The Way of the Crow



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Crows: What They Teach Us

 As a young boy I admired crows and ravens. I was rather rebellious and always favoured the underdog. At the time, I remember noting that people were always critical of them; they didn’t have a good thing to say. So, partly for that reason, I decided I loved crows. To most of my friends and neighbours, crows were simply scavengers and destructive birds, wreaking havoc in everyone’s garbage or in their gardens, and committing a variety of other unsavoury deeds. I can't recall anyone ever describing crows as beautiful, unlike robins, blue jays, or other birds of striking colour. The crow, while recognized for its intelligence and deviousness, was largely ignored or cursed.

Even at as a child, I realized there were lessons to be learned from crows and ravens. When I saw a crow flying, I would think: "I wonder how they see the world? They are so intelligent, surely they see the world in an interesting way." I realized early on that there were many things people could learn from two-winged beings, if we were patient enough to watch, listen, and admit that other species could teach us important lessons, and that learning can flow both ways between species. Years later, the time spent with Spirit has convinced me more than ever of the value of intimately sharing experiences with other creatures, and of being open to learning from those shared experiences.

Crows are social birds, and have probably always lived close to human society. Humans have had ample opportunity to witness crow behaviour, and to enshrine it in legend and myth. I like to think that those legends and myths were, in part, created to express admiration and respect for the intelligent and cunning nature of the crow, genetically preserved and expressed in the actions, tendencies, and behaviour of each generation of crows.

If we examine the cultural traditions across North America, we will find that Native peoples have a long standing recognition of the value of crows and everything that lives. Today, it is important that all humans share that recognition, and move from the consciousness of isolation that places us apart from everything else on this planet. Our alienation is often fostered by the technological world in which we live. We forget that we have a kinship with other creatures, and that we must share the earth in a responsible manner.


Leipsigaek Lake, near Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, is a source of refuge, a place I go to gain balance and strength. I have received much inspiration while hiking its rocky shoreline, or exploring a secluded cove, or gazing over its waters. The last time I went there, I visited a small inlet, and a rock fireplace I constructed several years ago. The site is flooded for most of the year, accessible when the water level recedes in late summer or early fall. This fire place is special, it was here I prepared sacred eagle feathers, praying deeply for direction and guidance in my efforts. Those feathers are symbolic of the spirit world and of prayer and spiritual power, among other things. Looking back, I understand that the process was an initiation, as, intuitively, I knew all the proper steps even though I had never prepared the feathers before. I will always remember that important event in my life; the sacred fire will always burn, and whenever I need the flame it becomes evident in my life as a source of inspiration and guidance.

It was at Leipsigaek in 1990, near this fire site, that I first learned from crows. The insight I gained then preceded some of the meaningful things I would learn from Spirit. I was relaxing, surveying the waves and the distant shoreline of Leipsigaek, when I heard the loud cawing of several crows on pine trees further inland. I suspected the crows had been observing me for quite some time before I was alerted to their presence. As I watched those crows, I sensed that I could learn from them. This sensing was like an intuitive impression, that had fallen from the sky! I felt a deep love for those birds. The way they sat on those trees, patiently observing my actions, silently watching my movements, made me realize that if I could demonstrate such patience and silence in my life, I would more easily reach my goals. My life would be much more relaxed and at peace. At the same time, I felt embarassed by the fact that I had lived with Spirit for approximately a year, and I had failed to sense those things from him. In retrospect, I now realize that I was so involved in the process of caring for him and of meeting his living requirements, that I failed to notice some of his crow traits.

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