Superstition rules the ravens’ roost at the Tower of London, where it has long been believed that if the ravens ever leave the edifice, the Crown and all of Britain will fall.
The myth is believed to date back to the 17th century, when King Charles II declared that ravens must be permanently kept at the tower. Ever since, at least six black birds have been kept captive at the tower to prevent any potential downfall of the country. However, the folkloric beliefs surrounding the birds are probably much older, with some evidence suggesting that it may ultimately derive from elements of Celtic mythology in which the raven was imbued with power including of a talismanic and protective nature.
The tower avians also please the thousands of tourists who visit the historic landmark daily. Don’t feel sorry for the birds, however; they are well-fed and receive better care than just about any other birds in England. The feathered guardians of Britain eat 170 grams of raw meat a day and are fed blood-soaked biscuits as a treat.
The birds’ wings are clipped, but they have plenty of food, water, and tower green to move about on as they perform their crucial duty. Their open cages are next to the Wakefield Tower, along with historical information plaques and signs about these winged protectors of Britain.
Visit London with Atlas Obscura Trips
London Science Weekend: Medicine and Science in the Press
Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning, special access and exploration in London. Accompanied by Times journalists and scientific experts, meet people contributing to the history of medicine and scientific journalism. This two-track program includes panels, exclusive visits and access to some of the best scientific minds available to concentrate on science reporting or medical history.