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Description: Animals as metaphors: The way of the Owl (awareness)

Go to the owl explanationThere are over 100 species of owls. The owl is a nocturnal bird that has great vision and hearing. Owls can adjust in an instant from a telescopic to microscopic focus. The pupils respond in a fraction of a second to very minute changes in light intensity. The owl's eyes are especially adapted to detect subtle movements. They also have light-sensitive cones and rods in the retina to help with this. Contrary to popular belief, the owl can see very well during the daylight. Even in the darkest night, with its acute eyesight an owl can pinpoint the exact location of its prey. Its hearing is just as keen as its eyesight. The ears are asymmetrical, and one ear is usually larger than the other. They are also located in different positions of the head. This dramatic asymmetry increases the perceptive auditory ability of the bird. The owl can see and hear what others cannot. Like humans, they blink by closing the upper eyelids, giving them a human expression that has added to their mysticism.
The owl is the bird sacred to Athene, goddess of wisdom. As her companion, Owl perched on her shoulder and revealed unseen truths to her. It had the ability to light up her blind side, enabling her to speak the whole truth. Owl was the guardian of Acropolis. It is the traditional attribute of seers, symbolizing their gift of second sight, exercised by their interpretation of omens. In Greek mythology the owl is represented by Ascalaphos, son of Acheron and the nymph of darkness. It was the owl which saw Persephone swallow the food of the Underworld (a pomegranate seed) and denounced her, thus removing whatever hope she had in escaping forever to the light of day. The owl is one of five totem animals central to British tradition, imparting the wisdom of objectivity and detachment. The Plains Indians believed that the owl had dominion over the night, hence owl feathers were used in some rituals. The owl may equally be regarded as a messenger of death and consequently ill omen. In the apocryphal Welsh tale of that name, the owl was one of the "Ancient Things in the World," replete with wisdom and practical experience.

The owl is associated with the mystery of magic, clairvoyance, omens, silent wisdom, and vision. It is a symbol of the feminine, the moon, and the night. It has been called a cat with wings. While humanity is afraid of the night, the dark and the unseen, the night is owl's friend. To the Pawnee it was a symbol of protection. The yellow coloring of the eyes is symbolic. It makes the eyes much more expressive, but it hints of the light of the sun, alive in the dark of night. Native Americans believe that one who works with owl medicine will be able to see and hear what others try to hide. According to Native Americans, if Owl is your personal medicine, no one can deceive you about what they are doing, no matter how they try to disguise or hide it from you.

The owl serves as the icon for awareness, the first element of heroism.


maphttp://www.ksu.edu/wwparent/programs/hero/hero-des-owl.htm--Revised June 15, 2005
Copyright © 1996-2005 Charles A. Smith. All rights reserved.