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Owls: Myth, Folklore and More

Today’s animal blog post on the folklore, mythology and symbolism plus more will be covering the Owl. With approximately 250 species of Owls around the world it is expected that these predators of the night would absolutely become embedded in culture, folklore and even associated with Deities which indeed is the case. Owls to me are very fascinating both with their important roles in nature and how they have had an effect in humans. So today let us dive into the world of Owls and their significance in the myths, folklore and more.

Introduction

Owls in Mythology & Culture By Deane Lewis

Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death. Speculation about Owls began in earliest folklore, too long ago to date, but passed down by word of mouth over generations.

In early Indian folklore, Owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy. This theme recurs in Aesop’s fables and in Greek myths and beliefs. By the Middle Ages in Europe, the Owl had become the associate of witches and the inhabitant of dark, lonely and profane places, a foolish but feared spectre. An Owl’s appearance at night, when people are helpless and blind, linked them with the unknown, its eerie call filled people with foreboding and apprehension: a death was imminent or some evil was at hand. During the eighteenth century the zoological aspects of Owls were detailed through close observation, reducing the mystery surrounding these birds. With superstitions dying out in the twentieth century – in the West at least – the Owl has returned to its position as a symbol of wisdom. Continue reading HERE.

OWL MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Shani Freidman

Owls and humans are connected from the dawn of history. The nighttime activity, large eyes, acute vision, and “wisdom” of owls were known by the ancients. Dating from a Sumerian tablet (2300 to 2000 BC), Lilith, the goddess of death, has talons for feet, wears a headdress of horns, and is flanked by owls. She is probably the inspiration for Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and warfare. The rock crevices of Athens and the Acropolis were filled with small owls, believed to be the embodiment of Athena. When the Athenians won the battle of Marathon from the Persians in 490 BC, the warrior goddess Athena assumed the shape of an owl and led them from above.

The Romans, who appropriated many of the Greek beliefs, associated owls with Minerva, the goddess of prophesy and wisdom. Minerva’s role was similar to Athena’s. The prophetic qualities of owls were known. Virgil writes that the hoot of an owl foretold the death of Dido. Pliny reports great confusion and fear in the Forum when an owl entered. Horace associates owls with witchcraft. Romans used representations of owls to combat the evil eye. Owl feathers and internal organs were found in magical potions and pharmaceutical remedies. For example, the ashes of an owl’s feet were an antidote to snakebite, and an owl’s heart placed on the breast of a sleeping woman forced her to tell all her secrets. Continue reading HERE.

Silver tetradrachm coin at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon depicting the owl of Athena (circa 480–420 BC). The inscription “ΑΘΕ” is an abbreviation of ΑΘΗΝΑΙΩΝ, which may be translated as “of the Athenians”. In daily use the Athenian drachmas were called glaukes (γλαῦκες, owls). This silver coin was first issued in 479 BC in Athens after the Persians were defeated by the Greeks.

6 Myths and Superstitions About Owls

  1. Owls are famous for their exceptional eyesight and it was thought that you could gain better eyesight by ingesting parts of them. In England, the method was to cook owl eggs until they were ash, then incorporate them into a potion. Folklore from India had a more direct method: just eat owl eyes.
  2. Owls are a sign of death in many cultures, including some Native American tribes. For instance, dreaming of an owl signified approaching death for Apache people. Boreal owl calls were a call from spirits to the Cree people, and if you answered back to the owl with a whistle and didn’t get a response, it was a sign that your death was imminent. On the other hand, Dakota Hidatsa people believed that burrowing owls acted as protective spirits for warriors.
  3. For some cultures, the owl was sacred. Among Australian Aborigines, owls are the spirits of women and so are sacred. The Kwakiutl people also thought owls were the souls of people and shouldn’t be harmed because, if the owl was killed, the person whose soul the owl carried would also die. In fact, many different cultures believed that a person became an owl after death.
  4. Owls are often viewed as a symbol of wisdom. The “wise old owl” character comes from an old English nursery rhyme, which suggests that listening more than talking is a valuable character trait that we would all benefit from developing. As such, the owl has become a sign of learning and mental change. Many people believe that seeing an owl is a profoundly good thing, as it indicates the start of a new phase in life.
  5. Owls are, of course, associated with witchcraft—particularly white ones, which are the most elusive. Greeks and Romans believed witches could turn themselves into owls, and in this form would come to suck the blood of babies. In other cultures, owls were simply the messengers of witches, or hooted to warn of the approach of a witch. Unfortunately this led to many owls being hunted and killed in the Middle Ages.
  6. Though the owl’s nocturnal activity was at the root of many superstitions, the amazing ability of an owl to rotate its neck to extraordinary degrees was even turned into a myth. In England it was believed that if you walked around a tree that an owl was perched in, it would follow you with its eyes, around and around until it wrung its own neck. SOURCE

“You don’t need anything but hope. The kind of hope that flies on silent wings under a shining owl moon.”

-Jane Yolen
Perhaps no other creature has so compelling a gaze as the owl. Its unblinking stare mesmerizes; its nocturnal lifestyle suggests secrets and mystery. This lavishly illustrated book celebrates owls from every corner of the world and offers abundant details on fifty-three of the most striking and interesting species, from the tiny Elf Owl of southwestern American deserts to the formidable Blakiston’s Fish Owl, the largest of all owls.
 Mike Unwin has long studied and admired these remarkable birds from cold northern forests to tropical rivers and beyond. He explains how owls evolved into the supreme feathered predators of the night, and he examines their breeding and hunting behaviors, unusual calls, and the cultural myths and superstitions that surround different species. More than two hundred dramatic color photographs in the wild, taken or selected by David Tipling, capture the wondrous beauty of each owl and the drama of life in its own home region. 

The Owl as a Spirit Guide

When you seek out Owl, it is a way of reaching your Higher Self and truly seeing things from a spiritual perspective; This refreshing vantage point allows you to open doorways into other realms and connect with the Devas, Ancestors, Angels, and the Divine.

Owl has a strong connection with the element of air. Travel with Owl Spirit to the heavens and soar through the halls of the Akashic records. Owl will show you things that might otherwise remain hidden to you, so be open to seeing things in a whole new way.

You cannot deceive Owl, which is why this Spirit Animal reminds us to remain true to ourselves, our voice, and our vision. Owl does not tolerate illusion or secrets. If there are skeletons in the closet, you can trust that Owl will find them and start house cleaning.

It is no surprise that the Goddess Athena held Owls as sacred. Athena is beyond doubt, one of the most complex Deities in history, and Her attributes included wisdom and strategy – so Owl Spirit became the perfect companion. In Greek tradition, Owl was also a protector. It was believed that an Owl flying over a soldier or army portended victory because Owl would remain watchful.

As a creature of the night, the Celts and Egyptians regarded Owl as a gatekeeper to other realms, particularly the souls of the dead. In some stories, this bird actually accompanies a soul, so it doesn’t get lost on its journey.

In Native American tradition, Owl represents sacred knowledge (you’ll get to know me, I live for puns). When you begin studying the mysteries, this Spirit Animal Guide is an amazing helpmate and mentor.

Overall, Owl is a symbol of being able to navigate any darkness in our life; this Spirit brings clarity, prophetic inklings, and a strong connection with the mystical world. SOURCE

“Owls are known as lonely birds, but it is not known that they have the forest as their best friend!”

– Mehmet Murat Ildan
This petroglyph, the ‘Spedis Owl‘ was salvaged from along the Columbia River just before The Dalles Dam flooded the area in 1956. This carving is on display at Horsethief Lake State Park, Washington. Photo © Ralph Turner.

Symbolism

Perception, Silent Observation, Wisdom, Deception

The Owl has a dual symbolism of wisdom and darkness, the latter meaning evil and death. They are symbolically associated with clairvoyance, astral projection and magick, and is oftentimes the medicine of sorcerers and witches, you are drawn to magickal practices. Those who have owl medicine will find that these night birds will tend to collect around you, even in daytime, because they recognise a kinship with you.

The two main symbolic characteristics of the Owl, its wisdom and its nocturnal activity– have made it represent perception. Considering perception in a spiritual context, Owl medicine is related to psychism, occult matters, instincts, and clairvoyance– the true ability to see what is happening around you.

The owl can see that which others cannot, which is the essence of true wisdom. Where others are deceived, Owl sees and knows what is there.

Use your power of keen, silent observation to intuit some life situation, Owl is befriending you and aiding you in seeing the whole truth. The Owl also brings its messages in the night through dreams or meditation. Pay attention to the signals and omens. The truth always brings further enlightenment.

The Owl, symbol of the Goddess, represents perfect wisdom. Owls have the ability to see in the dark and fly noiselessly through the skies. They bring messages through dreams. The Owl is the bird of mystical wisdom and ancient knowledge of the powers of the moon. With wide-open, all-seeing eyes, Owl looks upon reality without distortion and acknowledges it, yet is aware that with ancient magickal and spiritual knowledge, he or she can make changes. SOURCE

This video will discuss about 20 mysterious facts about Owls. As recognized as owls may be, most people don’t actually know a whole ton about them. But the truth is, these birds are incredibly complex creatures with a catalogue of surprising facts.

What Sees the Owl by Elizabeth Sears Bates

His velvet wing sweeps through the night:
With magic of his wondrous sight
He oversees his vast domain,
And king supreme of night doth reign.

Around him lies a silent world,
The day with all its noise is furled;
When every shadow seems a moon,
And every light a sun at noon.

How welcome from the blinding glare
Is the cool grayness of the air!
How sweet the power to reign, a king,
When day his banishment will bring!

For him the colorless moonlight
Burns brilliant, an aurora bright;
The forest’s deepest gloom stands clear
From mystery and helpless fear.

He sees the silver cobwebs spun,
The dewdrops set the flowers have won,
The firefly’s gleam offends his sight,
It seems a spark of fierce sunlight.

Clear winter nights when he so bold,
“For all his feathers, is a-cold,”
Sees the Frost-spirit fling his lace,
And fashion icicles apace.

At his weird call afar and faint
A sleepy echo, like the quaint
Last notes of some wild chant, replies
And mocks his solitude—and dies.

Owls of the World, second edition, is the ultimate photographic resource dedicated to the identification of these charismatic birds of prey. It is packed with spectacular photography of 268 species of owls from all over the world, including extinct species. Many of the images are of highly elusive species very rarely caught on camera.
The vast majority of the roughly 200 species of owls are so-called true owls which possess large heads with round faces short tails and muted feathers with mottled patterns. The remainder accounting for a little over a dozen species are barn owls which can be distinguished by their heart-shaped faces long legs equipped with powerful talons and moderate size. With the exception of the common barn owl—which has a worldwide distribution—the most familiar owls at least to residents of North America and Eurasia are the true owls.
Evolution has an efficient way of relegating animals to particular niches: because other carnivorous birds (like hawks and eagles) hunt during the day most owls have adapted to hunting at night. The dark coloration of owls makes them nearly invisible to their prey—which consists of insects small mammals and other birds—and their wings are structured so as to beat in almost complete silence. These adaptations combined with their enormous eyes makes owls some of the most efficient night hunters on the planet wolves and coyotes not excluded.
One of the most remarkable things about owls is the way they move their entire heads when looking at something rather than simply moving their eyes in their sockets like most other vertebrate animals. The reason for this is that owls need large forward-facing eyes to gather in scarce light during their nocturnal hunts and evolution couldn’t spare the musculature to allow these eyes to rotate. Instead owls have astonishingly flexible necks that allow them to turn their heads three-quarters of a circle or 270 degrees—compared to about 90 degrees for the average human being!

Further Resources

Owls Mythology & Folklore

Owl Names in Mythology – Nocturnal Birds Of Prey In The Mystic Realms

World Owl Mythology

Native American Owl Mythology

Owl Folklore

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Canadian Coastal Wolf: My Spirit Animal

A person’s spirit animal is discovered in numerous ways which could be through a dream, spirit-walk or by other means in which they connect. For me it was a personal experience I prefer keeping private but the out come has led me on a path of deep connection and passion to a species of Wolf known as the Canadian Coastal Wolf also known as Sea Wolves. The Canadian Coastal Wolf is said to have “one paw in the forest and one paw in the sea” which is a saying that deeply resonates with me. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and spending a lot of my adulthood in Oregon, Washington and even British Columbia I have always been partial to the coastal forests. Even more so being a man of the sea who had a career in the U.S. Coast Guard I have a passionate love of the sea. I resonate so deeply with these Wolves on so many levels from their diet to their lifestyle that it is almost overwhelming at times when I get to see new footage taken of them in their coastal environment on the coast of Canada.

The Canadian Coastal Wolf is so unique that they get their own classification as a sub-species of the Gray Wolf. So now I am going to load you with a tone of great resources of articles, documentaries and books I highly recommend you browse through. This species of Wolf is so unique and special yet very few are aware of them and their essential part in the balance of the Canadian coastal environment. Sadly they are in danger of hunting and humans encroaching upon their environment. It for me and others so important these Wolves are protected and their feeding grounds be preserved so that the Sea Wolves can carry on with many generations to come.

The amazing sea wolves of the Great Bear Rainforest By Ziya Tong

The wolves eat the brains” says William Housty. If you’re walking along the creek beds of the Great Bear Rainforest and see decapitated salmon scattered about, it’s a tell-tale sign that sea wolves have been in the area. “They just take a bite take out of the head, and everything else is left fully intact.” This unusual feeding strategy has evolved among the coastal wolves that live in and around Bella Bella, B.C. 

First, sea wolves — or marine wolves as they’re also known — are fast, powerful swimmers. Housty remembers an encounter he and his father once had while boating: “We looked ahead of us and we could see something in the water. We couldn’t tell what it was, but it was moving. As we got closer, it was actually two wolves swimming across the channel.” One reason the wolves are tricky to spot, is because they move stealthily in the water, their backs and bodies submerged, and with only their eyes, ears and snouts peeking above the surface.

The wolves aren’t just dog paddling, either; they’re distance swimmers. There is at least one pack on Goose Island off the coast, about 13 kilometres from Bella Bella, and there is no other way to get there except to swim. We also know that the wolves aren’t sedentary. Many of them migrate through the archipelago, swimming from island to island throughout the year. At times, they’re tracking the salmon, but other times they show up even when there’s no salmon to be found. That’s because sea wolves have a diverse diet. A recent study found that it can be up to 85 per cent marine-based: lone wolves take down seals and otters, while packs have been spotted feasting on the occasional whale carcass. The carnivores also, surprisingly, eat shellfish. Using their paws, they dig in the sand for clams, and use their powerful jaws to crack open the shells of mussels. As for the remaining terrestrial diet? Like their larger mainland counterparts, the timber wolf, sea wolves also hunt moose and black-tailed deer. SOURCE

Canadian Coastal Wolf going for a swim

Unfortunately as far as books regarding Sea Wolves there are only two I know of and one of them I recently ordered from Canada which I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. The one I do have is absolutely fantastic which is called The Sea Wolves: Living Wild in the Great Bear Rainforest. This book is filled with stunning photography and wonderful detailed information about these special Wolves. The two men responsible for this excellent book are Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. Ian is and award winning photographer and filmmaker as well as a co-founder of a great organization called Pacific Wild which supports the protection and preservation of the Canadian coastal environment. Nicholas Read is a life long lover of animals and a retired journalist and was an instructor at Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I absolutely love having this book as a part of my library.

The other book which I am eagerly waiting for can be found on Pacific Wild’s website store which is The Last Wild Wolves by Ian McAllister and you can get your copy HERE.

My Recommended Documentaries

I really enjoy documentaries of many different subjects but to find some all about my beloved Sea Wolves is fantastic. Below are three videos I thoroughly enjoy and are a part of my online video collection.

This wildlife mini documentary follows the daily life of one wolf pack as they fight to survive along the wild west coast of Canada. Some of the most secluded beaches of British Columbia are home to a unique wolf species that has evolved to gather their sustenance from both land and sea. Call of the Coastal Wolves follows a group of filmmakers over a two week expedition as they endeavor to film the elusive wolf. This short film asks us to reflect on our impacts to the natural world as we witness these compassionate, loving animals that deserve more attention and respect.
In the towering rain forests along the northern shores of the Pacific, scientists recently discovered a new subspecies of the gray wolf. Unlike its genetic kin anywhere else in the world, this wolf swims, fishes for salmon and roams great distances from island to inlet across both water and rough terrain.
An introduction to the wolves of the coastal rainforest

Further Resources

Moving like ghosts along the shoreline, these wolves forage for their meals and can swim miles between islands and rocky outcrops to feast.

The Extraordinary Sea Wolves

Meet the Rare Swimming Wolves That Eat Seafood

Biodiversity: Coastal Wolves

The Coastal Wolves of British Columbia

These Rare “Sea Wolves” Have Researchers Utterly Captivated

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Cernunnos – The Celtic Horned God

The Celtic God Cernunnos is a god I feel is somewhat neglected and even misunderstood in modern times by many even though he is a very important and powerful God of the Celtic pantheon. Also I have a few friends who work closely with the Horned God and I myself have studied much about him as well as created things dedicated to him. So with that said I felt it was important to put together this post regarding Cernunnos.

Cernnunos Sleeps

The Old God sleeps

down in the dark, moist,

odorous underfoot,

Waiting for us

To put down our roots.

Cernnunos Sleeps by C. Hue Bumgarner-Kirby

At the Sacred Centre, in the Grove of all Worlds, He sits with legs crossed beneath an ancient Oak. Entranced, connecting the three worlds Earth, Sea, and Sky, and the worlds behind the worlds, the god and the Great Tree are One, His immense limbs widespread, stretching into distant sky and starry space.

His massive trunk, spine of the Middleworld, is the heart of the Ancient Forest around which all Life, all worlds turn; His limitless root web growing deep into secret earth and Underworld; above him the great turning circles of Sun, Moon, and Stars. All around Him subtle movements of the leaves in melodious, singing air; everywhere the pulsing, gleaming Green awash in drifts of gold and shimmering mist; beneath Him soft moss creeping over the dark, deep, moist of spawning earth. At His feet is the great Cauldron from which the Five Rivers Flow.

Through the forest stillness they come, whispering wings and secret glide, rustling leaves, and silent step, the first Ancestors, the Oldest Animals, to gather around Him: Blackbird, Keeper of the Gate; Stag of Seven Tines, Master of Time; Ancient Owl, Crone of the Night; Eagle, Lord of the Air, Eye of the Sun; and Salmon, Oldest of the Old, Wisest of the Wise leaping from the juncture of the Five Springs. He welcomes them and blesses them, and they honour Him, Cernnunos of the nut brown skin and lustrous curling hair; the god whose eyes flash star-fire, whose flesh is a reservoir of ancient waters, His cells alive with Mystery, original primeval essence. Naked, phallus erect, He wears a crown of antlers limned in green fire and twined with ivy. In his right hand the Torq of gold, testament of his nobility and his sacred pledge; in his left hand the horned serpent symbol of his sexual power sacred to the Goddess. Cernnunos in His Ancient Forest, His Sacred Temple, His Holy Grove, Cernnunos and His children dream the Worlds. Continue reading HERE.

Cernunnos from the Pillar of the Boatmen, in the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris, France

Cernnunos Chant

‘Cern-nu-noh-oh-oh-oh-os

Stag Horned Hunter, Hunted One

Join Us Now

Cer-nu-noh-oh-oh-oh-os

Greenwood Lord of Life and Death

Join Us Now

Cern-nu-noh-oh-oh-oh-os

Herne and Pan and Every Man

Join Us Now’

Who is the Horned God?

Cernunnos – Celtic god of forests, wild animals, vegetation, virility, and fertility

Cernunnos Celtic God: 8 Ways to Work with the Horned God

Faces of the Horned God: Cernunnos

ΚΑΡΝΟΝΟΥ: to CARNONOS