The raven (also known as the Northern Raven) is a large all back perching bird in the crow family. The raven has coexisted with humans for thousands of years, and in some areas has been so successful that it is considered a pest. Part of its success comes from its omnivorous diet. Ravens are extremely versatile and opportunistic in finding sources of nutrition, feeding on carrion, insects and food waste, in addition to cereal grains, berries, fruit and small animals.
In many post-conversion Western traditions, ravens have long been considered birds of ill omen, in part because of the negative symbolism of their all-black plumage. In Sweden, ravens are known as the ghosts of murdered people, and in Germany as the souls of the damned. In Danish folklore, it was a raven that ate a king's heart gained human knowledge, could perform great malicious acts, could lead people astray, and had superhuman powers.
In contrast, many indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America and northeast Asia revered it as a god. In Tlingit and Haida cultures, Raven was both a Trickster and Creator god. Related beliefs are widespread among the peoples of Siberia and northeast Asia. The Kamchatka peninsula, for example, was supposed to have been created by the raven god Kutkh. The Norsemen believed that ravens Hugin and Munin sat on the god Odin's shoulders and saw and heard all, and a raven banner standard was carried by such Viking figures as the Norse Jarls of Orkney, King Canute the Great of England, Norway and Denmark, and Harald Hardrada. There are several references to ravens in the Old Testament of the Bible and it is an aspect of Mahakala in Bhutanese mythology.
The raven has an uncanny ability to mimic the sounds of other animals and humans, and its unique pitch is believed to shift consciousness to another level. A symbol of change and of knowledge, this animal spirit guide is often associated with teachers and those with a love of knowledge.
Raven tattoos are symbols of protection, knowledge, change and a link to the next world.