Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ailsa Abraham: Not Just Mad... Corvid Mad!

British ex-pat author Ailsa Abraham (she's lived in France for over 20 years now) is simply one of my favorite people. Witch, shaman, counsellor, healer, teddy bear mechanic, she's an amazingly multi-faceted woman, and this week, she's graced us with this wonderful true story.
I was delighted when Maggie asked me to write a spot for her blog because apart from being fellow-authors at Crooked Cat Publishing, we share a passion for Fae, magic and… ravens.

When did it start? I'm not sure. As a child I was fascinated by Norse mythology and read anything I could get my hands on, to the point where, by the age of ten, I could write runic—a skill I have now unfortunately forgotten. Asgard was as real to me as the village around us, and its gods felt as familiar as my neighbours.

Ravens figure highly in the sagas. Odin, chief of the gods, has his messengers Hugin and Munir who fly over the world bringing back news to their master of the doings of men. So if you see a raven watching you, be careful what you say because it could go straight back to the ears of the One-Eyed All-Father. 

Corvids (crows, ravens, jackdaws, rooks) are the most intelligent of birds, able to solve problems and learn tricks very quickly, but only if they want to, as I was to learn when I finally made friends with a real live raven. In my thirties I made an ill-advised job choice and went to work in a zoo. The only bright spot in this hellish year of my life was being able to meet Ragnar who was miserable and getting up to mischief in a cage, stealing gloves, hats and jewellery from visitors. I had to rescue him.

The zoo had a raptor demo, and no other falconry display at that time was using a raven, so when I showed an interest I was told that if I did it in my own time, I could train the raven up. YES! This was the excuse I needed to jess him up and spend hours walking around with Ragnar sat on my fist, just getting used to each other.

That period over, he soon became the star of the show. Birds of prey are magnificent but a bit dull. They fly to the fist for the reward of the dead chick in the falconer's hand and once they are full, that's it, show over, they won't play any more. Ragnar however, was a showman. He performed for the thrill of applause and laughter, so we made an unbeatable pair.

Our spot should have consisted of me telling the folks about ravens, flying him about a bit and then walking down the line for photographs. Far too tame! I would put Ragnar on a post, asking him to stay there and walked off speaking over my throat mike,

“So I'll just go over here and call Ragnar to me and he'll fly. Then I'd turn around and do a double-take. The top of the post was empty and my friend had hopped down to stroll along behind me, to the amusement of the crowds. He was now sitting at my feet, looking up at me with his head cocked to one side and I would have to order him back to the post. All this, of course, with him unattached and free to fly away at any time. He didn't because he was having too much fun and the bond between us was too strong.

Having landed on the post he would put his back to me and ignore my amplified calls of “Come on then, Ragnar! Hey! Rag-bag! Oi! You! Excuse me? Can you hear me, birdie?” By which time the people were enthralled. Ragnar had them eating out of his claws. Eventually he would co-operate and
fly towards me, circling my head as I stood with my fist out, waiting for him to finish showing off. He would then land and execute a perfect bow to the crowd. A master entertainer!

To this moment, the saddest day of my life is when the zoo owner separated us and Ragnar, after a few thwarted attempts to get back to me, starved himself to death. My efforts to save him were futile. I have cried less when family members departed, but I still have his magnificent spirit with me and the memory of one glorious year of unending fun with my handsome, clever friend – Ragnar the Raven, who even sounds like a character from Norse mythology in his own right.

For more Ailsa Abraham

Crooked Cat Publishing

Ailsa's website

Her Amazon author page


  1. That's a lovely story, Ailsa. Would make a good 'short' perhaps, or maybe you've already done it...
    Thanks, ladies!

  2. Thanks, Nancy - no Ragnar has not disappeared, not in literature nor in real life! He is with me full time since I took the shamanic path. I can still hear that craaaaak and smell that distinctive corvid niff ... and he will be making an appearance in the prequel to Shaman's Drum. I was a fool to think that a bond like that could die and often my beat-up van travels with a Raven shadow over it and a blue pent on the bonnet!