Are owls symbols of wisdom or omens of death?

Owls in Nature --The Hot Mess Press

Since the time of the slave and storyteller, Aesop, in ancient Greece, owls have recurred as the theme of fables, myths and beliefs. In Aesop’s fables, owls represented helpfulness and wisdom. They were also believed to own prophecy powers. However, as time passed, by the Middle Ages, people in Europe began associating owls with witches who dwelled in lonely, dark places.

Although the wise old owl features prominently in the legends and myths of cultures worldwide, the mysterious creatures represent various symbols. While some cultures see them as wise and good, others regard owls as signs of doom and evil.

Owl eyes

How to get an owl’s super eyesight

The English admired the exceptional eyesight of owls. To gain better sight, they transformed the birds’ eyes to ash by cooking them for many hours. It was ready to give the superstitious English better vision after incorporating the ash into a specific potion.

Owls nocturnal birds

In contrast, people in India simply ate the eyes to improve their eyesight without any prior cooking or other preparation.

The Newuks differentiated between owl types

The Newuks, a native tribe in California, admired and respected the Great Horned Owls. They believed that virtuous and courageous warriors who died in battle would become Great Horned Owls. However, any man who practiced wicked ways would turn into a lowly barn owl after death.

Owl in flight

Owls seen as symbols of death

Various Native American tribes believed these large-eyed birds were signs of death.

For example, Apache people who dreamed of owls saw their dreams as signs of approaching death.

In turn, the Boreal Owl calls, widespread across Canada’s forested regions, symbolized death for the Cree people. They believed the calls came from spirits, and those who heard them had to whistle in answer. If the owl responded after the whistle, the person would be safe. However, if there was no response from the owl, it warned of the person’s imminent death.

On the other hand, the Hidatsa people of Dakota believed that the small, long-legged burrowing version of these birds protected warriors’ spirits.

Owl Big Horned

Owls are sacred

Australian Aborigines likened the owls to their women’s spirits, and as such, these birds were sacred.

Similarly, the British Columbia Kwakiutl people believed that an owl carries and protects a specific person’s soul. If anybody kills an owl, not only will the bird be dead, but it will also cause the death of the owner of the soul it carried.

Furthermore, in many cultures, the soles of people who died were transferred to these mysterious birds.

Owls perch in tree

Owls and witchcraft

There is no shortage of associations between owls and witches.

The Romans and Greeks feared the birds because they believed the birds would suck out their babies’ blood. And why would they do that? Because any owl could be a witch who turned herself into an owl.

The nocturnal activities of owls gave rise to many myths. For example, some believe owls were the witches’ messengers. The hooting of these birds warn people of approaching witches.

Another myth involves the owls’ ability to rotate their necks. According to English superstition, you could make an owl wring its own neck. How? Simply walk around the tree in which the owl perches. Make sure the owl’s eyes follow you and continue going around and around the tree until the owl’s neck is wrung.

Will you look at wise old Mr. Owl with different eyes now, or wonder what it tells you when it hoots?

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