The crows have been restless in the changing season, ever present. As I walk, I can hear them when I can’t see them, and see them soaring, sitting, satiating whatever hunger drives these brilliant beasts. Cultures on every continent and for millennia have told myths and legends about the many-named bird. Stories about ravens, rooks, and corbies, while as varied as the peoples who have told them, unite us all.
In Norse mythology, the mighty god Odin kept two crows: Hugin, meaning “thought,” and Munin, meaning “desire and emotion.” The Norse believed that we humans comprised of separate parts that could detach from one another, each symbolized by an animal. The clever crows embodied the internal workings of Odin, gathering knowledge and wisdom during daily morning flights around the world. In an Eddic poem, Odin says, “Hugin and Munin / Fly every day / Over all the world; / I worry for Hugin / That he might not return, / But I worry more for Munin.” How human, wanting to fill oneself with all the world has to offer. How human to worry. How very human, falling prey to anxiety, to fear that our thoughts, and more so feelings, might let loose from our fragile control. Crows are wicked smart animals. Leaving would be a choice, a vengeance. What a metaphor: How much more terrifying the thought and the loss, no matter how tight our internal grasp.
Symbolically, Odin lets fly heart and mind, the most human of dichotomies. Take ten minutes and create a mind map with Heart as one beginning, Mind as another. Let loose with your associations and ideas. Look for connections and divisions. Treat this map like one of Hugin’s and Munin’s flights. Create with what you bring back.
It isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems to find humanity in the everyday, the everywhere. But it’s damn near impossible if our hearts and minds land and stay on the barren tree of inevitable differences. No story told about the crow follows the same plot, yet the great plot of us saw fit to write in the story of the crow over all the world. It’s what we mean when we talk about the power of story: The connective tissue that holds our frail humanity together.