans, often adorned with beads and lined with fur, are sold widely as souvenirs. The Chukchi creator-deity, roughly analogous to Bai-Ulgan of the Turkic pantheon. The Koryaks refer to him as Quikinna’qu (“Big Raven”) and in Kamchadal (Itelmens) mythology, is called Kutkhu.
In Aboriginals tales of the raven is believed to have originally been a white bird who was scorched by the sun (cults). In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Crow is a trickster, culture hero and ancestral being. In the Kulin nation in central Victoria he was known as Waa (also Wahn or Waang) and was regarded as one of two moiety ancestors, the other being the more sombre eaglehawk Bunjil. Legends relating to Crow have been observed in various Aboriginal language groups and cultures across Australia.
Crow and Magpie – The various groups of Western Australia offer two versions of the same story about the Crow and the Magpie. The crow and the magpie are brothers (once brother and sister), both born with pure white feathers. Both were vain and would argue as to which was the most beautiful. Perched in a tree, they began to argue and then fought. The people with the crow as their totem will tell you the brothers fell into a fire below, the Crow getting burnt all over, the Magpie only partially burned.
One common myth concerns Crow’s role in bringing and stealing fire to humankind. According to a version of this story told by the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, in the Dreamtime, fire been a jealously-guarded secret of the seven Karatgurk women who lived by the Yarra River where Melbourne now stands because women are the original fire keepers and do not misuse nature’s spirit. These women carried live coals on the ends of their digging sticks, allowing them to cook yams.
One day Crow found a cooked yam and, finding it tastier than the raw vegetables he had been eating, decided he would cook his food from then on. However, the Karatgurk women refused to share their fire with him and Crow resolved to trick them into giving it up. Crow caught and hid a number of snakes in an ant mound then called the women over, telling them that he had discovered ant larvae were far more tasty than yams.
The women began digging, angering the snakes, which attacked. Shrieking, the sisters struck the snakes with their digging sticks, hitting them with such force that the live coals flew off. Crow, who had been waiting for this, gathered the coals up and hid them in a kangaroo skin bag. The women soon discovered the theft and chased him, but the bird simply flew out of their reach and perched at the top of a high tree.
Eaglehawk and Craw – Bunjil the Eaglehawk, who had seen all of this, asked Crow for some of the coals so that he could cook a possum. Crow instead offered to cook it for him. Soon, a large group had gathered around Crow’s tree, shouting and demanding that he share the secret of fire with them. The din frightened Crow and at last he flung several live coals at the crowd.
Kurok-goru the fire-tailed finch picked up some of the coals and hid them behind his back, which is why to this day firefinches have red tails. The rest were gathered up by Bunjil’s shaman helpers, Djurt-djurt the nankeen kestrel and Thara the quail hawk. The coals caused a bushfire which burnt Crow’s feathers permanently black and threatened to consume the entire land, until Bunjil’s efforts halted its spread. The Karatgurk sisters, meanwhile, were swept into the sky where they became the Pleiades (the stars are said to represent their glowing fire sticks).
Those whom have the magpie as their totem will tell the story the same, but that the brothers fell into thick black mud, and the magpie only slightly stained his feathers, the crow covered in the mud. As for the crow, as in all Indigenous Australian totems, it is known for its cunning and intelligence, a trickster too, and old spirit with prescient knowledge or carrying old knowledge of many lifetimes (like reincarnation). Very powerful too, as in the totem itself is one of the ones with powerful natural magic, and depending on the language groups own mythology the holder of the totem will either carry great respect, or suspect.
Crow and Swamp Hawk – In another legend, Crow was travelling down the Murray River when he met Swamp Hawk. Deciding to play a trick on the other bird, he planted echidna quills in the deserted nest of a kangaroo rat and enticed Swamp Hawk to jump on them. The quills stuck and grew into Swamp Hawk’s feet, but the bird was pleased with this as he found he was now able to catch rats more easily. Some accounts have Crow ultimately leaving the earth altogether, having been called up into the heavens where he became Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky.
Crows attacking spirits on the way to the afterlife. The Yanyuwa people have a legend that says that as spirits of the dead approach the afterlife, they are attacked by crows carrying digging sticks. The crows are said to be angry with all people because people often chase them away from campsites when they scavenge. The spirits are saved by hawks and falcons.
Pacific Northwest Natives
Raven Tales are the traditional people and animals creation stories of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and are also found among Athabaskan-speaking peoples and others. Raven stories exist in nearly all of the First Nations throughout the region but are most prominent in the tales of the Tlingit and Tahltan people. Raven and eagle are known by many different names by many different peoples and is an important figure among written and oral traditional stories.
His tales are passed down through the generations of story tellers of the people and are of cultural and historical significance. It’s important to note that Native myths such as the Raven Tales, as opposed to tall tales and little stories for children, are not entertainment and are cultural property of the clan or individual that the story originates from. It is customary that others should not tell stories that are owned by another clan, especially if they do not live in the same area. While each culture’s stories of the Raven are different, there are even those that share the same title; certain attributes of Raven remain the same.
The Raven is always a magical creature able to take the form of human, animal, even inanimate objects. He is a keeper of secrets, and a trickster often focused on satisfying his own gluttony for whatever he desires. His stories tell of how worldly things came to be or offer suggestion to children on how to behave. Raven’s creative nature shows itself through circumstance rather than intent, through the desire to satisfy his own needs, rather than any altruistic principles. Raven is both the protagonist among the stories of some groups, and the antagonist of others; he is a hero and an amusement. Tales that feature the Raven as the hero are specific to areas in the north of the continent such as northern British Columbia and Alaska and their peoples, such as the Tsimshian and the Haida.
While Raven tales tell the origins of human beings, they do not address the origins of organized society. In tales which mirror development and organization of Native American societies, the hero is often humanity itself. Raven tales do not offer a detailed picture about the social relations and realities of life. ng the seashore all alone but would stop whenever he came upon a village. When he met people whom he saw take disadvantage of others or use their power for evil, he would kill in his efforts to deprive them of power.
Raven traveled for many years along the coast of the Tlingit territory, first travelling south, having started in the north until he had gone so far south, beyond Tlingit territory until he reached the Mink people at which point he turned around and continued back the other direction. He did this north south, south north journey for several years. Not until his work along the coast was done, did he head inland along the Stikine river all the way to its source. He also traveled along the Nass, Skeena, and Taku Rivers and all of their many streams never staying in one place for very long and never traveling far off from the water ways.
Through his inland journeys he met the Kaska, the Haida, and other nations to the east. Later in life, when Raven had done all the work he could do, he traveled back out to the coastal regions guided by the setting Sun until he disappeared mysteriously. The only suggestion is that he may have gone to live with the Kanu’gu and other ancient ancestors on an island far out into the ocean where they believed weather was created from.
Paganism, then into History or World Mythology
The cult of Mithras is one of the earlier Pagan cultures of the Persians, and one of the most widespread and mysterious of the world’s cults. They’re mentioned as far back as the writings of Plutarch, but we know relatively little about what actually went on in their rites and rituals which tells us they were Grandmother shamanic cultures in their beginnings.
What we do know, however, is that the Raven played an integral part in the cult’s mythos. Mithras is credited with killing the sacred bull which was the destruction of the shamanic cultures, and, in doing so, creating life from the different parts of the bull. In many depictions of the moment of killing and creation, a raven is perched on the bull’s back.
For those who were initiated into the cult of Mithras, there were several levels through which they could progress. The lowest level, whose members were little more than servers during ritual feats, was called Raven (corax). Raven’s role in nature was messenger and as scavenger—these new initiates into the cult were scavengers of the thoughts, ideas, and knowledge of others, and it was also the raven were messegers for the Mithras, gathering information in the same way.
In Greek mythology, ravens are the ancestors of prophecy according to the political Apollo cult, and was victory for the rising kingdoms that overthrew first the tribes (shamanism) and then the pagans, this is why it became a symbol of good luck, success and messengers in the mortal world of trouble brewing. In the cult of Apollo also had a white raven (and crow) and they were used as spies against women, it was once Athena’s totem along with the owl but that had changed and only became symbolic rather than shamanic animism.
Ravens and crows in animism shape-shifting can be both shadowy or light. The demonic ravens and crows, whose animism souls have turned, because of the shadow human, will hang out in larger groups, especially those who are warriors gone bad.
The raven in Hebrew, are the first species of birds to be mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and ravens are mentioned on numerous occasions thereafter. In the Book of Genesis, Noah releases a raven from the ark after the great flood to test whether the waters have receded (Gen. 8:6-7). In men’s laws, the Law of Moses, ravens are forbidden for food (Leviticus 11:15; Deuteronomy 14:14), a fact that may have colored the perception of ravens in later sources.
In Sweden or the Viking cults, Ravens were known as the ghosts of murdered people, be that from war and the military or from individual mishaps. In later paganism, the Vikings came, and in their Nordic traditions Odin appear flanked with two birds on a 6th-century bracteate and on a 7th-century helmet plate from Vendel, Sweden. In later Norse mythology, Odin is depicted as having two ravens Huginn and Muninn serving as his eyes and ears.
Huginn being referred to as thought and Muninn as memory.Each day the ravens fly out from Hliðskjálf and bring Odin news from Midgard. The Old English word for a raven was hræfn; in Old Norse it was hrafn; the word was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle. Which means in Religious and Pagan eras, the black was seen as a masculine attribute for killing and war.
Chinese Mythology and Legend
The three-legged raven or crow is commonly found in mythology and art of East Asia, specifically China, Japan and Korea. The bird inhabits and is a representative of the sun. It is a bird ancestor the earliest forms is a tripedal footed crow still found in modern-day China. Evidence of this earliest bird, was the Sun-Bird motif (animism ancestors) or totems, excavations from around 5000 bce from the lower Yangtze River delta area. This Sun-Bird was also observed in later Yangshao and Longshan Cultures. The Chinese have several versions Sun Crow tales. But the most popular depiction and myth of the Sun crow is that of the Yangwu or Jinwu, the “golden crow”. According to folklore, there were originally ten Sun-Ravens or Sun-Crows which settled in ten separate suns. They perched on a red mulberry tree called the Fusang, literally meaning “the leaning mulberry tree”, in the East at the foot of the Valley of the Sun.
This mulberry tree (some say hibiscus), was said to have many mouths opening from its branches. Each day one of the sun crows would be able to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by Xihe the ‘mother’ of the suns. As soon as one sun crow returned, another one would set forth in its journey crossing the sky. According to Shanhaijing, the sun crows loved eating two sorts of mythical grasses of immortality, one called the Diri (Chinese: 地日; pinyin: dìrì), or “ground sun”, and the other the Chunsheng (Chinese: 春生; pinyin: chūnshēng), or “spring grow”.
The sun ravens would often descend from heaven on to the earth and feast on these grasses, but Xihe did not like this thus she covered their eyes to prevent them from doing so. Folklore also held that, at around 2170 bce, all ten sun crows came out on the same day, causing the world to burn; These are celebrated in the Mid-Autumn Festival for variants of this legend.
In Chinese mythology and culture, the three-legged crow is called the “sanzuwu” and is present in many myths. The earliest known depiction of a three-legged crow appears in Neolithic pottery of the Yangshao culture dated from around 5000 to 3000 bce. The culture flourished mainly in the provinces of Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi. The sanzuwu is also of the “Twelve Medallions” that is used in art, fashion, sacred robes, etc. Mural from the Han dynasty period found in Henan province depicting a three-legged raven.
In Chinese mythology, there are other three-legged creatures besides the crow, for instance, the yu 魊 “a three-legged tortoise that causes malaria”. The three-legged crow symbolizing the sun has a yin yang counterpart in the chánchú 蟾蜍 “three-legged toad” symbolizing the moon (along with the moon rabbit). According to an ancient tradition, this toad is the transformed Chang’e lunar deity who stole the elixir of life from her husband Houyi the archer, and fled to the moon where she was turned into a toad.
The Fènghuáng is commonly depicted as being two-legged but there are some instances in art in which it has a three-legged appearance. Xi Wangmu (Queen Mother of the West) is also said to have three green birds (Chinese: 青鳥; pinyin: qīngniǎo) that gathered food for her and in Han-period religious art they were depicted as having three legs. In the Yongtai Tomb dating to the Tang Dynasty Era, when the Cult of Xi Wangu flourished, the birds are also shown as being three-legged.
Korea – Three-legged crow flanked by dragon and phoenix. In Korean mythology, it is known as Samjok-o (hangul: 삼족오; hanja: 三足烏). During the period of the Goguryo kingdom, the Samjok-o was considered a symbol of the sun. The ancient Goguryo people thought that a three-legged crow lived in the sun while a turtle lived in the moon. Samjok-o was a highly regarded symbol of power, thought superior to both the dragon and the Korean bonghwang.
Although the Samjok-o is mainly considered the symbol of Goguryeo, it is also found in Goryeo and Joseon dynasty. In modern Korea, Samjok-o is still found especially in dramas such as Jumong. The three-legged crow was one of several emblems under consideration to replace the bonghwang in the Korean seal of state when its revision was considered in 2008. The Samjok-o appears also in Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC’s current emblem. There are some Korean companies using Samjok-o as their corporate logos.
Japan – In Japan, the crow, with its three legs is a common depictions of Yatagarasu, or “eight-span crow,” an enormous crow of divine purpose, which was most likely a thunderbird in origin. It is divine itself and an ancestral crow. The appearance of the great bird is construed as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs.
In Japan, the crow has also been a symbol of the sun since ancient times, appearing in Japan’s earliest written works. It is a holy creature and a servant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Originally Yatagarasu was depicted with two legs, but in the 930’s ce, the Chinese myth of the three-legged crow made the bird smaller and with three legs and thus merged into the story of Yatagarasu.
Although Yatagarasu is mentioned in a number of places in Shintō, the depictions are primarily seen on more modern Edo wood art, dating back to the early 1800s wood-art era. Although not as celebrated today, the crow is a mark of rebirth and rejuvenation.
Yatagarasu as a crow-god in later history, is a symbol specifically of guidance. This great crow was sent from heaven as a guide for Emperor Jimmu on his initial journey from the region which would become Kumano to what would become Yamato, (Yoshino and then Kashihara). It is generally accepted that Yatagarasu is an incarnation of Taketsunimi no mikoto, but none of the early surviving documentary records are quite so specific.
As a totem, Magpie is known as ‘the cunning prophet‘ and they are associated with divination, prophecy and the symbolism of bridges, walking from one world into the other and back. Its called the heavenly bridge which takes great strength and many dangers to overcome.
Magpies represent risk taking and come into our lives to help us use our instincts to our advantage which border the clever or even stealthy. It represents the ability to balance, not only of physical, but the balancing of any strong opposites in our life. The taking of joy in personal change, to let go the old and find the new with confidence and clarity. Intelligence, adaptability and success are all traits of the magpie.
In Bulgarian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and Slovak folklore the magpie is seen as a trickster and thief and is connected with human interactions and other animals which live around humans, wild and domestic.
In Slavic traditions, the Soroka, Wehtitsa-Magpie is considered a dangerous bird that is connected to the werewolf; and the shape shifting of a witch into a bird. The good witches can be harbinger, or fortuneteller. Soroka is one of the usual forms of a witch, a mention that is constantly encountered in historical and literary writings. Witches as magpies fly home at night and steal still unborn babies, which of course is why Baba Jaga images always have a magpie in her stories and artwork. Of course that is all religious nonsense and corruptions to hurt pagans.
In Sweden, it is with Nordic pagan witches as one of their totems. Magpie is considered cunning and thievish, but also the bird of huldra, the underground people. Magpies have been attacked for their role as predators, which includes eating other birds’ eggs and their young. They are the ultimate trickster, much more than crow and raven. But there is no real evidence of effects, that as predators they dwindle songbird population growth rates.
In Europe, magpies have been historically demonized by humans, mainly as a result of superstition and myth. The bird has found itself in this situation mainly by association, says Steve Roud: “Large blackbirds, like crows and ravens, are viewed as evil in British folklore and white birds are viewed as good”. These are based on medieval European folklore, associated with a number of superstitions and surrounding its reputation as an omen of ill fortune.
In Scotland, a magpie near the window of the house is said to foretell death. In Korea, where the magpie is celebrated as “a bird of great good fortune, of sturdy spirit and a provider of prosperity and development” is a very positive omen. Similarly, in China, magpies are seen as an omen of good fortune and good luck. This is even reflected in the Chinese word for magpie, simplified Chinese: 喜鹊; traditional Chinese: 喜鵲; pinyin: xǐquè, in which the first character means “happiness”.
The thief, the cunning prophet or good luck omen, Magpie certainly plays both sides of shadow and light, and challenges your personal belief and folklore.
The Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar. It is sometimes called the Double Seventh Festival, the Night of Sevens or the Magpie Festival.
The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, who were the weaver maid and the cowherd, respectively. The tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival since the Han Dynasty. The earliest-known reference to this famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago, which was told in a poem from the Classic of Poetry. The Qixi festival inspired Tanabata festival in Japan and Chilseok festival in Korea.