Creature Feature – Owls in Folklore

Posted by  //  October 17, 2019  //  Articles, Creature Feature

It’s almost Halloween… a perfect time to learn how owls have been steeped in superstition and folklore around the world.  Ancient Romans believed that an owl’s presence was a portent of imminent doom, and the early Christian church branded owls as a sign of demonic possession.   In many cultures, owls were a sign of death: to see or hear an owl hooting meant someone would die (photo is of a Barred Owl, nicknamed a “hoot owl”).  Some Native American tribes believed that witches shape-shifted into owls that flew silently over people, casting wicked spells on them.  For the Apaches, to dream of an owl meant death was coming. Other tribes wore owl feathers to acquire its powers of stealth and night vision, while people in India simply ate owl eyes to improve their sight.  In parts of Africa, the owl was thought to carry messages between shamans and the spirit world. A Polish legend claimed that married women turned into owls when they died. Similarly, Australian Aborigines believed that owls were the sacred spirits of dead women.   One amusing bit of English folklore claimed that if you walked in circles around an owl in a tree, it would eventually wring its own neck as it rotated its head around and around to watch you. Have a hoot this Halloween!

Article & Photo by Margie Manthey

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