There are many superstitions that have surrounded throughout history to owls, being reflected in myths and legends that have come till nowadays. The reason? Probably due to their nocturnal habits and their particular songs. The Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) are the two species that have been affected more by these stories. Both have always had different interpretations depending on the geographical area and culture.
Myths related to the eagle owl are usually dual, in other words, regardless of the origin of the legend, it is normally associated with two opposite concepts. Thus, in some tribes of Native Americans, it was said that the eagle owl protected human being and helped in the dark, while in others was considered messenger of death. In the same way as it occurs with the Maya culture that considered him as messenger of the underworld and at the same time symbolized fertility.
Since classical antiquity they have been associated with knowledge and culture, perhaps because of his penetrating gaze. Also, in Greek mythology are linked with Tropos, sinister deity who cut the thread of destiny. They have also been considered as a symbol of shyness due to its discreet flight and nocturnal habits.
The barn owl was also associated with various meanings.
In ancient Egypt represented the night, the cold and the death, or even clairvoyance. Christian symbolism has also had different interpretations. Their nocturnal habits have been taken as fear of light, and therefore it has been considered emissary or agent of the devil. In some pictorial representations of hermits appeared a barn owl as a symbol of loneliness. It is the bird that has had the greatest influence on popular folklore due to their strident singing, being the cause of numerous ghostly stories.
We must also make a special mention of the little owl (Athene noctua), sometimes introduced into the legend of the goddess Atenea, where it appears as its sacred animal (although there is an open debate about whether it was really a little owl or a short eared owl) symbolizing the brightness penetrating gaze of the goddess and her wisdom. It was therefore a symbol of the city of Athens, and is represented in ancient and modern coins (the current Greek euros). Although in some cases the little owl was also considered a sinister or funeral sign, in some German and Scandinavian tribes appears in his popular legends as a free spirit of the forest.
A minimal knowledge of these birds shows that they have nothing to do with the meanings that have been attributed to them since ancient times. Fortunately, they are no longer seen as scary or evil animals, but as sensitive species with serious conservation problems that require our respect and awareness.