|An Illustration from Raven Steals the Sun, Moon and Stars, by Bill Reid;
more of Bill Reid’s art can be viewed at The Raven’s Call.
“All the world was in darkness… Raven plucked up the ball of light in his beak, flew through the smoke hole in the Sky Chief’s lodge and disappeared into the dark sky. Raven stole the sun from the Sky Chief and gave it to all the people, though his snow-white feathers were burned black by the heat of the sun. And the people looked into the sky in wonder, for they could see the world for the first time, the trees, the rivers, the animals.” ~ Adapted from Raven Steals the Light, Legends of the First Peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
|Common Raven, from “Into the Woods”.|
There is something about the Raven that has long intrigued us human folk. Beautiful blue-black plumage, a majestic ebony bead, and a native high intelligence and evident curiosity, all add up to a creature full of potential for story and mystery.
First, let’s define the distinguishing characteristics of a Raven. I for one, was uncertain of the exact differences between ravens and crows:
“A raven is one of several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus. These species do not form a single taxonomic group within the genus, but share similar characteristics and appearances that generally separate them from other crows. The largest raven species are the common raven and the thick-billed raven.” ~ Wikipedia.
|From “Ravens vs Crows“|
Ravens are depicted in art, story, and myth around the world. I am particularly drawn to native american versions… such as these totem works:
|Raven, Hopi Kachina by Glenn Fred.|
|Haida Creation Story: Raven Opens Oyster Shell to Release the First Humans. Sculpture by Bill Reid.|
…and one of my favorite stories:
In the beginning there was no moon or stars at night. Raven was the most powerful being. He made all of the animals, fish, trees, and men. He had made all living creatures. But they were all living in darkness because he had not made the sun either.
One day. Raven learned that there was a chief living on the banks of the Nass River who had a very wonderful daughter who possessed the sun, the moon, and the stars in carved cedar boxes. The chief guarded her and the treasure well.
Raven knew that he must trick the villagers to steal their treasure, so he decided to turn himself into a grandchild of the great chief. Raven flew up on a tall tree over their house and turned himself into a hemlock needle. Then, as the needle, he fell into the daughter’s drinking cup and when she filled it with water, she drank the needle. Inside the chief’s daughter, Raven became a baby and the young woman bore a son who was dearly loved by the chief and was given whatever he asked for.
The stars and moon were each in a beautifully carved cedar box which sat on the wood floor of the house. The grandchild, who was actually Raven, wanted to play with them and wouldn’t stop crying until the grandfather gave them to him. As soon as he had them Raven threw them up through the smokehole. Instantly, they scattered across the sky. Although the grandfather was unhappy, he loved his grandson too much to punish him for what he had done.
Now that he had tossed the stars and moon out of the smokehole, the little grandson began crying for the box containing the sunlight. He cried and cried and would not stop. He was actually making himself sick because he was crying so much. Finally, the grandfather gave him the box.
Raven played with the box for a long time. Suddenly, he turned himself back into a bird and flew up through the smokehole with the box.
Once he was far away from the village on the Nass River he heard people speaking in the darkness and approached them.
“Who are you and would you like to have light?” he asked them. They said that he was a liar and that no one could give light. To show them that he was telling the truth, Raven opened the ornately carved box and let sunlight into the world. The people were so frightened by it that they fled to every corner of the world. This is why there is Raven’s people everywhere.
Now there are stars, the moon and daylight, and it is no longer dark all of the time.
~ A Native American Creation Story of Raven, Marshal Cultural Atlas.
One of the earliest legends that connects the Tower with a raven is the tale of the euhemerised mutually destructive battle against the Irish king Matholwch who had mistreated the British princess Branwen. Branwen’s brother Bendigeidfran (King of the Britons) ordered his followers to cut off his head and bury it beneath the White Hill (where the Tower now stands) facing out towards France as a talisman to protect Britain from foreign invasion. ~ Wikipedia.
|The Ravenmaster of the Tower of London|
|Ravens who dwell in the Tower of London|
|Mixed media piece titled after Odin’s Ravens by Jenny Davies Reazor|
|Raven tiles – from the “Mythic Nature” series by Jenny Davies Reazor|
|Raven bead set by Carline Dewison|
|Raven pendant by Carline Dewison|
|Raven necklace by Linda Landig|
I invite you to discover how Raven inspires your work in art, beads, or jewelry. That’s right, you are not limited to jewelry or beads / components. This is your chance to stretch if you feel so inclined.
For jewelry, you are free to use any artist bead / component in your design:
– From an AJE team member
– Of your own creation
– From another artisan bead maker…