- Inner self
The raven is an elegant black bird that is perfect for inking. Like all the animal and bird tattoo designs, the raven tattoo has a lot of meanings that are special for the bearer. It may symbolize both good and bad things.
What do we think about when we hear about ravens? Surely the most obvious associations are darkness, death, and mystery. But of course, ravens are not monsters from our nightmares – they are just the most misunderstood birds we know. Who do we associate ravens with the death? In the middle ages there were plenty of bodies after plagues and battles, scavenged by ravens. Thus the association appeared, as well as the overall negative symbolism. In most ancient and modern literature, raven characters are often linked to death.
On the other side, many ancient cultures believed that ravens have magical powers and they carry powerful secrets. Moreover, ravens are highly intelligent – they even can be trained to speak! This ability is linked to the legend of the raven being an ultimate oracle. In other legends, smart ravens tend to outwit their enemies. Being a solar symbol, the raven is also associated with creation, wisdom and the sun itself.
Ravens also tend to change their form into another being – they are great totems of the transformation. For example, the god Odin had many daughters known as Valkyries who could transform into ravens. They appeared on the battlefield after the battle to whisper to the souls of fallen warriors to leave their bodies and come to Valhalla. Moreover, Odin was always accompanied by two ravens: Huginn and Muninn. The first one controlled the mind and thoughts, while the second one saw the mind process and intuition. Together they gather information from about the world around to represent it to Odin.
Ravens were also meaningful for the Celts – there are many raven tattoos in Celtic art. Though the Celts were familiar with wars, for them the raven is a symbol of protection, magic, and prophecy – it is believed to have magical powers. Ravens also have been totems of the Celtic goddess of the battle and war – Morrigan.
In Native American culture ravens were believed to bring light to the earth. Raven flew out of the dark cosmos and thus brought the sunlight to the humans. In this way the raven considered as the bird of the creation. They were also associated with balance between good and bad. There are a lot of legends about ravens. For example, Inuit legend says that the raven outwitted the giant sea monster – till now, its body serves as the Alaskan mainland.
In Greek and Roman cultures ravens are associated with Apollo and Athena. In the legends the raven is talkative and conversational – great companion for the Apollo who was an oracle god. The legend says that ravens were white at the beginning, but then Apollo turned their feathers black to punish them after the raven couldn’t keep a secret to save its life. As for Athena, she replaced the raven on her side by the owl because of raven’s talkative nature.
Even in modern culture, psychologist Carl Jung considered raven as a symbol of the dark side of the psyche. By achieving the balance between both sides of our nature, we gain wisdom – and the raven helps us to translate the inner impulses into our consciousness.
As you see, the raven is really a Jack of all Trades. He brings life and death, wisdom and communication, it helped to create the world – and still keep an eye on it. No matter what the meaning of the raven tattoo you choose – it will be deep and complex.