Friday, March 22, 2013

Folklore Friday - owls

The owl. Wise old owl, far seeing, who gives a hoot? Apparently we do! 

Owls as a motif have been huge over the last  - what? - 5 years? To the point where we may be getting a little saturated. But I still love them, timelessly, for their symbolism and mythic characteristics. So pour a cup of _________ ( beverage of your choice) and enjoy some folklore paired with my selections of artisan components!

Ancient Greece - 

The owl was the symbol of the Goddess Athena. Athena is known as the goddess of war - but from a strategy/cerebral perspective. She was a goddess of wisdom and Patroness of the arts. Potters prayed to her, she was credited with inventing weaving... In this association the owl becomes a symbol of wisdom. So closely linked were Athena and the owl that Ancient Athenian tetradrachma coins are minted with her profile on one side, the owl on the other. 

Clockwise from top left: 1 & 2 - Green Girl Studios. 3-5 - TheaToo. 6 & 9 - Kristi Bowman. 7 - HINT.  8 - DaisyChain 

Celtic Britain - 

Bloddeuwedd is a Welsh goddess closely associated with an owl... she was transformed into one! She was magically created from flowers by the magician Gwydion to be a wife to the hero Lleu. (His mother put a geas on him that he would marry no woman.) After developing free will, and falling in love with a man of her choosing, she tricks Lleu into revealing the secrets of his immortality, and attempts to kill him. Her punishment - she is turned into an owl by Gwydion : "You will not dare to show your face ever again in the light of day ever again, and that will be because of enmity between you and all other birds.  And you will not lose your name - that will always be "Bloddeuwedd (Flower-face)." ( In Welsh that is a name for an owl.) 

1 - Earthenwood. 2 - mine! 3 - White Clover kiln. 4 - Elukka. 5 - Blueberribeads. 6 - Joan Miller. 7 - Marla's Mud

The Americas

In the Americas, owls are sometimes seen in a different light. Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of death, was usually depicted with owls. The Mayan "Popol Vuh religious text says owls are messengers to Xibalba - the Mayan "Place of Fright". In many North American Indian traditions owls are seen as a very bad omen, a symbol of death. 
Owls are used as clan animals by some Native tribes including the Hopi, the Mohave and the Tlingit of the Pacific North west, where owls will appear as totem pole crests. I found this funny story: 
The Inuit people of Alaska have a legend about the Snowy Owl, in which Owl and Raven are making each other new clothes. Raven made Owl a pretty dress of black and white feathers. Owl decided to make Raven a lovely white dress to wear. However, when Owl asked Raven to allow her to fit the dress, Raven was so excited that she couldn’t hold still. In fact, she jumped around so much that Owl got fed up and threw a pot of lamp oil at Raven. The lamp oil soaked through the white dress, and so Raven has been black ever since.

1 - Inlovewithsaturday. 2 - gramatortoise. 3 - Juliechristie. 4 - byKeiara . 5 -  Peggysudz

Famous owls

Hedwig  - Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
               ( and Errol, Pidwidgeon, and the rest)
Archimedes - Merlyn's familiar in Disney's "The Sword and the Stone"
Owl - Pooh's wise friend in A.A. Milne's Pooh series. 
X the owl - Mr. Roger's neighborhood. 
Woodsy Owl - mascot for the US Forest Service.

1 - jettabug. 2&5 - TreeWings Studio. 3 &4 - Humblebeads. 

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you are inspired by owls....

Native American owl mythology
Owl wiki
Tetradrachma at the Hermitage Museum
Great pix and Harry Potter references
Famous owls


  1. A great read Jenny and what fantastic components! Thank you for including my owl with them :)

  2. Well I chose the Owl in my logo because my biz name is TORI SOPHIA. Named after my own wide-eye beauty, my granddaughter . Japanese origin of Tori is "bird" and Sophia is "wisdom or wise"...ergo Wise Bird = Owl. So the owl is here to stay at my shop! Want to see my little Tori Sophia, my wise bird?(

    Loved this post!

    1. Thanks! Sophia is still viewed as the embodiment of wisdom! Caitlin Matthews wrote a great book on that topic!
      (Of to see your logo now)

  3. Hoot! I love owls. This was a great read! New things to learn and new artists to find. I have thought of phasing out my Woodsy Owls or the Motley Owls but they are pretty popular and I love making them since each and every one is distinctly different. I have never made the same one twice! Enjoy the day. Erin

    1. Hey Erin! If it aint broke... as they say!

  4. Well apart from a few words that I am incapable of pronouncing...what a great post - very interesting s your posts always are. Thanks for featuring my owls and curiously a Blueberri Beads owl arrived at my house unexpectedly this morning must have been in the know...

    1. Ha Ha. There are many mythic things that are impossible to pronounce! But since I have Welsh heritage - I try! I have debated a language program for years, but with whom would I practice?

      No way am I going to try the Aztec and Mayan.... I thought Welsh was scarce on vowels!

  5. I love owls and I enjoyed these historic facts.

  6. Love owls! I need to make some!! You always write such informative posts, Jenny!

  7. Thank for sharing the story behind these magnificent birds.


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