Raven
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Source: Museum Meermanno - MMW, 10 B 25 facsimile Copyright 2004 Museum Meermanno Manuscript description Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25, Folio 34r


 

Raven

Latin name: Corvus

Other names: Corax, Corbeau, Corbell, Corbellot, Corbiau, Corvo

The raven will not accept its young until their feathers turn black

 

 
General Attributes

Ravens refuse to feed their young until their feather grow and become black, and the parents can recognize them as their own. Before the young have feathers, they feed on dew. When a raven eats a corpse, it first pecks out the eyes so that it can reach the brain.


Allegory/Moral

As the raven first pecks out the eyes, so the devil first destroys the ability to judge correctly, leaving the mind open to attack. As the raven will not feed the chicks until it recognizes them as its own, so the teacher should not tell his students of the inner mysteries until he recognizes that they are ready to receive them, when they have grown dark with repentance.


Sources (chronological order)

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 15): When raven chicks are strong enough to fly, their parents drive them far away from the nest, so that in small villages there are never more than two pairs of ravens. Ravens experience 60 days of poor health due primarily to thirst, before the figs ripen in autumn. Some say that ravens mate or lay eggs through the beak, and as a consequence if a pregnant women eats raven eggs or has such eggs in the house, she will experience a difficult birth; but Aristotle says this is not true. Ravens are the only birds that understand the meaning they convey in auspices, and it is a particularly bad sign if a raven gulps down its croak as though it was choking. (Book 10, 60): When Tiberius was emperor, there was a raven in Rome that always greeted him by name. Another raven was seen dropping stones into an urn of water, causing the water to rise high enough for it to drink.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 7:43): The raven (corvus or corax) has its name from the sound of its cawing (coracinet).

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 12): The raven beholdeth the mouths of her birds when they yawn. But she giveth them no meat ere she know and see the likeness of her own blackness, and of her own colour and feathers. And when they begin to wax black, then afterward she feedeth them with all her might and strength. It is said that ravens' birds are fed with dew of heaven all the time that they have no black feathers by benefit of age. Among fowls, only the raven hath four and sixty changings of voice. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)


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