“A wise old owl sat in an oak,
The more he saw the less he spoke,
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird.”~ Anonymous
I have been going for walks in a state park that is across the river from where I live. For the exercise, the fresh forest air and just to contemplate, clear my mind, get centered and recharge my batteries. There is a particular spot that I like to go to after getting my exercise of climbing up and down some stairs on a steep hillside. There is a hand-hewn bench on a switchback overlooking a ravine with a small stream running through it and various species of ferns covering the ravine walls. It is a very peaceful place. Whether, or not, you believe in “places of power”, I do. This is a place of power for me. This last Sunday morning I was sitting there on that bench, very quietly and being very still. Then, a shadow passed over me. I knew it was from an owl, for it made no sound as it flew overhead. They are known as the silent hunters. They are usually nocturnal creatures, so it is odd to run across them during the day. Then another one flew down to the stream. There were three, or four of them and they were screeching towards one another. I heard one that was pretty close to me, but, I couldn’t see where it was. Then, I spotted it; it was about five feet away from me perched on a Vine Maple limb and staring right at me. The depths of its blackened eyes piercing my very soul.
“Owls appear to be highly perceptive, their large eyes seeming to penetrate even darkness.” ~ “Owls of the World, their evolution, structure and ecology”, Edited by John A. Burton
It knew I meant it no harm. They were Barred Owls, and juveniles. I don’t believe they had been flying for all that long. It was quite the experience to be amongst them during the morning, almost as if they had accepted my presence there.
The Greek goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene (Athena) is symbolized by the little owl, (Athene noctua), and a coin was struck in her honor (see picture below). ~
Owls have been portrayed through the years as both, harbingers of bad tidings and benign messengers of good fortune. They have also been associated with prophecy and divination. Many Native Americans believe ‘owl energy’ creates chaos and portends tragic events. It is the owl that stealthily flies silently through the night and steals knowledge from the other animals. Yet, for the Hopi, the Burrowing Owl, known as Ko’ko, is sacred and is regarded as their God of the Dead, protector of the underworld and everything that grows in the earth. I do not remember what culture it is derived from, but, there is folklore that says if an owl lands on your roof, it means there is an impending death in the household and the remedy is to turn all the shoes in the house upside down.
Owls have also been associated with learning and scholarship and during the Middle Ages became symbols of clergy and alchemists. Merlin is said to have had an owl perched upon his shoulder often.
“The Carthaginians are said to have been routed in 310 B.C. by Agathokles, who released owls which settled on the helmets and shields of his men. Their self confidence was thereby increased.” ~ “Owls of the World,their evolution, structure and ecology”, Edited by John A. Burton.
Romans used representations of owls to combat ‘the evil eye’. The Ainu of Japan used wooden models of eagle owls during famines and nailed them to their houses to bring better fortunes. In parts of Australia owls were thought to guard the souls of women.
I choose to look at my encounter as one of goodwill. I have a tremendous respect for nature in whatever form it takes.