Wise as an Owl?


    Sitting in my meditating chair this morning, before the sun could draw the outline of a tree or a house, the hoot of an owl led me to a topic that I’m hoping will lead to good news. The natural world is a holy book and I’ve been too much in the dark about that.

     So what about the owl? It’s an image of wisdom, but why? Is it from some Aesop’s fable? Is it biblical?

     I did a quick check in the Bible to find that owls (and ospreys and, believe it or not, eagles) are unclean. In fact, the KJV says these are an abomination. If that’s the case, why are owls protected from Christian hunters? Maybe it’s because we don’t need more people walking around in the dark carrying shotguns and shooting at whatever moves.

    Jesus said his disciples should be wise as…serpents. Isn’t that a hoot? Now I’m really getting confused.

Relationship with Humans

     In Africa, the owl is an omen of bad luck, ill health, or death. Arab mythology says it’s a bad omen. The American Indians associated owls with sorcery and other evils, symbolic of death and destruction. The owl was the black cat of most cultures. Don’t let one fly over you because something bad was going to happen.

     Only in the modern West is the owl associated wisdom. This comes from ancient Greece mythology that established the owl as a symbol of wisdom. So who do we believe? Rather than worry about what others think or thought, what does nature tell us about owls?


     Owls thrive in the absence of light. Using light as a metaphor for knowledge or understanding (see previous post), the person who is like the owl thrives in the absence of knowledge or truth.

     Owls are carnivorous. If you sat down to eat with an owl in a restaurant, you wouldn’t hear it order a chef salad or potato soup. It would order filet mignon, uncooked. Owls eat their prey while the blood (life) is still in them. That would certainly make owls an abomination from a biblical standpoint. They are ruthless, feeding on animals that wouldn’t harm a fly­—like rabbits, chipmunks, ducklings, mice, as well as smaller carnivores like cats, fox kits, serpents, etc. Anything is consumable for owls. That reminds me of more than a few politicians.


     So why are owls considered wise by the Western world? Maybe it’s because some humans in the West give greater weight to the ability of the owl to compete and dominate than to coexist. That might be some ancient Roman influence coming into play.

     The owl has few natural enemies. Of course, it has few friends, too.

Good News

     So where’s the good news here? Be wise as serpents, not an abomination like the owl.

     The owl plays an important role in the natural world as an image rather than a rule or example to follow. We are not supposed to mimic every person in the Bible. Jesus called Herod a fox, but we aren’t supposed to be like Herod. He was like the owl. An example of ruthlessness, blood-sucking, powerful, and serving only himself. Any pseudo-friends he had stayed close simply to eat the scraps he left behind. But they didn’t turn their backs on him.

     Just because the owl thrives in the absence of light, doesn’t make it a true symbol of wisdom. It’s a false symbol of wisdom that says dominance and power and the ability to conquer are the desired goal. The American Indians, Arabs, and Africans are probably accurate in the symbolism they give to the owl. These traits are forerunners of death and destruction. These kinds of people thrive in darkness.

     Those who thrive in the light/truth are feared by no one. They bring peace rather than pain, joy rather than fear. They serve rather than dominate. Kind of like Jesus. And that’s good news to those who love the light.

Why do you think the Bible says eagles (and owls) are an abomination?

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One Response to Wise as an Owl?

  1. Thanks for that bit of information. well needed. May God Bless all.

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