Among the Vikings, the raven is one of the most powerful and common symbols. You could see it on their veils, on their clothes, etc. When the wind caused these sails to bend and flutter , the crows printed on them gave the impression of flapping their wings.
Some say these birds symbolize death and destruction, while others consider them lucky charms that guarantee victory on the battlefields. So what is it really? What place does the crow occupy in Scandinavian culture? Answers.
The Viking Raven: A Messenger of Death
In Norse mythology, Ragnar Lothbrok who claims to be descended from Odin had the course adorned with tattoos of ravens. The same symbol was seen on many of his clothes and on his armor. He had a banner on which a crow was embroidered. The legend says that he won the victories if the banner flew and lost it otherwise.
Anyway, crows are basically scavengers. When warriors were slain on the battlefields and their bodies lay there lifeless, crows would invite themselves in at the end of the fight to feed on their flesh.
As scavengers, their appearance was therefore associated with ill omen and more specifically with death , darkness and destruction. As soon as they appeared, bad news was to be expected. Moreover, their black plumage leaves them no chance of passing themselves off as a saint.
Moreover, being present on the battlefields after the end of the fighting, the crows accompany the valkyries, responsible for choosing the warriors destined to die in battle and enter the paradise of the Vikings, Valhalla.
For example, Haraldr's Poem composed at the end of the 9th century makes the case of a dialogue between a valkyrie and a crow which she sees having flesh in its claws and blood on its beak. The valkyrie asks the bird where it came from and it replies that it followed King Haraldr who defeated his enemies at the battle of Hafrsfjördr which allowed him to unify Norway.
The Viking raven: symbol of wisdom and higher knowledge
That said, if the crow is not generally associated with angels, it is still considered to possess a very special power. That of perceiving hidden truths even in unexpected depths . It represents superior knowledge, wisdom, clairvoyance, insight, but also fidelity, courage, prudence, longevity, etc.
Norse mythology very often associates them with the god Odin who is both the god of knowledge and the god of war. The god Odin was almost always accompanied by two crows sitting on his shoulders and serving as his messengers. Odin sent these birds every day to go around the world.
When they returned, they would sit on his shoulders and bring him information about the other kingdoms . They were his eyes and ears and thus gave him a kind of omniscience. Odin knew almost everything about everything that was happening everywhere. Moreover, these birds bore the names of "Hugin" and "Munin", which respectively meant "thought, reflection" and "spirit, memory" in Old Norse.
So crows may be associated with death and destruction, but they also represent higher knowledge, deeper wisdom, counsel. For navigators, they have often served as a compass.