Monday, October 17, 2011

Owls and Omens

Human beings are very strange creatures.  One of the reasons we are so different to the other species inhabiting our planet is our persistence in prescribing reason or motives to things which don't necessarily have a reason or motive.

People have been doing this for thousands of years. Take the Aztecs for example -  the crops are failing, why are the crops failing? the gods must be unhappy with us, oh dear, perhaps if we sacrificed a virgin....?  Or maybe, just maybe, the crops are failing because there's been a drought or a plague of locusts or whatever.  You know, sometimes shit just happens.  There's no reason for it, it's just is the way it is.

Now even though I know this to be true, last night I saw a large white owl sitting on the street sign across the road from me.  It was a very large, very white, Harry Potterish type of owl.  Not the kind of owl you would see every day (if indeed, you are even lucky enough to see owls every day).  It sat on the street sign, facing me, blinking slowly.

It had been a particularly traumatic and nasty day on top of a particularly traumatic and nasty weekend.  As I sat outside after the kids had gone to bed and saw this owl blinking at me, I thought to myself "Hmmm, maybe this owl is an omen?  Maybe this owl is a sign that things are going to better or change or something?"

Why do human beings look for signs and omens in things?  Do we really believe the universe is trying to tell us something?  Why, if I see a white owl sitting on a street sign, would I have any reason to think it means anything at all?

Perhaps it's because I've been pre-conditioned to think that way about owls....

According to this very interesting website -

'Since the time of the ancient Greeks owls have been hailed as symbols of intelligence, yet they also have been feared and seen as signs of evil or death'  The idea of "wise old owls" and owl messengers can be found in ancient Greece.  Athena was firstly the goddess of darkness and later of wisdom, arts and sciences.  The owl was sacred and associated with her.  The association of owls with witches is centuries old - dating to at least the medieval period (about 500 to 1500 CE).  In those days, people believed that the owls and other animals associated with witches were evil spirits in disguise.'

I come from a very traditional Celtic background with strong roots in England, Scotland and Ireland. Places where those kinds of beliefs and legends about owls are strongly perpetuated.

Even the literature I have read has reinforced the belief that owls are somehow 'supernatural' or 'messengers/omen bearers'.

As a child I read Alan Garner's folk-lore books 'The Wierdstone of Brisingamen' and 'The Moon of Gomrath' which feature owls as messengers.  Garner's fourth book 'The Owl Service' is based on the legend of the mythical Welsh figure of Blodeuwedd, a woman who is created from flowers by a Welsh wizard.  She betrays her husband Lleu, in favour of another, Gronw, and is turned into an owl as punishment for inducing Gronw to kill Lleu.  I have not read this book but it's obvious Alan Garner has a thing for owls.

Another 'owl' book which I have NEVER been able to get out of my mind is 'I Heard the Owl Call My Name' by Margaret Craven.  If you have not read this book, do yourself a favour and get hold of a copy.

In the story, a young Anglican priest who is dying (but unaware that he has not long to live) is sent to a Native Indian settlement in British Columbia as a missionary.  The native people believe that if you hear an owl call your name, death is imminent.  It is a simple but life changing story about life, death and mortality.  Again, in this book, the owl is the messenger.

And then we have JK Rowling's owls (Hedwig & co.), who act as a kind of postal service in the Harry Potter books.  JK Rowling studied both ancient Greek and Roman literature and no doubt this influenced her to make owls the messengers of wizards.

So there you have it, through literature I have been pre-conditioned to think of owls as messengers or bearers of tidings.  And not only that, I've been pre-conditioned to think owls as being wise, wiser somehow than all the other birds.  Wise enough to hang out with wizards.  Owls are in the know, obviously.

Not only am I pre-conditioned to think of owls as messengers, I am also pre-conditioned to think of WHITE owls in that way.  If I had seen a brown owl sitting on the street sign, I probably would have thought 'wow, there's an owl.'  But this was a big white owl.

For centuries, people have believed that albino or pure white animals held special powers - take the unicorn for example.  Pure white or albino animals are much rarer than non-albino animals.  And this makes them seem special.  But the reality is, genetically, an albino owl is pretty much the same as a brown one.  It thinks the same, it eats the same, it flies the same, its just a different colour.  It cannot do magic and it certainly doesn't deliver cute little envelopes with nice messages from wizards.

In the end, I think human beings look for omens and signs as a means of hope....and as a method of abdicating responsibility......

Why hope?  Well, when we badly want things to change for the better, we sometimes imagine or believe we see omens and signs that are a 'secret message' from the universe that things ARE going to be better and its just around the corner....this gives us hope that things will actually change.

Why abdicating responsibility?  Well, believing the universe is conspiring to turn events to our favour is really leaving it in someone else's hands, rather than creating our own fortune.....people can either sit around waiting for the universe to deal them a better hand (I've been guilty of this myself) or get up and deal our own hand.

I suppose I would secretly like to think the owl was some kind of sign.....that sort of druidic, supernatural, 'message from the universe' thing appeals to my whimsical nature.  But, my logical mind tells me it was just a white owl sitting on a sign post with no rhyme or reason other than to eat big juicy moths under the street light.

What do you think?  I'd love to know.


  1. I have my own omens (lucky bus kthxbai anyone?) but really for me it's a way of resetting my mindset.

    I'm a big believer in the law of attraction. I'm living a fabulous life because I believe I'm living a fabulous life. I don't necessarily think it can be applied to physical things (illness etc) and of course we can't control other people's Behaviour and not should we. But I decide to be happy every day and I try to embrace the challenging along with the easy. Try being the operator word :)

  2. Hi just found your blog last night and now following . I think we all like to hope that somehow we will maybe get a sign, vision gut feeling whatever we want to call it if something maybe wrong or that something wonderful is going to happen. Just wish I could get one of those omens for the correct 6 numbers for lotto, no harm in trying. Have a great day my friend.

    Always Wendy

  3. This post has had me thinking.... I think that the 'universe' does give us signs. But, I think that we have all forgotten about our spiritual selves. I think that if something gives us the chills or resonates something within us, we have to find out what is behind it. I think it is good to get a reminder to get things in your life in order or to put something to rights. Life is too short.

    I am truly hoping that you get this message and that you were not hit by a bus or shot by an arrow through your heart! Unless a white owl is a GOOD sign - in which case I hope you found a ticket to Hawaii and a suitcase full of designer clothes in your size!

  4. Its so weird B, ever since I wrote that post, I have had so many strange little things happen that are starting to make me wonder if it was a sign after all! Its almost like the universe is shouting at me, not whispering :) Unfortunately none of those have involved a ticket to Hawaii OR designer clothes but I can wait lol.


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you taking the time xxx

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