Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Murder of Halloween Crows

What is a group of crows called?  The most widely used term is "murder." A group of crows can also be called a flock, muster or storytelling of crows.

This is based on the folk tale that crows form tribunals to judge and punish the bad behavior of a member of the flock. If the verdict goes against the defendant, that bird is killed (murdered) by the flock. The basis in fact is probably that occasionally crows will kill a dying crow who doesn't belong in their territory or much more commonly feed on carcasses of dead crows. Also, both crows and ravens are associated with battlefields, medieval hospitals, execution sites and cemeteries (because they scavenged on human remains). In England, a tombstone is sometimes called a ravenstone.  However, if crows weren't around, our highways, medians, and country sides would be littered with remains.  So they do have a good purpose in life.

Now, the murder of Halloween crows that I'm speaking of wouldn't think of cleaning up the countryside - they are much too posh for that.  I went to a very fun crafting retreat this past weekend and these were little Halloween gifties for the gals.


Twyla Twa was born in 1941 and is an American crow dancer and choreographer who lives and works in New York City.  As a young crow  she spent a few months each year living with her Quaker grandcrows in Indiana.  From the time she was 8, she performed with her family at a drive-in movie theater on Route 66 in Rialto.   They would be the opening act before the movie.  Lining up in a row across the top of the screen, she and her younger sister Twanette and her twin brothers Stanley and Stanford, would kick up their legs and fly in perfect circles to entertain the movie-goers.  In 1965 she formed her own dance murder of crows called Twyla Twa Dancers and has been a flying success ever since.  As she so famously said, "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home."

Edith Piaf was born Edith Giovanna Gassion and was one of the most celebrated French singers.  She became widely regarded as France’s national diva, her specialty being ballads of love, loss and sorrow.  Her most famous song was “La Vie en rose”.  Piaf, an argot colloquialism for “crow” was a nickname she received 20 years after she was born.  Edith’s mother abandoned her at birth, and she lived for a short time with her maternal
crowmother.  Before he enlisted with the French Army in 1916 to fight World War I (by carrying secret messages in his beak), her father took her to his mother who ran a brothel in Normandy.  There, prostitutes helped look after Piaf.  As a teenager, she not only sang but was a part-time acrobat, flying circles around all of the other crows.  Although Edith had a brilliant career, her personal life was very hard and her last words were “Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for.”

Juanita Growing Thunder Crow, born in 1969, is an award-winning Assinigoine-Sioux bead crow and porcupine quill worker.  Juanita learned her skills from her mother and has been beading since the age of three.  She gathers her own quills from freshly killed porcupines, then washes and dyes them, using natural dyes such as bloodroot, blackberries, and wolf moss.    Sorting the quills by color and size is the lengthiest step in the process.  The quills are then softened in a bath of warm water, and Juanita flattens them with her own beak before creating intricate patterns on moose or deer hide.  She is especially expert at this because of her long luxurious pointed beak.  In addition she is adept at rolling beads of clay and using nature’s dyes with which to color them.  She has made a very good living for herself and her family by selling beaded items at market.
Queen Crow of Samhain - Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"). The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture. Samhain was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and prepare for winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead overlapped and the deceased would come back to life and cause havoc such as sickness or damaged crops.  For the pagan Celt, the essence of the universe and all its creativity was female, women were the spiritual and moral pivot.  The mother goddess and all her personifications of fertility, love and healing was an essential basis of their very role in the world.  Women feature prominently in Celtic myth and their goddesses occupied positions that represented women of practical, everyday Celtic life.  they were free to bear arms, become Druids and engage in war.  Queen Crow is carrying her friend Sunshine who will weave a web of jewels at the Samhain festival.
Poor Lady Crowdiva - I've lost her tale.  But it is told (although the story is said to be implausible by modern historians) she did ride through the streets with her very long ribbon hair covering her naked body.  Supposedly Lady Crowdiva took pity on the people of Coventry who were suffering terribly under her husband's oppressive taxation.  Weary of her entreaties to change the taxes, he said he would grant her request if she would strip naked and rider through the streets of the town.  She did so after issuing a proclamation that all persons should stay indoors and shut their windows.  Just one person in the town, a tailor ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom, disobeyed her proclamation. In the story, Tom bores a hole in his shutters
so that he might see Crowdiva pass, and is struck blind. In the end, Crowdiva's husband keeps his word and abolishes the onerous taxes.  In any event she was fully clothed at the retreat!






  1. Ha....these tales matched with these magnificent crows are awesome!!!! I bet you all had a wonderful time at that retreat! Seriously the crows are amazing!!!!!

  2. what beautifull tales and beautiful crows. I love them


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