“Guiding Black Wings: Essay on Crow” (February 2006)

Crow is an important part of my life, and I feel drawn to writing about him right now and the parts he has played in my life. I’ll backtrack over some things involving crows earlier in my life, leading up to late 2004 and now. Admittedly, I will say that I can trace back my interest in crows to the movie The Crow (the original one), of which I watched in 1995, thus I was 9 years old at the time. Before then, I don’t remember if crows caught my attention or not, I never really thought to take note of it. As bad as it could potentially sound to mention my interest seeming to ‘spawn’ from a movie that involved a crow, I’ve given myself plenty of reason to realize that’s not what happened, but rather, the movie brought the attention of crows to my conscious mind. Even within The Crow there is a very totemic relationship that occurs between Eric Draven and his ‘guiding’ crow—and in a sense it is a life totem to him, for that new, resurrected life he was living for that brief time. He was bound to his crow, it guided him, helped him, he saw through its eyes, and it protected him until it became harmed itself, yet it still persisted to try to help all it could. That is what I believe really got me to love that movie so much, yet it took me almost ten years to figure it out by me finding Crow as my life totem. I used to always think that I liked the love story, and though it was a nice and sweet one, why didn’t I cling so deeply to other similar love stories? Why didn’t I ever fall head over heels for Romeo and Juliet like so many other people who think it is such a “true” love story? Because, no other movies/stories I had come across at the time really captured my attention by incorporating crows into it, and so deeply. I had not heard of Poe’s The Raven at that time, but still when I did the connection just wasn’t there because I couldn’t see the bird like in the movie, and it was something that just didn’t show a connection with crows/ravens in the way I deeply knew subconsciously; in the way I was looking for and could better understand enough to ‘attach’ myself to it. I swear, I watched The Crow at least once, if not two or three times, every year *until* I discovered Crow as my totem—I haven’t watched the movie since, and haven’t found any reason or desire to.

When I was a child no one ever gave me any reason to like crows. I was always told that they were evil, represented bad things, that if one or more than one followed you it meant you would die soon after that, and numerous other things that portrayed them as stupid, filthy, and a waste of life and space. And yet, I never believed those things, they made no sense to me and I feel I really knew they weren’t true, even without having looked up information on what crows are really like. I always ended up remembering when my dad had shot at them (to protect his vegetable garden), possibly even killing one or maybe more, and though I’ve never held it against him, I’ve gotten him to recently change his view about crows, so now he even leaves food out for them sometimes instead of scaring them away or shooting at them; he’s realized after I argued with him numerous times that they do mean a lot to me (even though I’ve never told him about the totemic relationship, but I have told my mom about it), and he knows that it deeply hurts me for him to talk about killing them or about them being worthless. Basically, I grew up with people telling me that I shouldn’t appreciate, let alone like or love crows, and I had more sense in that area to think for myself about that than I did my own religion (up until I was 11 because I had been a blind-faith Christian for lack of knowing there was any option to be of any other religion).

In middle school I would hear about ravens, but rarely crows, just that word (crows); it always had to be ravens, and though I do love them too, they aren’t as bound to me as crows like the American crow. Besides, every time the term raven was used people used it in a drummed up context to sound more poetic, darker, dramatic, or such things, it rarely had anything at all to do with ravens themselves. That led on into high school when I would oh-so often be mistaken for a “gothic” person, and I’d find people who dressed similar that did actually consider themselves gothic who seemed to put emphasis on ravens. That didn’t make me relate to them because I quickly caught on that they were doing it for the same, superficial reasons that I stated, or that they liked Poe because of his darker, gloomier writings and ravens represented their darkness, depression, and cold view on life. Crows didn’t have a damn thing to do with that for me. During high school, black ‘crow’ phantom wings would appear on my back and it took me until last year [2005] to figure out that they symbolized comfort and protection—crow wings that were there to protect me, to help me feel the warmth and comfort of life, not for them to represent teenaged angst and hate for my life. I do kind of miss those wings, but they disappeared last year when I admitted that I didn’t need them anymore and that they served their purpose.

Still, throughout high school I got rather sick of the superficial raven cliché that was thrown around online and offline and that everyone else I came across that liked The Crow did so because it was their ultimate goth romance movie, and then it had a crow in it which just finished off their idea of linking it to their overly dramatic, depressing lives. Ravens symbolized the end, of life, of hope, whatever, for many of those people, yet crows symbolized the continuance and enhancing of hope, the quality of and length of my life, and other strong, noble things to me. I garbed myself in black in honor of Crow, including my leather ‘trench coat’ that I got in eighth grade before I wore a lot of black elsewhere on me. Before even then I took to wearing ‘combat boots’ every winter since I first watched the movie because it was the only way I could think of at the time to show a little, though not obvious to other people, my love and appreciation of the movie, or rather, the crow in it. I still love to wear a lot of black even now and I’ve taken to noticing that when I wear my leather coat it makes me think of having crow wings gently tucked and sitting on the sides of my body when I leave my hands down in the pockets, with elbows slightly bent.

Overall, I probably looked and came off as being some clichéd goth angst teenager (I’ll admit I had my stupidly fair share of angst and depressing times; and yes, some suicidal thoughts for a few years, no attempts though), but oh well, I don’t care about that now. Something I love to think back on are the visualizations I’d make up to go along with music throughout high school and starting in 8th grade, with one or more crows or black feathered wings being in many of them somewhere. They’re kind of like having music videos in my head that I decide what happens, though my subconscious seemed to do a good job of filling in gaps and allowing the visuals to be fluent and more vibrant. My personal favorite was my one to Bush’s “Letting the Cables Sleep”, and I’ll admit it did have to do with suicidal thoughts, but not in a “I can’t stand this life, I need to get out” kind of way, but a very peaceful look at it. The visual was as follows:

I began on the mountain/hill on one side of my house’s property, walking up it in early fall, going toward the top/peak of the hill. Once I reached the top I climbed up in a tree and stepped out onto a large limb, further and further, then paused and dropped my trench coat off to let it fall on the ground, revealing long, black feathered wings on my back. A crow flew up into my sight and out into the open, smooth-topped mountains that created a large open area above them. I gently stepped off the branch, making a soft drop before I flexed my chest muscles (not knowing at the time that birds fly with their chest muscles) to flap my wings on my back (I know, that doesn’t really make sense, but it was an unconscious association). I flew after the crow, with him leading, actually guiding me, the whole time. At one point early on I glanced over to my right side and saw the sun setting in the distance with a large flock of birds flying that were silhouetted, though when I think about it now, maybe those were crows, too (although I didn’t know that crows gathered in large flocks in the cold seasons until about a year ago). I pointed my head forward again and continued to follow the single crow and just took pleasure and so much joy in flying there, especially with him there with me. I flew quickly to do large arches, even a loop, somewhat sideways flying for a few flaps, and some short soaring. When the music starts to quiet down about ¾ of the way through it, I followed the crow as we made a large curve out and down to a small ledge with a small, leafless tree. He landed in the tree and I stood near the edge looking at him, and behind the tree was a silver coat grey wolf that just stared into my eyes, as I stared enticingly back into its. From the wolf’s stare I ‘magically’/instantly changed into a crow flying above that spot where I had stood. The crow who had led me jumped into the air and flew beside me outward from the ledge with the setting sun’s light adorning our figures.

I had that visual so many times, and it and the song it played to were what I listened to/visualized every night before I went to sleep for a few months. It was comforting and peaceful to me, even with giving that only a few years before I had a fear of falling and along with it didn’t feel a very strong bond with birds when I was a child because of that fear (it goes back to me falling out my window when I was 18 months old; but that’s not on this topic). If anything, Crow helped me through high school and helped me cope, allowed me to realize that suicide was of no importance nor point for me to go through with. So, I guess it should be obvious why I tend to stay away from the “raven crowd”, and still, most of those people get on my nerves somewhat, but I’m glad there are people I’ve found (and others out there I haven’t come across) that love and appreciate ravens and crows, even people with Raven or Crow as spirit guides or totems.

Now, on to the more recent topics involving Crow. I confirmed Crow as my totem back in late fall 2004, particularly after he did some nice laughing at me for a little while, mainly after me asking time and time again for signs that I could be “more sure of” from him and then overall disregarding as signs the things I was being sent. Yet, since then my bond with Crow has continued to increase and crows seem to almost always bring a smile to my face—I’ll greet them each day, and my ears (phantom ears) will perk up as also my mood, even if for only a brief time, when I hear those harsh crow calls, even faintly, (those calls that so many people have come to hate and see as an annoyance). Crow’s cousin, Blue Jay, is a nice, humorous guide that I have sometimes, he’s great to have around though, I love them both (too bad ravens don’t live here).

Anyway, one matter on my mind regards Crow in relation to my theriosides. When I first discovered my therianthropy I thought a lot of things pertaining to my theriosides and totems that were wrong and I’ve corrected, but I’m still left with something I decided on last spring: about Crow being a totem but me not having a crow therioside (which would be a fourth one for me). I settled on that I don’t have a fourth theriotype because that seems like ‘too many’ and seems to be pushing it, so I thought that maybe I was just mistaken. The avian shifts, behaviors, quirks, et cetera became prominent again starting in fall last year, but have calmed down in the last month, maybe a little longer than that, but I’m also experiencing a kind of ‘balanced out mode’ of my three known-to-be theriosides. Basically, I have three options: Crow is a totem AND a therioside (a fourth one), Crow is a totem and I have some other avian as my fourth therioside, or (the one I’m settled on) Crow is a totem and I have NO avian therioside. I mentioned this to a therian friend of mine, and told her that I don’t know if I’ll ever find that answer, and yet, it maybe one thing about my therianthropy that I actually (at least at some point) may not really care so much about answering in the future. Really, this scenario is nothing more than thinking of it with a particular label on it, with the only exception being that I have a fourth therioside that is a non-crow avian (if true, I’ll figure that one out most likely later on). It’s me deciding on which label to use: therianthropy for it being an ‘internal’ “connection” (which would also be with the external totemic relationship) or just the external totemic relationship.

Maybe Crow isn’t actually me in the therian sense of the concept, but I am Crow or avian on some deep level, I know that much, and for me to deny the importance and just how essential Crow is to me in this life, I would be straight out lying and I would never want to do such a stupid thing to myself. I have no reason to fight for the label, it would be stupid to do so, I’ve just led myself on the path of thinking that in this specific case it will have some profound or noticeable significance for me to think of myself (whether I use it with other people or not) by that label of Crow also being a therioside—it has mattered and will continue to matter for the three known theriosides (to some extent; that conscious recognition), but it doesn’t matter in the case of Crow. Hell if I know if maybe the Spirit of the Crow has melded some part of itself to my soul, and maybe I’ll never know that, but I continue to realize and know more and more how connected to Crow I am and how deeply I can feel him within me. He may not be me like Cat, Wolf, and Horse, but him being external does NOT make him any less significant nor less closely bound to me, and he’s the very next closest thing to actually being a part of me in the therianthropic way.