Skip to Content

Why Are Owls Associated With Wisdom?

Why Are Owls Associated With Wisdom?

Ancient Greek mythology depicts owls as unique symbols of reasoning. However, this has changed over time, and many consider the night birds as omens of good luck, bad luck, family totems, and many have gone as far as associating them with wealth. 

Owls have unique abilities that associate them with wisdom. This includes the owl’s unique hunting styles, where it imposes a strategy before attacking. Also, through history and beyond, the owl has always symbolized wisdom and knowledge.

The owl is one of the most mythical creatures. Most people associate it with death; no wonder some tribes still use hooting to signal an imminent attack. Some tribes call it the moan bird because it signaled death. There are different unique perceptions of owls such as considering them to be flying cats, their hooting in day time, and many more.

But in some cultures, the owl is a source of intellectual and spiritual wisdom. This post explores the owl as a source of wisdom.

Is The Owl A Symbol Of Wisdom?

Greek mythology often portrays Athena, the goddess of wisdom, with an owl not so far away. For a long time, many people have considered that the inspiration could be due to the owls’ solemn appearance and big eyes. Moreover, the Greeks thought the owls had some inner light that enabled them to see at night.

The myth suggests that Athens, who was also the goddess of strategy, had an owl sitting on the blindside that enabled her to see the truth. Additionally, the Owl’s Wisdom was so symbolic that it was considered the guardian of the Acropolis. The Sioux and the Pawnee saw the owl as a messenger to the first of every evil creature. At the same time, the people of Lakota had an Owl Society who fought mainly at night and painted dark rings around their eyes, which they believed could grant them an owl’s vision.

However, the opposite was true in Rome. Ancient Romans depicted an owl’s hoot as a death omen. They even went as far as nailing dead owls on their doorposts to keep away any evil that the owl might have brought in the first place. However, they had to dry it thoroughly to ensure that the smell from decomposition didn’t become a nuisance.

Similarly, contrary to the ‘Owls being a symbol of wisdom’ notion, roman soldiers dreaded the nocturnal birds as a sign of defeat. Another common superstition by the Romans is that witches could turn into owls to suck blood from babies. In turn, this shows that owls are not only a sign of wisdom but also a bad omen depending on different cultures and beliefs.

What Does Wise As An Owl Mean?

Are you familiar with the idiom that says “as wise an owl’? You probably must have heard it, which in turn, left you with many intriguing questions that you failed to answer on your own. This post will focus on some of the reasons why owls are associated with wisdom, experience, and intelligence.

Looking at an owl may have you dismiss them as old, fearful creatures that only hunt in the quiet of the night. However, it should amuse you that, unlike humans and many other creatures, owls have a special adaptation that enables them to achieve a high sense of hearing as well as night vision. With such an adaptation, most of the space in the owl’s head helps in optimizing their hearing ability and sight.

Although not spiritually per se, the owl spirit represents a deep connection that you share with your good judgment, knowledge, and wisdom. The owl, famous for its keen observation and sharp vision, also possesses intuition and insight. Having the owl as your totem means that you can see through the mist and discern a wolf in sheep’s skin.

Also popular among western cultures is the phrase ‘a wise old owl. I prefer to think that the phrase results from the bird’s behavior to watch and wait patiently before attacking its prey. 

Also, since society associates wisdom with wealth, or the ability to acquire material gain, many consider owls as wise, making them a symbol of wealth. This is true, especially in Hindu mythology, with logic surrounding such association.

Is The Owl An Intelligent Bird?

Various folklore and pop culture references such as Winnie the Pooh have long associated owls with wisdom at one instance or another. Not only do we associate owls with intellectual wisdom, but also with wisdom of the soul. This, however, is not the only characteristic of these mysterious birds. We have always thought of owls as enigmatic birds since they are strictly nocturnal. Moreover, human beings have always assumed nighttime as a period full of the unknown, ancient knowledge, and mystery.

Moreover, since owls relate with the moon, which mostly appears at night, they are in turn associated with femininity and fertility, such as the moon’s renewal cycle. Furthermore, to support this point, the Roman response to Athena, who went by the name of Diana, was strongly associated with the owl and the moon.

Besides intelligence, numerous superstitions surround the owl, most of which focus on death. For instance, certain people, such as the Scandinavian Vikings, some Germanic tribes, and the Dakota, would signal an approaching attack with an owl’s hoot in the European nations. On the other hand, the Mayans referred to the screech owl as the “moan bird’ which they believed meant death. The legends and myths stretch all over the world, from the Far East to the Americas.

Also, save for infrequent hooting, which sends a cold chill to many of us, most people associate owls with silence. Similarly, our society tends to characterize people of reasonable intelligence as those who talk sparingly but often command a high level of attention when they speak.

Here are some interesting facts about owls and why many consider them intelligent birds.

Owls Can Hunt Their Prey Even If It Is Out Of Sight

Interestingly, contrary to the common ‘out of sight, out of mind’ belief, owls stand out as the only birds able to hunt their prey whether they can see them or not. With their highly developed sense of hearing, owls have extreme listening skills that give them such an outstanding ability. For instance, owls can detect the movement of an underground mouse or rat. Moreover, they can go as far as hunting it down while out. Its ability to fly blind allows the night bird to hunt the prey, an ability unique to the species.

Owls Have Excellent Defending Capabilities

Owls are also on the record as the only bird that can fly off at a vertical position in any direction. This feature enables the birds to defend themselves against other predators, including most birds of prey which tend to attack them from high altitudes.

Without intelligence, almost every bird is vulnerable to predators who carry out dive attacks. An eagle, for example, can spot and launch an attack half a kilometer away from its prey. This leaves the prey vulnerable to the eagle since it cannot attack back, at least not with the eagle’s massive claws and size. However, this doesn’t apply to owls that can defend themselves when they are grounded and not flying. They do this by taking off vertically in any other direction, which is a tremendous defending mechanism that makes it difficult for other birds of prey to hunt an owl.

Owls Are The Best Stealth Attacker

Interestingly strange, owls tend not to make any sound when attacking and instead remain completely quiet. While Falcons, Eagles, and Kites, among other birds of prey, use speed to their advantage when hunting, owls aren’t best known for their heroic hunting rampages, including not chasing their prey from a distance. They have to work more thoughtfully than that.

Instead, owls work smart by using stealth to their advantage. You’ll be surprised to learn that even when flying, owls do not make any sounds at all. Also, with their surreptitiousness, owls are the only birds that can attack their prey without making a sound, which, in this case, is hooting. So perfect they are in their sneaky game, such that they are able to successfully attack and prevail over prey without letting them know that they are under attack.

So, instead of working as hard as other flesh-eating birds, Owls work smart and sneak their prey through intelligent measures. Something to say about their wisdom.

An Owl’s Strategy Is To Operate When Others Are Inactive

By now, you ought to know that owls hunt during the night and rest during the daytime. Owls use this strategy since they are aware that most of their prey have poor night vision, which works to help increase the success rates when hunting. Also, since most other organisms are inactive during such hours, owls tend to ambush their prey, thus making an easy kill every time they need to feed. This saves them from using a lot of energy to find food.

In addition to detecting far-off prey, owls can also see clearly in total darkness, which allows them to hunt in the darkness of the night. With its large eyes, the bird features inbuilt night vision capabilities that work similar to binoculars, thus granting them an invincible weapon to hunt for food even in extreme conditions.

An Owl Has A Complete View Of Its Periphery

Again, an owl is uniquely the only animal that can rotate its head 180 degrees on the vertical axis and 270 degrees on the horizontal axis. With such attributes, owls can instantly look in any direction. As a result, an owl can quickly look back when attacking its prey and decide the next action course. This a lethal feature that gives owls a complete view of their surrounding

Also, with a 360-degree head movement ability, the birds can prevent any attack aimed at them since they can see whatever is happening in every corner of the eye without having to move an inch. 

Why Do People Associate The Owl With Wealth?

Owls have numerous attributes that make many people consider them as a symbol of prosperity and wealth. The Hindus also associate owls with Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and could be seen traveling in a white Barn owl. As a result, the Hindus worship it as the Vahan (vehicle of the Goddess Lakshmi. Here are some reasons why many people associate the owl with wealth instead of as a harbinger of death.

While owls prefer solitude, we know for a fact that you cannot achieve lifelong prosperity if you have the ‘herd’ mentality. As a result, breaking away and trying to manage solo can bring both wealth and prosperity.

Also, to be successful in your business, you have to place strategies to achieve that. Additionally, you must be inquisitive and possess exceptional listening skills similar to those of an owl. Also, you need to be flexible enough, not breaking under any pressure similar to the owl’s 360-degree bird’s eye view. Such characteristics enable the owl to beat the competition easily.

Owls have a long-term vision accompanied by silence. This enables them to see prey from a distance and still not make a fuss about it. Instead, it prefers to ambush its prey giving it no chance to escape. Similarly, business is majorly about a long-term vision where you make a move whenever the right opportunity strikes. This should occur without letting anyone else know about your innermost strategies.

Prosperity doesn’t entail material gain only, but also wisdom. In life, in order to be prosperous, you have to acquire wisdom. Similarly, being a symbol of wisdom, the owl can intelligently hunt for food without fail; thus, many associates it with wealth. Also, unlike other birds, the owl knows the correct time to work and doesn’t just roam about in search of prey.


These are some of the reasons why many people associate owls with wisdom. Moreover, the birds are also considered a symbol of good luck, fortune, and wealth. On the other hand, owls have for a long-time represented misfortune and even death. However, scholars have brushed this off as a myth and suggested that the popular belief resulted from the owl’s high kill rate. With its stealth approach, it is almost impossible for prey to escape from an owl’s radar. As a result, popular culture, and western culture alike, prefer to depict the bird as a symbol of intelligence and wisdom.