October 18, 2020 — “Hey,” I said. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.” The birds turned, suspiciously, and stared at me with bright eyes.
Ravens symbolize wisdom, magic, understanding, life, and war. During the Middle Ages, Christianity linked ravens and crows with Satan, death, desolation, and solitude — to further subjugate and control the heathen beliefs that had survived in North-Western Europe and Finland.
Ravens and crows have been sacred since time immemorial. In the Norse tradition, Huginn (“thought”) and Muninn (“mind”) continuously fly over the world of man — Miðgarðr — and bring back information to the high one, more commonly known as ᚢᚦᛁᚾ. While the Greeks viewed ravens as oracles, the ancient people of Thule considered them spiritual guides who could foretell significant events such as battles, birth, and death.
In the Viking Age, ravens were seen as omens — both good and bad. Galdramenn (male shamans) viewed them as companions on their transcendent journeys — a tradition that likely originated amongst the Indo-Europeans of the Eurasian steppe, thousands of years earlier. The ancient revere of ravens lived on as it poured down to Cimmerian, Scythian, Sarmatian, Alannic, Turkish and Mongolian cultures. Interestingly, in China, the ancient Zhou dynasty’s (1046-256 BCE) emblem was a red raven.
While exploring the high seas, Vikings brought ravens aboard their ships, then released them and sailed in the same direction to find land. Like in ancient China, the raven was so important to the Vikings it featured as the primary symbol on their war banners and flags.