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The Symbolic Meaning of Owls

Lady Saoirse
By Lady Saoirse
November 29, 2021
The Symbolic Meaning of Owls
The Symbolic Meaning of Owls

Have you ever wondered what the significance of owls in dreams are? The owl has a powerful meaning to both Celtic and Native American people. If the owl is significant to you, join us to learn about the meaning of owls, owl symbolism and different owl dream meanings.

What Does an Owl Symbolize?

owl symbolize

More than just a beautiful creature that helps control small, seemingly harmful critters, owls are considered spiritually significant creatures. They bring plenty of magic and deeper supernatural meaning to the people who encounter them.

People hold different beliefs about owls and their meanings, and they are as varied as how many different kinds of owls there are!

Great Horned Owl Symbolism

horned owl

The majestic great horned owl has some of the largest eyes compared to many other animals, and their amber gaze seems to be filled with all the magical wisdom in existence. Indeed, great horned owls symbolize secrets and the mysterious. 

This is partially because their feathers camouflage so well, making it difficult to see them. They are believed to carry hidden sacred and metaphysical wisdom, which they reveal when you see them. They are believed to help people hide themselves, helping them become invisible!

Zuni warriors believed this so strongly that they carried their feathers to give them the ability to be unseen and unheard when they needed to be.

Screech Owl Symbolism

screech owl

Screech owls represent warning signs. They may be alerting you of danger, or impending disaster, but one thing is for sure, when you hear the call of a screech owl, it’s giving you notice to pay attention!

Screech owls also represent love. They are a rare owl species because they are monogamous, and co-parent, rather than the female doing it all on her own. Seeing or hearing two screech owls could mean that you are about to enter a wonderful romantic partnership, or that your current mate is right for you!

White Owl Symbolism

white owl

What does a white owl mean? The Hindu goddess Lakshmi’s mount, or animal she rides, is a white barn owl. Both the owl and the goddess symbolize wealth, wisdom, prosperity, and good luck to her devotees.

What an owl symbolizes can be good things in the form of blessings or the presence of the goddess herself. White owls can be bringing these blessings to you or acting as the eyes of Lakshmi, watching over you and bringing good things.

Black Owl Symbolism

black owl

What does a black owl symbolize? If you see a black owl, it is telling you to delve deep into yourself, exploring hidden parts of who you are. What behaviors, habits, and tendencies do you have that you are least proud of and want to hide from people?

A black owl is telling you to harness the power of those things and use them to your benefit. Our greatest weaknesses are often our greatest strengths, and by taking control of those things, you will become the best version of yourself.

Owl Dream Meanings

dreams of owls

What does it mean to see an owl in a dream? Owl dream meanings can be mysterious, and might take some time to understand. You may have to sit in meditation or wait for another dream to clarify what message an owl has brought to you.

There are ways to try and figure out what the dream message is. What does an owl do, and what does an owl look like in the dream? Sometimes, it’s baby owls visiting, other times, it’s white owls.

Sometimes, the owl’s species can let you know what the owl is communicating. In other instances, what the owl physically does in the dream helps with owl dream interpretation.

Baby Owl Dream Meaning

baby owl

What do dreams of owls mean when the owl is a baby? Many times, when you dream of baby animals, it indicates new beginnings. Sometimes, the baby owl symbolism might mean that you will undergo a learning process.

Like babies are reliant on those who care for them, you will be temporarily dependent on somebody to help guide you through whatever it is you are learning. Don’t worry, though, because you will master this new skill in time!

Owl Sitting in a Dream

dream owl sitting

What does the owl represent in your dream if it’s sitting down? Simply put, the symbolism of an owl sitting in your dream is that it’s time to take a break and rest. Sometimes we have to be reminded that resting and stepping away to reset our minds, will help restore our energy and make us more productive in the end.

If we work ourselves into exhaustion, we won’t be able to see what it is we are working towards, and we can’t concentrate on what we are doing well enough to accomplish anything meaningful.

Owl Swooping in Your Dream

owl swooping

What does it mean if you dream of an owl that’s swooping? What owls represent in dreams when they are swooping is they are telling you to rely on your abilities of observation and then take action based on what you can tell is happening! 

Like an owl that watches and waits and then acts, so should you. Seizing opportunities is what an owl is telling you to do when you see it swoop in a dream, and the swooping owl symbolism is also telling you to take what is rightfully yours. Don’t wait when you are gifted your chance, swoop in and take it!

White Owl Dream Interpretation

white owl

What does a white owl symbolize and most importantly, what does it mean when you see a white owl in a dream? Dreams of white owls can mean a number of things, they can signify purity, and honorable intentions. It can also represent wisdom. Here’s one of the most famous owl quotes:

“A wise old owl lived 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?”

One white owl dream meaning is to be silent and listen, just as the rhyme says! 

Why do owls represent wisdom? Because they are silent, and they choose to observe and learn instead of speaking. Seeing a white owl in a dream, most especially dreaming of seeing white owls at night, should take place in your personal spaces.

Sometimes, the white owls in dreams could be telling you to gather with like-minded individuals. For others, the meaning of white owls in dreams is that they are telling you to go be your best at the things you thrive at. White owl dream interpretation can also be of beauty and elegance, encouraging you to take pride in your own unique physical attributes.

Owl Signs in Dreams

owl signs

What does an owl in a dream mean when you don’t actually see the owl, but just signs of it? The meaning of owl signs in dreams varies by what specific sign you are being given. Owl feathers in a dream represent silence and invisibility, and the owl is leaving a bit of that ability with you for when you need to use it.

In dream interpretation, owls, or any other birds’ nests represent home, safety, security, and feeling loved and nurtured. If an owl’s nest beckons you in a dream, it’s telling you to find comfort at the place you feel most secure. If you are not there in your life, the owl’s nest is telling you to make it a priority to get there as soon as possible!

Watcher Owl in Dream Meaning

watcher owl

If an owl is watching you in a dream, it’s probably the spirit of an ancestor watching over you protectively. As owls are believed by many to represent the dead, some believe the spirits of deceased loved ones can be inside an owl that is visiting you. 

Some people believe owls are bad omens, and that death will come to you. Sometimes an owl watching you in a dream is a warning that death is near, but that doesn’t mean it’s your death.

The owl may be putting you on notice to make sure you are on good terms with all your loved ones and that you are keeping in touch with them. You never know when one of them will pass away, and you don’t want to regret not telling them how much you love them.

Owls Speaking Dream Meaning

owls speaking

When an owl speaks to you in a dream, it can mean a number of things. What does an owl say to you in the dream? The message might be clear, or more symbolic. In general, when an owl speaks words to you in a dream, it is giving you a message, so you should listen.

Also, what does an owl look like as it speaks? Does it look like an owl from nature, or is its appearance more mystical looking? A more mystical looking owl may be delivering spiritual meanings, while an owl that looks more like an actual animal owl may be giving messages about mundane issues relating to your life.

One thing is certain, as dream symbols, owls are creatures of the mysterious, and they reveal hidden truths, so pay attention if you are lucky enough for an owl to visit you in a dream.

Other Owl Meanings

Celtic Owl Meaning

celtic owl meaning

What does an owl mean spiritually to Celtic people? Some say the owl is an animal representation of the Cailleach, a powerful Celtic mother goddess who rules in Winter, and transforms into the beautiful Brigid to rule Summer.

The owl represents death, and the Cailleach touches her staff to the ground, freezing it, or killing it for winter. In some tales, she is called Beria, and she washes her plaid in the treacherous Gulf of Corryvreckan in Scotland and when she has finished, it is pure white, and she blankets the Earth with it. As a sacred representation of the goddess as well as a creature associated with death, the owl was considered both terrifying and powerful.

The owl was seen as an animal of the night and the underworld, who was connected with the ancestors. There was both love and devotion to their ancestors, and fear of some of them among the Celts.

On Samhain night, roughly around Halloween time, the Celts would burn fires and carry iron to ward off the dead, believing that they would haul the living away with them. Many of today’s Celtic people are no longer devotees of these ancient Pagan goddesses and gods, and they may see the owl as just another animal. Today’s Celtic neo-Pagans still consider the owl to be connected with the powerful Mother Cailleach.

Native American Zodiac Owl Meaning

zodiac owl meaning

In recent years, some new age communities have invented totem zodiac animals, and the owl sign birthdates are listed as different ones by different sites. In general, they go from about November 22 or 23 until December 21.

This system states people born during these dates are energetic, determined, positive thinkers, and good leaders. Some sites say if you were born in the Northern Hemisphere, your dates to be an owl are November 22 through to December 21, but if you were born in the Southern Hemisphere, your dates are May 21 through June 20.

The owl birth totem will be yours through family lineage in Northwest Coast Native American traditions. Theirs is not a system like the Greco-Roman zodiac that ascribes a zodiac sign to everybody.

These people’s family name and crests embody whatever animals they feel are their family’s power animals, and massive totem poles are still used to adorn their homes and are a great source of pride. The owl totem animal for them embodies not only their family, but their personal connection with the animal.

While it is true a lot of non-Native Americans look to them for wisdom and guidance, it is important to remember that while learning what they are kind enough to share, one cannot become Native American if they are not born as such.

So, owl symbolism for a Native American family will be entirely different from what it is for a non-Native American family or individual. When it comes to totem animals, owl or otherwise, the term “totem animal” is used interchangeable with “spirit animal” by many, but this is not to be confused with Native American family clan animals.

Owl Native American meaning also varies by tribe. Some tribes don’t have clans distinguished by totems, but believe in powerful spiritual owl meaning. Aztecs and Mayans believed owls delivered messages to the living from the gods, and Passamaquoddy myths speak of owls as boogeyman types that would punish children if they misbehaved! 

One of their stories tells of one flying away with two girls! Apache stories tell of a “Big-Owl” spirit that can transform into a human at will and carries away misbehaving children!

Native American Owl Feather Meaning

owl feather

Despite some tribes believing owls are terrifying spirits, some other tribes see power in their feathers. What the feathers of owl symbolism means for some tribal people is the power of the owl will reside in those feathers, and anybody who is lucky enough to be gifted them will be given some of that power.

There are rules as to who is allowed to own which feathers, so don’t expect to go out and buy whatever owl feathers you desire. You are also not allowed to just gather found feathers of certain species. Laws are in place to protect birds from poaching, and it’s in their best interest.

To gain use of owl feathers, you need permits and can find information about where to apply here: The Feather Atlas - Feather Identification and Scans - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory (fws.gov)

The mystical, shamanic, or prophetic meaning of owls may be that they are your power animals or that they are delivering messages from your ancestors. They may visit you in dreams if you are lucky, and culturally, they may be symbols of your family or a goddess you venerate.

Flying Owl Meaning

flying owl

Do owls fly at night or daytime to bring messages to people? Some people believe they do. Seeing an owl flying symbolizes messages and wisdom. If an owl appears to you often, it’s telling you to listen to your intuition and gut, because you know the answers to life’s questions within you already. They may even be blessing you with some of their wisdom.

Seeing owls land near you, is a little more upfront, and they are specifically delivering something directly to you. They can bring messages about the death of someone you know, but they can also be letting you know that you’re about to undergo some changes in your life, and maybe even a major transformation. 

Change terrifies a lot of people, so this is sometimes seen as bad luck being delivered, but the owls don’t create the change. They are the messengers alerting you what is about to happen.

Dead Owl Meaning

dead owl

Possibly the most fascinating meaning of owls is seeing a dead owl. If you’re seeing a dead owl, the omen is telling you that you will avoid a disaster. Ancient Romans put dead owls on their doorways to chase off bad luck and danger.

We can’t recommend attaching a dead animal to your front door, however if the Romans are to be believed, the meaning of an owl at your house is a talisman or charm to ward off bad things and keep the home and inhabitants safe.

The Meaning of Owls in Your House

owl in your house

Speaking of owls at your house, we ask, is an owl in your home good or bad? An owl carries all blessings or messages when it comes into your house. On the other hand, it is considered bad luck if you harm the owl. 

If it doesn’t leave on its own, call your local wildlife center to safely carry the bird back outdoors where it belongs. An owl at home can be used for protection in the form of an owl statue, much like a scarecrow. 

They can be purchased at your local hardware store or online at sites like this: Dalen Great Horned Owl Scarecrow Bird Prevent in the Animal & Rodent Control department at Lowes.com

Seeing an Owl During the Day Meaning

seeing an owl

Seeing an owl in the day can have a different meaning than seeing owls at night. It’s less common to see what some would consider a “shy” owl in the daytime. This is because most of them hide out, sleeping in the day to be awake and active in the night.

Your morning owl sighting will either be considered lucky or a warning of bad times to come. The meaning of seeing an owl in daylight is considered a rare, lucky sighting by some people. The well-hidden owl in daylight, when it’s spotted by your keen eyes, can mean that you will be blessed with wisdom, or that hidden truths will not elude you.

However, the meaning of seeing an owl during the day for some people can be bad. Owl sightings in the daytime can be a sign that you will experience a death!

Seeing an Owl at Night Meaning

owl at night

Another meaning of owls is seeing an owl at night. You are far more likely to see an owl at night than during the day. If you are lucky, in silence and the stillness of the night, you might see an owl flying. You might be seeing them on the hunt or travelling from place to place. 

What does seeing an owl at night mean as opposed to during the day? They may be bringing you good luck, or alerting you that you will receive some message from the spirits or messages about impending death.

Some superstitions believe seeing or hearing an owl at night means your child will become a worker of malevolent magic, or that the owl is warning you that a baby is about to die. In the Middle Ages, it was also believed that any animal active at night such as owls, cats, and wolves were in league with the devil, and people killed them on sight.

Far from being evil creatures, owls are valued by some cultures like indigenous Aboriginal Australians, who believe owls are the souls of women who have died, and are thus sacred.

Owls and Divination

owls and divination

The wise owl who sees secret things can impart their sacred wisdom on seekers and can bring energy for readings in divination. The symbol of an owl can show up in owl tarot cards. An owl in a coffee cup reading, or the shape of an owl being in left over coffee grinds after finishing Turkish coffee can be alerting you to tap into your inner wisdom. 

There are many kinds of owl cards available in various decks. One such deck is called the Fauna Inspiration Mini Deck, and this small deck is sized to travel with you wherever you go! Each of the 57 cards included has beautiful artwork of a different animal on them.

You can buy your own copy here: MINI-DECK Fauna Inspiration 57 Cards Self-care Nature | Etsy

Owl Symbolism and Death

death owl

Much is said about how owls supposedly announce or symbolize death. Because owls are oftentimes seen taking down prey or eating prey, they symbolize death in many cultures.

However, while death can be terrifying, the owl does not bring death, but can portend it. Try not to worry, though, because the owl is just as likely to bring good luck and wisdom as messages that death is imminent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s an Owl?

owl

Owls are birds of prey, who mostly hunt at night. There are only about twenty different kinds of owls native to America, and over two hundred different kinds of owls worldwide. They live everywhere except the polar regions, and some remote locations. 

Owls range in size from the tiny sparrow sized Elf Owl that can be as little as five inches long to the enormous Blakistons Fish Owl that has up to a six-foot wingspan! 

Owls are meat eaters that like to hunt mice, other birds, rabbits, fish, squirrels, skunks, small cats and dogs, raccoons, bats, reptiles, insects, and amphibians, depending on their region and what’s available.

Is an Owl Good Luck or Bad Luck?

owl good luck or bad luck

An owl can be both good and bad luck. For individuals who call owls their spirit guides, they are most certainly good luck. On the other hand, an owl in your house can be bad luck if you subsequently harm the bird.

What Does an Owl Hooting Mean?

owl hooting

Scientifically, an owl hooting can mean different things, including that they are establishing or defending territory. The meaning of owl's hooting is also a form of communication between one another. Owls are most likely to hoot at night because this is when they are most active.

Listen to the beautiful range of owl calls in this video:

Owls of North America and their Calls - YouTube

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