From North to South, East to West, the Raven has held a revered place in cultural mythology and rituals. Whether Odin’s ravens, Huginn & Muginn, flying around the world to bring the Norse God-king news of events and portends of good and evil (their names, translated are ‘thought’ and ‘memory’, suggesting the world of the cerebral and an intelligence above mere animals) or the west coast First Nations traditions of the trickster and mischief-maker, the Raven continues to fascinate.
In Pacific Northwest Aboriginal mythology, Raven Steals the Sun describes how Raven, in disguise as the Sky Chief’s grandson, is able to trick the Chief into revealing the sun, which was hidden inside a carved cedar box of the type hand carved and created by the Haida and Nootka peoples. Once the sun was out of the box, Raven transformed back into his true shape and grabbed the brilliant sun in his beak and flew through the smoke hole in the Sky Chief’s lodge. High into the dark sky Raven rose, but the sun’s heat burned his white feathers jet black. High above the earth, Raven released the sun, setting it into its permanent place in transit above the earth.
As a result of his trickster ways, Raven provided light and warmth to the first peoples, and they could see their world for the first time. In the traditional lands of the Haida- the islands now known as Haida-Gwaii, (Queen Charlotte Islands), Raven is seen as both trickster and hero for this act of unintended philanthropy. For a most excellent rendition of this and similar stories, Bill Reid, the late artist and sculptor, collaborated in a collection of these tales under the title, Raven Steals the Light.
Hey Myth fans! For a contemporary re-telling of this specific myth, see the new novel The Raven Effect, by Michael Ippen, in which the trickster character of Raven is able- unintentionally- to shed light on the troubled affairs of the Tse Wets Aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, as well as its struggling female protagonist.