Thursday, July 05, 2007

From Nature to Myth: Owls and People

Owls spark people’s imaginations. These silent predators of the night both inspire and frighten people. For nighttime, when owls are most active, is also when magic is afoot. To many people, seeing these shadowy birds with their glowing yellow eyes is to experience the Other Worlds.
This worldwide Order of Birds ranges from tiny elf owl of North America to huge eagle owl of Eurasia. As predators, owls regard anything that moves as fair game. While elf owl eats insects, eagle owl feasts on deer. Because most owls fly at night, they occupy the same niche in the eco-system as hawks and eagles. Native Americans called the Owl Family “Night Eagles”.

Owls are divided into two families-True Owls (Strigidae) and the older family of Tytonidae, to which only barn owl and bay owl belongs. Barn owls can be thought of as the more ancient version of “Owl”. They do not hoot like true owls, but instead make a hoarse “Khurrew” noise. In addition, they have heart-shaped faces, longer beaks and heads, and forked tails. Barn owls live in Europe and the Western Hemisphere, and bay owls live in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. This makes the Barn Owl Sub-Family, one of the most widespread land birds in the world. The round-headed owls, that most people see, are from the larger Strigidae Family which contains 300 species.

Because so few birds are nocturnal and the majority of owls (Strigiformes) are, most people respected but distrusted them. The Japanese regarded barn owl and horned owls as demonic. In Borneo, Scops owls were thought of as ill omens to be avoided at all costs. The Romans believed that any owl sucked the blood of babies.

However, the ancient Greeks welcomed little owl as their Goddess of Wisdom’s Friend. In Hawai’i, Pueo (Hawaiian Owl) is a protector. As ‘Aumakau, Pueo is the ancestor guardian who watches over the family. Because barn owl saved Genghis Khan from his enemies, Mongolians revered her. Meanwhile, the Celts look upon tawny owl as one of the five oldest animals on earth.
For owl empowerments and other animal consultations:


Michelle said...

My husband has tawny owl around him. I've not been able to find much on them (as in myths and meanings), so your snippet on the celtic connection is very much appreciated! :-)

Va. Carper said...

I posted a new blog about tawny owl - November 2, 2007.