The day that our paths crossed I was quite surprised, immediately Paleface stood out among the crowd, I tried to befriend him but he kept a safe distance from me. He would come around the barn to scavenge the left over food from our burros and goats. Was he here as an omen? If he was then hopefully a good omen. I may have forgotten to mention who Paleface is, he is a Raven that would visit our ranchette on a daily basis. Paleface was not your average Raven, he was completely white, sure he stood out from the rest but he seemed like a friendly guy. We were used to Ravens coming around to scavenge, a previous frequent visitor was a black Raven whose wing looked damaged but he could fly just fine, he got pretty friendly with me but Paleface kept his distance.
Ravens are known to be a clever bird and they frequent many parts of the world including the Mojave Desert. Their population has exploded in the Mojave in the last century thus becoming a common predator of young desert tortoises. Even with this reputation I find Ravens amusing, clever birds and Paleface was especially intriguing. Their qualities and history are quite extensive and the Raven’s intelligence is possibly its most winning feature. These birds can also be trained to speak, this speaking ability and intelligence leads into the legend of ravens being a religious symbol to many people in many cultures.
A lot of the negative symbolism that Ravens have today originates from the fact that they appeared on battlefields, they are scavengers, very curious, and were often seen picking at the remains of fallen soldiers. Though their reputation is questionable today, that was not always true. Look at the Bible for example, in Genesis 8:6-8 says: “And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth”. The Raven was the first animal out of the ark.
Norse legend says that the Raven is symbolic of mind, thought and wisdom, as their god Odin was accompanied by two Ravens. Odin was also known as the Raven God, he had many daughters known as Valkyries who could transform into Ravens. The Greeks and Romans thought of them in a positive way. In spite of its midnight colored feathers, the Raven was a solar animal in this culture, and was associated with both Athena and Apollo, both deities closely affiliated with the sun, and the light of wisdom. There are some Greco-Roman legends that say Ravens were once all white, because the Raven couldn’t keep a secret to save its life, Apollo punished the Raven by turning its bright white feathers black after it divulged too many secrets.
In some Native American tribes, the Raven is considered a trickster because of its transforming/changing attributes. Often honored among medicine & holy men of tribes for its shape-shifting qualities, the Raven was called upon in ritual so that visions could be clarified. Holy men understood that what the physical eye sees, is not necessarily the truth, and he would call upon the Raven for clarity in these matters. Foremost, the Raven is the Native American bearer of magic, and a harbinger of messages from the cosmos. Messages that are beyond space and time are nestled in the midnight wings of the Raven and come to only those within the tribe who are worthy of the knowledge. The Raven is also called upon in Native ritual for healing purposes and is thought to provide long distance healing. The Raven was also considered the keeper of secrets, and could assist us in determining answers to our own hidden thoughts.
The appearance of the White Raven in some Native American cultures was to signal the end of the world. Of course in some cultures the opposite is true, they are considered good luck. As you can see the Raven has quite a history in many legends around the world.
As for my fine feathered friend that I call Paleface, I have not seen him in over a year but I hope our paths do cross again someday. I will be doing a future blog about my neighbor and photographer Julianne Koza, but for the purposes of this blog about Paleface you will be treated to a few of her pictures that she took of him, a few lesser quality pictures of mine are also posted that I was able to snap. Take a look at these pictures and if anyone happens to run across Paleface please let me know, I would love to know where he is now and if he is still mystifying the people that see him.
Take It Easy – Mojave