MY ROOMMATE, GADJI (the cat who lives with Berni and me), actually likes having a harness strapped around her neck and midriff: it means that she is going outside! Apparently, any price is worth paying to spend the time in the fresh air—rolling in the dirt, spying on birds, and going for walks.
When walking, we tend to head to the green belt about 100 feet from the house and invariably, as we enter the treed area, a large black crow swoops in, perches on a branch on one of the evergreens around us, and begins haranguing us:
Now I know that C-A-W is the normal way to spell the sound (word?) that this bird is making, but there sounds like there is an ‘r’ sound rolling in there, giving each crow a sort of JFK-ish feel:
It’s not a particularly attractive sound: no one is going to accuse crows and related black bids of being musical. 1
And what are they cawing about? My observations lead me to believe that the sole bird overseeing Gadji and my wandering is a sentinel, a watcher. He is there to make sure that we are merely doing what most humans and their pets do: nothing much. 2
This is the work of Glen Rabena, who displays and advertises his work on his website as “Northwest Coast Native Art.” Yes, this a raven, cousin to the crow, but they look alike to most of us and this art is too damn beautiful not to use here!
Crow as spirit animal
For the unenlightened—those readers not familiar with ornithology or especially the beliefs, myths, and legends of Native American—reading such behavior into these sentinels is justified:
“The crow is a spirit animal associated with life mysteries and magic. The power of this bird as totem and spirit guide is provide insight and means of supporting intentions. Sign of luck, it is also associated with the archetype of the trickster; be aware of deceiving appearances.
If the crow has chosen you as your spirit or totem animal, it supports you in developing the power of sight, transformation, and connection with life’s magic. Throughout history, the crow has been associated with both positive and negative symbolic meanings. The most common are:
- life magic; mystery of creation
- destiny, personal transformation, alchemy
- higher perspective
- being fearless, audacious
- flexibility, adaptability
- trickster, manipulative, mischievous
Other traditional meanings associate the crow with bad omen, death, and dark witchcraft. The crow also carries the power of prophetic insight and symbolizes the void or core of creation.” (Spirit Animals & Animal Totems)
Crow as whistleblower
Our sentinel is making sure that we are not interlopers, on the verge of interrupting if not endangering a crow get-together.
His cawing is his alerting his fellows to our presence.
He is a whistleblower of sorts.
Hence I have taken to referring to these watchbirds as snowdens—in honor of America’s most famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden—because they are telling on me and Gadji!
So it is that I see crows as whistleblowers—and knowledgeable whistleblowers at that! 3
I see them as snowdens and endure a daily hail of commentary from a buncha birds that should be harassing stuffed men hanging on wooden crosses . . .
This circular image is paint on yellow cedar by Rabena: it is a raven atop a frog with the moon in the center.
1 Did you know that North America is the only continent that does not have a songbird native to its grounds? Yup, all other lands have at least one bird that sings melodiously. American and Canadian birds can and do chirp but many make noises that, in groups can fairly be described as cacophonous.
2 “American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything-—typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides.” (All About Birds)
3 As crowwatcher and Reiki Master (Mistess of Reiki would sound better) (and durdier) Debbie Wiedorfer commented on Facebook, “Crows knows stuff.”