Corvus corone aka the carrion crow appears throughout ‘The Fressingfield Witch’. In fact, the book was nearly entitled ‘Crowfall.” The crow featured in The Fressingfield Witch was adopted as an unofficial family crest after the Witch Trials and was subsequently used to create terror amongst those of a superstitious nature.
Fear and prejudice has long been held against the crow and its poor reputation existed from ancient times. A single crow is considered unlucky and unsurprisingly the collective name for these birds is a ‘murder’ of crows. If a crow perches near or circles a house, it foretells a death. If it swoops over the paternal house, it is considered a sign of misfortune. A crow forsaking a flock indicates a famine.
Crows have often been used in literature. Shakespeare prefaced some of his darker scenes with the introduction of crows or ravens; this below from Macbeth:
“Light thickens, and the crow
Makes wing to th’ rooky wood.
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse,
While night’s black agents to their prey do rouse.”
Crows are intelligent animals. They remember faces, particularly when they have experienced cruelty. They possess the rare ability to problem solve. Crows are smart enough to drop nuts from great heights to get at the kernel and, in this more modern age, have been seen tossing nuts in front of passing cars to take advantage of an easy nut-cracking facility.
The Fressingfield Witch begins with a quote from Hudibas. This 17th century narrative poem by Samuel Butler satirised the Civil War. It also features crows.
“Is it not ominous, in all countries
When crows and ravens croak on trees
The Roman senate, when within
The city walls, an owl was seen
Did cause their clergy with lestrations
(Our synod calls Humiliation)
The round face’d prodigy t’avert
From doing town or country hurt”