“Herald of the Battle Maiden,
I am the bright moon’s hawk.
I speak of many lives,
bring Wisdom from Blue Road to Red,
and teach you how best to walk.
Who hears all hidden messages?
Who knows Truth from Lie?
Who teaches the shifting of shape, and
warns of Reaper’s stroke with eerie cry?
Magic sifts from every plume,
as endless as Mother’s love.
Nothing remains hidden from my sight,
as I bring messages from Creator above.”
Who sings now?
“If I have been of service, if I have glimpsed more of the nature and essence of ultimate good, if I am inspired to reach wider horizons of thought and action, if I am at peace with myself, it has been a successful day.” Alex Noble
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places. Those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.” Roald Dahl
“Because of something told under the famished horn
Of the hunter’s moon, that hung between the night and the day,
To dream of women whose beauty was folded in dismay,
Even in an old story, is a burden not to be borne. " William Butler Yeats
There are over 200 species of Owl most of which are nocturnal and live solitary lives. Found everywhere in the world except Antarctica, Greenland and some remote islands, owls are a specialized member of the Raptor family, order Strigiformes, that is usually kept separate from it’s diurnal relatives. Owls have fixed forward-facing eyes with special facial disc feathers surrounding them, and they can turn their head 135 degrees in either direction for an extremely wide field of vision. Their binocular vision which is so keen in low light also makes them unable to see anything clearly within a few inches of their eyes. Their hawk-like beaks and mighty talons mark them unmistakably as Raptors.
As always, those drawn to this Teacher should try to determine which specific Owl is calling to them, as well as looking at any balancing energies like skunk (a favorite food of many owls), mouse, or squirrel. The diet will change with the species of Owl and some feed on other birds, reptiles, or even insects like earthworm, bee, or scorpion. Being a top predator, Owls have very few enemies other than Man. Although young owls can be snatched by foxes or snakes while nesting or learning to fly, and owls are often harassed by other birds like Crow, Blue Jay, and other Raptors. The Welsh story of Blodeuedd who was made from flowers to be the wife of Lleu ends with Blodeuedd being transformed into an Owl for her betrayal, condemned to be harassed and hated by all other birds. Several cultures have tales to explain this behavior.
“Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!” Woodsy the Owl
“The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.” Edward Lear
All birds are Messengers of the Spirit World, and each Owl will carry it’s own specific lessons for those who follow it. Screech Owls, for example, teach you how to be more vocal, to fearlessly express yourself yet still cooperate with others. Snowy Owls with their dramatic black and white coloring are especially adapted to the cold of Winter. They teach us how to stay alert through periods of transforming hibernation so that we may grow in the best way possible. They combine the mothering wisdom and compassion from the North direction on the Medicine Wheel with the transcending wisdom that comes from beyond the Void, our intuitive and emotional selves that rests in the West.
Through balancing our Earth and Water natures, Snowy Owl brings great visions and prophetic dreams. The European Eagle Owl would combine the lessons of Owl and Eagle to serve as a special messenger from Creator. I am still puzzling out an unexpected dream from more than a year ago in which a number of Eagle Owls (unknown to me at the time), suddenly appeared, each perched upon a Standing Stone bearing a message for me. This dream, just before Winter Solstice, was very vivid and completely silent until the final moment. While looking into the red amber eyes of one Owl and asking for their message to be made clear to me… this Owl cried out in a thunder-loud voice, waking me even as they all flew to me. After combing through all kinds of information on owls, I discovered that these special messengers had appeared in a form the European Eagle Owl, a species unknown to me until this powerful dream. For this article though, I will stick to another favorite of mine, the Great Horned Owl.
This is one of the most widespread of the Owls, and can be found from Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forest. As adults Great Horned Owls reach sizes between 18-25 inches in body, 40-57 inches in wingspan and 32-88 ounces in weight. They are easily recognized by their large ear tufts (which are not actually ears) giving them the “horned” appearance, and their plumage (which will vary with terrain) is a barred mixture of reddish brown, gray, black, and white with a white throat patch. They are feathered right down to their gripping talons. Females are larger than males, a common trait in Raptors as it is the female who guards the nest. Though smaller, the male has the deeper voice, and hoots more during the courtship. At first, the male keeps a distance of 45 to 60 feet, flying from branch to branch, bowing to the female. If she is somewhat unresponsive at first, he will bring her a gift of food. With eyes closed, she will accept the gift, the encouraged male moves closer, and they begin hooting and chirring at each other often spreading wings and bowing.
Owl courtship is actually quite vocal and amusing to watch. Eventually they will end side by side gently stroking each others feathers. Young produced will vary with breed, genetics and food supplies. A mated pair of owls may produce anywhere from 2 to 6 young at one time! Owls are shy and rather reclusive creatures that actually need to overcome their fear of another Owl in order to pair up! Owl people can be very similar in behavior; shy, quiet, solitary, but fiercely loyal and dedicated friends.
The favorite food of the Great Horned is the bold and confident Skunk, so those drawn to this Totem should take a close look at that Teacher as well. Great Horned Owls will also eat other Raptors, and they have kept the numbers of Osprey and the Peregrine Falcon in check in many areas. Their diet is primarily made up of small mammals like rabbits, rats, bats, shrews, weasels, gerbils, mice, squirrels, and even porcupines! They will eat amphibians, insects, and reptiles, but they often hunt larger prey like small deer, geese, great blue herons, opossums, raccoons, ducks, small dogs and cats! Fierce and fearless night hunters it is no wonder that they have so often evoked fear! In many cultures, to hear or see an Owl is a fearful visitation and a message of imminent death. I often wonder if this is where the concept of the Beansidhe (Banshee) began, and there are several tales which point in this direction.
“Peace and happiness are available in every moment.
Peace is every step. We shall walk hand in hand.
There are no political solutions to spiritual problems.
Remember: If the Creator put it there, it is in the right place.
The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.
Tell your people that, since we were promised we should never be moved, we have been moved five times.” ~an unknown Indian Chief, 1876
“O’ GREAT SPIRIT
help me always
to speak the truth quietly,
to listen with an open mind
when others speak,
and to remember the peace
that may be found in silence.” Cherokee Prayer
Whatever the reason, Owls are strongly associated with Death in many cultures. In Arabia the Owl is a bird of ill omen, an evil spirit that carries children off during the night. In ancient Sumeria the goddess of death, Lilith, was attended by Owls. Many Native Traditions also fear this Teacher as a harbinger of Death, a deliver of ill omens, curses, and view the Owl as the familiar of demons and evil witches (male or female). In some cultures people will not even name this bird, calling it by some other name like “the bird who makes you fear”. Not everyone views this mighty hunter with such fear and anxiety though.
In Afghanistani tales, Owl gave the gifts of flint and iron to man, the ability to make fire, and we gave the Owl his feathers. In ancient Babylon, Owl amulets were given to protect women during childbirth. Aborigines believe bats represent the souls of men, and owls the souls of women. A Belgium legends says that a priest offered Owl his church tower as a home if this fearsome hunter would keep the place free of the rodents who plagued it. Romanians believed the Snowy Owl was the soul of a repentant sinner flying off to heaven. And in China, the Owl is associated with lightning and thunder. Placing Owls at each corner of the home will keep it safe from lightning. It is also considered a symbol of too much Yang (positive, active and masculine energy).
While this Teacher may be warning of an actual physical death, it is important to remember that more often than not, She is telling us of a metaphorical Death which is a reason to rejoice. New life cannot begin without Death making way for it, and we cannot grow beyond our self-imposed limitations, habits or other harmful situations without first allowing for the death of that cycle. It is important for Owl people to remember that often the best lessons are unsought and rather painful, like most change. Resisting the motions of change will bring greater pain and perhaps even more profound troubles!
Owl people need to develop comfort with transition, learn to surrender “control” without resentment, and embrace the Life Lessons we encounter with trusting faith. Remembering that every change is an opportunity for growth, not a threat or punishment, is often a Big challenge! When we learn to meet Change in this positive way, we can become successful assistants to others facing this challenge. Death, after all, is just one portion of the motion that is Birth, Life and Rebirth.
“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?” Edward Hersey Richards
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:28
“Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen. For God speaks in the silence of the heart.” Mother Teresa
Where other birds have stiff feathers that make a whooshing sound when they fly, owl feathers have softened edges that allow them to fly in eerie silence. This is important for owls, and allows them to swoop down on prey without being heard. They fly low to the ground and pounce with a dazzling speed and strength. Silence is very important to Owl People. We value our alone time, and cherish quiet moments. It is important to set aside time in today’s busy world, to sit in silence and listen to all that is being told to us. If we are never silent, we are never listening, and if we do not listen, we cannot learn. The combination of Knowledge and Wisdom that Owl represents begins and ends with Silence. Only in the Silence can we turn within, and only there will we hear the voice of Creator most clearly.
“Now then, boy. Flying is not just some crude, mechanical process. It is a delicate art. Purely aesthetic. Poetry of motion. And the only way to learn it is to do it.” Archimedes the Owl, “Sword in the Stone”
“Where there is woman there is magic.” Ntozake Shange
“The magic begins in you. Feel your own energy, and realize similar energy exists within the Earth, stones, plants, water, wind, fire, colors and animals.” Scott Cunningham
“Let us be Diana’s foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon.” William Shakespeare
Owls have very strong connections to female energy, magic, the moon, and wisdom that are evident throughout history and in every culture. Perhaps it is their connection to the Moon, and goddess like Athena and Diana that strengthen these ties to the feminine and magic in general? Owls speak of feminine intuition, the Divine feminine, the cyclic nature of the Triple Goddess, all with the hidden 4th face that symbolizes Rebirth. Athena’s owl was her constant companion. It is the Owl’s great vision which allows it to see unerringly in the dark which gave this goddess the power to see through the surface to the truth in all things.
Owl Totem carries this same ability, and Owl people can often detect lies, see hidden truths, uncannily spot secrets, see beyond masks and elicit confidences, seemingly without any effort. Mature Owl people tend to keep confidences, although those less well-developed may find a bit of gossiping over their discovered secrets to be nigh irresistible. Balanced Owl people make excellent therapists and clergy members though, and Owls have been the helpmates of all manner of Medicine People in many cultures since time began. Owls, also known as Night Hawks, are the nocturnal compliment to daytime Hawks. The Great Horned Owl would be the counterpart for Red Tail Hawk, and they share the connection to creative energy, so it is wise for those called by this Owl to research both Redtail Hawk Totem and Kundalini energy. Like the Red Tail, following one’s Higher Calling, expecting harassment from others, walking your talk, and keeping an open connection to Creator is important.
Those who feel threatened, in competition or even jealous of an Owl Person will find it almost impossible not to mob them with negativity, criticism, and anything else they can think of that will keep them down, much like crows will mob a red tail or blue jays will pester an owl while it is trying to sleep. Like accepting the Lessons and Cycles of Change, this is another challenged that Owl People face. It isn’t that the whole world is out to get you or drag you down, but it certainly can feel that way, especially to the sensitive Owl soul. Ritual, religion, taking time for silence and solitude, keeping your personal faith strong and fresh is especially helpful to Owl People.
“Witchery is merely a word for what we are all capable of.” Charles De Lint
“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business!” Tom Robbins
“Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas.” Henry Louis Mencken
“This lantern doth the horned moon present.” William Shakespeare
The horns of the great horned owl are merely feathered tufts, but as a symbol horns of any kind represent a greater connection, like an antenna, to the Divine, and a greater sensitivity to the world around us. All forms of communication are important to the person called by the Great Horned Owl and they often excell at speaking and/or writing. Wonderfully expressive and sensitive, Owl people make great listeners too. I often find that total strangers will suddenly, much to their own surprise, begin telling me their life stories, current difficulties, and even long guarded secrets upon the acquaintance of a few moments! I try simply to listen most of the time, as that is usually all people need. I’ll offer advice if asked, although sometimes the temptation to do so unasked is too great! Perhaps the greatest challenge for me in these situations is not to feel as if my own privacy has been invaded by these un-looked for revelations.
It has been said that those called by Great Horned Owl are often born with or develop the ability to hear messages others are oblivious to. I know, especially with a history of schizophrenia in my family, just how challenging it can be to accept these intuitive messages as something valid rather than mere fantasy, medical condition, or outright delusion. As an innocent child it was much easier to both receive and accept such extra-sensory messages as simple fact, and Owl people are often frightened by this ability within themselves. The stronger the talent, the more likely it is that others will be convinced that there is something wrong with you and the harder it often is for the Owl person not to knot themselves up over this issue.
Like most everything in Life, the individual must try to approach this with patience, balance, faith, knowledge and wisdom used in harmony. Another horned dilemma on which Owl sits, and another difficult challenge for Owl People! Music also affects such people deeply and they will often use Music as a healing aid. I know myself that I consider Music to be a sacred thing and have experienced its potent healing power on more than one occasion. What better way to conclude a period of healing Silence than with joyous appreciation of some of your favorite Music?
Powerful intuition, a sense of the Divine, Knowledge, Magic and Wisdom learned and used in harmonious Balance… these things are inextricably bound with Sorrow and the cycle of Birth/Life/Death/Rebirth. Owl knows Sorrow and even frustration very well. Don’t let it get you down though! It is all part of the forging process that refines the soul. When things get tough, try to remember. “We can’t always see the gift we are being given when the lesson that delivers it also brings sorrow, pain, or other difficulties.”
In our darkest moments, in our greatest pain and fear, there is always a lesson and there is always something to be thankful for. Knowledge cannot come without some sorrow and loss of innocence. Strength cannot come without challenges or exercise. Wisdom cannot come without many experiences, a willingness to sacrifice even if it is only pride that you give up, a willingness to serve others, to accept change both within and without Self.
In these ways, Owl teaches us to better our selves and our world with wise and loving hearts. Owls have been represented as great Dreamers, Teachers, Guides and Messengers in everything from children’s movies like Disney’s Bambi to ancient myth and legend from cultures around the World. Often a guide to psychics, shapeshifters, and clairvoyants, Owl teaches us to have courage and face our fears, to look clearly into our darkest shadows within to hunt successfully for spiritual growth.
While I have always been fascinated by the Great Horned Owl, and Owls in general since childhood, I have only rarely heard their call in the wild or encountered them anywhere other than dreams, a zoo or wildlife preserve. In fact, it was not until I had begun to move through one of the hardest times of my life, a particularly painful lesson that I prolonged by resisting, that I began to encounter Great Horned Owl in the wild, and have truly begun to understand this magnificent Teacher. Difficult as this lesson was, the rewards have far outweighed the pain of that awful transition. How does this Teacher appear in your life?
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.” Mother Teresa
“A lady with soft eyes like funeral tapers,
And face that seemed wrought out of moonlit vapours,
And a sad mouth, that fear made tremulous
As any ruddy moth, looked down on us;
And she with a wave-rusted chain was tied
To two old eagles, full of ancient pride…. " William Butler Yeats
" Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself, and know that everything in this life has purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from." Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.” Krishnamurti
Key Concepts: Lunar energy, Wisdom, Knowledge, Birth/Life/Death/Rebirth cycle, Transition/Transformation, Shapeshifting, Natural Magic, Courage/Facing Fears, Femine Intuition/Power/Wisdom, Silence, Dreamtime, prophecy, clairvoyance/clairaudience, foresight, Spirit world
Associated with: Blodeuedd, Hecate, Diana, Athena, Selene, Fate and Crone aspects, the Grim Reaper, shamans and witches from Merlin to Harry Potter
Possible Balancing Energies:
Bat , Rat/Mouse , Red Tail Hawk and other Raptors, Skunk, Birds like Sparrow , Chickadee , Crow/Raven, Great Blue Heron , Swan , Trees like Pine , Cacao , Cottonwood, Oak , Apple , Rowan/Mt Ash , Fly , Rabbit, Bear , Squirrel, Porcupine, Frog/Toad, Dragonfly and other insects, Raccoon, Dog , Coyote , Cat, Deer, Snake
Each Who Sings Now? poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; tree, stone, animal, plant, etc. All Our Relations are still willing to teach anyone willing to gratefully listen. Nothing is ever truly lost as long as there is still someone willing to look for it. Can you guess who is singing?
For a truly amazing and beautiful image of this Teacher, please view this lovely artwork by a good friend…