Owl symbolism differs from one place to another. This is because, the world has diverse cultures and in these cultures, the same thing may mean different things to different people. Also, the ancient religious practices owed much significance to the Owl and this gave birth to different superstitious beliefs which then associated the owl symbolism with the weather, wisdom, birth and death, witchcraft and medicine, amongst others.
Therefore, to talk about Owl symbolism, we search around the world for what this fascinating bird represents. It is also worth mentioning that besides what they stand for, Owls have special attributes and features which count them among the great fleight birds.
Owl Symbolism Around the World
Owl Symbolism in Africa
In most part of Africa, the owl symbolism is associated with evil and bad omen. South Africa is a beautiful country with diverse habitat for variety of wild animals. The Zulu people refers to Owls as the sorcerer's bird.
In West Africa, this grandpa-grim-looking bird is portrayed as a messenger of evil and its hoot is a sign of impending danger. While the Bantus, in central Africa, identify the fixed bulging eye bird as a monitor for those who practice wizardry.
In North Africa, especially in Algeria, the owl is considered a confessor. By placing the eye of an owl on the right hand of a sleeping person, they will tell you whatever you want to know.
Where as, in East Africa, the people of Ethiopia classify the owl as an angel of death. For instance, if a man is sentenced to death, he is placed on a table with large owl painting and expected to take his own life. Also, the Swahili believe the owl brings illness to children.
Owl Symbolism in Europe
In parts of Europe like Germany, if the hooting of an Owl is heard when child is born, it means that the child is likely to have an unhappy life. Yet in Croatia, this fearless and solitary bird is believed to be a protector. As a matter of fact, owl is the symbol of the Island of Krk.
Meanwhile, in France, if a pregnant woman hears the hoot of an owl, it means, her baby is likely going to be a girl.
In Celtic, an Owl is a symbol of the underworld. According to a legend, Owls are excorts to the underworld. They are believed to be the only bird that dare to fly up to heaven to see God in His shining glory, hence it became blind to the light of the day and only see in the dark. But then, not all owl move at night, as there are over 200 species with difference features and characteristics.
In Italy, the Etruscan associated the owl to the god of darkness, while the Babylonians, an owl amulet served as protection for a pregnant woman.
Owl Symbolism in Asia
In most parts of Asia, the owl symbolism is associated with protection. The Indonesian people of the isle of Sulawesi venerate the owl as the bird of wisdom. Owl is known as Burung Manguni and it is part of culture for people to consult the bird for guidance before they embark on missions and a journey.
In Japan, the Owl is revered as a divine messenger of the gods amongst the Ainu people.
Owl Symbolism in America
In parts of America, the owl symbolism is associated with evil and aesthetic. Mexicans associates olws as messengers of the lord of the land of the dead.
The Aztecs considers owl as a symbol of evil because it is clearly seen on the head of one of their evil gods. Whereas, the Incas, venerated the owl for its beautiful eyes and head.
Arabia Depiction of the Owl
The Arabs have long standing belief that describe the owl symbolism to embodiment of evil spirits. The owl is believed to carry children at night, believed to be the symbol of outcry for a man who seeks justice after death. For instance, an owl will continue to hoot on a dead man's grave who was unjustly killed, untill justice is served.
Owl Symbolism in Australia
The Aborigines allocated symbols according to gender. While the bat represents the male, the owl was used to represent the female gender. To this effect, the owl symbolism in this part of the world was held to be sacred, because the owl is your mother or sister and this was a sacred belief.
Chinese Depiction of the Owl
The Chinese believe that the owl is a source of lightening. This is because, as a night animal, it brightens the night and makes sounds that drum and break the silence of the night. Thus, putting up owl images in your home is to prevent too much lightening
Also, the owl in this part of the world represents masculinity.
The ancient Greeks were the foremost custodian of myths. They believed that the owl represents wisdom because Athene, the Greek goddess of wisdom, chose the owl over the crow, due to her fascination with the eyes of this ancient nocturnal bird. Thus, the owl carvings close to Athene became associated with wisdom.
They also believed that the owl had special powers, like, "a magical inner light" which is responsible for its night vision. It was also associated with protection and this is why the owl symbol accompanied the Athenian army to wars, to protect them. Hence, whenever an owl flies over the Greek army, it is believed that they will emerge victorious in that battle.
India Folklore about the Owl
In the old days, the people of India narrated tales to show the significance of the owl. These folklores described the owl as a symbol of wisdom, a prophetic bird and also a creature that helps humans.
Just like the Greeks, the Romans were also, ardent believers of myths. The owl symbolism stretches to a wide length in Roman culture too. The owl is used for purification rituals. If a dead owl is nailed to the entrance of any household, it is believed that all previous ills, bad omens and evils have been driven away.
Also, the hoot of an owl is associated with impending evil or death. For example, the Romans believed, the hooting of the owl was heard before the death of Agrippa, Julius Caesar, Commodus Aurelius and Augustus. This means that the owl was also likened to a messenger of death or doom. Another important event that proved their beliefs about this was the owl's warnings to the Roman army shortly before the defeat at Charrhea, on the plains between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.
Anyone who dreams of an owl is likely to be robbed or encounter a distasteful event. The Romans also associated the owl with witchery, with the belief that witches take the form of owls to suck the blood of babies at night.