Owl Mythology In Different Cultures
February 29, 2020 / 5 min read
Even today, with reliable access to information and knowledge regarding nature and animals surrounding us, owls remain somewhat a mystery being so rare to see in certain parts of the world. Their silent flying at night and amazing camouflage while resting during the day, makes these birds intriguing species that have years and years of myths and stories behind them.
Owl Mythology in Different Parts of the World
Depending on the area and the color of the owl, people have invented many stories and traditions around owls. These are some of the most popular myths that live today and are unique to each part of the world.
Stories surrounding owls vary between tribes in North America and the South. And while in the South they begin in the Aztec and Mayan cultures of Mexico where an owl was considered to be a companion of the Gods of death, in the Northern parts of the continent many Native tribes consider these birds as clan animals today.For instance, the Hopi tribe, the Mohave and the Tlingit are all carriers of the owl as their clan animal. As part oftheir traditions, they have tribal dances of the Screech Owl and the Horned Owl which are passed through generations until today.In the Zuni tribe, people used these birds’ feathers as a way to repel evil forces and misfortunes away. In order to do so, they would place a feather near babies and other weak or vulnerable members of their tribe to keep evil spirits away. It was recorded that some members of this tribe considered owls as healers, so they used their feathers for the sick and injured in addition to healing potions and plants to induce quicker recovery.
In Europe, different parts have different myths regarding owls. For instance, in the Eastern European countries, owls are considered a wise animal with wisdom and patience that many people highly respect. Elderly men are the carriers of the symbol of owls as they are experienced and wise and should be listened to by the younger generations. This is appropriated by the Greek mythology that says goddess Athena was a wise owl. Her words are well respected regarding arts, beauty, and skillfulness.Furthermore, in ancient Rome, the tradition of placing an owl feather on the door was meant to keep evil at bay, as it was believed that owls foretold the deaths of several Emperors at the time, including Julius Caesar. After this, up to theeighteenth century, this tradition spread across North-west Europe, where people had owl feathers nailed on their barn doors to protect their livestock from disease, fires and other misfortunes.Even,Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott wrote about the owl’s premonition of death in Macbeth and Julius Caesar, and TheLegend of Montrose.
The Far East
As the polytheism was most popular throughout the Far East, the owls were seen as ever-present creatures always tentative and watchful of what people did so they can report to the Gods.Furthermore, with their skills, good eyesight, silent flight, and hunting skills, owls in Hindu were seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. These birds were highly respected for their wisdom and thought to bring good luck and fortune. Therefore, as her silent companion or Vahan, the White Barn Owl is seen with the goddess Godden Lakshmi. This is why in those regions when people are visited by an owl in their household, they never drive it away as they would drive their prosperity and good fortune away.
On the other hand, Africa is a different continent with a different story regarding these marvelous birds. Here people link owls to magic and sorcery. Many tribes consider it malevolent magic, while others praise the good sorcery that these birds represent. Whenever an owl is seen to fly around a house, people believed that a powerful shaman resided there. They thought that the shaman was communicating to God and the spirits of the other worlds using owls as messengers.
Written by: Monika Boshkova