In myth and legend, the raven is many things: trickster and creator, messenger and seer, personification of ravening greed, harbinger of death, companion or form of the Goddess. Here I want to speak about raven as an oracle bird, one that can lend us his or her sight.
This is inexact.
where the light-killers could not find it
so the sun could shine brighter than before.
because you are evil and unkind.
They do not say you swallowed
of minor crimes.
For many years after my divorce from my first wife, I found myself still with her in dreams, in situations that might have unfolded had we stayed married. My dream self aged at exactly the same rate as my waking self, and the circumstances of these dreams were entirely realistic.
Soul-loss and/or soul-splitting may be at issue here. When we make a wrenching life choice, part of us – in disagreement with the choice we made – may split away and follow the path not taken. Becoming aware of that separated aspect of self and reaching to reclaim its energy and gifts can amount to vital soul healing.
A great blue heron flew parallel to me, for more than a mile, as I drove to the Connecticut shore to lead an adventure in exploring the multidimensional self over the past week. This felt like a promise that our work would be deep and rich – and on the right track – as indeed proved to be the case.
You are a master of patience.
You can wait on one leg,
A spearman poised and immobile,
Longer than I can wait on two (or three).
Your standing stillness cons the fish
Into disregarding you, as a dead branch
Or a boring relic from an old shipwreck.
You don’t need anyone to tell you
When the time is GO.
In that instant, you strike without delay,
Your purpose straight and swift and clean
As a stabbing spear, taking your prey.
I am relieved that even you
Have to work to get airborne,
Flapping and beating your great gray-blue wings.
When you are up, and stretch out your body,
You exhibit the whole history of flight.
You show yourself as the Feathered Serpent,
The one that grew wise enough
To make a home in another dimension.
I love the way you practice love.
You put on a gaudy show for your intended
Sprouting twin mating plumes.
When your gallantry prospers,
You are willing to work in intimate partnership.
I have seen you, ferrying twigs in your beak
To your mate in the frame of your nest in the trees.
High-flying bird of the heart,
I like your business arrangement
With the busy engineer of canals and dams;
Where the beaver builds, you build too.
Humans, who fly only in dreams and machines,
Know you as an ancient ally and exemplar.
You brought First Woman from the Earth in the Sky
Breaking her fall on wings spread like magic carpets
To dance a new Earth into being.
Egypt knows you, and the mystery of your rise
From the sexy serpent of Earth
To the master of air and of water.
Egypt calls you the ever living, the phoenix bird
Born again and again from the ashes of the old life,
Endlessly birthing your winged and shining self.
The Guide can take many forms, in dreams and on the roads of waking life. Our true spiritual teachers often use shock or humor in their efforts to wake us up to the real nature of things, and they love to play dress-up.
An earnest woman in a church group once asked me, at the break, whether she could meet her guardian angel in her dreamsl. Absolutely, I told her. When I began to explain the process of dream incubation, she interrupted me. “I’ve done that three times, and each time I asked to meet my guardian angel, I got Garfield the Cat.” I asked her to explain to a visiting space alien, “Who is Garfield the Cat?” She explained that he’s greedy and always looking out for Number One. Angel means messenger, I pointed her. Could there be a message in Garfield’s approach to life? This earnest woman, who had clearly given a lot of her life to service to others, thought about this, then stole a quick look at the buffet and asked, with a mischievous glint in her eyes, “Would it be okay to jump the line and get some chocolate cake while it’s still left? I reassured her that Garfield, as guardian angel, would say “Absolutely.”
The angel can be terrifying as well as funny. Rumi evokes beautifully the terror Mary felt when the Archangel Gabriel apperared to her in the moment of annunciation. In the presence of a supremely greater power, she literally jumps out of her skin. Whereupon the angel who is patron of the astral realm and of dream travel says to her (in paraphrase): “You flee from me from the seen to the unseen, where I am lord and master? What are you thinking of?”
The truth of our dealings with higher sources of knowledge – and above all the Guide of our soul – is that we don’t need to go looking for them because they are forever looking for us. When Dante at last finds Beatrice (the Guide appearing in the form of a beautiful women he loved and lost) after the terrible journey through all the hells of the medieval imagination, she reproaches him that for many years she was seeking him in dreams, and he would not listen.
The Australian Aborigines say that the Big stories are hunting the right people to tell them. It’s like that with the powers of the deeper world. Here’s a poem I wrote about this:
You say you are hunting your power
But your power is hunting you.
I’ll go up to the mountain, you say.
I’ll fast and live on seaweed
I’ll hang myself on a meat-hook
Under the hot sun. I’ll give up sex
And wine and my sense of humor.
What are you thinking of?
For you to go hunting your power
Is as smart as the mouse hunting the cat.
Step one inch outside the tame land
And you are near what you seek.
Open the window of your soul
Any night and your guide may come in.
The issue is whether you’ll run away
When you see what it is. To make sure
You succeed, tether yourself like a goat
At the edge of the tiger wood that breathes
Right beside your bed. He’ll come.
Tiger in South India. Image via flickr