The god Bran the Blessed -whose name means ‘crow’ or ‘raven’- is associated with corvids and death; tradition holds that Bran’s severed head is buried under the Tower of London, facing France- a possible genesis for the practice of keeping ravens in the Tower, said to protect the fortunes of Britain. In Cornish folklore, crows -magpies particularly- are associated with death and the ‘otherworld’, and proscribes respectful greeting. The origin of ‘counting crows’ as augury is British; however, the British version rather is to ‘count magpies’ – their black and white pied colouring alluding to the realms of the living and dead.
In Sweden ravens are held to be the ghosts of murdered men. In Denmark the night raven is considered an exorcised spirit. There is a hole in its left wing where the stake used to exorcise it was driven into the earth. Those looking through the hole will become a night raven themselves.
In Australian Aboriginal mythology, Crow is a trickster, culture hero, and ancestral being. Legends relating to Crow have been observed in various Aboriginal language groups and cultures across Australia; these commonly include stories relating to Crow’s role in the theft of fire, the origin of death, and the killing of Eagle’s son.
The Chaldean myth the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim releases a dove and raven to find land; however, the dove merely circles and returns. Only then does Utnapishtim send forth the raven, which does not return, and Utnapishtim concludes the raven has found land.
According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in Greek mythology, the god Apollo became enraged when the crow exposed his lover Coronis’ tryst with a mortal, his ire transmuting the crow’s feathers from white to black.
In the Story of Bhusunda, a chapter of the Yoga Vasistha, a very old sage in the form of a crow, Bhusunda, recalls a succession of epochs in the earth’s history, as described in Hindu cosmology. He survived several destructions, living on a wish-fulfilling tree on Mount Meru. Crows are also considered ancestors in Hindiusm and during Śrāddha the practice of offering food or pinda to crows is still in vogue.
Crows are mentioned often in Buddhism, especially Tibetan disciplines. The Dharmapala (protector of the Dharma) Mahakala is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms.
In Japanese mythology, a three-legged crow called Yatagarasu “eight-hand-crow” is depicted.
In Korean mythology, there is a three-legged crow known as Samjokgo hangul.
In Chinese mythology, the world originally had ten suns embodied as ten crows, which rose in the sky one at a time. When all ten decided to rise at once, the effect was devastating to crops, so the gods sent their greatest archer Houyi, who shot down nine crows and spared only one.
In Hinduism, crows are thought of carriers of information. They give omens to people regarding their situations. For example : When a crow crows in front of a person’s house, he is expected to have special visitors that day. Also, in Hindu literature, crows have great memories which they use to give information.
Ancient Greek authors tell how a jackdaw, being a social creature, may be caught with a dish of oil that it falls into while looking at its own reflection. The Roman poet Ovid saw them as a harbinger of rain (Amores 2,6, 34). In Greek legend, a princess Arne was bribed with gold by King Minos of Crete, and was punished for her avarice by being transformed into an equally avaricious jackdaw, who still seeks shiny things. In Aesop’s Fables, the jackdaw embodies stupidity in one tale, by starving while waiting for figs on a fig tree to ripen, and vanity in another – the daw sought to become king of the birds with borrowed feathers, but was shamed when they fell off. Pliny notes how the Thessalians, Illyrians and Lemnians cherished jackdaws for destroying grasshoppers’ eggs. The Veneti are fabled to have bribed the jackdaws to spare their crops. Another ancient Greek and Roman adage runs, “The swans will sing when the jackdaws are silent,” meaning that educated or wise people will speak after the foolish become quiet. In reality, corvids are among the most intelligent birds in the world, and this traditional association with ignorance is quite inaccurate.