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As The Crow Flies

Artist Nicole Climmons, "The Hoodie Crow" after the namesake fairy tale from Andrew Lang's "The Lilac Fairy Book"

Crow Appreciation Day

Apr 27

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"A crow never forgets the path it has flown, for each twist and turn teaches a wisdom of its own."

~ Traditional

This John Drewry reel follows the "as the crow flies" idiom, generally using straight and diagonal crossings for shortest paths between the men and ladies! Crows have long been creatures of fascination and mystery in folklore across the world, often seen as symbols of cunning and intelligence. They are also sometimes viewed as omens, heralding change or revealing hidden truths! In the enchanting tale from the West Highlands, "The Hoodie Crow," the narrative follows the youngest of three sisters who makes a life-changing decision to marry a Crow. Upon marriage, she unveils a startling truth: her husband is a handsome man cursed to live as a crow. With her profound love, she manages to partially lift the curse, yet she faces a poignant dilemma—choosing whether her husband should appear as a man or a Crow during daylight. She decides he will be a man by day and a Crow by night. However, their happiness is short-lived. As the curse intensifies, her husband, in the form of the Crow, departs, leaving behind only a solitary feather—a mere hint of the unfolding saga! Dance, crows, dance! Caw! Caw! 🪶

As The Crow Flies

April 27th is Crow and Raven Appreciation Day, for the black birds of legend and lore who congregate in "murders" and "conspiracies."

The expression "as the crow files" is an idiom referring to the shortest difference between points.

Crows and Ravens figure prominently in the folklore of many cultures and regions, including that of the West Highlands.

The hooded crow (Corvus cornix) (also called a "hoodie") is a widely distributed species also known locally as the Scotch crow and Danish crow, and is an ashy grey bird with black head, throat, wings, tail, and thigh feathers, as well as a black bill, eyes, and feet. 

In Celtic folklore, the bird appears in several mythological contexts, including a manifestation of the Winter goddess, the Cailleach.   Additionally, the hooded crow is associated with fairies in the Scottish highlands and Ireland.   In the 18th century, Scottish shepherds would make offerings to them to keep them from attacking sheep.

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One famous crow folktale, of the "search for the lost lover/husband" variety, is "The Hoodie Crow," a story collected by John Francis Campbell in his "Popular Tales of the West Highlands."

A farmer's three daughters are each wooed in turn by a hoodie crow. The older two repulse it because it is ugly, but the youngest accepts it, saying it is a pretty creature. After they marry, the crow asks whether she would rather have it be a crow by day and a man by night, or the other way around. She chooses a man by day, and during the day, he becomes a handsome man.

She has a son. One night, after music puts everyone to sleep, the baby is stolen. The next two years, it happens again, with two more babies. The hoodie crow takes her, with her sisters, to another house. He asks if she has forgotten anything. She has forgotten her coarse comb. The coach becomes a bundle of faggots, and her husband becomes a crow again. He flies off, but his wife chases him. Every night, she finds a house to stay in, in which a woman and a little boy live; the third night, the woman advises her that if the crow flies into her room in the night, she should catch him. She tries, but falls asleep. The crow drops a ring on her hand. It wakes her, but she is only able to grab one feather.

The woman tells her that the crow flew over the hill of poison and she will need horseshoes to follow him, but if she dresses as a man and goes to a smithy, she will learn how to make them. She does so and with the shoes, crosses the hill.

She arrives at a town to find that her husband is to marry a daughter of a great gentleman. A cook asks her to cook the wedding feast, so that he can see a race, and she agrees. She puts the ring and the feather in the broth. He finds them and demands to see the cook, and then declares he will marry her.

They go back and retrieve their three sons from the houses where she had stayed.

For more on the many expressions involving the crow, click the Henry Justice Ford illustration from the story in "The Lilac Fairy Book," Andrew Lang's collection from 1910.

As The Crow Flies

Click the dance cribs or description below to link to a printable version of the dance!

As The Crow Flies

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