Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/57

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47
A FLOCK OF MYTHOLOGICAL CROWS.

wolves and ravens were sacred to Odin. In the prose or elder Edda, which was the sacred book of the Odinic mythology, it is said, "Odin gives the meat that is set before him to two wolves, called Geri and Foeki, for he himself stands in no need of food."[1] And, again: "Two ravens sit on Odin's shoulders, and whisper in his ear the tidings and events they have heard and witnessed. They are called Hugin and Munin (mind and memory). He sends them out at dawn of day to fly over the whole world, and they return at eve toward meal-time. Hence it is that Odin knows so many things, and is called the ravens' god."[2]

Turning now to the Semitic tribes, we will find that among them, also, ravens were held in greater veneration than any of their feathered congeners; and more than one mention of them is made in the sacred chronicle as especial messengers of the prophets. In the Biblical narration of the deluge, we read: "And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent forth a raven, which went to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth."[3] And, again, after the prophet Elijah had foretold to the wicked King Ahab how the land would be cursed with drought, the word of the Lord came to him, saying: "Get thee hence and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan. And it shall be that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according to the word of the Lord; for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook."[4]

In the Babylonian legend of the deluge, as given in the fragments of Berosus, we have also the episode of the birds being sent out to see if the waters had subsided, but neither the raven nor the dove is especially mentioned by name;[5] while in the legend as given by the old Arabian chronicler, Abou-djafar Mohammed Tabiri, he not only mentions the raven especially being sent forth first, but also gives the reason of his not coming back: "Noah said to the raven, 'Go, and place your foot on the earth and see what is the depth of the water.' The raven departed; but, having found a carcass, it remained to devour it, and did not return. Noah was provoked, and he cursed the raven, saying, 'May God make thee contemptible among men, and let carrion be thy food!'"[6]

We have another legend—of the raven as a. grave-digger—which is given in Baring-Gould's "Legends of Old Testament Characters" as follows: "After Abel was slain, Adam and Eve sat beside the body and wept, and knew not what to do. Then said a raven whose friend was dead, 'I will teach Adam a lesson.' And he dug a hole in the soil,

  1. Mallet's "Northern Antiquities," p. 430.
  2. Mallet, loc. cit.
  3. Genesis, viii, 6, 7.
  4. 1 Kings, xvii, 3-6.
  5. Berosus in Cory's "Ancient Fragments."
  6. Tabiri, c. 12.