Symbolism of The Raven

Quoth the RavenEdgar Allan Poe isn’t the only one to use the dark symbolism of the Raven in his writings. This inky harbinger of death and evil has been a perennial favorite of storytellers for centuries, if not millennia. So, can you blame me for folding in some raven lore as I put together the dark tale of disease and death that is The Neah Virus?

Some natural aspects of ravens recommend them for portrayal as messengers from The Dark Side. For instance, their jet-black color makes them synonymous with night, and by extension, the eternal blackness of death. They are thought to be the most intelligent of all birds, and that can be creepy too, when they take an interest in you or yours. And take an interest they will, because they have a disturbingly keen sense of curiosity, poking their beaks into anything and everything that catches their sharp eyes. Lastly, how can you help but get a little tingle at the realization a raven’s favorite food is carrion? Scary, huh?

On the wingRavens were deified by Pacific Northwest Coastal tribes, partly in recognition of their creepy side, but also because they were viewed as great tricksters and agents of transformation. As bringers of change–wanted or not–ravens appear on totem poles, house carvings, and other items of ceremonial significance. The mythical spirit Raven was said to have brought light to the world of humans by stealing it from the Creator’s longhouse and carrying it to the world concealed in a box.

As I mentioned, I have entwined my story of The Neah Virus around Raven and his helpers, the crows. Time and time again a raven or crow comes on the scene to challenge the hero, Dr. Peyton McKean, as he fights the mysterious “Lost Souls Disease,” moving the plot toward a horrific conclusion. A carved raven adorns the top of the ancient coffin found in the Spanish crypt in the opening scene. Again, raven has something he’s concealed in a box! And a pair of ravens caw as if acting as witnesses to an old shaman as he prophesies a modern plague arising from the coffin. Thereafter, ravens and their crow cousins appear at each crucial turning of the story.

Are they simply witnesses to the transformations taking place? Or do they have some deeper and more sinister role? Read The Neah Virus and find out!

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes Peyton McKean mystery stories and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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2 Responses to Symbolism of The Raven

  1. Stephanie says:

    black crow screaming from the telephone wire
    ashes across the sky
    iridescent midnight, the remains of the fire
    is that murder I see in your eye, my friend
    it’s murder I see in your eye

    black crow screaming from the telephone wire
    ashes across my eyes
    let’s cast our little dreams upon love’s eternal fire
    and watch how they blacken the sky, my dear
    till the sooty little clouds roll by

  2. Tom Hopp says:

    Stephanie, you have definitely captured the dark and scary side of crows and ravens. Coincidentally, I put a scene in The Neah Virus where a murder of crows appears on a telephone wire as a harbinger of trouble to come. Very Hitchcockian, as well a Poe-esque, don’t you think? Not to mention a little Sir Paul thrown in. Thanks for the comment poem!

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