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Owl Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)


When the hold of earthly restraints gets too tight, we turn to bird symbolism to set us free. These winged creatures lift us in the sky and take our pleads into the heavens above. They come back with spiritual messages from the divine to help us in our difficult times.

However, there is one bird that stands out from the rest, the nocturnal owl. Its characteristics are so unique from the rest of the birds that we a naturally curious about owl symbolism and its meaning. It makes us want to ask questions like, what does an owl symbolize? Is it a bad omen to spot an owl at night? Do white owl symbolism differ from the rest or not?

It is the answer to these questions and more that helps us understand the world around us. In other words, having the inner knowledge of owl symbolism helps us understand why things happen the way they do. This is why we aim to answer all these questions and much more for you in this article. 

Table of contents

Owl Symbolism and Meaning

An owl is to the night as an eagle is to the day. Owls are generally a symbol of paranormal wisdom, regal silence, and fierce intelligence. This is because owls are both great thinkers and hunters; they prefer to plan out their strategies instead of using brute force. 

While some cultures believe owls to be magicians or heralds of death, the white owl symbolizes wisdom and endurance. The mixed zymology makes us curious even more. To understand the depth of its meaning that we need to learn a bit more about its background.

Owl Native American Symbolism

The Native American owl meaning is a unique combination of wisdom and death. They believed this intelligent creature to be a guardian of sacred knowledge like the patterns of the weather and the secrets of the afterlife.

Some Native American tribes believed that this nocturnal bird accompanies dead in their journey to their afterlife. This is why hearing the hooting of an owl was an unlucky omen, bad even. The mothers and elders of these tribes use to use the cry of the owl to scare off their little ones. They would tell them to behave and stay indoors in the night, or else an owl will carry them away.

Other tribes associate the bony circles around the eyes of an owl with the fingernails of ghosts and lost souls. They believed the sighting of an owl as a sign that their ancestors from the other side are sending hem messages or warnings to them about members that have broken tribal taboos.

However, the owl symbol is not always eerie and related to death. The Hopi tribe has Mongwu, the great horned owl, which plays the ‘straight man’ role against koshari clown antics. Other tribes read the myths of owls as harmless being that banished into the night because of its laziness.

Some NativeAmerican culture used owls as clan animals. These tribes included the Hopi tribe, with their burrowing owl clans called Kokop-Wungwa and Kokongyam, the Mohave and the Tlingit. If you come upon visiting the northwest cost, then you will find owls as totem pole crest.

Owl Christianity Symbolism

Owl meaning in the bible and Christianity is of sacred significance. The pictorial, symbolic, iconic, and holy representation of owl in Christianity dates back to the earliest of time when it was rare for an ordinary man to be able to read and write.

The bible refers to the symbolism of the owls in original King James appears approx. Total of five times. However, the newer translations seem to convert the word with “ostriches” in these cases.

Biblical References to Owl Symbolisms

  1. Leviticus 11:13-18, more specifically 11:16-18 or 11:17-18, states that Jews should not eat certain breeds of the owl, as part of their kosher dietary rule, along with pelican and carrion vulture.
  2. Deuteronomy 14:15-17 confirms the kosher rule statement.
  3. In Psalm 102:6, the psalmist talks about the difficult times of his life by comparing himself to an owl in the desert. He used the reference to the owl as an example of himself as an inferior creature stuck in a desolated place.
  4. Isaiah 13:21 talks about a prophecy on God’s judgment on Babylon to destroy it. Here the owl is again used as an example to demonstrate the devastation humans of Babylon will face. They will be killed or driven out of their homes, and wild animals will live in the city.
  5. In Isaiah 34:11, much similar to the Babylon prophecy, God’s judgment of Edom refers to owls in the destruction of the city. The owl doesn’t symbolize anything. Instead, the references use the owl as an example of wild animals inhabiting the city along with ravens, pelicans, and porcupines.

Owl Celtic Symbolism

The Celtic owl symbolisms and tradition depict it as a warrior and guardian of honor. According to the Celtics, it is the wisdom of the owl warrior that gave it the right to the knowledge of the underworld’s path. They also believed it to represent a fierce defender of honor and the truth that means owls have zero tolerance for any form of deception.

Since owls are nocturnal, meaning they can see in the dark, they are the perfect messenger to deliver message all-day and all-night between our world and the higher one. This is perhaps why the Celtics believed that owls knew the way to the underworld.

Owls are also a symbol of the ancient Celtic fertility goddess. This is why the Celtics proudly branded the owl symbol in their clothing, especially in their knotwork, various household items, and bestiaries.

Owls in Dreams

The mythical, folklore, religious and symbolic representation of owl are all fascinating, but What does it mean when you see an owl?

When birds visit us in our dreams, they are generally telling us to let go of some negativity or the past. However, when we see owls in dreams, it can mean a variety of things. Owl dreams, in general, are a sign that you should be aware of any deceit or deception happening around you.

Oneirologist explains that owl meaning can be your unconscious mind trying to attract your attention towards more conscious actions and thoughts in your waking life. It may be your inner realization of how these thoughts and actions are counterproductive to your spiritual goals. This means that the owl spiritual meaning remains the same, i.e., of awareness and messages of warnings.

The various interpretations and symbolism of owls in your dreams can depend solely on how you see it as well as the breed of the owl you see.

  • Single Owl – Seeing an owl in your dream means you should be aware of what’s happening in your surroundings. Borrow the owl spirit animal’s power to see things on a higher level.
  • Many Owls – You can expect a piece of useful advice from other people and that you should accept it.
  • Flying Owl – Seeing a flying owl is not a good sign. It means problems in your family in the coming period. The problems could be a conflict between family members.
  • Black Owl – Seeing a black owl in your dreams is usually a sign of spiritual awakening and awareness.
  • Dead Owl – To have a dead owl dream is the worst omen of transition among them all. It symbolizes the death of either the dreamer or someone very close to them. It represents the transition from one life to the next.
  • Barn Owl – It symbolizes good financial situation in the near future
  • Common Owl – It is a sign that you should focus more on yourself and your needs for a change.
  • True Owl – A true owl reflects your struggle with insomnia
  • Snowy Owl – Seeing a snowy owl is perhaps the most serene encounter. It represents happiness and peace shortly. 

Owl Encounters and Omens

Owl omen and encounters mean the same thing as when you dream of one. If you encounter a hooting owl, then it can be a sign of receiving terrible news. 

Someone close to you can be in a severe health problem or near the last days of their life, and you might be getting the news beforehand. The bad news can also mean deception happening around you, for which you should prepare yourself by reevaluating everyone around you.

Either way, an owl meaning upon encounter is of checking your surroundings. If not a bad omen, it sure is a warning sign. It is very much possible that in your attentiveness, you come upon a piece of information that can be useful to you in the future.

If owls have become a problem in your yard then read this guide.

Owl Mythology and Folklore

Owl mythology is perhaps the richest and dense of all. You can find a reference to it throughout various cultures, folklore, and traditions globally.  

In Greek, Athena symbols are arguably the most widely known symbol in owl mythology. Since owl was her sacred animal, if any of the soldiers spotted an owl on the battlefield or flying over it, then it would mean the goddess of war smiling upon them. Sighting Athena symbols would instantly turn the tiding of the battle in favor of the one seeing it first.

The Egyptian owl god is a fierce guardian of the scared occult knowledge. Owl mythology speaks of them guarding the souls of the deceased as they pass to the next plane of existence.  

The Chinese culture and folklore much respect the wild side of the spirit animal owl. You can find breathtaking pieces of ancient Chinese art that depicts the phoenix’s immortality intertwined with the legendary fierceness of the owl. Chinese culture also speaks about the owl in bird protection, acting as a shield against all negative energies.

There are also popular references of owl mythology in civilization over time like the Hindu, Roman, and Celtic. While most of them speak about the “angel of death,” almost all of them acknowledge the wisdom and transitional significance of owl.

Owl Spirit Animal

The spirit animal owl reminds us to look deep within ourselves and be true to our own intentions and feelings. The outward turned eyes of an owl and its ability to see in the dark teaches us the lesson of clarity and deception. How we can spot it, avoid it, and how we can be true to ourselves and root it out from within. In short, the owl spiritual meaning tells us that when our inner vision is clear, then spotting deception and trickery in the outside world becomes effective.

The spirit animal owl also allows us to be more observant, calm, majestic and calculated. Just by slowing down, sitting on a high tree limb, and looking around, you will be surprised to know how much is going around you.

Fun fact:

The eyes of an owl can switch, process, and adjust from telescopic to microscopic in a matter of seconds.

With owl spirit animal, you can surround yourself with its energy, and you will be able to look more clarity in your past, present, and future with accuracy and speed that is nothing short of uncanny.

Learn how to attract owls here.

Apart from that, the owl spirit animal also asks us to see through all the negative emotions and fear. Instead of thinking about something that should be avoided or escaped, consider thinking about it as pieces of information. The level headed and logical approach to intense fear can help you address the matter calmly and come out strong.

Owl Totem Animal

People with owl totem are superficially drawn to the cool, quiet, and darkness of the night. These people find themselves more awake and attentive at night and prefer to work these hours as well. This explains how they have no fear of the darkness, occult even magic. As a result of this and with diligence and persistence, you will be able to read the truth behind every person you’d meet.

If you were born under the owl totem, then it is most likely that you have an unsettling and borderline prophetic gift of intuition. They have an affinity for the unknown and the fantastic. If you recognize and acknowledge these traits as your own, then you need to listen to your own inner voice.

Such people should learn to listen to the voiced deep within them. An owl-person thrives best when he listens not to what others are saying, but to what his inner voice whispers. The external world is full of lies, and it takes effort to discern the truth. With diligence and persistence, you will also learn to understand the truth behind each person you meet.

Owl Power Animal

When we have these symbols of wisdom as our power animal, we mirror its ability to see through webs of deception. Owl power animal grants us the knowledge of the hidden realms and the ability to travel the darkness of the night fearlessly. From the silent, cold, and deep night, we find our own support in the hidden voice of the divine. It is only through the keen observation, intelligent awareness, and other otherworldly traits of owl that we can do so.

The cry or hooting of an owl is in itself a call for self-actualization. The owl medicine helps support us in confronting and being honest with ourselves when the time to speak the truth comes. When you are true to yourself, then little can stop this bird of prey after you set your sight on the prize.

Owl energy from the power animal will bring you focus, stillness, and patience, something that you need to see the details of who or what is coming towards you. 

Owl Tattoo Meaning

We quite commonly and frequently see owls inked in on various bodies of both men and women, which means as a design they are quite popular. However, what do owls represents?

People generally consider owl as symbols of wisdom and knowledge, thanks to the endless owl mythology and folklore references. Owl symbolism can also mean transition and time. This is why you can spot many owl tattoo designs accompanied by objects such as an hourglass or clock clutched in its talons.

The beauty and rich historical and symbolical value of the owl makes it the perfect animal that people tattoo with objects like a flower, a key, a locket, a lantern, or whatever holds more value to them. According to numerous tattoo artists, they tattoo owls in various manners and patterns like sitting on a branch, flying, and wings out stitched or hugged tightly, each holds their own symbolic value. It also makes them easy to be designed at any part of the body.


Owls are majestic creatures. They silently watch us from afar with their all-knowing eyes and nudge us to the right direction with their signs and symbols. They give us the answers we are desperately searching for, all we have to do is be aware and listen closely. 

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16 thoughts on “Owl Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)”

  1. On Thursday, February 18, 2021, a baby black owl flew in front of my window and sat on a tree branch with its back to me. On Friday, March 19, 2021, my 34 year old nephew passed away unexpectedly. He had shared with me 2 weeks earlier that he had been channeling in my Mom who had passed away in 2001. He said she was clear and present, and they were hanging out at her Florida condo. What was the meaning of this black owl who sat for a couple of hours in front of my bedroom window? I asked myself when I saw it was it an omen…thank you.

    1. Hailey Brophy

      Nobody can tell you the meaning with absolute certainty, but because owls are often thought of as guiding people between worlds, I wonder if this was a sign of an upcoming change or transition. It’s difficult to know for sure, but owls are not usually negative omens. It may have been there to give you the strength to face the upcoming challenges. I’m very sorry to hear about your loss and I hope that this is helpful to you.

      — Hailey Brophy
      Writer @ World Birds

  2. A young brown owl was sitting on the ledge on our porch all day facing us.same day we were in the car and a red tail hawk flew over our there a meaning to this?

  3. BasingerchicJT

    I’ve unfortunately lost a few close friends and a couple of family members to whom I was close with over the past few yrs. Now comes the weird part within a week or even the night b4 they passed I saw an owl or owls… Freaky Yea A Lil but in the end Nothing/Nobody is stronger than my God

    1. I’ve had an owl hooting my name for a year now, I’m alive. It doesn’t always mean death.

  4. Okay after reading I am a little scared. I almost hit an owl, like and inch off my car bumper during the day?

  5. There is an owl sitting on a branch in the tree outside my bedroom window. His back is to me and he has been sitting there for the past hour or so. I have seen this owl before in another tree sitting above me as I worked in the garden .
    It feels unreal as today I have been conflicted with emotions and wanting to change my life. Is this uncanny? Or timely? What does it mean?

  6. Lovely article! Thank you for sharing this info.
    I live in a city where owl sighting are really rare. After my tarot reading session today, I stepped into my balcony. As I was making notes in my phone, a white, snowy owl suddenly flew in and sat on a tree branch right in front of me. For a while, it stared straight into my eyes. I was mesmerized! I got goosebumps! I felt like it was trying to tell me something or deliver a message from the heavens. It flew away within a few seconds. I can’t describe how beautiful that owl was. May God bless the wise creatures.

  7. I Love all Owls so much,I have Owls in my living room that I can look at ever Day ,I live in an apartment with my Beautuful ,Handsome ,Husband,he helps me as much as he can,as I ‘am Handicapped,don’t get around so Good to go searching for them,one Day I would love to hold one on my Arm, that would be a Dream come True,.I love them so much.Thank-you Lil Wynne

  8. My husband went into an abandoned barn an there was a group of at least 15 owls ranging from baby’s to big ones. He went back a few days later to look at them again and they were gone.

  9. Anthony Fullbright

    I looked out my window and a bus I’m on tribal land It had an owl like face had feathers on its chest only maybe some spikes on its head of feathers on the side black eyes a little big big little long big beak we stared at each other for a while then it just disappeared it look like the Egyptian god

  10. My sister lives in a small rural town in Northern Ca. She went it back to water and found a beautiful huge brown owl, he was dead! She said he looked old. Why would he come there to die? Is it an Honor, an Omen or a Message? I also had a dream about an owl, it focused on his eyes! I am thinking a MESSAGE!

  11. I was just taking some rest in a lonely place in the evening darkness, I saw an Owl perching on a pole a few yards away and became curious to know about owls which lead me to these secrets. Miraculous!

  12. I have one of my arms tattooed with an owl sleeve, and I was worried what I might read at first, but I’m glad you have things about 90% correct in my case, and that delighted me. Cheers!

  13. Thank you! A very interesting read. At this moment my daughter has a family of owls living in her small suburban backyard. She has 3 rambunctious boys who play there every day. They use their yard a lot. The owls watch and are curious. They have been there a week now. I feel this is kind of magical! And very cool!

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