Old English hræfn (Mercian), hrefn; hræfn (Northumbrian, West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *khrabanas (cf. Old Norse hrafn, Danish ravn, Dutch raaf, Old High German hraban, German Rabe "raven," Old English hroc "rook"), from PIE root *ker-, imitative of harsh sounds (cf. Latin crepare "to creak, clatter," cornix "crow," corvus "raven;" Greek korax "raven," korone "crow;" Old Church Slavonic kruku "raven;" Lithuanian krauklys "crow").
Old English also used hræmn, hremm. The raven standard was the flag of the Danish Vikings. The Quran connects the raven with Cain's murder of Abel; but in Christianity the bird plays a positive role in the stories of St. Benedict, St. Paul the Hermit, St. Vincent, etc. It was anciently believed to live to great old age, but the ancients also believed it wanting in parental care. The vikings, like Noah, were said to have used the raven to discover land. "When uncertain of their course they let one loose, and steered the vessel in his track, deeming that the land lay in the direction of his flight; if he returned to the ship, it was supposed to be at a distance" [Charles Swainson, "The Folk Lore and Provincial Names of British Birds," London, 1886].