The Rainbow Crow


For Sunday Scribblings #232  Treatment

The Crow and His Shadow

They say, long ago
that the crow
was a creature
of wondrous
rainbow plumage,
but so filled with pride
he refused to stride
except at high noon
so he wouldn’t
have to share room
with anything so dull
as his own deep shadow.

Silly bird,
peck, peck, pecking
at his dark-formed
until, in rage
that same darkness
rose up to swallow him.
And that they say,
is how strutting rainbow crow
came to be so very black
all over.

This poem, written many years ago, and revised several times, is based in a Native American myth about the crow. There are many others, including one about how the Rainbow Crow brought fire to earth to warm the life that must exist in winter climbs. In transporting the burning brand from the heaven’s to earth, the beautiful bird burnt all its feathers and again, became black all over.

Black is the color of the unknown. It is an amalgamation, a merging and blending of all other colors. When a crow walks in sunlight, it flashes back some of those colors, reminding us that at one ‘time’ he was a beautifully rainbow hued creature. And one who had a wondrous voice for singing. But, because of the smoke and fire, his voice was reduced to nothing more than an irritating caw. It is also said that the crow doesn’t cast a shadow.

That’s because he is one. We humans have a shadow, both inside and out. A reminder of our solidity, but also our reality that much of our person is hidden inside, out of view, and might not be known even to ourselves.

The Crow, like his much larger cousin, the Raven, is a shape-shifter, an illusionist. Able to take different forms that allow him/her to move more freely, gather needed information, and not be recognized. And we humans can also shift the shape of our reality through the process of change, whether that be in attitude or simple habits of behavior. We can shift our perspective, allow it to broaden or widen, but also become narrow or even rigid due to circumstances or past experiences.

Because of all of these things, the Crow has, for many, become a symbol for ‘Higher Law’. Higher than man’s law, higher than the laws that govern the world we live in. It is spiritual law and not to be confused with religious rules or practice. After all, those are interpreted by and for humankind. Spiritual law is meant to bring balance and growth to all of life, not any particular segment of it. It always calls us to be better than we have been and to see a much wider picture than we often allow ourselves to perceive.

Every myth has a lesson within its telling. The two myths I have mentioned here are both elements of that spiritual law of which I speak. The first is about our treatment of our own person, the second is about our treatment of others.

Walt Whitman, in his Song of Myself, sums up the first message better than any other I have read.

I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other

This, to me, is what is necessary for each of us, so that we do not end up like the Crow who pecked away at his shadow until it rose up and swallowed him.  There are pieces and parts of our being, kept in the shadows for all kinds of reasons. But, if we don’t take the time to learn and explore what these pieces and parts are, and how they came to be hidden, even excluded, we can never find the balance necessary to learn or participate in that second message.

We need to do more than accept and possess those hidden parts, we need to respect them and how they came to be. How can we truly love another if we have not learned to love ourselves? And yes, I know that often in the act of loving another, we find ourselves. But, love must grow just as all things living must grow, or tempt stagnation.

The second message is also summed up in the first one. If we truly respect ourselves we will respect all others we come in contact with. The Rainbow Crow gave up all that he was, his glorious plumage, his beautitul voice, that life could be warmed and continued. Self-sacrifice becomes a natural impulse when all of life is loved and respected.

The Rainbow Crow was rewarded for his sacrifice in many ways. The Creator of All told him that because he could no longer sing, he would never be caged, would always know freedom. And because his plumage was now dull black, he would no longer be hunted for his glorious feathers, need no longer fear for his own preservation. And because the smoke of the fire became a very part of his being, he would never have to fear being killed for his meat, which now carried the taste of that smoke and was no longer palatable.

He would be forever common and therefore able to move freely to do what was his to do without interference. He could now shift his presence to where it would do the most good and gain him the most knowledge and wisdom. He could love himself for his own uniqueness and love the world and all that was life within it. He was free in body and mind, but also in spirit.


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here:
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26 Responses to The Rainbow Crow

  1. Elizabeth, you are really a wonderful writer! You remind me of what is special about the crow. The lowly crow. The common crow. He is everywhere, and your message is so especially needed today. I started this day, with the loveliest pink in the sky as the sun came up, and I considered that the first blessing of this day. And when I read your piece I consider it the second blessing of this day. May your day also be filled with blessings at every turn. I have a friend, an artist who puts many crows in her work, I will send her your post. Thank you!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Annell, you brought me a story of the crow yesterday and I had been thinking about doing this post, just moments before I found your message. That’s what I call confirmation and synchronicity. I can only be pleased that I have been a blessing in your day, and thank you for the blessing on my own.

      I’ll probably need it as I am going to a rather rowdy bash called The End of Summer Party. It is at my nephew’s home and is an annual affair, usually with a theme. And there can be, and often are, upwards of 250 people who attend, constantly moving, talking, laughing, and drinking, as well as dancing. I’ve never lasted until the bonfire, except once, and only because I brought a friend who didn’t want to leave because a beautitul young black man was teaching her all kinds of new dance moves, lol.

      And I have been thinking that maybe I will spend my time counting how many crows come to the party. And thanks for passing the post on, that’s always pleasant to hear,


  2. When did you find the beautiful photo at the beginning of your blog?

    • 1sojournal says:

      Actually it is one of several that are offered as possibilities for this particular theme. I usually prefer some of my own art work (makes it more mine) on my blogs, but when I saw the image, I knew it was perfect and more suitable than what I had up until then. Thanks for noticing. I often get a bit lost in the photo, and that’s fine by me.


  3. I’m sorry, to fill up your comments. I meant “where”, not “when.”

    • 1sojournal says:

      lol, you can fill to your heart’s content. I’ve never been told there is a limit and the way in which I have a tendency to go on and on, that’s a really good thing.


  4. Lisa says:

    This was great, I agree you are a wonderful writer and I learned somethings I never new. Great take on this weeks prompt.

  5. Deborah says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this … just wonderful!

  6. Jae Rose says:

    A very interesting post Elizabeth – I’m reading from the UK so was not familiar with the myth of the crow so I am glad to have read. The poem itself stands alone perfectly however and is a great musing on pride and humility..Jae

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Jae Rose. I feel the same way about the poem, but wanted to add the second myth because it goes in a different direction. Our movement is best when it swings inward, then outward, that way it has more of the personal and self within it. Giving away self is what we all do when writing or expressing whatever lives inside of us. Those pieces and parts add so much to the message.


  7. Aoife.Troxel says:

    A great poem! The myth was wonderful, as was the commentary. What a brilliant concept, that the shadow rose and swallowed him. I had never considered the merits of the crow’s plumage and voice, but escaping humans is certainly a gift.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Aoife. Even to a human it could seem that way, sometimes, lol. I love the way myth speaks and tells a story inside a story. But then, poetry often does the same thing,


  8. p1ece5 says:

    You done well for the crow. There is a comic book that uses the main character as a man who has come back to life thru crow and shadow, and the man can take on both forms. The main ideas come from a band, Joy Division, in which each chapter in the comic book, The Crow, (movie too) was a song from the band. It was about a man going around and killing everyone who was involved with the rape and murder of his girlfriend. Sometimes chilling it takes you in the dark world of the crow and lets you linger for a bit. The band pushed that limit, and went beyond. That may be why many people feel uncomfortable about the band. As a child, i always liked the crow, cuz it was always around having corn growing in your backyard. It was always there for you, just like your shadow.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Ahh, my friend, do you remember the first time you pointed out the hawks to me? Such a wonder, they were and still are. I love that last statement in your comment. Our shadow is with us always, there to help and support us, by helping us to know who we really are. The third dimension to an otherwise only two dimensional creature. You are still showing me the steps on the path. Thank you,


  9. dasuntoucha says:

    …We need to do more than accept and possess those hidden parts, we need to respect them and how they came to be. How can we truly love another if we have not learned to love ourselves? …

    …while I enjoyed your poem, your following explaination grabbed my attetntion as well…especially these lines…great post!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Dasuntoucha, thank you for reading and finding value in the words. And I agree, those may be the most important ones in this particular message and we need to hear them again and again. It takes a while, sometimes longer, for them to truly sink down and make a home inside of us.


  10. anacronk says:

    Never heard of the crow myths! I enjoyed them and your post. 🙂

    • 1sojournal says:

      Most cultures have myths about the common creatures that inhabit and share their world. And those myths have a great deal to teach us. I love myth and unraveling the truths to be found within them. Glad you enjoyed,


  11. Crow is used as a motif in Hinduism. No mythology is without it. I have a great respect for the bird.

    Your post made my day!

    a child’s play

    And do get aboard the Poetry Train every Monday mornings and thereafter!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Gautami, I didn’t know that about Hinduism and the crow. Of course there is a great deal I don’t know, which makes life just that more interesting, doesn’t it? I’m glad that we share yet another piece of life’s puzzle. That is truly exciting. I’m also glad that my words have meaning for you and made your day a bit brighter, yours have often done the same for me.


  12. Mary says:

    I love all of the knowedge you have about animals / birds. You very much have a Native American mentality, I think. I very much believe we have to explore our hidden parts!

    • 1sojournal says:

      I was unaware of my Native American anscestry until I was an adult. However, I did have some suspicions, not the least of which were my own interests and leanings. I have a friend, a former student, who often speaks of what she calls ‘blood memory’ and which is different from what think of as the collective unconscious we share with all of life. She is speaking of memories and belief systems passed down through the DNA and that affect the way we see and view the world. I am pretty sure that I am proof of that.

      I spent a lot of time reading up on much of what I know. And yet, I retain it easily and for long term. And when I’m not sure of the facts, I know exactly where to go to straighten out any confusion. That’s not a boast, but a reality within my existence. One I lean on heavily at times. And one that played a role in the writing of this very article. I was looking to clarify some minor points and the first place I looked they were all there ready and waiting for me. That’s the synchronicity that happens when we explore and accept those hidden pieces and parts. Somehow, even if we haven’t been on the particular part of this path, there is a familiarity that rises up to meet us. Perhaps to confirm the rightness of whatever path we have chosen.

      Thanks for the comments, they are rich with thought,


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