There is more to RAVEN than meets the eye. And how many of you have met the eye of a raven? He is known by many tribes under many names.
Ravens have always been associated with Godliness. Few people know that the first bird out of NOAH’s ark was a raven. It just didn’t return. It didn’t feel the need. ODIN relies on his two ravens to fly round the world every day and keep him informed. Edgar Allan Poe’s raven shrieked ‘Nevermore’ but what that has to do with anything only Poe knows.
In the beginning, RAVEN was first and foremost a Creator and Trickster God — especially of the Haida tribe, who claim he discovered the first humans hiding in a clam shell and brought them berries and salmon.
A bit of a tricky God himself, he’s also the long-suffering victim of arch-rival in trickery, COYOTE. His brother LOGOBOLA is also a bit of a tricky customer, but, despite what you may have heard, absolutely no frogs are involved.
Stories about him abound. Here’s one handed down by the Tsimshian tribe...
Once upon a time, the only light in the world was hoarded by a mean old Chief who was not disposed to share it. RAVEN, bored of fluttering around in the dark, decided this would not do. So he turned himself into a cedar leaf and sneakily fluttered into the chief’s dwelling.
The Chief’s daughter was sipping a drink and RAVEN fluttered into the cup as she raised it to her lips. Swallowing him down, she immediately became pregnant and gave birth. Which caused no end of confusion.
The baby had raven-black hair, dark glowing eyes, and was very temperamental. Whenever it was bored, it shrieked. The Chief, trying to be a doting grandpa, said: "Give the baby what it wants". So they gave the baby a bag of shining stars. It played merrily with these, until one day in gurgling excitement it threw them through the smoke hole in the ceiling and they scattered up into the sky.
Oh dear. The baby is bored again. It’s bawling. It wants another bag. It’s driving the household crazy. It must be pacified. So they give it a bag containing the Moon and soon the baby is happy again, bouncing the Moon all over the place. You’ll never guess what happens next. Whoooosh! — up through the smoke hole goes the Moon. (Pause for gasp of astonishment from the audience).
Deprived of another toy, the baby becomes really disruptive. The Chief is tearing his hair out. The whole household is muttering. Find something, anything, to keep the baby quiet! The baby rejects all homemade playthings and points to the last bag. Uh-oh. They give it to the baby but with dire warnings. "Don’t untie it because it contains Light — and that leaks like nobody’s business."
Now you think you know what’s going to happen. But you don’t. What happened is that the baby turned back into RAVEN, cried "Ka very much" and flew through the smoke hole carrying the bag in his beak. He’d stolen the Sun.
RAVEN spread light throughout the world and so the Chief’s daylight saving scheme came to an end. He was very disgruntled. His recorded comments contain very strong language in the Tsimshian dialect.
And that’s the end of the story. But there’s plenty more. Remind us to tell you the one about RAVEN and COYOTE. It’s a corker.
Article last updated on 14 November 2013
by Peter J Allen.
Editors: Peter J Allen, Chas Saunders
References: Coming soon.
Cite this article:
Saunders, Chas, and Peter J. Allen, eds. "RAVEN: Trickster God from Native American mythology." Godchecker. Godchecker/CID, 14 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 September 2014.