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What does Baltimore have in common with Celtic warriors? Answer: Raven Powers.
Now that I am more than half-way through the first draft of my second novel with the working title, Raven’s Black Fire, I was pleasantly surprised to find inspiration from the Baltimore Ravens in their play-off and Super Bowl games. During this time, my Celtic heroine, Catrin—a spiritual warrior—was also discovering her hidden Raven Powers.
For the previous three weeks, Bronco fans had been grieving the loss of Denver to Baltimore. Yet I sensed Baltimore was destined to win the Super Bowl.
The bird auguries in Colorado foretold Raven Powers would finally overcome their formidable opponents. I told my husband, who wisely remained nameless after he lost his gamble on the Forty-niners, that bird signs predict Baltimore would triumph in the Super Bowl. It only made sense. Baltimore had Raven Powers.
My husband said,“No way. The Fates are against Baltimore.”
“Ye of little faith,” I said. “Animal spirits always prevail.”
Day of Game
While my husband and I drove through Fort Collins on game day, I saw tens’ of crows, close cousins of the ravens, flying to a gnarly tree. I pointed out this ominous bird gathering to my husband and foretold, “Ravens will see their opponenst vanquished in the Super Bowl’s battlefield. This is surely a sign that Ravens would finally win the respect of the odds maker.”
Ironically, at half-time, Beyonce was garbed in what could be described as black raven feathers, another prognosticator of the Raven’s victory.
At the beginning of the second half, the stadium went black and lost all power. But behold! From darkness the truth illuminated the arena—Ravens would soon defeat the Forty-niners in a hard-fought contest.
I raise my wine glass in tribute to Raven Powers and the inspiration the Baltimore football team provided me as I wrote about a Celtic woman warrior from Celtic Britain, a great nation who still keeps ravens captive at the Tower of London. A superstition holds if these ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.
Despite the Raven Oracle, my husband unfortunately bet heavily on the wrong team with his friend and my editor, Bob. I love you both!
I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech —Taliesin’s Song of his Origins, 6th century
One of the challenges in the photo shoot was to transform my eleven-year-old granddaughter, Maylin, into the adolescent Celtic warrior princess, Catrin—the heroine in APOLLO’S RAVEN. Isabelle Kai, a makeup artist from Boulder, worked with Rebekah West (Rebekah West Photography), and myself to design a raven tattoo for placement on Maylin’s forehead. The raven is the protector animal that guides Catrin and helps her prophesy.
Isabelle created a unique stencil template that was used to spray paint the raven on Maylin’s head. The British Celts were known for tattooing their bodies by using the leaves of the Woad plant to create a viscous blue dye. The indigo paste was tapped into the skin with needles to force the stain under the skin layers. In addition, feathers were pasted on Maylin’s face to highlight the strength she garners from her raven spirit.
The mythology of ravens is widespread throughout the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Ravens have been associated with prophesy and wisdom, but they also conjure dark images of bad luck and death (discussed below).
Raven Animal Protector
A spiritual warrior society, the Celts revered animals as protectors and teachers. They believed the physical world is one level of existence. Overlaying this mortal world is the Otherworld, the world of spirits and forces which can guide and help us. Ravens, in particular, were revered for their ability to bridge these two worlds. They served as messengers from the Otherworld and acted as guardians and protectors.
Raven Light Symbolism
In Greek and Roman mythology, the raven was associated with both Athena (Roman: Minerva) and Apollo—deities closely affiliated with the sun and the light of wisdom. Apollo was an oracular god, and thus, the association between the conversational raven and the god of divination made sense.
In Norse mythology, the god, Odin, was pictured with two ravens on his shoulders: Hugin representing the power of thought and active search for information; Mugin, representing wisdom and its ability to understand by intuition. Odin would send these two ravens out each day to spy upon the lands. They would return to tell him what they learned on their journeys.
Raven Dark Symbolism
Ravens are associated with predators, particularly wolves, which kill prey for ravens to scavenge. As human civilization became more war-like, fostering conflict and the spread of disease, ravens often picked at the bloody remains of fallen warriors in battle. People interpreted this predictable biological response as a supernatural sign and came to view ravens as omens of bad luck and harbingers of death. The sight of elongated beaks pecking into corpses reinforced the nightmarish images of ravens.
The Morrigan was the shape-shifting Celtic Goddess of war, fate, and death. She soared over battlefields in the form of a raven and frequently foretold or influenced the outcome of the conflict.
The Norse god, Odin, was also known as the Raven God. His daughters, Valkyries, would transform into ravens and whisper to the souls of fallen Norse warriors to follow them to Valhalla in the sky.
My next series of posts will continue to unfold how Rebekah West prepared for the photo shoot that transformed Maylin into a Celtic warrior princess based on historical accounts in Ancient Britain.
(To be continued—Quest for Catrin: Photographic Adventure)
As soon as Apollo was born on Delus among the goddesses who helped him into life, he defined his spheres of influence: “Let the lyre and curving bow be possessions to call my own, and for humans let me proclaim the unerring counsel of Zeus” (Homeric Hymn to Apollo, 131f).
Apollo and Coronis
In Greek mythology, there is a tale of Apollo who fell in love with Coronis, a Thessalian princess of unsurpassed beauty. He commanded his divine messenger, the white raven, to guard Coronis. Though Coronis was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she strangely did not care for her divine lover, but gave in to the advances of a mere mortal, Prince Ischys. She did not consider that Apollo, The God of Truth, could never be deceived.
When the raven brought news to Apollo of his lover’s infidelity, he became enraged that his faithful messenger had not pecked out the eyes of the prince. Apollo flung a curse so furious, the raven’s pure white feathers were scorched black. Apollo killed Ischys and sent his sister, Artemis, to slay Coronis with her deadly arrows (other accounts indicate Apollo killed Coronis himself).
In spite of his ruthlessness, Apollo felt a pang of grief as he watched Coronis be placed on the pyre and the flames roar up. At the last moment, he removed his son from the womb. Apollo gave his newborn son, Asclepius, to the wise centaur, Chiron, who taught him the art of healing herbs. Thereafter, Apollo became associated with healing through his son, Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing.
Coronis was set among the stars as Corvus, the crow (korônê in Greek).
Rome’s Association of Apollo with Healing
The Romans closely associated Apollo with healing. The Roman historian Livy recounts a plague in 433 BCE when the Roman people vowed to build a temple to Apollo and performed rituals to quell the wrath of the gods so the pestilence would not spread. Two years later, the Romans dedicated a temple to Apollo who they attributed for ending the epidemic. Up to the time of Emperor Augustus, the temple of Apollo Medicus was the only temple of Apollo in Rome. In 212 BCE the Romans instituted games in his honor, Ludi Apollinares. After the Roman conquest of Gaul, archaeological research shows inscriptions at Gallic healing sanctuaries combining “Apollo’ with the native names such as Apollo Belenus or Apollo Grannus.
Fritz Graff, Apollo; Printed 2009 by Routledge, New York.
Edith Hamilton, Mythology; Printed 2013 by Back Bay Books, New York.
Refer to website: http://www.theoi.com/Heroine/Koronis.html