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Animal Symbolism:
Meaning of the Owl

Owl Symbolism, owl meaning, Owl picture by Avia Venefica

Owl Symbolism and Owl Meanings

The owl is sacred to the Greek goddess of learning, Athena and is even depicted on some Greco-Roman currency as a symbol of status, intelligence and of course, wealth.

In ancient Egyptian, Celtic, and Hindu cultures the symbolic meaning of owl revolved around guardianship of the underworlds, and a protection of the dead.

In this light the owl was ruler of the night and seer of souls. A misunderstanding of this necessary relationship gave the owl some negative associations with death.

It should be clear that the owl was honored as the keeper of spirits who had passed from one plane to another. Often myth indicates the owl accompanying a spirit to the underworld - winging it's newly freed soul from the physical world into the realm of spirit.

A Few Words About Owl Meanings and Death Associations

I get 100s of emails from well-meanings folks who are super-freaked out about owls because they read somewhere that owls mean death. What's worse, these same folks are panicked because after they see an owl, they think they're going to die. This is a great example of pure and wild hyperbole and gross misunderstanding of the esoteric meaning of the owl.

That's a lot of big words to say: There is no such thing as one pat answer or one strict meaning of the owl (or any other bird, animal etc). We have got to consider from where and whom these meanings originate. In essence, ancient meanings of the owl are born from the time, place and circumstances of an ancient people and their belief systems. If a Druid received a message from an owl around 600 BC he's going to interpret that completely differently than a single mom of two kids in the year 2016 AD. And that's the way it should be.

Owl meaning, owl symbols, owl death meaning

Our ancient ancestors gave us a great foundation upon which to base our understanding of owl meanings. It's up to us modern day folks to add our own perception and understanding to gain realistic interpretations.

Furthermore the association of the owl with death is often misunderstood. Death, in symbolic terms, simply means "transition" - it's just a one state of energy changing into another. Also keep in mind the term "death" is not exclusive to physical. We can experience transition (or death) in emotion, mind, spirit. We've all been through seasons of change. Take for instance a change of heart. You may have felt one way, only to feel another.

All of this to say the owl appears to us when transition is near. Owl will also assist us in moving through these transitions. This is especially true when we are changing 'in the dark'...as in dealing with changes that deal with the unknown and unseen. Let's face it - the owl is a master at maneuvering within the realm of unknown. It thrives in the world of shadow. Therefore, owl can help us manage these sometimes scary, dark spaces.

Being aware of the owl's symbolic meanings is a good way to connect with this fascinating creatures, and also become more in-tune with the owl's wisdom.

A Quick-List of Symbolic Owl Meanings:

  • Wisdom
  • Mystery
  • Transition
  • Messages
  • Intelligence
  • Mysticism
  • Protection
  • Secrets

Native Americans associated the meaning of owl with wisdom, foresight, and keeper of sacred knowledge. This may largely be due to the fact that the owl is a great foreteller of weather conditions. Also its ability to see at night is legend among the Native Americans, and this attribute would be invoked during ceremonies when an oracle of secret knowledge was required.

Owl Symbolism, owl meaning, Owl picture by Avia Venefica

Similarly, West African and Aboriginal Australian cultures viewed the owl as a messenger of secrets, kin to sorcerers, as well as companions to seers, mystics and medicine people.

During medieval times in western and central Europe it was fabled that owls were actually priestesses (witches) and wizards in disguise. To this day the owl is considered a witch's familiar (an animal soul-spirit linked to a spiritual person via a unique, communicative bond).

The owl is a creature of the night. It's important to note the symbolism of nocturnal creatures because night-time proclivities have specific philosophical meanings. Combine the following nocturnal symbolic meanings with that of the owl for a broader interpretation.

Nocturnal Animal Symbolism Includes:

  • Dreams
  • Shadows
  • Otherworldliness
  • Secret knowledge
  • Psychic awareness

When we connect with the owl in its own environment, and according to its way of life, it helps in deciphering the messages the owl has for us. Why? Because owls and all creatures ofthe animal realm are pure energy, and they come from a place of wholeness. As such, they communicate in a unified voice. They speak in the language of the trees, the wind, the moon, the sky, etc. Learning the owl's habitat is a great way to learn her language, and more clearly understand her voice when she chortles in our spiritual ears.

Check out this great home video taken by Phostenix. It's a horned owl stopping for a sip.


Books on Animal Spirits and Totems

I hope you have enjoyed this these thoughts on symbolic owl meaning. For sure, owl meanings and messages are not always these easiest to interpret. Furthermore animal symbolism is always up to the person who is having the encounter. That means the owl is going to offer a different message for you than for me. Also, owl messages will be different according to who, where, when it is given. The best thing to do is take what you've read here. Do more research in addition to this article. Then personally contemplate what an owl visitation means to you personally. In the end...the owl and you create a personal partnership. You two have to make meaning from coming together on this life's journey.

As always, thank you for reading.

May all your owl encounters be magical

Avia

Avia Venefica

About the Author: Avia Venefica has an undergraduate degree with a focus in anthropology and art. She has also been an understudy in several tribal and spiritual organizations around the nation. Avia is the author of several publications concerning esoteric wisdom, and makes herself available for public speaking/presentations on symbolic topics.