“Our Lady of Crows”
by Deborah J. Brannon
Inverted feathers, black to white slip sideways through a sky, ash-grey and breathless, all stopped– the feathers explode in a shower of pale dust. A shadow clutches a burning brand and bears it earthward.
They say Crow stole light for us all, burned black when he set it in the sky. They do not say he was not alone or that his feathers were the color of starlight. His mate was the color of burnished gold in a westering sun, and it was her keen mind that prompted the act: stealing fire from the gods.
Some women remember the true tale: the women of dawn, with dew on their lips; the women of noon, with skin scorched umber; the women of midnight with eyes full of stars. These women of moment, perfect clarity, remember still how two crows took off in the nothing-dark, winged in tandem, together tamed the spark of life, and how it was she who first grasped the glittering brand.
Our Lady of Crows flew far and fast, knowing she burned. Her feathers flashed with coruscating light:
the burnished gold crackled black, then greyed as the light liberated her heart. She tossed the fire to her mate then with the last of her free strength. Her eyes burned liquid gold and she exploded in flowing light and ashes.
Crow returned, burned black and dour, sad but proud. The others hailed him for his genius and sacrifice and offered to him a kingly feast. Yet he turned away from all foods except those closest to death and always ate first the glassy eyes, hoping to see his Lady on the other side.
But those women who remember the true tale know she is not there.
The women of dawn remember how her ashes drifted on the wind in the light of that first day, eddying in patterns before coming to rest in a hollow of verdant green and new flowers, saturated with dew. They remember how her ashes were quick, not dead.
The women of noon remember how the ashes shimmered in the midday heat, how a long rain filled the hollow with water, drowning the plants and flowers and drumming the ashes into the hot baked earth. They remember how her ashes bore pressure without disintegration.
The women of midnight remember how starlight reflected on the pool of water and how a woman rose, gasping, out of the hollow: some say she was black as night, some as golden as the sun, some as pale as starlight. They all remember her as a child of the sky and earth, a new thing touched by fire.
Thus rose Our Lady of Crows, who still walks among us with eyes black as the void between worlds: a reminder that light cannot exist without the darkness. Her mate’s brethren know her not, though she favors them. But we women of moment, tracing the tangled skein of our lives back to burning feathers, stolen light, and a hollow at midnight: we remember, and honor.