phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by TheFallen on May 21, 2003

In Reply to: Raven's-blooded posted by Shae on May 21, 2003

: : : : : : Hi. This posting got lost in the recent transition from the former phrase forum.

: : : : : : Can anyone tell me what the meaning of the phrase "raven's blood" or "raven's-blooded" (adj) is? I have run across it in the writing of British authors whose work was published in the last 30 years. Thanks.
: : : : : : - Patty

: : : : : Any chance of a quotation, some context or even just an author's name? I don't think that it's a stock phrase and therefore will only make sense when viewed in the light of whatever premise the various authors have set up in advance - but I may be wrong.

: : : : I wish I could quote directly and accurately, but I can't. From context as I remember it, though, it seemed to be relating to some archaic religious sensibilities of the British Isles. Paganism, Wicca?

: : : Long, long before Poe and "never more", the raven has been considered an ominous and magical symbol in a fair few European mythologies, no doubt because of its size, sinister colour and its reputation for scavenging the corpses on battlefields.

: : : Norse mythology highlights another aspect of the raven, its supposed wisdom. Woden (or Odin if you prefer), the chief Norse god, traded his left eye for the pair of magical ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who flew down to the world of Men (Midgard) then returned to sit on the god's shoulders and whisper information to him about any event of interest. One of the many names given to Woden is "the Raven God", and so this may be connected with your phrase.

: : : Alternatively, Irish mythos features a goddess called variously the Morrigan, Maedhbh, Maeve or Medb. Although this is the goddess that Spenser immortalised as Queen Mab in his "Faery Queene", the original Maedhbh was far nastier. Her name means "intoxicating", but this is much more about the intoxication and madness of battle rage, rather than any presumed enchanting beauty on her part. Maedhbh has a strong connection with the insanity of war and is sometimes known as the Crow Goddess. This may also be connected with your phrase.

: : : (I'm looking to Shae here for confirmation and/or corrections - Irish mythology is a complicated thing).

: : I looked under "raven" in a book of superstitions and found nothing about raven blood.

: Usually referred to as The Mórrígan, the name means 'great queen' or 'phantom queen.' She was one of three war goddesses in Irish tradition, along with Badb and Macha. She herself didn't participate in battles, but affected armies psychologically by her frightful appearance. She could transform herself into animal shape, including that of a crow, especially hooded crow and raven.

: Medb and the Mórrígan were different entities. Medb was warrior queen of Connacht. Although depicted in the myths as human, many of her attributes, especially sexual, were super-human.

: Crows, including ravens, feature fairly prominently in Irish and Welsh mythology, and it's likely they had significance for Britons too. A record of a battle between a Roman legion and a British tribe describes the Britons as wearing helmets surmounted by metal ravens, complete with hinged wings that allowed them to flap. The Romans won the battle but they were so impressed by the raven imagery that they incorporated it into their standard.

: As to the original query regarding raven's blood, a couple of Irish and Welsh stories begin with a crow being killed and its blood falling on snow. However, the significance is not to do with the fact that it was a crow, but with the combination of black, red and white colours, considered to be portentious.

: Sorry you asked now, aren't you?

Not in the least actually. It's good to have my misconception cleared up. I suppose to redress the balance away from Celtic to Anglo-Saxon for a minute, I ought to mention the ravens that live at the Tower of London. Tradition states that if ever the ravens leave the Tower, then agreat disaster will befall the nation. There's little risk of this calamity occurring nowadays, since the ravens at the Tower now have their wings clipped, are caged overnight, and have a specific Beefeater (called "The Ravenmaster") appointed to look after them. The current batch (or unkindness, to use the proper collective noun) of ravens at the Tower are called Larry, Hardy, Cedric, Gwylum, Hugin II, Munin II, Odin and Thor.

Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with the original poster's question, but what the heck? :)