What Do Owls Symbolize? Uncovering the Meanings Behind These Mysterious Birds

Owls have fascinated people for centuries, with their unique appearance and mysterious behaviors captivating the imaginations of artists, poets, and storytellers. According to ancient Greek and Roman mythology, these magnificent birds were considered sacred and were associated with wisdom and prophecy. In Native American cultures, owls symbolize the wisdom that comes with age, patience, and introspection. These powerful birds are known for their exceptional vision and nocturnal hunting abilities, making them both feared and admired.

There is no denying the allure of owls, with their piercing gaze, silent flight, and mysterious presence. Whether you are an ornithologist, a nature enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, there is something undeniably special about these creatures. Owls are often associated with knowledge, intuition, and insight, and are considered to be messengers of truth and wisdom. In many cultures, they are seen as spiritual guides, offering guidance and protection to those who seek their wisdom.

Despite their beauty and grace, owls are also known for their ferocity and strength. In many traditions, owls are symbols of power and authority, representing the strength and resilience of their respective cultures. Whether you are looking for inspiration, guidance, or simply a deeper understanding of the natural world, there is no denying the power and significance of these magnificent birds. So why not take a closer look at what owls symbolize, and see what wisdom and insight they can offer you today?

The Link Between Owls and Wisdom

For centuries, owls have been depicted as symbols of wisdom and intelligence in cultures all around the world. But where does this link between owls and wisdom come from?

One theory is that the connection started with the ancient Greeks. Athena, the goddess of wisdom, was often depicted with an owl as her companion. The owl was seen as a symbol of Athena’s wisdom and ability to see in the dark.

Another theory is that owls became associated with wisdom because of their keen senses. Owls have large eyes that allow them to see in low-light conditions, and their exceptional hearing allows them to locate prey even in complete darkness. This ability to see and hear things that others cannot makes them seem wise and all-knowing.

What Do Owls Symbolize?

  • Wisdom
  • Intelligence
  • Mystery
  • Protection

The Role of Owls in Different Cultures

Owls have played important roles in the mythology and folklore of many cultures throughout history. Here are just a few examples:

– In Native American cultures, owls were seen as messengers and protectors of the spirit world. They were also associated with fertility and were thought to bring good luck to couples trying to conceive.

– In ancient Egyptian culture, the owl was associated with death and the afterlife. This was because they believed that the owl helped guide the souls of the deceased into the afterlife.

– In Hindu mythology, the owl was associated with the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. Owls were seen as a symbol of abundance and were thought to bring good luck and prosperity to those who saw them.

The Different Types of Owls and Their Meanings

There are over 200 different species of owls, each with their own unique characteristics and symbolism. Here are just a few examples:

Owl TypeMeaning
Snowy OwlStrength and resilience
Barn OwlIntuition and the ability to see through deception
Great Horned OwlWisdom and protection

Whether you believe in the symbolism of owls or just find them fascinating creatures, there is no denying that they have captured the imaginations of people all over the world for centuries.

Owls in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, owls were often associated with wisdom and knowledge. The Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, was often depicted with an owl perched on her shoulder or arm. The owl was considered a symbol of Athena, as it was believed that she had the ability to see through the darkness and bring enlightenment to people.

Owls were also associated with death and the underworld in Greek mythology. The goddess Persephone was said to have an owl as a companion, and the bird was believed to have the ability to converse with the dead. The owl was often depicted on tombstones and grave markers, as it was believed to have the ability to guide the souls of the dead to the underworld.

Symbolism of Owls in Greek Mythology

  • The owl was a symbol of wisdom and knowledge, associated with the goddess Athena.
  • It was also associated with death and the underworld, and believed to have the ability to guide souls to the afterlife.
  • The owl’s ability to see through the darkness symbolized enlightenment and the ability to see beyond the surface.

Mythical Creatures in Greek Mythology with Owl Features

There were also mythical creatures in Greek mythology that had owl features. One such creature was the Strix, a creature with the head of an owl and the body of a woman. The Strix was said to be a vampire-like creature that fed on human flesh and blood. Another creature was the Harpy, which had the face and wings of an owl and the body of a woman. The Harpy was often depicted as a tormentor, causing chaos and destruction.

Owls in Greek Art

Owls were often depicted in Greek art, from pottery to metalwork. The owl was a popular motif, and its symbolism was often used to convey messages of wisdom, knowledge, and death. The owl was also used in architectural ornamentation, and was often placed on the corners of buildings as a symbol of protection.

Black-figure potteryExekiasAthena and an owl are depicted on the same side of a Black-figure amphora.
Gold diademTomb of Philip IIA gold diadem with an owl depicted on the front as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.
Marble reliefAthenian TreasuryA marble relief from the Parthenon, depicting a scene with Athena holding an owl and a Victory statue.

Owls in Greek mythology have been depicted in a variety of ways, from being associated with goddesses of wisdom to being featured in mythical creatures and on architectural ornamentation. Through these depictions, the symbolism of owls has endured and continues to be recognized today.

The Cultural Significance of Owls in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is rich with symbolism, with many animals chosen to represent various aspects of life, death, and spirituality. One such animal is the owl, which held significant cultural importance for the people of Ancient Egypt.

  • Protection of the Dead: The owl was often depicted on the walls of tombs and burial chambers in Ancient Egypt. This is because the owl was believed to be a protector of the dead, guiding the souls of the deceased through the afterlife and helping them to reach their final resting place.
  • Representation of the Goddess of Wisdom: In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge was often associated with the owl. This is because the owl was believed to possess great intelligence and insight, making it a fitting representation of the goddess of wisdom.
  • Symbol of Night and Darkness: Owls are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are active at night. In Ancient Egypt, this nocturnal behavior led to owls becoming associated with the darkness, making them symbolic of this aspect of life.

One notable depiction of the owl in Ancient Egyptian culture is the hieroglyphic symbol for the word “m,” which meant “owl.” This hieroglyph was often placed in coffin inscriptions and funerary texts to denote the protective qualities of the owl.

Overall, the owl held significant cultural importance for the people of Ancient Egypt, representing protection, wisdom, and the darkness of the night.

Aspect of Ancient Egyptian CultureSymbolic Association with Owls
Death and the AfterlifeOwl as a protector of the dead
Mythology and ReligionOwl as a representation of the goddess of wisdom
Night and DarknessOwl as a symbol of the darkness of the night

With its deep cultural significance, the owl remains an important symbol in modern Egyptian culture and continues to inspire reverence and awe among people around the world.

The Role of Owls in Native American Folklore

For many Native American tribes, the owl is a symbol that holds significant meaning and is often considered a sacred animal. The owl and its spiritual significance can be found throughout various Native American cultures, including the Cherokee, Hopi, and Lakota tribes.

Owls as Spiritual Guides

  • In Cherokee mythology, the owl is associated with the spirit realm and is believed to serve as a messenger between the physical and spiritual worlds.
  • The Hopi tribe believes that the owl is a guardian of the underworld and that its hoot is a call to the spirits.
  • The Lakota tribe also holds the owl in high regard, associating it with visions, insight, and wisdom.

Symbolism of Owl Feathers

Owl feathers are considered sacred in many Native American cultures and are often used in spiritual ceremonies and rituals. These feathers are believed to protect and heal individuals and are sometimes used to ward off negative energy.

Each color of the owl feather also holds a specific meaning. For example, a white owl feather represents purity and truth, while a grey owl feather represents balance and wisdom.

The Significance of Owl Representations in Art

Owls are often depicted in Native American art, with intricate designs and patterns. These representations often symbolize the owl’s role as a spiritual guide and its connection to the spirit world. Owls are also sometimes depicted in conjunction with other animals, such as bears or wolves, representing their shared connection to the Earth and the natural world.

CherokeeThe owl is a symbol of truth and wisdom.
HopiThe owl represents the spirits of the underworld.
LakotaThe owl represents insight, foresight, and wisdom.

Overall, the role of owls in Native American folklore is one of great significance and reverence. These sacred animals are believed to hold spiritual power and to guide individuals on their paths of growth and enlightenment.

Owls as Messengers in Celtic Mythology

In Celtic mythology, owls were often regarded as messengers or portents of death and doom.

  • One Celtic legend tells of a goddess named Blodeuwedd who was turned into an owl as punishment for plotting to kill her husband. Owls were then commonly associated with treachery and deceit in Celtic folklore.
  • Despite this negative connotation, owls also had a more positive role in Celtic mythology. They were viewed as protectors of sacred knowledge and were associated with wisdom, prophecy, and clairvoyance.
  • In Druidic tradition, owls were believed to have the ability to communicate with spirits and the Otherworld. They were revered as symbols of divine intervention and guidance.

Many scholars believe that the owl’s role as a messenger in Celtic mythology is connected to its nocturnal habits. Because owls are creatures of the night, they were seen as gatekeepers between the waking world of humans and the mysterious realm of the divine.

WisdomOwls were revered for their knowledge and insight, and were seen as emissaries of higher wisdom.
DeathDue to their association with the Otherworld, owls were also viewed as symbols of death and the unknown.
ProtectionOwls were considered to be protective spirits, guarding the secrets of the sacred realm.

In modern-day paganism, the owl is still seen as a potent symbol of magic and mystery. Whether viewed as a messenger of darkness or light, the owl remains an important figure in Celtic mythology and beyond.

The Symbolism of Owl Eyes

Owls are known for their large, beautiful eyes that have captivated humans for centuries. Throughout history, these eyes have held significant meaning in different cultures and beliefs. Below are some of the symbolism of owl eyes.

  • Wisdom: Owls are often considered wise creatures, and their eyes are believed to be a reflection of this quality. The piercing stare of their eyes is often associated with wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge.
  • Mystery: The size and shape of owl eyes have been linked with the unknown and the unknowable. The owl’s ability to see in the dark has made it a symbol of mystery and secrets.
  • Clairvoyance: Some cultures believe that owls are associated with the supernatural and have the ability to see beyond normal human perception. Their eyes have been associated with clairvoyance and insight into the future.

The eyes of the owl have also been linked with various spiritual and religious beliefs. For instance, in Hinduism, the goddess Lakshmi is often depicted with an owl as her vehicle. This is believed to symbolize prosperity and wealth, as the goddess is said to have the ability to see all things and bring good fortune to her followers.

Additionally, in ancient Greek mythology, the owl was associated with Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Her owl symbolizes her wisdom and ability to see the truth beyond illusions. In Native American cultures, the owl’s eyes are sometimes seen as a gateway to the spirit world, and the visions that come with it.

Big eyesWisdom, intelligence, and knowledge
Piercing stareMystery and secrets
Ability to see in darkMystery and secrets
ClairvoyanceInsight into the future

In conclusion, the eyes of the owl are not only beautiful but hold deep symbolism in various cultures and beliefs. Whether seen as a symbol of wisdom, mystery, clairvoyance, or spiritual insight, the owl’s eyes continue to fascinate and captivate people around the world.

The association between owls and death

One of the most significant symbolic associations with owls is the connection to death. This has been prevalent in various cultures throughout history and is often depicted in art, literature, and mythology. Here are some ways in which owls have been associated with death:

  • In Greek mythology, the goddess Athena was often accompanied by an owl, which symbolized wisdom but also death.
  • In some Native American cultures, owls are believed to be connected to the underworld and are seen as messengers between the living and the dead.
  • In medieval Europe, owls were believed to be witches in disguise and were associated with dark magic and death.

However, it is important to note that not all cultures see owls as a symbol of death. In some cultures, they are actually seen as a symbol of protection and good luck.

Despite this, the association between owls and death has led to some interesting observations about their behavior. For example, many species of owls are nocturnal, which means they are more active at night. This has led some to believe that they are associated with the darkness and therefore, death. Additionally, owls have been observed to be silent hunters, which has led many cultures to view them as stealthy and potentially dangerous.

The number seven is also significant when it comes to the owl’s association with death. Many cultures believe that if you hear an owl hooting seven times, it is a sign of impending doom or death. This belief can be traced back to ancient Roman times when the number seven was associated with death and the underworld.

CultureSymbolic association
GreekWisdom and death
Native AmericanMessenger between living and dead
Medieval EuropeDark magic and death

In conclusion, the association between owls and death is one of the most well-known symbolic connections in history. Although not all cultures view owls as a symbol of death, the number seven and the owl’s behavior has further perpetuated this association. Despite this, owls continue to be a fascinating and awe-inspiring creature for many people.

Owls as Symbols of Femininity in Japanese Culture

In Japanese culture, owls are often seen as symbols of femininity due to their association with Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who is often depicted with an owl on her shoulder. This connection has led to a long history of owls being revered in Japan, with many believing that they bring good fortune and happiness to those who encounter them.

Beliefs About Owls in Japan

  • Owls are believed to be messengers of the gods and goddesses.
  • Their hooting is seen as a sign of good luck and prosperity.
  • Their large eyes are said to represent the ability to see into the future and uncover hidden truths.

The Number 8 and Owls

According to Japanese numerology, the number 8 is associated with owls and feminine energy. This is because the word for owl in Japanese, “fukurou”, is pronounced similarly to the word for good luck and fortune, “fuku”. As a result, many people believe that encountering eight owls or seeing them eight times in a row is a sign of good luck and prosperity.

Number of OwlsMeaning
OneGood fortune and protection
TwoLove and partnership
ThreeHealth and longevity
FourAcademic success and knowledge
FiveWealth and prosperity
SixBlessings and happiness
SevenSuccess and good luck
EightAbundance and good fortune

Interestingly, while owls are often seen as symbols of femininity, they are also associated with the god of war, Bishamonten, and are used as military mascots to this day in Japan. This duality is reflective of the complex and multifaceted role that owls play in Japanese culture.

Owls as Omens of Bad Luck in Certain Cultures

Throughout history, owls have been seen as symbols of wisdom and intelligence in many cultures around the world. However, in certain cultures, owls are believed to be bad omens and are associated with death and misfortune. Here, we will delve deeper into the symbolism of owls as omens of bad luck in certain cultures.

The Number 9

The number 9 is considered a very unlucky number in Japan, and this is often associated with owls because of their vocalizations. In Japanese, the word for “owl” is “fukuro,” which can also translate to “no luck” or “no fortune” which is pronounced “fukuro”. Additionally, the word for “9” in Japanese is “ku”, which is the same pronunciation as the word for “suffering” or “torture”.

This association between owls and the number 9 has led to some interesting cultural superstitions. For example, if someone hears an owl hooting nine times, it is considered a bad omen that someone they know will die soon. In some cases, people believe that hearing an owl hoot even once is a sign of imminent death or bad luck.

Similarly, in other Asian cultures, such as China and India, owls are also seen as symbols of death and misfortune. In some cases, they are believed to be the ghosts of people who died violent or untimely deaths. As a result, people sometimes avoid interacting with owls or even using their images in their homes or businesses.

Other Cultural Beliefs around Owls

  • In ancient Greek culture, owls were associated with the goddess Athena and were seen as symbols of wisdom and protection.
  • In some Native American cultures, owls are seen as sacred animals that help protect the tribe and provide spiritual guidance.
  • In Egyptian culture, owls were considered sacred animals that were associated with death and the afterlife. They were often depicted in hieroglyphics and on jewelry.


Overall, while owls are often seen as symbols of wisdom and intelligence, their association with death and misfortune in certain cultures should not be ignored. Historically, owls have been viewed in many different ways, and their symbolism and cultural significance can vary greatly depending on where you are in the world.

CultureOwl Symbolism
JapanDeath and misfortune (associated with the number 9)
ChinaDeath and misfortune
IndiaDeath and misfortune
GreeceWisdom and protection (associated with Athena)
Native AmericanSacred animals that protect the tribe and provide spiritual guidance
EgyptSacred animals associated with death and the afterlife

No matter what the cultural beliefs are, it is important to remember that owls are living creatures and should be treated with respect and care. As with any animal or symbol, their cultural significance should be appreciated but not used to perpetuate harmful stereotypes or prejudices.

The use of owls in heraldry and coats of arms

Owls have been used in heraldry and coats of arms from ancient times, and their symbolism has evolved over the years. Here are some of the ways in which owls have been used in this context:

  • Owls have been used as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. In heraldry, they often appear as the attribute of scholars or intellectuals.
  • In some cases, owls have been used to symbolize victory. This may be because owls, with their sharp talons and powerful wings, are skilled hunters and can easily overcome their prey.
  • On occasion, owls have been used to represent messengers or ambassadors, perhaps because of the owl’s association with Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, who was believed to send owls as messengers.

In addition to these symbolic meanings, the appearance of owls in heraldry and coats of arms often varies based on geographic region and era. For example, in medieval Europe, owls were often depicted with their wings spread wide, while in Japan, they were often portrayed with closed wings and a more stylized appearance.

Region/eraAppearance of owl in heraldry and coats of arms
Medieval EuropeOwls with wings spread wide, often with other symbolic elements such as a halo or book
JapanStylized owls with closed wings, sometimes holding a scroll
Ancient GreeceOwls as the attribute of Athena, sometimes depicted with a crown or other regalia

Overall, the use of owls in heraldry and coats of arms has been an important way to convey symbolic meaning and represent certain ideals. From wisdom and knowledge to victory and messenger roles, the owl has played a significant role in the history of these important visual traditions.

What do owls symbolize?

1. What does an owl symbolize in Native American culture?
In Native American culture, owls are considered to possess both positive and negative characteristics. On one hand, they are seen as a symbol of wisdom, intuition, and insight. On the other, they are seen as a symbol of death and darkness.

2. Do owls symbolize good luck?
Yes, some cultures believe that seeing an owl is a sign of good luck. In ancient Greece, the owl was a symbol of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and was believed to bring good fortune.

3. What are the spiritual meanings of an owl?
In spirituality, an owl is often seen as a symbol of transition, change, and spiritual growth. The owl is also associated with the moon, magic, and mystery.

4. What does it mean when an owl comes to you?
If an owl comes to you in a dream or in reality, it may be a sign that you need to pay attention to your intuition and trust your instincts. The owl may also be a symbol of a message from a deceased loved one.

5. Are owls a symbol of death?
While owls are not universally perceived as a symbol of death, some cultures, including Native American tribes and the ancient Greeks, do associate them with a form of death or the afterlife.

6. What do different colored owls symbolize?
In general, white owls are considered to represent purity, while black owls are associated with darkness and mystery. Brown owls are associated with earth and nature, and grey owls are often seen as symbols of wisdom and insight.

7. What do owls symbolize in literature?
In literature, owls are often portrayed as wise and intelligent creatures, often serving as advisors or guides to protagonists. They may also be associated with magic and the supernatural.

Thanks for exploring the meanings of owls with us!

We hope this article has shed some light on the different symbolic meanings owls can have. Whether you see an owl as a sign of wisdom, intuition, or change, there is no denying that these mysterious birds have captured the human imagination for centuries. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to sharing more fascinating topics with you in the future!