An old friend of mine from England, Joe, found an abandoned crow early this summer and was compelled to take care of it. This crow became a crucial link into a chain of events that changed his life in huge ways. I would hear people talking about “the man who saved the crow” at festivals around Germany and he had become a bit of a celebrity on the festival scene. On his recent visit to Berlin, we sat on a hill in Mauer Park at sunset. We struggled to talk about his relationship with the crow due the loud, interjecting cawing of a murder of crows as they circled above head.
“Oh, that’s the special noise they make when they say hello. Hello crows!”
The crows, upon acknowledgement then silently floated away to perch a-top a nearby stadium light and Joe continued his story…
The crow came to me in Glastonbury village. I went to visit a friend there and I came across an old crow that couldn’t fly anymore. It didn’t want to be helped so we just left it some food and went to walk to Glastonbury Tor while having a long conversation about crows and how I needed a change in my life in general. I then hurt my ankle and couldn’t leave town because I couldn’t walk. Funny thing is, a couple of days later I was on my crutches on my way to the shop and in a strange way two broken beings came together; myself and a baby female crow that was pushed out of the nest as a runt and landed at my feet. I picked her up and took her in. I offered the responsibility to my friend at first but they were planning to go travelling and couldn’t look after her. That was it; my life was suddenly revolving around looking after something else full-time. I thought, “I can’t just go and rescue something, then just decide not to rescue it. Shit, this is going to be a very interesting time.”
At first I couldn’t feed her. It’s difficult because they open their beak for a second and their mum quickly dives in and puts the food in. So if I didn’t do this straight away, she would shut her beak. For the first 48 hours I struggled to make sure she was getting enough food and I was constantly second-guessing myself on whether I was doing it right or if she’d starve to death. I felt like a mother or a walking tree that also fed her and took her to interesting places. It was all novelty and fun until the 4th day of waking up at dawn to the sound of her screeching because she wanted feeding. You find yourself repeating the same routine every hour of every day from dawn ‘til dusk; feed, water, clean, exercise, play with, look after, repeat. I did that for 33 days straight.
On the 5th night, I slept outdoors to test whether the crow wanted to leave me. A few people were negative saying that I should let nature take its course and I thought, “I get what you’re saying but I also consider myself a part of nature too.” But I just wanted to see if she could decide to leave for herself. I had a strange conversation with her: “Listen, you can’t look after yourself and I want to look after you. You’re also a pretty obvious way I could change my life for the better by getting out of Bristol and not taking so many drugs all the time.” I felt like I was receiving a lot back. She was saying that she wanted to join her family but eventually came to understand what I wanted. I’ve never been able to tell if it was a telepathic conversation because I can be a bit fucking nuts sometimes, or if it was some residual drug effect, but I don’t hear an awful lot of voices in my head! I went to sleep that night in the open, woke up 4 hours later and she was still there so we just caught some woodlice together and watched the sun come up and all was fine after that. She stayed and was much more loving.
The crow pissed me off a lot of the time. Just like a kid, she would have ‘naughty days’ but also share moments of real affection. There was one morning at Sunrise festival where I was awake for a couple of days as my fucking tent got fucked over and thousands upon thousands of people were pecking at my head asking me about the crow. Loads of things were going wrong and I was really upset. The crow then stuck her beak up my nose. I’d read on the internet that to show affection, they do very delicate grooming rituals like pluck your eyelashes. She suddenly just started snipping my nose hairs ever so gently, one by one. That was actually one of the loveliest things that ever happened; to suddenly find that I had this little crow on my finger and it was clipping my nose hairs, gently, not clipping the skin at all. That was fucking magic; that was absolutely brilliant. It seemed like it knew that I was going through a bad struggling, single-parent moment and chose that moment to do that.
While working at various festivals, thousands demanded my attention, asking questions, trying to grab her which gave me a little taste of fame. I told the crow story thousands of times. It was at Sunrise festival, I was starting to crack from it. 10 to 20 people starting coming to me wanting something and my friends could see it was driving me mad and formed a circle around me to field me from these people. As my friends were sending them away and aiming to make conversation about something other than the crow, I thought, “Wow, this is what Michael Jackson must feel like.” You want to go out for tea with your friends for 5 minutes but you can’t because you are interesting and represent something to people and they’re so excited by it that they just totally invade your space and throw questions at you. Some of them were lovely, some were nasty but I was amazed how my privacy and personal space suddenly no longer existed. By going to a festival as a walk-about with a crow I guess I set myself up for it but I didn’t know it could get like that. Anyone desperate to become famous is fucking insane. They don’t know how much their lives will get trashed doing it, even just a few days at a festival was a lot to deal with. It was like getting hounded by the paparazzi.
People often projected their imagination upon me and the crow. I went to a farm to do a presentation to some kids after a woman approached me in the high street. She asked if it was the first animal I rescued. I lived on the edge of the countryside by a busy road and it’s not out of the ordinary for people to come across injured animals when they are away from the city and a bit closer to nature. But when I got to the farm, 2 women approached me saying how they were honoured to meet me the legendary shamanic animal healer. Fucking what? It was almost like they thought I was saying “I am a wizard but I can’t just come out and tell you I am a wizard.” They said, “Oh, we understand you don’t want to promote yourself too much.” Look, no, I’m just a normal bloke who rescued a crow and now I am walking around trying to make a few quid because I have no other source of income and we both need to eat. That’s all there is to this.
Whether I really was just a guy looking after a crow full-time which got me into a lot of adventures due to the sheer novelty of it, or whether I was on a ‘Shamanic Journey,’ will always be jury’s out for me. While some of it may seem shamanic, I am a logical Agnostic at the end of the day. Are crows my spirit animal? Do we have a spirit animal? I don’t know- maybe? That’s my answer to that. It comes back to see me and all the crows around Somerset know who I am. I seem to dance and stumble through life fairly well and things have been a hell of a lot better since, so I suppose it changed my life just as I wished. There have been periods in my life where nothing has happened; life is Groundhog Day. There was so much happening then- I’d meet people who opened me up to a totally new series of events. Maybe greater forces were at play but I have no authority to answer that. Perhaps I just have a good intuition when it comes to these things.
However, I somewhat began believing the people who were telling me I was chosen to become a Shaman. That week after saving a crow, I saved a Jack Russell from being torn apart by a Rottweiler. I recalled being told how to loosen a dogs grip by dribbling water down its nose so to trick it into thinking it was drowning. It let go. My mate said: “That’s 2 animals in a row, do you think there will be a magical 3?” Shut it you daft hippy. Then I saw a cat on a big slow worm on the pavement. When I approached, the cat ran away. I picked up the slow worm and I noticed it had an eye-shaped patch of skin on its head between its eyes. I read how some creatures such as lizards have a physical 3rd eye which is directly connected to your pineal gland where you make your interesting chemicals such as DMT. Considering the number 3 is a magical number in various cultures, these were an interesting set of occurrences. I was torn between having this logical agnostic belief and the possibility of being in denial but there are so many spiritual douchebags in Glastonbury telling me I’m a shaman. The first thing I want to say is, “No I’m not, I’m a scallywag who rescued a crow, give me some change for a photo and fuck off.” There was a lot of undeniable synchronicity going on but then maybe the world’s just being weird.
My general thoughts from Day 1 were that once she becomes an adult she can fly away or stay if she wanted to. She wasn’t a pet, she was a wild animal and besides teaching her how to be a crow and not to peck my eyes out, I didn’t try to influence her. Near the end I just stopped feeding her and pushed her away to catch all her own food. I didn’t stroke her anymore. She flew off properly once at sunrise but returned but after a couple of more attempts she finally joined the other crows. I thought, “Oh well, I’ve done what I needed to do here. I’ll go and meet that girl for a drink now.” It was liberating to see her leave, but I definitely loved her. And that’s a very good thing and I am glad I raised her to be an adult crow. She doesn’t land when she comes to see me which means she’s definitely not landing on other people and putting herself in danger.
When I first rescued her, the parent crows were kicking off. All the crows in an expanding area were giving alarm calls and swooping at me even when I wasn’t with the crow. Around day 25, the calls changed to a welcoming call which spread quite quickly. When she actually joined the other crows, there were none around for 3 days. Crows have been known to get together for conferences and funerals and I imagine they have been going off and having a crow kangaroo court gossiping about our relationship. The weird thing is I haven’t woken up a single day, even here in Germany, without hearing that welcoming call; the minute I leave the house. I wonder whether it’s because the story has spread this far or it’s “something about my energy” (as they say) or I am reading into this too much. We shall see what happens between me and crows in the future, but as far as weird things go in 2012… this is a pretty good one.