The Caw of the Crow

Shamanism believes that everyone has power animals. Power animals are helping and ministering spirits that guide, help, and protect us on our life paths. In the shamanic world view, everything is alive, vibrating with information, power and wisdom for the good of individuals, families, communities and nations. Power animals have their own unique medicine that they wish to share with us and the earth. For example, a crow power animal will provide crow attributes such as raising a ruckus when danger is afoot.

Central to crows are their keen sight. Nothing escapes them. Crows always have a sentinel post. Their nests are built very high up, giving them the chance to watch everything that is going on around them. Crows recognize potential danger and hence always post lookouts. Their watchfulness warns others of intruders and threats—animal and human. They often make great noise when hunters are around, warning deer and other animals.

Crow is also very intelligent and very adaptable. It will eat almost anything to survive. Thus they have a darker or shadowy side. Crows are sly and can be deceptive in their actions. They have been known to build false nests high in treetops to confuse predators. Their ability for watching and their intelligence has also given them a reputation for thievery. They will rob food from other birds or whatever source is around them—including human food supplies.

Crow are also an omen of change and are representation of creation and spiritual strength. They have the capacity to use unseen forces and spiritual strength to help us. Basically crows are “watchers” and “warners” trying to alert us to what we need to pay attention to. I will tell you a funny story.

I arrived at work one day and as I went to my office I heard a terrible racket of crows, cawing and cawing. So I go outside to see what the racket is all about. There are crows sitting in the trees and sitting on the roof. I look down and see a crow feather. I pick it up and then notice another. I pick it up and notice another. In fact, I find either 4 crow feathers, the lead in a path to my car with the last one near my car. I pick them up thinking the crow must be gifting me their feathers as a way to work with crow medicine and go back into the building and complete my day. At the end of the day I leave my office and go to my car. As I open my car door, I see that my car is soaked with water. My seats are soaked. My floors are soaked. My cup holders and center console are full of water. I had left my moon roof open. During the day a storm had come up and it had rained for several hours. In retrospect, were the crows trying to warn me that I had left my moon roof open because they knew it was going to rain that day? Who knows? But I do pay attention now when I hear a crow and ask if it might have a message for me.

But crow can also alert us to inner threats, intruders from the unconscious that might be pulling us into emotional dysregulation, negative thinking, or destructive behavior. I was recently working with crow regarding a certain situation. I think the message has wisdom for us all.

In my shamanic practice I often journey to non-ordinary reality to inquire of the spirits regarding questions or areas of concern. On this particular day I journey to inquire as to how crow who had shown up in the dreams of a client might be helpful in his situation. I am whisked up to the upper world and meet a guide and helping spirit. I tell him that I am here to inquire as to how crow might be useful in this particular situation. He tells me “Crow is his warning system. Crow is here to warn him of threats or intruders living in the darkness of his unconscious, pieces of him that he has repressed that threaten to destroy him, overtake him, pieces that he holds hostage that are threatening to break out. Some of these are positive forces and some are negative. Crow can help him sort this out. Because crow can also deceive and steal in order to protect itself, crow is adept at showing this man when he is deceiving himself.” I am aware of some hostage situation but at the time I’m not allowed to see it.

The next day while meditating, crow comes and says that he has something he wants to show me.

I see a very mountainous terrain, densely covered with jungle. I see a man chasing another man. The man being chased is “running for his life.” The man being chased finds ways to avoid being caught, hiding at times among the dense terrain. He discovers a cave that is hidden, almost completely covered with dense vegetation so that it is hard to see and even to find. The man decides to live in the cave. He leaves the cave from time to time to get food, hunt, kill an animal or to fish, get berries, etc. in order to survive. He becomes very dependent on his relationship to the elements, earth, and animals for his survival. I see crows sitting high in the trees, watching over him. The crows call out from time to time to let him know that the man is in the area or other danger is near. This alerts the man to return to his cave.

So when crow comes into your life, whether he or she shows up in the outer world, in a dream or simply comes into your thoughts, it is a sign to pay attention. Something is ”at hand” or “on the horizon.”

Sheldon Shalley, LCSW


  1. This last Friday while at an Inn in Hocking Hills State Park a crow in one picture and a murder of crows in another. they were beautiful ink block prints and had human hands arranged in the design. I was drawn to both of the framed prints. I’ve leanred they are very watchful as I observe their behavior at the cabin we visit. I shoo them away but no more…they eat a lot of bird food. I’ll be more considerate. Thanks

  2. Joyce Julian · · Reply

    Sheldon, Crow is my totem, also my bird on the Native American birthchart. Have been receiving feathers for three years now, and even a whole wing. And of course they come in my dreams! Just the other morning here in Minnesota I opened the front door to get some air, the crows often come to the trees in the front yard, but haven’t seen or heard from them since Mom passed away in January. I heard the caw of a single crow that morning, so I ran outside to greet him, he stared at me and I at him while he kept cawing away at me, I ran over to the tree he was in and I looked down instinctively and there on top of the fresh snow was a beautiful agate stone, with purple on the top, I picked it up and then looked up to the crow. He cawed very loud while staring at me and then flew away. It was meant just for me, no tracks anywhere or around the agate. A gift from my Crow!!!!

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