Do Crow Sightings Have Meaning?

Crows have a complex history! Discover what crows symbolized to ancient cultures, and find out how some interpret crow sightings today.

Crow Meaning in Native American Culture

American CrowPaulReevesPhotography/Getty Images
Crows have special meaning in some cultures.

While some can’t look past the crow’s harsh call and frequent literary association with death, Native American cultures see the crow meaning in a positive light. Native American myths and legends frequently extol the crow’s smarts and position them as symbols of good luck and wisdom.

One particular legend worth mentioning: that of the Rainbow Crow. In it, a crow with multicolored feathers and an extraordinary song soars up to the heavens to, somewhat like the Greeks’ Prometheus, bring fire to people and animals so that they might survive winter. The act of selfless heroism costs the bird dearly. It loses its song after breathing in too much smoke, and its lovely feathers turn black.

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Crows in Celtic Culture

American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Fraser lake in Northern BC, crow meaningDESPITE STRAIGHT LINES (Paul Williams)/Getty Images
These black birds may be seen as a symbol of death or good luck.

In Celtic myth, crows and ravens are frequently interchanged. (If the differences between them confuse you, here’s how to tell them apart.) Regardless, since they frequently appeared on battlefields to pick at the unfortunate soldiers who lost their lives, these corvids had a frequent association with death and conflict.

The Badb, a goddess of war known for causing panic on the battlefield, frequently appeared in crow form. Translated, her name means “battle crow.” Part of a trio of war-related goddesses called the Morrigan, multiple members of the group had the ability to appear as a crow or raven.

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What Does It Mean When You See a Crow?

American CrowStan Tekiela Author / Naturalist / Wildlife Photographer/Getty Images
American crows are known for their intelligence.

The crow meaning today is almost as wide-ranging as the bird’s habitat. (You can find crows anywhere from cities to forests.) Yes, there are some who interpret a crow crossing one’s path as a sign of bad luck or death…but another interpretation associates them with positive outcomes. The black colored birds can be symbols of transformation, intelligence, bravery, opportunity and fate. Some crows have even been known to bring people gifts or trinkets.

And, as an amusing aside, a common (and somewhat grim) idiom revolves around crows. “To eat crow” means to, in oft humbling fashion, admit to a mistake or defeat. The phrase entered common usage in the mid-1800s starting with a story about boarders who goaded a farmer to—you guessed it—eat a boiled crow.

Do you love corvids? Don’t miss this collection of cute crow gifts.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate editor for Birds & Blooms Digital. Throughout her years with the publication, she has written multiple articles for print as well as digital, all covering birding and gardening. In her role as associate editor, she is responsible for creating and editing articles on the subject of birding and gardening, as well as putting together Birds & Bloom's daily digital newsletter. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a master's degree in magazine journalism and undergraduate degrees in journalism and English, she has more than eight years of experience in the magazine, newspaper, and book industries.