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The Owl: What is its Meaning and Symbology?

Significado del buho

Owls are very fascinating animals, so spotting one is very significant. Not only are they nocturnal, but they are birds of prey; instead of eating seeds and insects, they hunt.

But these birds of prey also have a very symbolic meaning.

Seeing or dreaming of an owl can mean many things. In fact, owls symbolically represent wisdom, knowledge, courage, intuition, independent thinking, protection, listening, intelligence and even death in some cultures.

These birds of prey rely on their intuition and intelligence when hunting; owls trust their instinct to find their next meal, and rely on their intellect to determine which animals to hunt.

Since owls are nocturnal animals, it is very rare to see them in the wild during the day. However, if you are lucky enough to encounter one, it is not a bad omen; rather, it is a warning of sorts.

Although owls symbolize death in some cultures, that death is symbolic of change; of ending something to begin a new beginning, a greater understanding of the world around you and an evolved perspective of what you didn’t know before.

In short, the encounter with an owl is related to your intuition and knowledge.

Significado del buho

As with other animals and symbols, the owl is interpreted differently in different cultures around the world.

Below we will describe what is the meaning of the owl in different folklores.

El búho en las culturas antiguas

Spiritual meaning of owls in Christianity

In Christianity and in the Bible, owls are not depicted in a positive way; in fact, they are often associated with death and mystery. In the Bible, owls are compared to animals such as the raven, the bat and the dragon, all of which also have negative meanings.

Christians believe that owls represent that which is hidden in darkness and the unknown, and consider owls to be a bad omen, portending evil. However, there are some followers of this religion who believe that owls represent wisdom and prophecy.

Owl symbolism in mythology and folklore

Throughout history, owls have appeared in mythology and folklore, symbolizing death or negativity in most consequences. And legends and stories about the owl have been found in the cultures of the Celts, the Native Americans, the Americans and Orientals, the Vikings and even the Mayans.

Native American Owl Symbolism

Different tribes view owls in unique ways: some see them as wise messengers, others see them as evil creatures that approach at night, and still others believe that owls hold ancient knowledge and wisdom.

For example, the Lakota, Blackfoot and Cherokee tribes believed that medicine men could transform into owls and possess the same vision of their dreams, similar to the sharp eyesight of an owl.

Other tribes had positive beliefs associated with owls; the Mojave tribe believed that they would be reincarnated as an owl after death; the Tlingit tribe believed that owls were warriors who aided in battle, giving confidence to combatants and instilling fear in their enemies; the Kwakiutl tribe saw owls as the souls of humans who had died.

The owl in Celtic folklore

Owls have a positive connotation in Celtic mythology, and are related to a goddess who appeared as an old woman; however, she was the goddess of death, and hearing the screech of an owl was a sign that someone nearby was destined to die.

The Celts also told a legend about Blodeuwedd, the goddess of treachery, and associated her with an owl. The myth of Blodeuwedd tells that she was created from flowers as a gift for a prince, but Blodeuwedd and her lover conspired to kill the prince.

When he was killed, he turned into an eagle and Gwydion, the wizard who created Blodeuwedd, returned him to human form. Seeking revenge, the prince had Gwydion turn Blodeuwedd into a white owl, doomed to feel sorrow and loneliness in the deep, dark night.

Owl symbolism in Greece

In Greek mythology, owls symbolized the goddess Athena. An owl sat on the “blind side” of Athena, so it was able to see the truth of all situations. In addition, owls symbolize wisdom and guard the Acropolis.

Owl symbolism in ancient Rome

Athena’s Roman counterpart, Diana, was associated with the owl, as well as the moon. However, the Romans believed that owls were a bad omen, signifying imminent death; hearing the hooting of an owl was a sign of death.

Owls even predicted the death of famous Romans such as Agrippa, Augustus and Julius Caesar.

Owl symbolism in African culture

In African folklore, owls did not signify wisdom or knowledge, but were believed to be omens of death and illness, especially for children. Other cultures saw owls as messengers who traveled back and forth between spiritual realms and worlds, delivering messages.

When you dream of an owl, there are multiple interpretations of what your dream may mean. In general, dreaming of an owl is simply a message being delivered to you, in an attempt to make you aware of the situations around you.

El búho

But depending on the subject matter of the dream, it could mean something else.

To dream that you are attacked by an owl

If you dream that an owl attacks you, it is a sign that you are afraid of something that is currently happening in your life, and you are afraid to take that leap forward. But this type of dream is a message not to be afraid; in fact, it is an encouragement to embrace change and grow from it.

Dreaming of a flying owl

A dream of a flying owl represents change taking place in the subconscious mind, and the attempt to bring that information to the surface. It is a reminder that even if you don’t know what change is coming, trust that the universe has your best interests in mind.

Dreaming of a talking owl

If you dream of an owl hooting, hooting or speaking in a language, this is a serious message from the spiritual realm. Such a dream also indicates that you may have psychic abilities that you are not yet aware of, and that you are receiving messages from souls who have passed on.

Dreaming of a wounded owl

There are a variety of meanings associated with a dream of a wounded owl, but the primary meaning is that something in life is preventing you from being completely free. You may be feeling helpless in the face of circumstances and are letting some kind of fear keep you from moving forward.

Dreaming of being eaten by an owl

In dreams, food represents an experience that you are in the process of rectifying. Therefore, to dream that you are being eaten by an owl means that you are in the midst of the process of getting rid of negative thoughts that are holding you back in life, and accepting your inner intuition.

Owls come in various colors, such as brown, gray, white, gold and reddish brown. However, sometimes owls appear in other colors in your dreams. And the color they appear in can mean a few different things.

Meaning of a white owl

Dreaming of a white owl, or even seeing one in person, is symbolic of a life change on the horizon for you. It is important to remember that change is necessary to help you grow and move forward.

Meaning of the gray owl

Since owls are so peculiar and are associated with mystery, it’s no wonder that a gray owl has the same meaning. A gray owl also represents communication with the spirit world and your spirit guides, encouraging you to trust what the universe has in store for you.

Meaning of the black owl

Black owls symbolize shadow work, or the unconscious mind allowing certain information to surface in the conscious mind so that it can be worked with.

Meaning of the yellow owl

Yellow owls do not exist in nature, so seeing one in a dream has a lot to do with your own self-esteem and how you express your inner emotions. Yellow owls are also associated with independence, identity and discovering who you really are.

Meaning of the red owl

While reddish-brown owls exist in nature, seeing a strictly red owl in a dream is related to emotional and physical health issues, problems at home, anger, and even sexuality.

Meaning of the brown owl

The most common owl is the barn owl, which is brown in color. But seeing one in person or in a dream is directly related to your intuition and how you see yourself. Brown owls are also associated with nurturing energy, forgiveness, patience and mindfulness.

El búho como animal espiritual.

A spirit animal is a life guide meant to point us in the right direction while teaching us lessons.

Totem animals are also spirit guides, but ones we call upon for guidance. Both are guardians or protectors, and help us walk through life while recognizing our higher purpose.

Although you can’t choose your spirit animal, they choose you. And you will know if an owl is your spirit animal if you resonate with the creature in some way.

Those who have the owl as a spirit animal may have a variety of lessons to learn.

This spirit animal is relying on its intuition and wants to warn you that you can’t keep procrastinating, or that you need to stop feeling inadequate. The owl is telling you that the time has come for that big change you are too afraid to make.

Your spirit animal owl is trying to get you to broaden your horizons and recognize that there is more to life than the typical day-to-day. Challenge yourself to see things from different perspectives to become more aware and in tune with the world around you.

The owl is a sign that you should trust yourself. Your intuition and instinct will not lead you wrong. Don’t let external factors confuse you to the point that you don’t know what to do. An owl spirit animal is telling you that it is okay to trust yourself, because you are capable of it.

The form of death an owl is warning you about can be physical or symbolic. Throughout history, owls were seen as the heralds of death; the hooting of an owl, in superstition, foreshadows that physical death is near.

In this case, the warning is that a change is coming in your life, that you are going to say goodbye to something from your past to make way for a new beginning.

Just as owls symbolize wisdom, knowledge and intuition, getting an owl tattoo represents the power of self-confidence, the desire to deepen your connection with the spiritual world or to discover new knowledge about yourself.


Alejandra Roig

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