Ravens seem to be woven into human folklore wherever they are found. Some cultures see them as bad, evil, or associated with death (they are scavengers). Others have portrayed them in a more positive light. Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest saw them as tricksters or heroes. They have also been associated with the gods in Norse mythology. In Christianity, they have been associated with God’s providence. It’s clear that Ravens have left their mark on our human psyche and remain a part of our myths and stories.
Macro of the beauty of a Raven's wing
In the Canyon, they are an omnipresent part of morning camp. As we pack up and finish our breakfast, it is common to see the ravens arrive, as if on cue, to find what we will miss. They wait on the periphery, watching us from a lofty perch. They wait for us to launch downriver, leaving them to their search.
I imagine their eyesight and their sense of smell are far superior to ours. Their attention to detail honed by survival versus our immediate attention to getting our boats loaded and moving downriver.
They can also be seen soaring through the air overhead as we head down the river. We watch them floating along the cliff edges in the afternoons. Occasionally, one will land on a rocky perch as we hike along a trail or through a narrow side canyon. Always watching. Their caws and croaks alert their neighbors to our passing.
To me, ravens are beautiful. Their shiny black plumage has a midnight blue translucence. Their deep black eyes look back intelligently as I greet them directly to compliment them on their beautiful plumage and poise. I have learned that Ravens never forget. I want to get on their good side so that they bring good omens and not the specter of death or injury.
If I were more superstitious I would probably leave them gifts of food and shiny objects. I would enlist them to be my spotters and give me intel on the upcoming rapids.
It has been speculated that wolves respond to raven calls that alert them to prey. The raven benefits from this relationship. If the wolf gets its prey, the raven gets the scraps. If I give the raven his due will he alert me to danger up ahead? Will his presence overhead keep me safe? Will our symbiotic relationship result in our camps being a little bit cleaner when we leave?
Here is to the Ravens of the Grand Canyon! To the human travelers through the Grand Canyon, please make sure to take everything with you when you depart so that the next human village can land on the shores of the river camps and feel as if they are the first to discover this wild Grand Canyon.