The Spiritual Meaning Of Owls + What To Do If They Keep Appearing To You
Keep seeing owls everywhere? They could be giving you a sign related to a decision you're facing. Here's what to know about owl symbolism and what this wise animal may be trying to tell you in your dreams or in daily life.
What an owl symbolizes.
"Owls symbolize inner wisdom, change, transformation, intuitive development, good luck, and self-actualization," says Charlotte Kirsten, M.A., a cultural symbolism expert and founder of Typically Topical.
Some people wonder, is an owl a good omen? The answer depends on who you ask and the culture you're living in. That's because there are several meanings for owls, and each culture has its own significance for this beautiful creature.
In Native American culture:
"Many Native American tribes believe Owl is the spirit of a deceased ancestor or other spirit," says Kathy Harmon-Luber, a certified reiki & sound therapy practitioner and author of Suffering to Thriving. Owls are believed to serve as a bridge between worlds—life and the afterlife. Kristen adds, "Owls are eternal teachers. They represent the energy of the wise elders and ancestors who have previously walked the land."
In Japanese and Chinese culture:
"In Japan and China, owls symbolize good fortune and protection," explains Harmon-Luber. She adds that the owl also has a connection to feng shui. "It's said that placing an owl in your home either through an object or painting will banish negative energies and bring about abundance: mentally, physically, and emotionally."
In Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome:
"In Ancient Egypt, owls were regarded as the gatekeepers of the underworld, helping protect the souls of those who unintentionally strayed into this land," says Kirsten. "They were seen as auspicious symbols of courage, higher assistance, and supernatural wisdom."
The owl was well regarded in ancient Greece and in Roman culture too. "In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, the owl was revered as a symbol of the goddess Athena or Diana and protector of the city of Athens, which is named for Athena," explains Inbaal Honigman, celebrity psychic and esoteric expert. "It also represents the soul."
In the Jewish religion:
Sometimes the owl is perceived in a negative light. "In Judaism, the owl is revealed as an unclean bird and used in stories to express desolation," says Honigman.
Owl color meanings.
Color also plays a role in owl symbolism, and it can provide clues about what an owl may be communicating with you.
"Black owls are not only symbols of spiritual protection, but they're also symbols of the subconscious mind," says Kirsten. "They call us to look at ourselves holistically and shed any limiting beliefs that are keeping us trapped or stuck in the same old routine or patterns of thinking."
"White owls are true drivers of change and transformation. They're the visionaries of the animal kingdom and symbolize a deep connection with our higher selves and are desiring cosmic change," says Kirsten. "Whenever you see a white owl, it's tradition to make a wish."
Grey owls are all about balance and trust. "Grey owls represent the yin and yang of life, the idea that even when we can't see the full path ahead, we're being asked to trust the steps in front of us," says Kirsten. "Grey owls encourage bigger-picture thinking and help release us from the talons of perfectionism and non-action. Small steps forward are better than no steps."
6 spiritual meanings for the owl.
Death or change.
"Owls can be symbolic of death, and sometimes people may see one before someone passes," says Nancy Mello, animal communicator, psychic, medium, and clairvoyant. But don't let this frighten you because the concept of death can be symbolic, too. "Death doesn't have to be physical," she says, adding that it can be the death of a relationship, for example.
Messages from people and/or pets who have passed away.
Some people who have lost a loved one or a pet may see an owl as a sign that everything's OK. "Sometimes it's a message from the other realm," says Mello. "The message is always to communicate, 'Hey I'm OK.'"
Wisdom through hardship.
"Owls are true messengers of the spiritual realm," explains Kirsten. "They can appear as a symbol during challenging times as a guide. Unlike any other animal symbol, they relay truth, understanding, patience, and wisdom to us when we need it most. This is especially true during or after times of upheaval and distress."
Decisions to be made.
Seeing an owl may be a sign that it's time to make a decision or take a leap in a specific direction. "The message can be you need to move forward," says Mello.
She explains that people often see owls when they're indecisive about an important decision. "This happens when people are holding themselves back or hesitating on a decision." And if you do see an owl, she says you should trust it.
Renewal or new beginnings
"They represent the cataclysmic fall and destructive phases of our life, but rather beautifully, they show us how these 'downfalls' are really just better beginnings," says Kirsten. "They bring much hope, optimism, and faith beneath their wings."
Connection with intuition.
Most owls are nocturnal and spend most of their time awake at night when most creatures and people are sleeping. "An owl is a creature of the night; it knows secrets and can pick up on information with its intuition," says Honigman.
Kirsten adds, "They fly into our lives to help us tap into our intuition and inspire us to make decisions based on our internal guidance system rather than someone else's."
If they're appearing in your dreams.
If you dream of an owl, you'll want to reflect on how it made you feel and how you felt coming out of the dream. "That's the beginning of finding the most accurate indicator of what Owl might mean for you," says Harmon-Luber.
Dreams are full of clues and information, so it's a good idea to take time to write down your owl dream and reflect with a dream journal.
"When you dream of an owl, sit down and journal everything you remember about the dream: the color of the owl, whether it made a sound, how it made you feel in that moment," recommends Honigman. There's a good chance that you'll understand the message after jotting down everything you can and then reading it over, she says. "It's likely something to do with a transition you're going through, but when you mull over the details, the message would become clearer."
To guide you in your dream interpretation, Kristen provides specific questions that she uses to help decipher the meaning of owl:
- How can I connect with my soul's urges and desires?
- What steps am I taking to transform my goals into a reality?
- Am I tuning into my intuition? Do I know what it sounds and feels like?
- What wisdom or legacy do I wish to leave behind?
- Am I letting myself explore, experiment, and try new things?
What to do if you keep seeing owls.
Animals can send us messages to help us in our waking lives too. According to Kirsten, "Seeing owls everywhere is a sure sign spirit or the Universe is communicating with you."
"When you see owls everywhere or they recur in your dreams repeatedly, pay attention," says Harmon-Luber. Mello agrees that if you continually see owls, they want to get your attention. "Our spirit guides are sending messages, and they'll keep sending you signs," she says.
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Lauren David is a Chilean-American freelance writer. She writes about gardening, food, health and wellness, and sustainability. She has been published in Allrecipes, Greatist, The Healthy, The Kitchn and more.
When she's not writing, she enjoys spending time in her garden, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen, or spending time by the ocean. See her portfolio on her website.