I’m going to lump crows and ravens together as crow tattoos are often applied with raven meaning and symbolism and pretty much no one knows the difference anyway!
Ravens have been referred to in the literature of most cultures throughout history at some point. Maybe it’s because they’re black, maybe it’s because they make some pretty spooky sounds, maybe it’s because they feed on dead animals or maybe it’s all three making them a pretty potent symbol for some nasty stuff. Let’s be honest, when most of us think of ravens we would probably associate them with a spooky old haunted castle or something similar.
There is a lot more to these animals however for example American Native Indians believed the Raven to be a trickster. In Chinese mythology a 3 legged raven is said to live in the sun and represent the dawn, daylight and dusk. In Japan the goddess Amaterasu is sometimes depicted as a giant Raven. Also in India, Brahma is also sometimes depicted as a Raven. The Aborigines thought the Raven got it’s black coloration because it attempted to steal fire from seven sisters but failed and was charred black in the process. In Egypt the Raven symbolizes destruction and malevolence.
In Christian and Hebrew religious history Ravens were symbolic of impurity, deceit, and generally being unclean. Also in the Bible Noah cursed ravens for not returning to the ark with the news that flood was receding. Then again the Bible also says Ravens protected the prophets so it’s not all bad.
That’s a lot of meaning right? Well there’s more! In Greek mythology the Raven is the messenger of the Sun Gods Helios and Apollo. Danes and Vikings used Raven banners on their ships to honor Odin seeing as Odin was said to have two ravens who delivered messages and gathered information for him to him. Which reinforces the Ravens most commonly associated symbolism of being a messenger.
Ravens are also considered to be very clever and are a symbol of knowledge. There is an old Scottish proverb that says “There is wisdom in a raven’s head”. Also “To have a raven’s knowledge” is an old Irish proverb. In the Hebrides it was believed that giving your child its first drink from the skull of a Raven will give them wisdom and powers of prophesy.
So there you have it, a bucket load of meaning and symbolism for the humble Raven! Obviously the main symbolism is as messenger but you now have a lot more meaning to choose from if you’re thinking about getting a Raven tattoo so take your pick.