The raven is one of the most important birds in Celtic mythology (and there are many important types of birds). The raven is a symbol of death and war, but also of the otherworld and its eternal pleasures. In Ireland, the raven is especially associated with Badb, whose name means "raven" and is an aspect of the Triple Goddess, Morrigan or the Morrigue. Her sisters Macha and Badb also appear in the forms of ravens on the battlefield. This is not unusual, given that the raven is a carrion bird.
In Welsh myth, the raven is associated with Bendigedfran ap Llyr, the Fisher King. He is lord of the otherworld, the feasting head who owned the cauldron of rebirth.
The raven is also associated with Owain ap Urien, one of Arthur's greatest knights. While Owain was a historical figure, he became mythologized, to the point that his mother is sometimes listed as the goddess Modron, and later Morgan le Fay, who is, of course, related to the raven goddess Morrigan.
The raven is a symbol of death, but the Celts, believing in both a happy otherworld and reincarnation, reputedly did not fear death, but welcomed it as part of the cycle, over which the raven rules. However, with the introduction of Christianity, it is likely that the raven took on a darker aspect, as it is a carrion bird.
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Mary Jones © 2003