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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Owls are Such a... well, Hoot!

I love Owls. One of my favourite movies is Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. There are two families (True Owls; Great-Horned, Snowy and Barn-owls or Tytonidae) and many different subspecies, but they all have something in common. There is something, I don't know, otherworldly about them. The Greek goddess, Athena (Minerva in Roman mythology) was represented by the owl. They are creatures of the night that fly on silent wings in search of nocturnal rodents and insects. But, it's their nocturnal lifestyle that has given rise to negative symbolism by several cultures. The Kikuyu of Kenya believed owls to be harbingers of death and it was thought if one saw or heard an owl, someone was going to die. The Hopi Native Americans believed the birds were associated with sorcery and other evils. The Aztecs and Maya saw them as symbols of death and destruction. The Aztec god of death, Mictlantecuhtil was often depicted with owls and the Mexicans have this saying: Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere. "When the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies." The Mayans described owls as messengers from Xibalba, the Place of Fright. The Hočągara (Winnebago Native Americans of Wisconsin)believed owls were messengers and harbingers of death. It is said when they killed enemies in the sanctuary of the chief's tent, an owl appeared and said, “From now on, the Hočągara will have no luck.” That marked the decline of the tribe. When one appeared the only female Hočąk chief, Glory Of The Morning, and spoke her name, she died not long afterwards. The Cherokee believed the birds were bad omens and that if one flew over you during the day, a family member or loved one would pass away in the coming week. Misbehaving children were told "the owl will get you." Even in Arab culture, owls were considered bad omens.

Despite all of these negative connotations the owl is associated with good things. The owl was the mount for the Hindu goddess, Lakshmi and in much of western culture, they symbolize wisdom. The Greeks associated the owl with the goddess Athena (Minerva). The appearance of the owl determines its connotation in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. If the owl doesn't have ears, (like the Barn-owl), it is a sign of bad omens, but if it has ears (like a Great-horned), it is seen as a symbol of wisdom.

Bad Owl: Barn-owl

 Good Owl: Bengalese Eagle Owl, native to India.

Owls are also the provincial bird for three of my country's provinces. 

Alberta has the Great-Horned Owl:

Manitoba has the Great Grey Owl:

and Quebec as the Snowy Owl:

The owl is one of my favourite birds (my favourite is the Peregrine Falcon) for many reasons. They are mysterious, they are excellent hunters and they only come out at night. They are silent, swift and beautiful. Some look intimidating; the Great-Horned has a hard look to it. Others are darn-right cute, like Tito (barn owl) and Elf Owl.

Everybody, meet the adorable Elf Owl!

This love has spilled over into my jewellery.

That's three necklaces (not including the Elephant), and a pair of earrings. I also have a ring with an owl on it, as well as a large gold necklace that belonged to my mother, but they weren't present for the photo.

Whether you believe that owls are harbingers of bad luck or that they are symbols of profound wisdom is your own prerogative. Their mystery and otherworldly qualities are what fascinate me most. The fact that they are back in fashion makes me happy. I love owls and those accessories are my way of showing it. The birds are beautiful and every species is special. Every owl is special. Every last one of them.