Putting 2020 behind us was supposed to be at least a symbolic step in the right direction for a better, post-pandemic future, but things aren’t looking great on that front. For one thing, well, you’ve read the news. Things in the U.S. are a little testy. But the political turmoil here is probably preferable to what’s going on with our friends across the pond, where an ancient dark omen portending the doom of a nation has come to pass.
Literally! An ancient prophecy from the time of King Charles II in the 17th century passed down from generation to generation says that when ravens leave the Tower of London, the building will fall and the kingdom along with it. Well one, of the six Tower of London ravens, Merlina, has vanished without a trace. Initially, tower ravenmaster Christopher Skaife said he wasn’t too worried, telling the New York Times that Merlina is “a free-spirited raven that has been known to leave the tower precincts on many occasions.” But days later, they fear the worst for Merlina’s wellbeing and indeed, the country at large.
Fortunately, Skaife had a spare raven on hand to keep the number of ravens in the Tower at six — the number the prophesy held must be maintained in order to keep England standing tall. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic swelling to new highs and the turmoil of Brexit fracturing the bonds of a nation, some fear Skaife’s attempts to short-circuit the omen came too little, too late.
The group of ravens — scientifically known as an “unkindness” — have long been a star feature of the London Tower, where visitors flock in non-pandemic times. These days, the Tower is empty as the Big Smoke is on lockdown during a winter COVID surge. Like Americans, Londoners are eager to get vaccinated and get back outside to enjoy whatever remains of the city following this grim omen.
“The tower is only the Tower when the people are there,” Skaife told The Sun in 2020. “The ravens have always been so important to the tower because they’ve been surrounded by myths and legends. We really need people to come back to help the ravens.”