Meeting Crow

Tonight’s skin dance was with a crow spirit. Since crow feathers are illegal to possess in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, I have a couple of wing fans, arm bands, and a tail made from black dyed feathers and inhabited by a crow spirit I evoked. We first danced together; then when it became apparent that the ceiling was too low for me to flap my wings, so to speak, I sat down and continued to meditate with the crow spirit.

S/he made a few requests besides more space (outdoors when possible). S/he wants to work primarily during the day, not surprising since crows are diurnal creatures (despite cheesy Halloween decorations featuring corvids at night). S/he also said that when hir week to be introduced to me more deeply came about in my second six months, that s/he wanted me to study the crows in my neighborhood to get a better idea of how they move. As I mentioned in my work with the pheasant skin spirit, I’m nowhere near as familiar with birds as I am with mammals, so it’s going to be an entirely new area of study and practice.

As far as what the crow spirit wants to work on with me, a lot of it focuses on trickery. Not so much pulling pranks on others, but the fine art of deception in the spirit of “every actor is a liar”. Costumery and subterfuge are a big part of this crow spirit’s experience, since s/he wears non-crow feathers that are disguised, feathers that came from male and female birds both and contributed to an androgynous energy. S/he is the Mastress of knowing when to hide the truth and when to reveal it–not so much to cause harm to others, as to protect the self and loved ones (such as being in the closet out of necessity). S/he is very concerned with image; not just the shallow surface, but what the image can either reveal or conceal, and how the surface and what’s under it interact. In this s/he can also teach honesty, showing how to make the ouside better reflect the inside, even if it’s scary. If I end up incorporating sleight of hand and visual trickery in my shamanizing, s/he’s willing to help with that, too.

The crow spirit is also a resourceful one. S/he knows as much as s/he does in large part because s/he talked a lot with the totemic Crow about what I might need help with. Additionally, being an urbanized animal, s/he had to adapt to humanity and the changes we often bring, as well as exploiting our civilization for an easier life. Scavenging is an art form to this one.

There’s a lot to the crow spirit. It’ll be interesting to see what s/he has to teach in more detail when the time comes to work with hir more intensely.

8 thoughts on “Meeting Crow

  1. Just a note: I had no idea that it was illegal to possess migratory birds’ feathers – I have one (shed) raven feather, and several grackle feathers. The latter are so abundant (and don’t migrate from around here – they’re permanent residents) that I’m sure that there are any number of budding prepubescent ornithologists/shamans who have a collection of their feathers!

    thanks for the head’s up. Now to figure out if the vulture feather I have is also restricted, as well as the couple of whitewing dove feathers (oh, and I have one from a cedar waxwing -and I *know* those are migratory. sheesh)

  2. Sravana–Most people don’t really have to worry; if you just have a few feathers at home, nobody’s going to break the door down. The vulture feather may be a bit more of a concern, and I know raptors in general are more strictly enforced, protection-wise. Just don’t sell them or wave them in front of game wardens’ noses. I tend to be cautious since I sell artwork made from animal parts, but that’s my choice.

  3. Thanks, Lupa.
    I was perusing the list, and practically every NA species is on it, even blue jays, for crying out loud!

    I didn’t really think that my little collection mattered much from an official standpoint (and I understand your situation, with your artwork) – but I was just blown away to learn that my feathers are illegal!

    Interesting about the vulture feather being more problematical. I’ll keep it close by. 😉

    Now I know why all the stuff you see around is made from turkey feathers, with the odd peacock feather. And I can totally understand why there is this law (esp. given the history of the use of feathers in fashion in the early 20th century) – and I can see the necessity continuing.

  4. sravana–Yup. Turkey, pheasant, chicken and pigeon are about all I use these days. It’s sad that people can’t be more responsible, but I’d rather it be this way than having no birds at all.

    Most people aren’t aware of the laws (probably because unless you’re selling feathers or killing birds for them you aren’t a high priority). But it’s a useful thing to know, just in case.

  5. At least turkey and pheasant feathers are interesting looking, and chicken dyes well, if you want color.

    I agree with you re: people won’t be more responsible.

    Is it really illegal to own feathers that were shed, that you pick up? Or pick off a carcass?

    I guess there’s no way to tell the difference, so I imagine so.

  6. I remember a previous post about you being leery of looking for omens, but if you’re interested, there’s a little rhyme I learned for divining that involves counting the caws of crows/ravens.

    “One is sorrow, two is joy, three and girl and four a boy. Five is silver, six is gold, seven secrets never told.”

    Thought you might be interested.

  7. Matt–I’ve actually worked with a variant of that. I tested it when I worked as a rural meter reader a few years ago, where there were plenty of crows. What I found was that there really wasn’t much actual correlation between the crows I saw, and things in my everyday life.

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