Barn Owl Picture

Afterwork: Bordered, resized, sharpened.

Many cultures have myths, stories and superstitions featuring owls. To some the owl is a bird of ill omen, to be feared and respected; to others, a wise and benevolent creature. Because of its nocturnal lifestyle, it is generally associated with the night, the moon, darkness, death and the underworld. It has been called "night eagle" and "cat with wings". In different parts of the world people believe that if an owl screeches, it means someone will die soon. Sometimes the owl is regarded as a familiar of witches and sorcerers.

In Greek mythology, the owl was sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. As such it was considered a protector of the Greek armies: if an owl flew over the army before battle, this was believed to be a sign of victory. The owl was also depicted on coins. Because of its relation with night and the moon, the owl was more a symbol of intuitive than of rational knowledge. The Little owl owes its scientific name, Athene noctua, to the Greek goddess. A Greek myth tells how the man Ascalaphus, who betrayed the fact that Persephone had eaten a pomegranate while in the Underworld with Hades, was punished by being turned into an owl.

The Romans considered owls unlucky creatures, predicting death or disaster with their cries. Dreaming of them supposedly meant that a traveller would be robbed or shipwrecked. Also witches were thought to transform into owls and suck the blood of babies. It was believed you could discover a person's secrets by placing a feather or part of an owl on him while sleeping.

In Celtic mythology, the owl is one of the oldest animals in the world, along with the blackbird, the stag, the eagle and the salmon. They help the men of King Arthur in their search for the imprisoned youth Mabon. Another tale tells how Blodeuwedd, a woman made of flowers, was turned into an owl as punishment for trying to kill her husband Lleu.

In Ancient China the owl was thought to be a terrifying creature that had devoured its own mother. It was a symbol of superabundant yang and as such was believed to cause drought. Summer solstice was the Day of the Owl and children born on this day were thought to have a certain natural violence. Such children might even murder their own mother or father. Lei-gong, the Chinese god of thunder, has the beak, wings and claws of an owl, on the body of a man.

The owl is a symbol of wisdom and often considered magical. Connected to night and the moon, it is also a feminine symbol. Because it can see in the dark, the owl is linked with clairvoyance and the revelation of unseen truths. Therefore people with Owl medicine are thought to be able to see what others try to hide and to hear what is not being said. The appearance of an owl in one's life may be a sign that it is time to open one's eyes, to watch and listen in silence and figure out the situation at hand. It may also signify the need to study one's shadow self, to try and find out what lies hidden within. Owl may help in finding the truth when we have deceived ourselves, and in accepting things we already know in our hearts. Owls are also associated with prophetic powers and are said to bring messages through dreams and meditation.

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