I have a fondness for the Corvus family. Today the crow and raven are associated with darkness and death but I want to share a different perspective.
The Leni Lenape tell the story of the Rainbow Crow. I have not been told the story from any tribal elders etc. In fact, I only learned the legend with the invention of the internet. So with no further ado here is story as I understand it…
The sun seem to sleep a lot over the past few years. The days were dim and short and the night was long, cold and dark. As the chieftain walked through the village the sadness of his people rested on his spirit like a heavy stone. He had tried everything. All of wisdom of his grandfathers, all of the prayers in his lodge and long lonely nights in forest seeking a vision that would tell him what to do. He couldn’t even sit at the council for the crying of the hungry children. He paused for a moment beneath a large spruce tree and began to sob. Then, he heard a rustling is the branches above. It was his friend the crow of many colors that had come to check on him. The crow was magnificent with feathers that shimmered with every hue in the rainbow. He loved the people and he loved the chieftain. The crow tried his best to cheer up his friend by singing in his most beautiful voice. It had always worked in past. The chieftain would smile and forget his troubles for little while. But tonight’s sadness the worst it had ever been. Moving down to a lower branch the crow opened his mouth and once more that beautiful melodic voice came out. “I have never not been able to make you smile my friend. What troubles your soul and how can I be a friend for you?” The chieftain took a breath and began to unload his burdens. He told the rainbow crow of the hungry children and the sickness of the old ones. “If the cold does not end soon my people will fade away forever. ” spoke the chieftain.
The rainbow crow knew in his heart what must be done. He would undertake a journey to the council of the creator and plead on behalf of the people. The journey was long and dangerous. The rainbow crow flew nonstop for many days and nights. When he found the creator he begged for him to end the winter and save the people he loved. The creator agreed and as a token gesture he gave a burning branch to the crow and instructed him to give fire to the people so that they could be warm again. The rainbow crow took the fire in his beak and made the long trip back to the chieftain and his people. He found the chieftain still sulking under the large tree. As he landed, the rainbow crow laid the fire at the chieftain’s feet. In his excitement at finding a way to save the people he tried to speak but the smoke from the fire had destroyed the crow’s beautiful voice and his magnificent feathers were singed black forever.
The chieftain was able to save the people he served as a result of rainbow crow and his sacrifice. So, always after the people would leave food out for the crow and he was always welcomed in the village.