My Wildlife Images
Photographer Leslie Cater
Mammals 02
Insects 02
previous arrow
next arrow


Owls the mythical creature

Owls in history. 

I have wondered why do I like owls so much, I suppose it stems from my childhood days if i think about it. As a wildlife photographer I have photographed owls, and I am always very pleased to have seen one, but what makes the Owl special to me personally I could not explain. I decided to expand my knowledge of them and learn more about the owl family in general but mostly the mythical world of owls, so that's what this blog is about. Owls what they mean to us and the mythical and mystical world that surrounds them. 

Throughout history. There are many references to Owls and myths, especially connected to life, fertility, death and magic. In Greek mythology, Athena virgin goddess of wisdom had an Little owl (Athena noctua)  that represented that wisdom. 

The Roman history shows that empires they conquered resulted in the Romans taking gods, myths and religion into their own culture and embracing especially myths, so Athena was translated to Minerva the goddess of wisdom.

Celtic belief is that the Cailleach, the primordial Celtic hag goddess of death was an owl and mostly a female.

The native Red Indians of America believe the owl is a physical form of a spirit guide helper and you will find carvings on the Indian totem poles of many creatures and this includes an owl. 

In Kenya Africa, there is a tribe the kikuyu who strongly believe the owl is bad luck and if seen or you hear a hoot, it means someone is going to die. That is still something they believe in today and is part of their culture.

Many owls were regarded as special creatures by ancient cultures, mainly because they believed the owl's eyes must possess an inner light which allowed them to see in the night and with an acute sense of hearing, they can hear movement of a small prey from a great distance. No wonder the ancient cultures believed that owls have special powers of  higher intelligence with knowledge and wisdom.

​Owls in Britain. Going back through history owls are connected to darkness because they live in the night and when they are seen in the moonlight, people believed that this was a sign of fertility especially with the new beginning of a moon cycle. History shows that we believe the owl is a magical, mythical, and keeper of ancient knowledge throughout the ages and a mysterious creature. 

Owls are wonderful and beautiful creatures. They are many peoples favourite especially children's but why do we like owls, maybe the answer is in the history about owls. I decided to find out  more so while I was studying their past,  what was clear to me was that owls in many cultures have in some cases deep connections to the darkness, but also the belief that owls are very wise like a sage. So do owls live for a long time because wisdom and knowledge comes with age. Barn owls are often associated to wisdom and knowledge but only live about four years, but in captivity live longer. The Eurasian eagle owl, great horned owl for example can live up to between fifteen and twenty years in the wild, but if you put these owls in captivity they can live as long as fifty years, and if you think people centuries ago did not live as long as we do today. So it makes sense that if you have an owl in captivity and the belief is they have an inner light in their eyes that allows them to see in the dark, the wisdom and knowledge associated with them. I can understand why many centuries ago ancient people saw them as mythical, magical creatures. Through time and cultures merging either by being conquered or migration, many ideas about owls would be entwined and in time be recorded in books, scriptures and writings by the Greeks, Romans and many great civilisations through history.

​There are about two hundred and sixty six owl species in the world. eighteen of them are the Barn owl family so they represent a good part of that total species. Barn owls have such a beautiful soft texture to their plumage and it is very delicate and fine to the touch. Because of this almost silky plumage the owl has to keep its feathers dry as they are not waterproof, but it allows the owl to hunt in silence. When hovering, it's wing beats make no sound and this gives the owl a big advantage when hunting its prey which are mostly little voles and mice. To watch a Barn owl hover in the evening light is very magical indeed, I can understand why through the ages it has become a bird that is highly regarded. The Barn owl has a  beautiful flight but with a deadly outcome.

Waxwings Winter Migration

Comments 2

Guest - Ray W on Monday, 19 November 2018 22:32

Like this Les, very much admire the photo's and enjoyed reading the text.

Like this Les, very much admire the photo's and enjoyed reading the text.
Leslie Cater on Monday, 19 November 2018 23:30

Thanks Ray, much appreciated.

Thanks Ray, much appreciated.
Sunday, 23 January 2022

Captcha Image

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to