We chose the Raven as a mascot for a multitude of reasons. The Raven, known for their extreme intelligence and ability to vocalize, is a skillful problem solver who successfully operates alone or with others depending on the need. Being a playful creature, the Raven has very few natural predators, but are also daring, spirited, and cunning creatures who are always doing something worth watching. They’re less social than other birds and, as such, are often seen alone or in pairs that stay together year round. When on the ground, Ravens walk confidently with a swagger. In flight they’re more graceful and agile than most other birds, often perform complex maneuvers individually and in the rare volery.
Known for their astuteness, Ravens solve exceptionally complex problems and follow people and other animals to find additional resources, examining almost anything new they run across in order to learn what is useful and what isn’t. Those birds who find a sufficient food supply or other interesting and useful items often cache some for later use or consumption.
In Norse culture, the raven holds a special place. The god of the Æsir pantheon Odin is sometimes referred to as the Raven God. This is due to his association with the ravens Huginn and Muninn as referred to in the Poetic Edda, a collection of old Norse poems compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources. These two birds fly around the world gathering information and relay it all to Odin. Odin is also said to have two wolves, Geri and Freki who sit at his feet whilst Huginn and Muninn perch on his shoulders. On the Isle of Man (Mannin) there are a large number of carved Celtic stone crosses; many carry Celtic designs and inscriptions using an early Celtic script called Ogham. There are also a number of Norse crosses with images of Norse pagan mythology and runic inscriptions. One of these is Thorwalds Cross, dating to the 10th century, which depicts Odin with a raven at his shoulder. It also shows the wolf Fenrir biting Odin in the events of Ragnarök which fortells the death of Odin and other major Norse gods.
Ravens also feature in the stories of the Valkyrie in Norse mythology. They are female figures that choose who will live and die in battle. Of these they select some who will go to Valhalla (hall of the slain), located in Asgard home of the Æsir gods. Here they would prepare to aid Odin in the forthcoming battles of Ragnarök where the old world would die and new world would begin. In the 9th century poem Hrafnsmál a meeting is described between one of the Valkyrie and a raven where they discuss the life and exploits of Harald Fairhair (Old Norse: Haraldr hárfagri) first king of Norway.
The importance of the raven to Vikings is shown by how often the bird’s image is used. It features on armour, helmets, shields, banners and carvings on longships. No doubt the intent was to invoke the power of Odin and this would not have been lost on the enemies that they were about to engage in battle. Many of the Norse-Gael leaders continued to use the image as did the Norse Jarls of Orkney. Even today the yearly Viking festival of Up-Helley-Aa in the Shetland Islands of Scotland uses the image of a raven. (Written by Alastair Kneale, August 7, 2014, http://www.transceltic.com)