Thursday, December 03, 2009

What the Raven said – Tower of London

Friday November 27, 2009:

We’ve come to the tower of London, my raven appreciating friend and I. It’s a lovely November day. Behind the snapping wind, the winter sun warms our faces. We move through the courts in search of ravens.


We’ve timed it just right. The Raven Master, a beefeater who rears and handles the birds is about to feed them. We are amazed to learn that the ravens think he is one of them!

Three ravens are in the aviary. One (Gwillum) is elderly, another (Elizzie) almost blind and a third (Merlin) is recovering from some illness or injury. I want to go to meet the blind one, but the aviary is on the other side of the lawn.

I stand by the fence and sing deeply in my throat. “Guarg-guarg” I caw.

“Oh” says my companion excitedly, “Here comes one!” She describes his hopping gate as he bounces across the grass. I begin to hop and flap, but find it too much hard work and stop.

I speculate on how we could fashion a raven dance which imitates (respectfully of course) their gait. They hop one foot raised delicately off the ground. They bounce, clipped wings flapping. They masterfully stalk, head held high and proud.

But we’re here to do ceremony, I remember at last. Outcome our raven masks and we begin our call to them with our attempts to do the raven dance. Sure that we look silly, and attracting a certain amount of attention from both ravens and tourists, we subside into seats and allow ourselves to connect more decorously.

It is windy on this crag, but the sky is blue and clear above me. I sit and wait.

“Guarg”, says the big black bird standing before me. I sit still and gaze at him, dark as the dark rock on which he sits, his head held still as he eyeballs me.

In a moment he is closer. He leans his head against my knees. WE are silent as I force myself to keep still. It is a huge effort of control to stop myself reaching out and touching.

He turns and offers me his back, his great wings outspread. I see this for the invitation it is. Carefully I climb upon his back. It seems hardly possible that he can take my weight. We soar suddenly into the sky.

The black rocks spin beneath us. We climb high into the pale blue sky, and the land takes shape beneath me. The rocks are edged with a pale glistening sea sparkling in the sunlight.

We fly across a dark cliff and into a deep cave. Out of the wind, if feels warm, if not dry - I can hear dripping water somewhere.

In front of me, a deeper darkness moves. I hold my breath as my eyes become adjusted to the gloom. There before me stands an enormous raven.

“Guarg-guarg” he says.

I bow my head. My beak touches the rock before me; my neck is stretched out in supplication. Something touches my head. The heavy beak gently strokes the feathers. I feel soothed and gentled.

“Mine, mine, you are mind” says the raven.

I am still. He is still. Time moves on.

I am alone. Behind me I hear the scratching of claws on the rock. The raven who brought me has returned to take me away.

“guarg-guarg” bubbles a rasping voice behind my still companion. “Guarg-guarg” I say out loud. My companion responds, for this is our signal that our journeys are ended.

We talk of our experiences. I am clear that the raven has asked me to pay more attention to him in my spiritual work. I rfeflectwith some trepidation how that will turn out.

My companion tells of her encounter and the work she will do to honour the Corvus family including helping others to find their particular crow family totem. We discuss devising and demonstrating the raven dance as a way of connecting and other work we might do in their honour.

I stand by the fence and sing low in the back of my throat. A raven caws; I like to think it is in response to me.

The sun is low behind the buildings now. The air has definitely cooled. I shiver.

The Raven Master appears; it’s time for the ravens to go to bed! He begins to call them each by name, whistling to them, tapping the top of the aviary, walking about the grass toshepperd them safely to their night boxes. One by one, they come, some eagerly, some grumblingly, hopping, bouncing and stalking, cheerfully, dignifiedly, reluctantly.

All birds gathered in, we stand for a moment in front of their boxes. We call to them in thanks. Our work done this day, we turn into the warmth of a nearby souvenir shop for a bit of post ritual retail therapy. Every good ritual should end with a bit of shopping, I think. It’s almost as grounding as chocolate!

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