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Owls: Wise or Evil?

Shara Burger | Wildlife

For as long as we can remember, throughout the world, owls have been regarded with fascination. Depending on where you are and what your cultural affiliations are different superstitions revolve around owls. In some cultures, they are thought to be the “wise old bird” that knows everything, but in other cultures, they are associated with death and witchcraft.

owl in tree

A wise old bird? 

  • The “wise old owl” character that many people believe in comes from an old English nursery rhyme, which suggests that listening more than talking is a valuable character trait. And so, the owl has become a sign of learning and mental change.  
  • The Ancient Greeks believed that owls had an inner light that allowed them to see at night and navigate their way in the dark. Their large eyes and solemn appearance lead to the belief in their wisdom. Athene, the goddess of wisdom, in Greek mythology, was often depicted with an owl at her side. 
  • The child-like appearance of an owl’s face means humans have a natural emotional connection to these birds, and as they turn their heads to stare at you it feels as though they are giving you their undivided attention. 
  • Some owls use dung to lure bugs into their burrows to feed on, this primitive form of tool use has helped create the idea of them being extremely clever and wise. 
  • Among Australian Aborigines, it is believed that owls are the spirits of women and therefore are sacred. It is also thought owls were the souls of people and shouldn’t be harmed because, if the owl was killed, the person whose soul the owl carried would also die.  

pair of owls

A symbol of evil? 

  • Most owls are nocturnal which tends to make them more mysterious and therefore associated with evil activities. At night, in the dark, when humans cannot operate at their most efficient most owls are at their optimum performance levels.  
  • Due to their appearance, they can seem quite scary at first. They have an upright stance, binocular vision, a large broad head, talons, and binaural hearing. 
  • Romans used to believe witches could turn themselves into owls, and in this form would come to suck the blood of babies. In other cultures, owls were simply the messengers of witches.  
  • Since the middle ages, many people have associated owls the death carriers or bringers of bad news. Even today in the Timbavati you will find most of our Tsonga team members regard them as purveyors of evil due to old, past superstitious beliefs. 

 The Truth….. 

Throughout history owls are viewed as powerful creatures in both the natural and spiritual worlds, their unique traits and abilities have given them a mythical status in many cultures. So, it seems that because there is so much superstition around them, owls can be considered either good luck or bad luck, depending on your belief system.




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