or a hundred thousand years, the greatest of the gods was the Crow - the dream-carrier who brought civilization to the people in Neolithic times. Mammoth-ivory carvings found over a vast area from Europe to the Near East depict a goddess with the raptor traits of a carrion bird: three-fingered talons and a beaked face - a predator Crow with breasts.

About ten thousand years ago, when the goddess became a god, the same winged omnivore continued as chief deity almost everywhere: the archaic Greeks called him Cronos - literally, the Crow - the tireless traveler and hunger machine. The Romans named him Saturn, God of Time. The sun god Apollo, whose name means the Destroyer, was another Greek avatar of the Crow. As was the Norse king of the gods, Odin. To the Celts, as well as to the aboriginal American nations, this scavenger bird carried the cosmic significance of the great benefactor, the creator of the visible world. The Germanic and Siberian tribes similarly worshiped the Crow as an oracular healer. And in China, the black-feathered predator was the first of the imperial emblems, representing yang, the Sun and the vitality of the emperor.

At our human limits, when we’ve gone as far as our bodies and imagination can take us, we meet the eternal ones - the powers that built our flesh out of the mineral accidents of creation and that are now building our individual fates out of time and the accidents of our hearts. They are as spaceless and timeless as numbers and yet, as with numbers, all order in space and time comes from them. In a glare of earthlight, the Crow emerges out of the super-real. He is the appetite of the eternal ones for the mortal powers of the world.

J O’Barr’s The Crow is an excarnation of this celestial devourer. This Crow is the same melancholy avenger who castrated his father (Uranus), king of the mountains, ten thousand years ago in the first kingdoms, the brutal Aryan war camps of Indo-Europe. He is immemorially old - and inconsolable. Because he is his own Hades. Ghosts dwell in him. His clown-white and feminine features harken back to the ivory Crow-goddess of a hundred thousand years ago. The maker as the taker, the blood-drained face of mama death, her ghost crows descending to pluck the souls from our corpses.

The blood remembers this. What O’Barr adds is the acid-burn of city apocalypse. The physical dread of our animal grief in the asphalt canyons where death pretends to be life. By this immediacy, O’Barr creates rough, spare, sinewy and rapid arcs of vision and makes a simple supernatural tale of revenge a poison-cure to mindless violence and its complete absence of imagination.

Tears. Salty blood. Bone shards and the sludge of brains attend this vision of the transcendental mystery of the Crow. It is how the dead are tongued with fire. Shadows of ink play with motionless motions on the emptiness of the page and a Crow wakes in the heart. It is an illusion and a voluptuous truth about why we are unfinished and cannot fly.

And, because the hand really is no different from what it creates, it is also O’Barr’s personal truth - a ritual, done for us.
As with every true ritual, it is a killing floor. The more sacred the ritual, the more messy and gruesome the bloodletting. Saturn disemboweled. Odin pierced and hanging from the storm tree. The Crow creating a zombie to destroy dozens of violent, evil lives. This purging of evil is a primordial fantasy prominent even at the deepest range of consciousness - because it is rooted in the suzerain truth that we are all equal before death. No mortal has the right to take another’s body or life. Yet, people are raped and killed every hour. The whole world is infected, and the innermost secret spirit inside the recesses of inert matter watches without blinking.

The Crow is this chthonic spirit’s long fantasy. Four billion years of raw food eaten alive has made the animal mind we have inherited a wild, hungry happiness. Life feeds voraciously on the silence of the dead. Behold our species’ ravening of planetary resources. We are already, all of us, survivors of aftermath. In our ignorance and tameless greed, we have raped and killed the only woman the Crow ever loved. Now, his scar-split mask fills the world, and each of us is one of his casualties.

Remember that black bird Noah first sent out over the floodwaters? Remember how it never returned? How it just kept flying above the drowned horizons? Where did it go? The white bird that flew next brought back the olive leaf. Ever since then, the dove has signified salvation. But what do you think is the significance of the black bird?

From the carbon diamond at the center of all living things, open eyes watch. Black eyes. Not blinking.

Inspiration is the faithful happiness of that part of ourselves that is best fulfilled in hell and that precedes us there - our soul.

Much inspiration has come to many souls in the last few years from James O’Barr’s The Crow.

The Crow’s deathwatch begins when life itself becomes an illness: the incurable condition of being human. Words are too small. Everything we have created is too small. Cities, civilization, planets themselves are too small before this vanishing. The real world that the white bird reveals is not enough. Its future offers nothing. And worse yet - its past can never be changed. To be wholly human, we need a deeper memory of ourselves. And so we look to the transphenomenal world and its emblem since Paleolithic times - the Crow.

He is bigger than death. His dark eyes have outstared the void. His shadow nailed to the heart of the atom falls across veils of stars. Full of emptiness, he returns over the vast waters from the forgotten country. Killing is a celebration for him. And through O’Barr’s evocation, he avenges the innocent dead. He stalks the crimson road of the slain. He mourns lost love so ardently that desire and death become one in a gallery of memories floored with blood.

The Crow is looking for you. He was looking for James O’Barr and found him on the dead white page, hungering for the impossible. Blood became ink. And that strange ink continues its transformations in other hands. They shape healing out of what cannot be changed.

The Crow is looking for you. If he finds you, he will seize you with claws that are your own wounds. He may jam you into the worm dirt - into the phylogenetic depths of the psyche. Or he may carry you through a tunnel of fire to his nest inside the sun.
The flight may take a wrong turn. Phantoms. Gargoyles screaming. And the furious animosity and cold rage peculiar to the human animal. Hold on. The journey is ouroboric. You return to where you began. And if you are lucky, you will be left with one or more black feathers. With these quills of night, you may barter for all the meaning in your life.

Stories and images are fantasies. They are not real. They are more than real.
For the true wordless reality of all that is possible in our lives, we must seek the white bird. But to do the impossible - to free souls imprisoned in hell - to make music from notes of the dead bell - to meet again the dead we have lost - to meet the dead - we need the Crow.

Uplifting. Up above the floodwaters. In the void. In the mysterious domain of pure potential. In the realm of the unreal. Flying through the sacred nothing. We cross the shaman’s sky. The Crow is our guide. His darkness knows the way through darkness.

Bitterness, depression, shattering despair are the transfiguring powers that eventually accompany each of us during our brief provisional lives. The Crow vision first won by people in the ferocious ice ages enfolds us in a strength wider than our personal damage.

The dark bird drifts through the anti-life: the life of the imagination, where the dead are brought back to us piece by piece.

Across the world of the white bird, Noah’s children are raped and slain every hour and the secret spirit watches without blinking. Something very different is going on over the wide celestial waters of the Crow. In the far country, where the dead are tongued with fire, the Crow is an ethical finality. He is the dream-carrier of holy retribution. He knows every devil was born in heaven. He understands that love is stronger than death. And in the name of love, he delivers justice to the wicked.

The Crow Theory" first appeared in The Crow: Shattered Lives & Broken Dreams, edited by J. O'Barr and Ed Kramer, Del Rey, October 1999