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The Prophecy Of The Tower Of London Ravens: Less Than Six Means Doom

The Prophecy Of The Tower Of London Ravens: Less Than Six Means Doom

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The disappearance of one of the Tower of London ravens, the “Queen raven,” means only six ravens remain at this iconic British building. This number, according to English mythology, signals the manifestation of an ancient English prophecy of doom. According to a 17th century prophecy, dating from the time of King Charles II, the destiny of England depends on the Tower of London ravens if there are less than six ravens in the tower. Now, at the famed prison and palace on the north bank of the River Thames in London, the queen of the colony of seven ravens, “Merlina,” has vanished, and is assumed to be dead. Does this mean time is up for Covid struck Britain? Probably not, but it’s a great yarn.

The Tower of London ravens live here. (rpbmedia / Adobe Stock)

The Tower of London ravens live here. (rpbmedia / Adobe Stock)

The Tower Of London Ravens “Prophecy”

According to a report in the New York Times, the Tower’s “Ravenmaster,” Christopher Skaife, “with whom she [Merlina] shared a wonderfully close bond,” said the bird has not been seen at the tower for several weeks. He added, “her continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away.” Merlina was, until recently, considered to be the “Queen of the London Tower Ravens,” but now, after vanishing several weeks ago, the Tower's Twitteraccount recently said “With Merlina gone, the tower now has six ravens.”

We have some really unhappy news to share. Our much-loved raven Merlina has not been seen at the Tower for several weeks, and her continued absence indicates to us that she may have sadly passed away. (1/4)

— The Tower of London (@TowerOfLondon) January 13, 2021

According to England’s Historic Royal Places website:

“It is said that the kingdom [of England] and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress.”

Fearing his tower and crown itself might fall if the ravens left the building, King Charles II insisted that the ravens of the tower be protected. It is recorded that the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, contended the king's order as the ravens “impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower.”

It has been believed since the reign of King Charles II that less than six Tower of London ravens would be a bad omen. (The Tower of London)

Feathered Prophecies in England: Ravens And A Hen Hoax

Skaife says King Charles II was concerned for the destiny of England because of the legend that suggests doom would fall on England if the population of the Tower of London ravens ever fell below six. And now, the tower swings in the balance having only six ravens left: Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, and Poppy.

However, unmoved by the legend, @ravenmaster1 Tweeted this morning’s Today program saying there are no immediate plans to replace Merlina, but the Tower of London says it hopes that “a new chick from our breeding program will be up to the formidable challenge of continuing her legacy.”

Ravens on a railing of the Tower Of London. (keren sequeira/EyeEm / Adobe Stock)

Before we leave this story, don’t for a second think this is the first bird associated with the destiny of England. In 1806 AD, a domesticated hen in Leeds, England, laid eggs that appeared to be inscribed with the message “Christ is coming.” According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fearing the coming Judgment Day, swathes of people traveled north from London to witness the divine hen. However, it was soon discovered that the eggs were not in fact prophetic messages from heaven, but the crafty work of their owner, who was found guilty of marking the eggs with corrosive ink and popping them back into the hens.

The Tower of London Ravens: The Birds Of England’s Destiny

Where then, did all this bird lore originate from that we find speckling English mythology? According to Mohamed EricRahman Lacey’s 2014 UCL (University College London) paper, " Birds and bird-lore in the literature of Anglo-Saxon England,” very little work has been done on birds in Old English lore. However, this doctoral thesis suggests “birds were primarily heard, rather than seen,” and that this auditorial experience of birds is reflected in the mythology, “in which the vocalizations of birds were held to contain prophecies and tidings of present import.”

The second half of this brilliant niche thesis attempts to demonstrate that Christian bird-lore differed from earlier Anglo-Saxon bird lore, “being steeped in symbolism and scholarly tradition rather than naturalistic observation, but that it had common ground in associating birds with divine knowledge.” 

And here we come home to roost, for when everything is stripped away from the legend of the six ravens at the Tower of London, what we have are a group of birds associated with “divine knowledge,” in this case, pertaining to the “End of Days in England.” 

These types of feathered prophetic tales practically sew together the tapestry of English mythology, and while hundreds of projected doomsdays have come and gone, England goes from strength to strength.  

Top image: Merlina, the “Queen raven” of the Tower of London ravens has gone missing meaning only 6 ravens remain in the tower. Any less than 6 and doom is said to be coming to England. Source: The Tower of London

By Ashley Cowie



Crasslee's picture

Agreed. The story below is where I've always assumed the legend of the Ravens of the Tower of London originally came from, since I first read it in the mid 80's. Especially as the name Brân means Raven in the Brythonic Celtic language used in ancient Britain, and he had his head buried at the White Mount in London. Later to be the site of the Tower of London, also known as the White Tower. With the added detail that Britain would be protected from invasion as long as the head remained buried there.

Brân, (Celtic: “Raven”), gigantic Celtic deity who figured in the Mabinogion (a collection of medieval Welsh tales) as “crowned king over this Island” (i.e., Britain). Because of his stature, he and his court had to live in a tent, as no house had ever been built large enough to contain him. The most important aspect of Brân’s myth concerned his wondrous severed head. The ancient Celts worshiped the human head and believed it to be the seat of the soul, capable of independent life after the death of the body. They thought that it possessed powers of prophecy and was symbolic of fertility. They also believed that one of its functions was to provide entertainment in the otherworld.
According to the myth, Brân had been mortally wounded and requested his companions to cut off his head. He instructed them to take the head with them on their wanderings, telling them that it would not only provide them with marvelous entertainment and companionship but would also remain uncorrupted as long as they refrained from opening a certain forbidden door. If that door were opened, they would find themselves back in the real world and would remember all their sorrows. Eventually, they were to take the head and bury it on the White Mount in London. All happened as Brân had prophesied, and his companions passed 80 joyous and delightful years.
The head was buried in London on the white mount, where it kept away all invaders from Britain until it was finally unearthed.


Surely the legend of the ravens at the Tower of London has its origins in Welsh mythology, specifically the legend of King Bran?

“Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” (Edgar Allan Poe).  Check out Youtube for a sample of talking ravens.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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