Owl – Spirit Animal, Totem, Symbolism and Meaning

Owl is the guardian of ancient lore, an old soul able to see things hidden deep down in the realm of Unknown and far beyond our consciousness and comprehension.

These extraordinary big eyed birds are some of the spiritually and magically strongest and the most powerful animals; they are ascribed many incredible abilities and mystical skills.

It is commonly believed owls possess great wisdom and insight, probably because of their tranquility, steadiness and those clever big eyes.

Owls are by far some of the most powerful spirit animals, believed to possess many magical properties and ability of clairvoyance, deep insight, fortune telling and other;

Many people believe owls are able to predict events before you could even imagine them to happen. They are somehow given the ability to understand the mysteries of the world, many cultures believe.

Owls are commonly associated with death, as well, but this interpretation is often misunderstood. This interpretation originates from Roman period and it was the strongest during Medieval Age.

These birds are not a symbol of death, but they have special connection with the Other side and afterlife. For example, Chinese believe owls are guardians of afterlife realm.

It is incorrect to believe owls represent death itself. These animals are associated with afterlife and depicted as guardians of deceased, not as a bad omen or a herald of death;

This nocturnal creature has always been associated with magic and mystery. Interpretations vary and are often in opposition.

Therefore, some people still think of owls as bad luck and spirits that announce death and other misfortunes, while others think of them as fortunate sign and a powerful protection against evil spirits.

One of the most notable examples of positive owl symbolism originates from Greek mythology. Let us discover how owls are portrayed in different traditions around the world and what those beautiful birds symbolize.

Cultural and symbolic owl meaning

Owls are nocturnal and mysterious birds that have been fascinated people ever since. These impressive looking creatures, with specific body characteristics and remarkable faces surely catch an eye.

People have been worshiping them, but also been afraid of these ‘wings of the night’. No strange at all that owls have been always associated with things that are secret, dark, even deadly or threatening.

However, not all cultural and mythological interpretations are bad, although identifications of owls with death and darkness still prevail amongst many people.

Beliefs, superstitions and interpretations of owls’ symbolism vary greatly. Opinions are often opposing one another, because people admire owls, but at the same time, they are afraid of their mystical powers;

Owls are commonly associated with magic, witchcraft and all other forms of using supernatural forces or communicating with energies and entities that are out of our world.


It is often believed owls could communicate with deceased persons or carry messages from the underworld to our material, physical realm.

Different traditions around the world identify owls with mystery, but also with wisdom, medicine, life and birth.

Guardians of the Underworld

In several of great and influential traditions and belief systems, owls are associated with death and darkness, but not necessarily in a negative manner.

Having in mind that cults of ancestors were important to many ancient societies, we could only assume owls are seen as messengers or guardians of afterlife dimension.

They are not believed to be spirits that announce death, but spirit animals that help us stay in mystical connection with our deceased ones or with forces that rule life and death.

In ancient traditions, such as Egypt, Celtic folklore and Hindu culture, owls are considered to possess special magical powers that allow them to travel between our world and the Underworld;

In traditions mentioned, owls symbolize our bonds with immaterial, spiritual world, particularly Underworld. They are believed to be guardians of the dead, not heralds of death itself, which is a common misinterpretation of owls’ symbolism.

Owls’ connection with forces of death and darkness unfortunately made people think negative of those incredible nocturnal animals. Actually, owls represent the following.

They are:

  • Guardians of afterlife realm
  • Messengers of mystical entities
  • Protectors of souls of deceased
  • Rulers of the night

Nocturnal aspect of owls surely has a great influence on how owls’ symbolism could be interpreted. For those traditions we talk about, this nocturnal aspect is considered rather sacred and divine, than dark, evil or malicious.

For example, Egyptians believed owls protect and guide souls of deceased people to their afterlife, securing them safe journey and arrival to their new residence.

Keepers of wisdom

In other traditions, owls represent wisdom, knowledge, patience, learning and intelligence. Their big eyes reflect all of mysteries of the world, unreachable to common mortals.

One of the most popular interpretations of owls as wisdom keepers originates from one of the greatest and richest cultures of human civilization, the Ancient Greece.

In Greek mythology, owls are believed to be loyal companions of Athens, one of the most powerful Greek deities.

Athens’ own fellow friend owl was simply called the Little Owl;

According to Greek mythology, goddess Athens chose big eyed owl to be her favorite animal and loyal friend. The goddess was so impressed by its wise shiny eyes that she could not help herself but to take the bird under her own protection.

From that time, owls had been respected and admired all over the Greek lands, in Athens particularly. Many owls live on Acropolis; Greeks believe they protect temples and that sacred ground.

Greeks believe mysterious lights that could be seen on Acropolis actually come from magical owls living there and protecting the temple;

An evidence of Ancient Greeks’ respect for owls can be seen on old Greek coins. Many of them have an owl motif on their backside. These coins were named after this symbolically powerful bird.

These were Athenian coins, drachmas, called glaukes in regular daily routine, which is Ancient Greek for ‘owls’.

Heralds of victory

Since owl is believed to be Athens’ loyal companion, these birds are identified with all characteristics ascribed to the goddess.

They symbolize wisdom, victory, protection and glory, as well. Ancient Greeks believed owls would follow Greek army and protect it during times of war, helping it defeat Greece’s enemies and achieve success and victory without much damage.

Ancient Greek soldiers thought of owls as a good omen. If they see an owl flying above their troops while they’re heading to battle, soldiers believed they will be victorious;

Owls’ positive symbolism was very strong in Ancient Greece. For example, during the battle against Carthaginians in early fourth century BC, several owls had flown through the armies ranks.

Soldiers thought of that incredible moment as a blessing coming from the mighty goddess of war herself.

Fortunetellers and predictors of death

Ancient Romans have some mixed interpretations of owls, combined out of other traditional beliefs. They also thought of owls as wise and mysterious creatures.

However, they strongly associated owls with prediction of death. They believed an owl’s call was an announcement of death. According to Roman stories, owls predicted deaths of several mighty Roman historical figures.

Roman legendary tales say deaths of Julius Cesar, Octavian Augustus, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Marcus Aurelius were predicted by owls;

This connection with death is not simply negative, but we could say it leans towards the ‘dark side’. Romans also thought if owls as protectors that guard people from evil forces.

They had a custom of hanging a dead owl above their doorstep, in order to prevent evil entering the house. Poor owls!

They also connected owls with battle luck; Roman soldiers believed owls’ behavior could predict if the army would be defeated or victorious, similar to Greeks.

Dark wings and black magic

While during antiquity owls were mostly respected, admired, even worshiped and adored, it had all changed once Dark Ages conquered Europe. It seems roots of such negativity originate from Roman tradition linking owls to death and darkness.

During medieval times, owls were more and more associated with death, black magic, darkness and witchcraft and, thus, considered evil and maleficent.

It was believed owls were shape shifters, meaning they were actually people who possessed mystical powers. They were thought to be witches and sorcerers, which was considered evil and dangerous;

One of the most notorious owls during Middle Ages was Tyto alba, beautiful white owl specie, simply called White owl or Silver owl, Demon owl, Church owl, the Owl of Death, Cave owl and so on.

Its white feathers reminded people of spirits and ghosts and its characteristic night call has always been scary to people.

Tyto alba, the White owl, was a great inspiration to English poets from medieval era, who used it as a motif representing death and misfortune. It was known as a ‘bird of doom’ by many of them;

Folklore medieval traditions often used owls to predict weather changes and to somehow control supernatural forces they believed to rule their lives.

Similarly to old Roman practice, people would hang a dead owl on a stick in front of the house, to chase away evil and prevent their homes from lightning strike.

There were thousands of superstitions about owls’ behavior and some of those still live on in traditional environment.

If you hear an owl while the weather is fine, it is a sign of a storm approaching and vice versa. If the weather is bad, an owl’s call means the sky will soon clear up;

Kawai Japanese owls and modern trends

Far Eastern cultures have a lot of respect towards animals, spiritual beings and forces of nature in general. Their conceptions are often different from Westerners’ and even opposite.

Japanese people love owls and these birds are a popular motif in modern and urban Japanese society. People love to wear owl pendants or key rings with an owl figurine.

It seems owls are just as popular in Japan and worldwide as ultimate kawaii symbol Hello Kitty is;

It seems owls have become popular over the past several years. They have regained people’s love and affection as a trendy and fashionable motif.

You surely have noticed owl motifs are literally everywhere: on clothes, accessories, home décor, all sorts of gadgets and stuff.

Today, owls are considered cute and even held as pets. Their popularity is reincarnated in a more material way.

They might have lost some of their spiritual magic, but these amazing birds win hearts of people from all around the world.

Owl symbolism and spiritual meaning summarized

Owls are powerful spirit animals. All interpretations agree these birds possess something enchanting and magical. They are connected to higher wisdom, deeper insight, realm of spirits and mystical forces.

Owls connect our material, physical world and abstract, spiritual universe.

They are messengers from the Other side, able to travel between such ‘dimensions’.

Spiritualists think of owls as good and positive beings, with an amazing aura.

  • Wisdom and higher knowledge
  • Connection with spiritual realm
  • Silence, intuition and insight
  • Night, death and mystery

In addition to all those traditional ideas about owls, spiritualists associate them with the power of silence, patience and with intuition.

Owls’ nocturnal behavior, along with already established beliefs about their ability to communicate realms beyond our comprehension, place owls amongst spirit animals that are the strongest symbols of intuition. Owls do not sing, but they make characteristic sounds during nighttime, which makes them symbol of silence.

As silence is needed for all things to start, owls could be seen as positive and life-giving symbols, as well.

Owl totem and spirit animal

Owl totem is highly intuitive and spiritual and it helps you get a better sense of your own self and the world you live in.

It is one of the few totem animals that have an incredible power of looking at world from a higher point of view. It teaches you to fully understand your place in universes of both material and spiritual things.

Owl people are some of the rare individuals who are able to almost fully comprehend both the bigger picture and their own micro cosmos within.

They have great wisdom and knowledge about the world, they are intelligent and intuitive.

  • Highly intuitive and have delicate senses

People born under Owl totem fully rely on their intuition and it turns out great for them in almost one hundred percent situations.

They really feel their environment and have sophisticated senses. Owl people are able to see through others’ intentions and even seem to have the ability to read peoples’ minds.

You should be careful in their presence, if you are trying to hide something. If you are an owl person, it is clear you are not easy to deceive or outsmart.

  • Wise and possess great knowledge

Owl people are naturally gifted with impressive IQ. They are good in almost everything they might be up to, because they want and love to learn new things and completely dedicate their thoughts and skills to their studies.

They are more of thinkers and spokespersons than physically engaging types.

Owl people are experts in many scientific fields and they could become great in different areas of academic work and so on.

They are rarely to be seen on leading positions, only because they do not like to overexpose themselves, but they are true ‘brains of operation’ in many cases.

  • Very spiritual and imaginative

It seems these rare and unique individuals have some special connections with the realm beyond our consciousness.

They could even be clairvoyant. These people love to deal with everything that has to do with spiritualism and magic.

It is amazing how they are able to incorporate so abstract ideas in their thorough and logical part of personality. It works excellent for Owls! Other people find them inspiring and fascinating.

  • Patient and focused

These individuals do not rush in making decisions or doing things. They are very patient, watchful, observant and careful.

They love to see every aspect of opportunities in front of them, as much as it is possible. That is the reason why they are calm and able to wait.

You could hardly provoke them, manipulate them or make them change their mind. They are stable and focused in their goals, a quality many people lack.

  • Calm and mysterious

Owl people are quiet. They do not seek attention or glory and yet they could become very popular. Generally, they are more introvert than open to other people, but they value true friendship, partnership and family.

They do not make thousands of friends, but enjoy company of few, carefully chosen ones.

People might find them mysterious and even weird, but they could hardly say anything bad about them. Their presence sooths others’ emotions and makes them feel tranquil.