The Owl: Symbol of Wisdom or Death?

I love talking about cultural differences. Quite honestly, they are something I could talk about for hours. The differences found between cultures is fascinating, and today’s example is no exception.

The owl has been associated with wisdom for centuries, dating back all the way to Greek culture. The Greeks believed that the owl was a symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom, and as such hoped that the coming of the owl symbolized the coming of Athena. They passed this belief on to the Romans, who heavily influenced the development of Europe, which eventually lead to the influence of American culture itself.

Today, we still associate the owl with wisdom. While not for the reasons the Greeks gave, many people still use the saying, “that wise old owl”, or something similar. Many baby clothes are adorned with images of owls, for whatever reason. And so, because of the association with wisdom, when someone mentions the word, “owl” in America, the first thing to come to mind is either wisdom or beautify.

In Uganda, however, it’s a different story. Ugandans believe that the owl symbolizes death. When an owl is heard at night, the person that hears this cry immediately assumes that one of his family members is going to die.

Thankfully, this isn’t true, otherwise my entire family would be dead. Owls frequent the area around my house, often screeching at obscure hours, much to the surprise and annoyance of my family.

The association of owls with death goes back as far as the association of owls and wisdom. For some reason, Ugandans believe that the hoot of an owl symbolizes the death of a family member. Because of this, they avoid the bird like the plague and do their absolute best to root out any nests.

Now, when we put this into a Christian mindset, we realize that many Ugandans are living in fear of the owl and fear of death. This worldview is constantly being confronted as American missionaries and pastors speak on this subject. My dad, head of the I4GT (Institute For Gospel Transformation), teaches on this during the “Worldview Week”. To illustrate the worldview of owls as a bondage to fear, he sends for my brother.

My brother Noah, age 14, has an owl of his own. He had long dreamed of owning one, and while the dream was legitimate, I never actually thought it would happen. Somehow, through the grace of God, he found a dying baby owl chick in northern Uganda and managed to keep it alive on the trip home. He has nurtured it, grown it, and trained it, and now he has an adult Varioux Eagle Owl named Slivver.

My dad brings Noah in to the class and uses the owl as an example. Showing that a relationship can be developed between a boy and an owl (as well as the fact that he’s not dead) helps emphasize his point and confront the fear-centered worldview. After all, we know that Jesus’ death on the cross broke the power of death and Satan, thus showing us that neither Satan nor an owl have any power over death. Praise God for His work in worldview!

Alright, that’s all for today. Hopefully, you enjoyed seeing my brother’s owl and reading this fun post. If you haven’t already, be sure to click that Follow button below (or to the right), so as to not miss out on any new posts. Thanks again, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

Also, Noah’s going to comment on this post, so feel free to bombard him with questions.

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11 thoughts on “The Owl: Symbol of Wisdom or Death?

  1. Pingback: The Reality of Poverty – Africa Boy

  2. Ella Smalley

    Super cool picture Noah, your owl is beautiful. It looks like it should be in Lord of the Rings or some fantasy book. That’s amazing that you have a pet owl. Me and my brothers rescued pet squirrels. Also a baby deer. It is so much fun. Good luck owl keeper.

    Liked by 1 person

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