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Motifs of the Revival: Raven, Rook & Crow

by Patricia Poore on August 14, 2015

in Collectibles & Accessories

Large 6 x 8 Raven tile in Midnight designed by Yoshiko Yamamoto, from Motawi Tileworks.

Large 6 x 8 Raven tile in Midnight designed by Yoshiko Yamamoto, from Motawi Tileworks.

Prophet, or bad omen? Ravens and crows carry ancient symbolism—in different cultures and at different times associated with evil but also rebirth, darkness and (in Chinese mythology) the sun, spiritual strength and yet death. Given their continued association with witchcraft and the darkness of Poe, it’s surprising to see the black birds depicted as decorative motifs. (For the record: Crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, and magpies are of the Corvid family; blackbirds are thrushes.)

Crow in Pines quarter-sawn oak-framed art tile from Mission Guild Studio.

Crow in Pines quarter-sawn oak-framed art tile from Mission Guild Studio.

Then again, the raven (a larger relative of the crow) symbolizes gratitude and affection, wisdom, longevity, and fertility. The crow is a symbol of Christian solitude. Maybe most compelling, these birds in alchemy represent change. Intelligent and mysterious, they are blessed with keen sight.

The Messenger gothic-feeling vase from Ephraim Faience.

The Messenger gothic-feeling vase from Ephraim Faience.

Ravens and rooks show up often as a decorative motif in works of the Arts & Crafts movement and its revival. See them silhouetted or socializing in block prints, sculpted into tile and pottery, repeated in wallpaper designs, and depicted in the era’s metalwork and art glass.

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