Sunday, December 28, 2008

Raven intelligence

Here is a YouTube video of a bait-fishing crow that's making the rounds:

Crows turn out to be extraordinarily intelligent animals; as are octopuses. The raven (and the genus Corvus in general) got a bad rap in Genesis 8:

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the
ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew
that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

But to the ancient Greeks, the raven symbolized illumination and truth and intelligence. Native Americans, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, also celebrated its intelligence.

Peter Goodchild's Raven Tales (1991) collects raven stories from all over the world. From the book jacket:

Raven is the protagonist in a cycle of Native American and eastern Siberian folktales that portray him on the one hand as a trickster, the comical malefactor who often becomes the butt of his own jokes; and on the other hand as a transformer, creator, or culture hero who puts the sun in the sky, forms rivers and regulates the tides, creates
humans and animals, and brings fire to the human race. But a raven figure appears in the mythologies of other cultures as well. In western tradition, the raven is associated with the Greek Apollo and the Norse Odin. The Ainu of Japan, the Australian aborigines, the Malays, and the Vietnamese tell raven stories that are tantalizingly
similar to those of North America and Siberia...