‘The raven once in snowy plumes was drest,Ovid
White as the whitest dove’s unsullied breast,
Fair as the guardian of the Capitol,
Soft as the swan; a large and lovely fowl
His tongue, his prating tongue had changed him quite
To sooty blackness from the purest white.‘
People hold a long of different opinions about the Raven but whether you love or loathe this beautiful and intelligent creature may depend on your livelihood. Bards, poets and artists have long revered the Raven, it is often our muse, our master and our inspiration; whereas farmers have a far more dimmer view than we do and that is somewhat understandable. It did not escape my notice when once photographing a Raven that it was happily consuming a Rhode Island Red that it had acquired from a nearby newly established free range egg farm. They tell me that business is cut throat and predatory by nature and this fact also includes nature, or did in this case because the Raven’s got the spoils from that venture for sure.
‘It suits my own attitude toward the world and its people to believe that the Raven is this completely self-centered, uninvolved bringer of change, through inadvertence and accident, and so on… It’s a version of the Raven myth for today, not for the time when it was created.’Bill reid
Charlie Craigan’s Raven painting, in traditional Salish Native style, is a trickster, playful and clever spiritual guide and his intimate relationship with humans is illustrated by the figure in Raven’s wing. Culturally, historically and presently the Raven has and will continue to be an important creature and symbol to people of all cultures globally. Like with this design they are commonly seen as spiritual messengers and protectors, and stories of Ravens and their relationship with people are as normal and natural as life itself it seems. It is easy to see why they are admired by us as we observe their beautiful blackness, unique intelligence, romantic natures, amazing flight capabilities as well as the incredible courage and daring they demonstrate.
‘In the battlefield men grapple each other and die;Li Bai
The horses of the vanquished utter lamentable cries to heaven,
While ravens and kites peck at human entrails,
Carry them up in their flight, and hang them on the branches of dead trees.‘
They are associated with violence and death, of ill omen and fate and a flock of Raven’s is called a unkindness in the English language. Juvenile flocks of Ravens are very common and like most gangs of youth they can and do create havoc at times so this negative association may have some foundation. Ravens, like the Eagles and other creatures, survive by consuming carrion be it dead salmon by the spawning stream or dead warriors on the edge of a battlefield and it is this reality that unsettles us so much but is not evidence of Raven’s being evil in either scenario.
‘He that visits the sick in hopes of a legacy, but is never so friendly in all other cases, I look upon him as being no better than a raven that watches a weak sheep only to peck out its eyes.’Seneca the Younger
It is however it is something found in the eye of the beholder, more than that of the creature itself that is behind their meanings and the stories. Or behind the human culture itself because it is unfortunate that many see the misery, war, illness and even death of other people as an opportunity to profit and nothing more. Those carrion consumers illustrate the darker and unpleasant side of the human reality that we are often discouraged to explore or if we do is often snubbed or ignored for lighter fair. For the truth is Raven, or what cultures and artists project onto them is reflective of who we are as individuals, communities and societies than it has anything to do with them. Ravens, you see, are competent and content doing their Raven thing and would be fine without our presences, but we are obsessed with them which is why they are always at the top of our favourite muses and subjects to explore. And how we respect or abuse them is a fairly accurate measure for how we treat the rest of the world as well.
‘I have created the Raven in my own image over the years and insist that mine is the version of this personality that is correct – well, at least it is correct as far as I am concerned.’Bill reid
This version of Raven is one of Charles Craigan’s first paintings. Raven has a human figure in the wing signifying the spiritual connection between human, the inner child, the need to keep an open mind and a Raven that is universal and significant to many cultures. Charles’ Raven is a positive figure and this is meant to be worn or displayed in honour of that relationship by any or all people who also adore this beautiful creature.
Anyone who wishes to support Charles J Craigan by purchasing some of his art his designs are available at T Spring, the images link to his store.