Among the cultures of the American Indian tribes there are a myriad of beliefs about the owl. An owl on a rock near a lake or a river, signified a particular tribe’s ownership of that place for fishing and trapping. the Iroquois believed this, as well as the owl being a protector from water monsters and devils, which would drown those who wandered too close to the water at night.
The Apache believed that a dream of an owl was a harbinger of the nearness of one’s death. Cherokee medicine men and shaman thought screech owls had the power to bring on illnesses as punishment. The Cree believed the small owls could summon the spirits with their other-worldly whistles and cackles.
A great many tribes thought owls could travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. The Dakota Sioux believed the burrowing owl held sway in the underneath–the world below the ground, and also acted as a protector for brave warriors, whereas, the Hopi believed this same owl to be a god of the dead and a guardian of fire and keeper of all things under ground, even seeds. They called the bird Ko’ko which means “watcher of the dark.”
The Nez Pierce believed that owls were both the deceased person and their newly released soul, and the Mojave peoples believed that after death, one would become an owl as an interim stage, before becoming a water beetle and then, ultimately, pure air. The Navajo were sure that listening to the owl, a man could hear his future.
I’ve loved owls since I was kid. In high school, I had a screech owl I’d found for a few years before bringing it to Willowbrook wildlife haven and having him repatriated to the wild.
I worked part time at a pet store, which helped me feed Oliver the mice he ate every day. e had a big wooden box as a cage with a few perches in it, and from time to time, I’d let him fly freely around the basement. There were NO mice in our basement.
The sense most acute in owls is their HEARING. Everyone thinks it’s eyesight. Not really. Owls hunt by stealth. Their wings are billowed and silent and their sense of hearing is astonishing.
There is an owl that I see in Ukrainian Village once in a while. It’s a short-eared owl, and I wonder what the fuck he is doing here. I’ve only ever seen them around open fields before. I guess, like us, they go where the food is.
I’ve seen a lot of great horned owls in the city. Logan Square, with its bounty of old-growth trees, is lousy with them, and it is a good environment for them–all of the rodents they can eat.
The truth is, once you look for them, you begin to notice them, mostly at dusk and dawn, when they hunt. Our night watchmen.