For as long as I can remember I have been a huge fan of owls. They are without a doubt the most majestic of birds with their large heads, forward facing eyes, exceptional vision and ability to fly with silent stealth. Not to mention that a great number can turn their heads almost 270 degrees ~ a most desirable characteristic; to which I’m sure any mother would attest!
In many cultures (China, Egypt, Poland, etc) the owl is seen as a harbinger of death. This fact has not gone unnoticed by my ten year old daughter, whose recent sighting of an owl of the diurnal variety produced an apoplectic reaction. In fact it took a visit to an owl sanctuary, 60 miles from home, to convince her that these beautiful birds are no more a bad omen than I am (and I assure you, I am not!).
As a Scot, and therefore Celtic in origin, I am aware that the ancient Celts believed owls to be guardians of the underworld, and protectors of the dead. In this light the owl was seen as a ruler of the night, a seer of souls, and honoured keeper of spirits who had passed from one plane to another. I truely believe that it is a misundertanding of this relationship that has led to the owls negative associations with death.
For me the owl is a symbol of intelligence, brilliance, intuition, perspective, power and wisdom. This is a view shared by the ancient Greeks whose Goddess Athena (the Goddess of wisdom, foresight and knowledge) was often depicted as the image of an owl. Indeed, the centrality of owl symbolism in ancient Greece is referenced through the use of the Athena Noctua, more commonly known as the Little owl or Minerva Owl, on their coinage; noteably also called “Owls”.
Taking symbolism directly from the owl itself, it is worth pointing out the obvious ~ that a great many species are creatures of the night! And as is human nature with all things nocturnal; owls are mysterious and unknown. Owls live with-in the darkness, which includes magic and ancient knowledge. Indeed, the owl’s gift of heightened senses enables it to see through deception and illusion to discover hidden truths. And so if, like me, you find yourself drawn to the owl; fear not! You are not coveting a morbid obsession with death, ill-health or bad luck; it may simply be that you have the same ability to uncover secrets.