Sunday, August 29, 2010

Owls by Danica Davidson

Danica Davidson is a writer who likes to write on all different topics and in all different fields.  She also enjoys changing her writing style to fit with whatever she's working on at the moment.  To date she's sold a few hundred articles for places such as Booklist, Publishers Weekly and the nature journal Whisper in the Woods, which is where this article on owl folklore was originally published.  She's also written the English version of Japanese books for an American audience.

Danica wants her next step to be into the realm of fiction.  She's currently looking to sell her YA novel, which is a sort of "mythology meets high school" tale.  Please visit her website at www.danicadavidson.com 

Owls 
by Danica Davidson

In folklore, owls are images of wisdom or symbols of doom, along with everything in-between.  With their peculiar looks and nocturnal habits, there is an air of mystery about them that lends to all sorts of legends.

The symbol of owls as intelligent, while seen in various cultures, is most famous thanks to Greece.  In ancient Greece owls were often perched around Athena, goddess of wisdom.  To the Greeks the sight of an owl could mean good luck, a sign Athena was watching over them.  As time went on her sacred animal continued to be used for concepts of smartness, giving way to the Western World’s notion of the Wise Old Owl.

In Native American beliefs, these birds run the gamut from being respected to feared.  According to the Sioux, a mystical owl named Hin-Han stands guard at the Milky Way.  Spirits must pass him in order to reach the blissful afterlife, but before this happens they are judged.  If they do not have the proper tattoo for entrance, they’re cast into an abyss.

From the Iroquois comes a tale of Owl’s creation.  A god called Raweno was creating animals and Owl, still not formed, continued to pester him and show great arrogance.  In anger Raweno grabbed him, pushing down Owl’s head and yanking at his ears.  Owl’s eyes went big with terror, all this leading to his present condition.  Raweno then banished Owl into the night.

According to one Passamaquoddy tale, the Owl isn’t easily good or bad, but a clever trickster who gets what he wants.  Using shapeshifting, precocious plotting and even a magic flute, he’s able to marry a human girl.  At first the girl resists, only to succumb.

These days connotations with owls are usually positive.  They’re seen as beautiful, enchanting birds and mascots for students.  But they’ll always retain their mysterious side, and because of this they’ll continue to captivate our imaginations.

29 comments:

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I still think it's magical when I hear an owl -- and I just heard one recently in St. Louis, of all places. Thank you for sharing, Danica!

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Anonymous said...

Im from florissant! I was just researching what seeing a owl meant because I hear one in my back yard...and I saw this...awesome! Crazy coincidence :)

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."