Owl Art, Magick, Beliefs & Folklore

My wonderful fiancĂ© surprised me today with a walk down the road where he found an owl living peacefully as our neighbor. We got to the end of the street and sat under a gorgeous tree for a solid twenty minutes just observing our Great Horned Owl. It’s so amazing to me how large they are, the serious expression in their facial structure, and if you didn’t know any better the horns make its silhouette look like a cat.

I’m so thankful for the amazing wildlife living around me. Owls have amazed people since before we could record about it. Many of our ancestors deities took the shape of owls, their existence has been interpreted in different ways around the globe, and their behavior has been used in moral stories since pre-recorded history. Many stories and folklore was passed down verbally or through art pieces like totem poles, charms, and statues before being written about extensively.

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Goddess Hecate – Evidence of her influence on the globe dates back to pre-Grecian times and is considered to be a primordial Goddess. Belief in Hecate began with the Anatolians. Hecate is known to take many different shapes and forms when interacting with our world. One of her known shapes is that of an Owl, and is often associated with the Crone (elderly intelligent lady). She oversee’ the process of dying and surviving on the other side.

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Goddess Biodeuwedd – A Welsh Goddess associated and sometimes depicted as an owl according to the stories associated with her myth. This Goddess was created specifically to be married to her husband Lleu Llaw Gyffes, but when he wasn’t around she would cheat on him. This betrayal lead to her being permanently transformed into an owl. According to Welsh folklore Owls are disliked by all other birds, and are often forced to live in solitude.

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Goddess Arianrhod – Despite the negative association with owls according to the Welsh, the Goddess Arianrhod was able to use her ability to transform into an owl to her benefit. She would go out into the night and be able to see everything around her, and it was said even down into the very core of peoples souls. Arianrhod wasn’t cursed to keep the shape of an owl and was free to switch between the worlds of birds and humans.

Athena Greek Goddess Of Wisdom And War with Owl Statue

Goddess Athena – Athena is a powerful Ancient Greek deity that is well known for having the wisdom of the entire universe. She’s especially celebrated on full moons, and is supposed to guide you to your answers in life by introducing you to the deep subconscious part of your mind. As she flies through the night sky her wings don’t make a sound, and if she moves over your home it’s because she’s spreading healing energy to those she blesses. Athena is also known to bring the full truth of human affairs to light in order to bring understanding and a full perspective of decisions made. According to Roman mythology she would have been referred to as “Minerva” instead of Athena.

Christian Scripture or Interpretation Regarding Owls

Owl Symbology: the owl has a double meaning:
1) the perfidious Jews who, preferring darkness to light, reject Jesus


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2) (from the Aberdeen Bestiary), “In a mystic sense, the night-owl signifies Christ. Christ loves the darkness of night because he does not want sinners – who are represented by darkness – to die but to be converted and live… The night-owl lives in the cracks in walls, as Christ wished to be born one of the Jewish people, saying: ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. But Christ is crushed in the cracks of the walls, because he is killed by the Jews. Christ shuns the light in the sense that he detests and hates vain glory… The night-owl flies at night in search of food, as Christ converts sinners into the body of the Church by preaching. In a moral sense, moreover, the night-owl signifies to us not just any righteous man, but rather one who lives among other men yet hides from their view as much as possible. He flees from the light, in the sense that he does not look for the glory of human praise.”

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Buddhism Moral Story With An Owl

According to Jatakkatha there is an old Buddhist tale where the Buddha has a discussion with some town people about an owl that has apparently gone crazy and started killing the crows in the area. Buddha tells the people that the Owl and the Crow are sworn enemies and have been since the beginning of their existence.

During the beginning of time for animals species there was a vote amongst animals to choose an appropriate leader for their specific species. Humans chose a leader, the lion was named king of the animals for its strength and courage, the fish chose Ananda, and the birds chose the wise owl.

All of the birds were satisfied except for the crows who argued in protest. The crows argued that the owl was an angry looking animal and doesn’t deserve the position of leadership. The crows statement hurt the owl and made him angry. The owl was so angry he started chasing the crow. They have fought ever since.

All the birds were so upset by the public display of anger by the owl that they decided to choose the swan instead. The swan ended up being a reincarnation of the Buddha.

Moral of the story? Anger makes you lose self-control and has negative consequences for you and all people exposed to the anger.

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Owls in Japan

There is an increasing interest in owl charms, jewelry, cell phone cases, and other miscellaneous items in Japan recently. The reason they are so popular is their cultural belief that owls bring good luck and protect those who are suffering.

One of the Japanese names for Owl is Fukuro; the letters can be inscribed as luck or protection from hardship. In different parts of Japan the owl can be viewed from a few different perspectives including being a spiritual guide, a predictor of weather, symbol of wisdom, education, and others.

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Philippine Folklore About Owls

In the Philippines there is a creature or sometimes described as a witch that shapeshifts, and one of its shapes is that of an owl. It’s common belief that witches with the power of transformation can become owls and take off into the night to do their deeds. Filipino’s will often refer to them as Aswang, which is very similar to the Mexican & Spanish Lechuza. If you see a home with garlic, strands of silver, and salt hanging by doors or windows, it is a spell that is supposed to keep the home safe from the Aswang. Another create similar to the Aswang is the Tik-Tik or Wak-Wak.

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Owls in Hinduism

Goddess Lakshmi is the deity that reigns over beauty, fortune, wealth, and prosperity. She is often depicted with or as an owl. According to the Vaishnavism tradition she is the Supreme Being that looks over the universe with care.

Jainism also hold Lakshmi in high regard and also practice representing her at times with the symbol of the owl. The owl is typically her vehicle in which she travels to look over the world both in the day and at night.

In Hinduism it is a general belief that all women are embodiments of Lakshmi, and when women marry are typically taking the responsibility as Lakshmi and the husband representing Vishnu.

There is evidence of devotion to her dating back to the 1st millennium BCE when her likeness was used on coinage. Her statues can be found throughout the globe at Hindu temples, but is mainly concentrated in India.

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Owls in Native American Belief Systems

Most Native Tribes consider the owl to be omens of death and suffering. The owl is used to encourage children to stay in the home at night and to refrain from crying too often, otherwise the noise will encourage the owls to potentially carry them away.

However, there are some tribes to hold the owl in different regard. In some belief systems the owls carry messages to the living from the ancestors and loved ones who have passed on. In the Hopi tribe the great horned owl is referred to as Mongwu, a humorless deity that enforces the law and fights against antics and pranks.

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Ancient Mexican Owl Lore & Beliefs

Owls were regularly represented in pre-Columbian Latin America. Some owls are shown horned, and others aren’t. With there being over a hundred different species of owls in the America’s that is completely understandable. The pre-Columbian tribes and groups often considered the owl to be representative of power, mystery, magic, the dead, sacrifice, and sometimes war.

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Scottish Highlands & Appalachian Links to Owls

“Much of Appalachian tradition (in the U.S.A.) can be traced back to the Scottish Highlands (where the owl was associated with the Cailleach) and English villages that were the original homes of mountain settlers. Because of this, there is still a good deal of superstition surrounding the owl in the Appalachian region, most of which are related to death. According to mountain legends, an owl hooting at midnight signifies death is coming. Likewise, if you see an owl circling during the day, it means bad news for someone nearby.”

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Do YOU have a favorite owl experience? Maybe you’ve seen them recently? Are they just natural coincidences, or do you feel your ancestors talking to you through them? Leave a comment below!

 

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