For a hundred thousand years, the greatest of the gods was the crow, the Dream Carrier, who brought civilization to the people in Paleolithic 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 renamed Saturn. God of Time, 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 aborigine 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 worshipped 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.

During medieval times, "The Shadow of the Sun" is how European alchemists defined the crow, their symbol for the "Nigredo", the blackness of despair and its poison cure--the unity latent in chaos. That unity is the crow's rapture, a life-force so powerful it can live off of death itself. That--and its outer space colour in broad daylight--is what impressed the first people. The crow is the hunger of the sky. When it comes down, it devours everything, including the dead. And it reflects nothing. It is invulnerable. It is wider than time.

At our human limits, when we've gone as far as our human bodies and imaginations 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 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, King of the Mountains (Uranus). 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 harking all the way back to the ivory crow goddess of a hundred thousand years ago. The maker as the taker, the 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 the complete absence of imagination--mindless violence.

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. It is an unnaturally natural way to express what the dead have no speech for; shadows of ink play with motionless motions on the emptiness of the page and a crow wakes in the heart. It is an illusion about why we are unfinished and can not 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 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 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 inner most secret inside the recesses of inert matter watches without blinking.

The Crow is this Chthonic spirits' 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 silences of the dead. Behold our species' ravening of planetary sources. We are already, all of us, survivors of aftermath. In our ignorance and tameless greed, we have raped the only woman The Crow ever loved. Now his scar-split mask fills the world, and each of us is one of his casualties.

A. A. Attanasio
Honolulu 1992