The Raven’s Kiss

It was the most unexpected place for a raven encounter.

These are the most private of birds and prefer places away from people. So, it didn’t even cross my mind that the crow I was cooing over at one of the busiest tourist sites in Donegal was in fact a raven.

Once Jason pointed this out, I was raven putty.

We have a pair of ravens nesting on the edge of the West Pennine Moors about a mile from our home. Our bedroom window looks out towards their romping ground. I usually struggle to spot them in flight as I walk the moors, as they look so similar to crows.

But when they call their haunting croak, that is how I know a raven is close by. I usually hear them before I see them.

They have been following us around our holiday in Ireland these past two weeks, or rather we have been following them. Their constant presence has validated to us that Ireland is considerably less populated than England.

Everywhere we have camped, or visited, there have been a pair of ravens overhead. In Galway they were nesting in the trees in the field across from our camping field. Two flew over our new camping spot in Donegal, which is overlooking the sea, as we were putting up our tent.

I am not one for busy destinations, but this is our first trip to Ireland and so we are very much finding our way. The badge of being the tallest accessible cliffs in Europe was enough to pull us to this tourist hive along with probably every other sightseer in south Donegal.

I have a poorly ankle at the moment. I slipped on the day of the Summer Solstice walking down a steep bank to a waterfall and twisted it. It got better in the normal fashion until I decided to enter the adult race at Jason’s grandson’s sports day. My competitive edge got the better of me, and I pushed myself too far in all the excitement, and it hasn’t healed since. So, this holiday has very much been a sitting down one.

They have been following us around our holiday in Ireland these past two weeks, or rather we have been following them. Their constant presence has validated to us that Ireland is considerably less populated than England.

Everywhere we have camped, or visited, there have been a pair of ravens overhead. In Galway they were nesting in the trees in the field across from our camping field. Two flew over our new camping spot in Donegal, which is overlooking the sea, as we were putting up our tent.

I am not one for busy destinations, but this is our first trip to Ireland and so we are very much finding our way. The badge of being the tallest accessible cliffs in Europe was enough to pull us to this tourist hive along with probably every other sightseer in south Donegal.

I have a poorly ankle at the moment. I slipped on the day of the Summer Solstice walking down a steep bank to a waterfall and twisted it. It got better in the normal fashion until I decided to enter the adult race at Jason’s grandson’s sports day. My competitive edge got the better of me, and I pushed myself too far in all the excitement, and it hasn’t healed since. So, this holiday has very much been a sitting down one.

I am a big believer that I get stilled for a reason. So whereas normally we would be walking the cliffs, all I could do was walk to the viewpoint which was crowded with people who couldn’t get beyond taking selfies of themselves, and then make my way back to Little Red Van, which we had parked right at the top next to the ice cream van and lobster roll stall.

I saw my raven straight away sitting on a rock trying to catch two people’s attention. He was staring at them, carefully selected as they were eating lobster rolls. He cocked his head at them, and they took out their phones and grabbed some shots. He cocked his head again, and

I felt the whole thing was rather unfair. He was posing for the photos but getting nothing in return. Seeing my concern, an American lady offered me some of her ‘potato chips’ to give him, also sharing the sadness of the situation.

It was then that the idea struck me.

I had two sausages in the van which we had cooked up that morning as sneaky snacks to eat through the day. Jason had snaffled his as lunch time, but I was saving mine for later in the day, as I can be susceptible to the 'sausage snooze effect' if they have a wheat content, which these did.

So, armed with my sausages I went to feed the crow. At which point Jason pointed out this wasn’t a crow. This was a raven.

My heart skipped a beat.

A raven! How could I be this close to a raven?

Would he eat from my hand I wondered? So, I threw him a few pieces of sausage and then moved closer. There was a dance between us, as I stretched forward as far as I could, and he hopped to a place where he felt the safest and lent forward to meet me. Beak to finger, and there I had it. A raven had touched me, and I had touched a raven.

The adrenaline was pumping through me, as I reached for more sausage meat to pass to him…

… and so went on the dance.

Jason by this stage had grabbed his camera kit from the van. Another blessing for my bad ankle, as we wouldn’t have brought his big camera kit up if we had walked.

Behind us an audience was amassing, as folk turned their backs on the cliffs and we became the spectacle. We became the tourist attraction, all with cameras to the ready.

For that moment I became Raven Whisperer. I could command my raven to wherever I wanted him to be, so Jason could get the best shots.

We moved from rock to rock, each time getting a little closer to each other and each time building up a little more trust.

I had almost as much to be wary of than him. That black beak looked fierce, and I could only imagine what it could do to my fingers combined with those sharp talons should I get off on the wrong foot with him. I was that close. I worried for my eyes the most, as I have heard stories of people being blinded through birds attacking their eyes in defence.

My raven would gather several pieces of sausage in his beak and then fly to a safe place just behind the fence where he would enjoy the treat.

Each time he flew back he grew to trust me a little more. I no longer had to stretch out to reach him. He relaxed as I relaxed. Our eyes locked in contact with each other, I was breathless with excitement. The adrenaline still pumping. The tourists had returned to their selfies, bored now as the novelty had worn off for them. But not me, and not Jason. To be this close to a raven was a very special thing. A once in a lifetime thing.

He was smart. Very smart. He knew that Jason had a role in this adventure, and we could see him looking at Jason to try and figure out what it was. He was sizing up Jason’s long camera lens and calculating why Jason and I were working as a team and to what end.

To be so close to a raven and read it's mind was a wonderful thing.

Then came the moment which I know we can all relate to. He had eaten all the sausage he possibly could fit in to his stomach.

So, he began to gather it in his beak. Collecting up small fragments piece by piece and holding them there. Jason wasn’t happy. He wanted raven shots without sausage beak.

The problem was solved as my raven took off and flew to a secret place in the cliffs. Here he stashed his sausage pieces and within a minute was back with me again for more. We had a routine going, where he would collect two or three pieces at a time from me and fly off to his hideaway place to deposit them and come back.

Our dance continued. He would fly in around me, spotting me from within the crowd which had amassed behind me again. I saw a man try to tempt him over to him with an apple core, but my sausage overruled.

Then I was nearly out of sausage. He had devoured one and three quarters from me, and I had just one quarter left. We were ready poised for the final round and catch the perfect raven photo.

But he never made that last flight to us. He began to behave differently, and oddly. We couldn’t figure out why exactly until later.

What he did was lie down in the grass just the other side of the fence, right on the cliff edge. He got down really low, so we could barely see him even though he was just ten metres away. We thought at first perhaps he was so full he needed a sausage snooze. We could relate to this! Then we wondered if he was wary of the children standing behind us, but he wasn’t looking at them. He was looking over towards the cliffs. 

Then we saw her. The angry wife!

She came storming out from the cliffs towards me screeching. He shot up from his hiding place ready for a fight. There were raven cries in the air as they met in combat. I have never heard a noise like that coming from a raven. They swirled and scrapped in the air at great speed, flying inland. Talons stretched out to each other. Spinning upside down, grabbing onto each other in flight, squabbling all the way.

A third raven then flew in to join them, croaking in that raven familiar way. It was their child, coming over to try and break up the row. It didn’t work, and we watched Mr and Mrs fly off into the distance fighting out their raven quarrel, storming through the sky.

We watched them fly over the distant hill tops out of sight.

He never came back that afternoon. We waited around for a while and placed the remaining sausage pieces on the limestone rock for him.

Then we left, changed forever.

I have had several close encounters with wildlife like this. Each one has left an imprint in me, but never before have I had such a prolonged interaction and shared experience with an animal or bird. Normally they would see me and move on. But armed with two sausages this time I had new powers, the power to dance with ravens.

Never before have I been able to get inside the mind of a wild animal, ora pair of wild animals like this and glimpse into their world in such a way. To think that he hid the food from her. That he hid from her. That he could see her coming even though we couldn’t. That she got mad at him, and it seemed at us too. The aerial fight, and with such ferocity too. The child coming to intervene.

Was she mad at him for hiding the food and not sharing? What she mad at him for playing out with the people? Or staying away from her for so long?

To think that ravens get mad at each other and have a full-on argument like this.

For a moment we got to glimpse into their world, as our two worlds touched.

And the kiss? Well, there was one occasion where the sausage fell off my fingers and the raven pecked me. I am using my poetic licence to call that a kiss!

I was kissed by a raven.

Nicola

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Most evocative story, wonderful, thanks! Greetings from Éigse Spiorad Cheilteach, Clara, County Offaly.

  2. Ravens are beautiful – the way they fly and their amazing calls – and I think they are similar to humans in many ways. I came close to one (though not as close as you!) on Skiddaw where the raven was also accepting food from me – dried apricots. Also I remember watching what looked like parents teaching their young to fly on the summit ridge of Liathach. Your encounter sounds like a rare privelege for you. You have been blessed!

  3. Aww I heard thro a friend that on Lammas we had a flock of around 20-30 Ravens were in our local here in Cornwall and were tumbling with each other and as soon as they came they disappeared I see this was a great omen as I feel is no accident in life and all things in nature are signs in life,, as they were spotted in a power place with Major lays running through the hilltop,,, TY grt reading you journey 🙂

    • Wow a raven party. So interesting to hear that they gather like this. Thank you for sharing Mark. Yes animal sightings have been a great guide for me over recent years…

  4. What a wonderful encounter..Ravens partner for life ..so that must have been a real spat! Ireland is magikal, l have spent time there camping and travelling..good story.

  5. Guys, this is truly magical…

    What a journey you two embarked… and having the presence of the mystic Raven to top it up…

    Ireland is my 2nd home (if not the first really)… and I am absolutely thrilled that see you two venturing on familiar grounds to me.

    Bless you and your adventures…

    May we meet again soon.

    Love,

    Flavio

  6. How fabulous!! You are so blessed to have had that encounter. The creatures know those that have a special place in their hearts for them and reward them with their trust. Thank you for sharing. xxx

  7. Thank you for sharing this story Nicola and for the wonderful images Jason. Indeed to interact with another wild soul is a thing of beauty. I love how you used the word ‘dance’, as that is what it truly is when we encounter ‘wildlife’. A dance filled with awe, joy, fear and, with the really special encounters, trust. It seemed like you built a trusting relationship with this Raven, even if it was fleeting.

  8. So good to read this Raven story. It seems like a confirmation of everything you hold sacred. ‘Corporate World’ could never offer this…!

  9. Amazing! It’s very rare to hear or see ravens where I live in Penwortham but I have heard them over the West Pennine Moors. Interestingly I’ve noticed when I’ve visited old battle sites in the North and Wales I’ve either come upon flocks of crows or occasionally pairs of ravens. I didn’t know ravens liked sausage! Maybe I should take sausage butties next time I’m off on a mission…

  10. Coincidentally I jumped at reading this because I’ve just finished an awesome book called ‘Blackwing’ whose main character has a tattoo of a raven which tears itself out of his arm to deliver messages for a mysterious near god-like being called Crowfoot who he serves so am feeling the corvid energies at the mo!

  11. How very magical! Lucky you – a close encounter with a wild creature is the very best experience ever. It was such an encounter with a hare that led me to write my Stonewylde books. My next book, set on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, will feature ravens as they’re very common on the cliffs there. I’m very envious of your wonderful encounter but so happy for you. Such a beautiful blog post! I absolutely love ravens!

    • Thank you Kit and fellow raven and hare lover! My other close encounter was with a Hare… that is another story! Thank you for your kind words 🙂

  12. What a magical experience and brought to life by astounding photography. In the photo of the 2 ravens in flight, they both appear to be looking directly at the camera. This experience and the symbolism behind it is obviously meant for you both in co-operation. One of you experiences something or is a making some spiritual connection and the other is supporting and recording.
    The key-word for Raven is ‘MAGIC’. He/She is the messenger from the ‘VOID’, where the deepest of mysteries reside. Its medicine is very powerful so possibly, you both are being entrusted with some knowledge or ability because, your intentions are true. I love the bit with the battle between Apple-core and Sausage. Whoever heard of a ‘Vegan Raven’. The chap had no chance against, ‘She who ‘Dances with Ravens’.
    I have read that the Raven is present in any ceremonial healing, sacred circle. Raven is the patron of ‘spirit messages, the courier of messages from other realms, and the void. The challenge is to bring these things to light, accept the gifts without trying to explain them away which might decrease their potency. My book says, it can be a call for you to contact the ‘Ancient ones, or maybe they are contacting you both. The quarrell between Mr and Mrs. Raven must be significant in some way. The message seems to imply that any new state of consciousness and working with the Raven, requires co-operation and a partnership with you both. Initially will there be the need for some compromise and communication so you are both ‘on the same page at the same pace’. orderI have had a nice little encounter recently. Twice I have been at my ‘sit spot’ early in the morning, around dawn. I can see this particular tree from ‘my spot’ which ‘drew me in, the first time I sat there. On these early excursions I have seen a Buzzard alight from the tree which to me seems a good and sound message for me studying your teachings and doing these practices. The second time the Buzzard flew into a tree right on the river bank. About 10 seconds later there was an ‘Avian rumpus’ , the Buzzard came out of the tree followed by a crow. Obviously the Crow was not happy having a Buzzard in the crow tree. Then the two were quiet and the crow and Buzzard flew side by side (quite close it seemed), to the top of the field where Buzzard landed in another tree and the crow peeled off. It appeared as if the crow was escorting the Buzzard to a safer roost.

    • Thank you for your insights here Michael, fascinating to read 🙂
      Yes, the apple core man didn’t stand a chance against my two sausages! I loved reading about your Buzzard/ Crow experience. Often I see a crow mobbing a buzzard – it is nice to read about them setting in together 🙂

  13. Wow how precious was that moment in time?! My mum has a pair of ravens that visit her garden every day – we live in North Devon by the Sea but with a large bank of trees near by. I too have corvids visit my garden and sometimes lucky enough to see a raven. My husbands family are part Irish & i love it there & feel most at home with the landscape & energies of the lands. Its a wonderful place & the Irish people are just so friendly & kind. I firmly believe ravens are special & have messenger qualities/magic with them. You were truly honoured to share that intimacy & view of thats birds life. Thank you fir sharing. X

    • Thank you Lizzie, yes I do feel rather honoured. He certainly touched a place in my heart! I have loved reading a little of your connection and story here. The Irish people are very friendly aren’t they 🙂

  14. What an adventure and truly memorable experience. I have never been close to a Raven, but for me the Raptors are special. When I ride I always encounter 2 buzzards who always grace me with the honor of flying low over my head. Sometimes I try and call to them, and the appear from nearby. I believe they are spirits,: Where ever in the world I travel once I see the Raptors I feel safe and blessed. Riding in Canada it was a Bald Eagle that appeared daily as we rode, this year in Portugal Kites flew over head every morning and evening. Perhaps one day I will get nearer to one

    • Lovely to read about your Raptor connection and experiences here Ann. Heres hoping you won’t need to wait too long before you get your close encounter 🙂

  15. Wow, what an experience, thank you for sharing. They are incredible birds and, for me, hold so many memories of childhood. My Dad would take me up into the high mountains of the Highlands and, invariably, ravens would swoop and swirl amidst the craggy buttresses of huge, monolithic peaks. I’m transported back there the moment I hear one. Special birds which, I’ve always felt, offer us protection in the hills.

    • Hi Richard, what a lovely thought that ravens are protectors, thank you for that. I have loved reading your raven encounter in the Highlands. Reading your words transported me right there. Thank you 🙂

  16. How wonderful… a beautiful account of an amazing situation.

    I too have been blessed with a recent encounter but with a squirrel. Whilst meditating in complete peace in my garden a squirrel came and perched on my knee. I kept very still and he curled up and had a snooze. When I finished meditation he hopped off and stayed beside me for a while before scampering off into the trees.

    • Oh my goodness Penny, this is amazing to read! What an experience. I have squirrel envy now! thank you so much for sharing. What a positive affirmation that we enter a completely different place when we close our minds down. 🙂

  17. Wow what images Jason and a lovely wildlife encounter for you both. Ravens are ace aren’t they. We used to have a Raven raiding party on the chicken coup when I was a kid. My Dad used let them get away with it because he loved them but many people feared them and killed them. They are super intelligent and I always felt like they looked through you and out the other side like they totally knew everything about you in seconds. Fabulous birds. (Hope your ankle is healing x)

    • Hi Anne, great to read your raven story. They are super clever for sure, and had certainly got the measure of Jason and I by the end of the shoot. FAiled to win over Mrs Raven this time though! Ankle is well on the mend now thank you 🙂 x

  18. Gosh Nicola what a wonderful experience with such a magnificent bird, you really are blessed to have been kissed by a Raven I was so envious reading your fabulous story. Thank you for sharing and the photos are amazing you can almost see his expression and the intelligence in his eyes, not forgetting of course the anger of Mrs Raven during their argument ! Wishing your ankle a speedy recovery xxx

    • Hi Elaine, oh I know – his eyes were mesmerising. He was such a character. Just thinking about him now I am missing him! I do feel rather blessing 😉 and very very lucky! Ankle on the mend now it has done its job of slowing me down 🙂 Thank you for your kind words Elaine xxx

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