You may have spotted my feathered brand mascot here and there on this website. When I first showed a few people these illustrations of my ravens – made by the talented Iancu Barbarasa – some people said: “Rosy, these are beautiful, but are you sure? Ravens are a bit creepy and loud and dark, is that the right vibe for your brand?” I get it – and it’s also why the Raven is perfect mascot for me.
1 – I think we can all agree that my name is fairly unpronounceable. My first name – pronounced Rósheen – is Irish, and it means ‘little rose’. And my Dutch last name translates as ‘of the Raven’s nest’. Making me quite literally ‘Rosie of the Raven’s Nest.’ Always felt quite chuffed about that. It alludes to a different time, a fairytale time perhaps, where people and animals lived together harmoniously in a lush green landscape. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved hearing and telling fairytales, especially ones with quirky and wise animals at their centre.
2 – Despite some people’s negative associations with ravens, I happen to like mysterious, curious and stubborn creatures – feathered, human or otherwise. I think looking into the darker parts of ourselves, our realities or our relationships, is not something to be afraid of. Yes, it can be scary to get brutally honest – but it’s freeing, too. Many dark things look scary from a distance. On our late evening walks, my dog also barks at the dark silhouettes of dogs in the distance, but as we come closer, tails wag and it’s a mutual sniff-fest. I like what the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses, who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
3 – Ravens as symbols have a rich history and have been people’s companions for centuries. You’ll see ravens depicted in many different religious and pagan texts and legends, and yes, in Western cultures they can alude to ill omens, but more often they are wise messengers. They were often believed to live in the ‘in-between’ – between the spiritual world and this physical world – bringing messages from ‘the other side’ about things beyond human perception.
In Norse mythology, the God Odin is depicted as having two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, serving as his eyes and ears – huginn meaning “thought” and muninn meaning “memory”. They flew around the world every day and reported to Odin what they saw.
In my adopted home-country England, ravens have been holding the fort at the Tower of London for centuries. According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the ravens of the Tower of London are ever removed. The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, which I first discovered when I travelled to Vancouver Island and saw the incredible indigenous artistic incarnations of ravens. In these stories, the raven is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster God. For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters that are sometimes difficult to tell apart. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who’s considered to be the one who brought light to the darkness. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. Not unlike us humans, these two, aye?
4 – Ravens are incredibly smart, fun-loving and witty. Much research has been done in their cognitive abilities and social behaviours. We know that they have the cognitive abilities of a 7-year old, can solve complex puzzles, plan ahead, feel empathy, roam around in teenage gangs, make and play with toys just for the fun of it, and remember people’s (and raven’s) behaviours and hold grudges. They’re also believed to be able to communicate and forge bonds not just between themselves but also with other animals, such as wolves. Ravens are told to lead wolves to prey, so that they can have the leftovers when the wolves are done.
Ravens rock, basically. And they have a lot of qualities I like in people. I’ll leave you with this video of ravens frolicking in the snow. Let’s all be more like ravens. I rest my case.