Earlier this week I came home to find a large raven perched on a low branch in my back yard, very close to the house. Happy for such a rare opportunity, I stood and watched it for several minutes. I marveled at its size and the sense of peace it seemed to exude. I decided I wanted a photo, so I pulled out my phone and gently opened the sliding glass door. I snapped a couple unimpressive shots before its large wings caught the air with a “swoosh, swoosh!” Having had a special connection to ravens for many years, I felt happy and humbled.
The next afternoon I came home to find a large raven laying motionless on my backyard deck. I stood wide-eyed for several minutes, trying to process what I was seeing. I still tear up a little when I think about it. I walked out to have a closer look, and was relieved to see no signs of a struggle – no scattered feathers, no blood. I sighed and went to the garage to get a shovel. As I walked from the deck to the forest behind the house, I wondered whether I should bury the bird or not. Realizing that the spirit of the creature was already flying high above, I said a short prayer and left it on the forest floor for nature to reclaim.
Whether this was the same raven I saw the previous day or another, I’m not completely sure…but intuition told me it was the same bird. Later I asked my guidance how old this particular raven was, and heard “12 years.” I followed this up with some research on the lifespan of the Northern Raven, and found it averages 13 years.
My first spiritual mentor taught me the importance of recognizing messages from brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom. My initial impulse was to call her and ask if this was a message, and if so what it meant. But I quickly recognized that if there was a message, I needed to figure it out on my own. Had I actually called her I’m guessing she would’ve laughed, said “Yep, it’s a message,” and hung up the phone! The best teachers always know when to speak and when to let their students fly.
In my late teens I first read The Medicine Wheel Earth Astrology, which told me I was born under the sign of the Raven. Since then I’ve felt a bond with these beautiful, intelligent, and often misunderstood birds. I’ve never feared them, though many seem to. Intuitively I’ve always known that those who are unsettled by ravens are likely afraid of their own darker side. According to Sams and Carson in the Medicine Cards,
Those who fear Raven may do so because they have been dabbling in areas in which they had no knowledge. Realize that you will fear raven only if you need to learn about your inner fears or self-created demons. (101)
So having ruled out a warning as raven’s possible message, I looked closer at what’s going on in my life. Though the last few years have been particularly challenging on all fronts – relationship, health, career, etc. – the storm has cleared over the last several weeks, and I’m emerging with a renewed sense of peace and clarity about where I’ve been and where I’m going. My relationship is getting better everyday as we learn more about communicating honestly and honoring our feelings in the moment. My health is improving as I continue to release beliefs and relationships that sap my energy. I’m almost finished with an 18 month career retraining program, and will soon be earning a great living while making a positive difference in people’s lives as a massage therapist. I’ve even decided to return to return to school and finish my degree…but instead of continuing as a business major I’ll be transferring to Bastyr, a local university with an international reputation for its natural health curriculum. There I’ll pursue a degree in herbal sciences. Herbal sciences! I’m giddy just thinking about it.
The common thread running through all these positive changes is my willingness to do something I’ve rarely done before. Something that, as an avid daydreamer and explorer, I’ve always struggled with – making a commitment and following through. Some wise person once said, “The struggle is not in the doing, but in the deciding.”
In distilling these thoughts, I’m honored that the raven passed peacefully into the next world on the threshold of my home. Symbolically I also see its death a sign that I’m entering a new phase of life, one in which all that I’ve previously allowed to hinder me is being released. I felt strong emotion and had full-body goose bumps as I read the following, also from the Medicine Cards:
If Raven appears…you are about to experience a change in consciousness.
…A signal brought by the Raven that says, “You have earned the right to see and experience a little more of life’s magic.” (101)
Here’s to life’s magic!
Special thanks to Marina and Uldis Terauds for allowing use of this beautiful artwork. Please visit Marina’s website to view more of her stunning work.