Owls are odd birds and there are a zillion species of them. In every culture, they are fraught with symbolism. It is said the the Caesars, Augustus and Julius’s deaths were foretold by owls in ancient Rome. The Romans, of course, believed the worst in everything, also claiming that owls were evil and sucked the blood of infants. In The Old Testament, owls are linked inextricably with evil, witchcraft, and all other vestiges of paganism.
The Greeks went a little easier on owls. In Greek mythology, Athene, or Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, banished the prankster crow in favor of an owl, in the belief that this bird could see through darkness and that their huge eyes contained an inner light. The truth is, owls see only a little better than you and I. What they do better than anything is HEAR. They hunt by sound; they can hear a mouse get a hard-on. They can also fly almost silently because their feathers are billowed; almost downlike and extremely quiet. They are also not terribly bright. They look smart, but they’re about as smart as every other bird with a brain the size of a pea, which is not very. They’re excellent hunters and are especially a scourge in the rodent world.
In Native American cultures, the Apache believe they are harbingers of death and bring unworthy spirits to the Underworld. Whereas, the Hopi believe burrowing owls are protectors of the spirits of the dead because they live underground, as do a great many species of owls .
I had a screech owl when I was in high school and went broke buying mice for him. He had a big wooden box to live in with a perch and the unlucky rodent would be tossed in and no mouse ever made it to the four corners of the box. Oliver made short work of mice in my mother’s basement; I often let Oliver out to fly around the dark basement and he, in two days, would rid the basement of any mouse seeking to nest there. He was a grey screech owl, about the size of a beer can, who would cackle and make the eeriest sounds you could imagine. He did not hoot and most owls don’t. Many people mistake the cooing of mourning doves with owls. Many Owls don’t make any sounds at all.
Barn owls are found everywhere and are forever tainted by the poems of a couple candy-ass English poets, Blair and Wordsworth, who continually rendered them as “birds of Doom,” even though they’re the best friends farmers ever had, subsisting entirely on harmful rodents.
In every culture, owls are metaphors for something. In my life an owl provided me with an escape from being like everyone else and taught me to listen and how to wait, and most importantly, how to search.