Barn Owls – Totem Symbolism

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This totem reflects the ability to the heart and the mind.
It can connect you to spirits and the houses that they haunt.
Mediums and “ghost hunters” often have this totem.
This totem can give you very strong clairvoyant abilities.


early Cycle of Power: Year Round
Time of Power : Midnight
Attributes: Asymmetry, Stealth, Sound, Discord, Polarization

Anyone who has seen the light coloured heart shaped face of a Barn Owl are stricken. Some find it the image of beauty, while others find it haunting. One might consider a Barn Owl Totem to be much like a regular Owl Totem. Yet this is untrue. What most do not realize is that the Barn Owl is a completely separate classification from regular owls. Barn Owls are from the family called ‘Tytonidae’ (meaning barn owl), while other owls are in the family called ‘Strigidae’ (meaning ‘True Owls’). The Barn Owl, Sooty Owl, Masked Owl, Bay Owl and Grass Owl all fall under the family of ‘Tytonidae’. All Tytonidae owls have the distinct white or light coloured heart shaped face and large dark eyes. The Strigidae Owls all have yellow eyes and do not have the heart shaped facial disk of the barn owls. A Barn Owl also sounds different than the Strigidae Owls. Instead of hoo-ing, they make a variety of sounds including hisses, screams, clicks, and cackles. Barn Owls vary in colour from browns to reds with white on their undersides. They are about 18 inches long and have a wingspan of around 42 inches (that’s nearly four feet!). The colouring on their back allows them to blend in with wood in their environment. In fact many barn owls go unnoticed as they look just like a stump or tree bark from the back. When flying, its white underbelly gives it a ghostly appearance. The white is also a bit of camouflage for creatures on the ground looking up. The white will either make it blend in with the clouds, or make the owl look like one. The Barn Owl likes to groom its feathers often and has a built in comb on the middle talon of each foot. The Barn Owls eyes are located in the front of its face (like most predators), but they cannot swivel in their sockets as ours do. But to make up for this they can swivel their head 270 degrees. When they do this quickly from one direction to the other, it looks as if they can swivel it right around. The barn owl is quite short lived in the wild. It lives generally 1 or 2 years (due to predation). In captivity, they have lived up to 25 years. The Barn Owl lives on every continent except for Antarctica, preferring warmer climates to colder ones. It only lives in several distinct spots in Canada, as the climate is often too cold for them.

The face of the barn owl is one of the most interesting things about it. Not only is it distinctive and pretty, it also serves a useful purpose. The heart shaped facial disk actually directs sounds to the Barn Owl’s ears, much like a satellite dish picks up signals to transmit to your television. And its ears are the most interesting things about this animal (even though you cannot see them). Its ears are not symmetrical on its head. There is one on each side, but they are in slightly different positions. And each ear is only capable of hearing a certain set of tones. Together, they can hear quite a complete range, but each ear hears a different thing. This asymmetry allows the barn owl to hunt, not with his eyes, but with his ears. In fact a Barn Owl could glide over a field with its eyes closed and still pick up dinner. The asymmetry allows the Barn Owls brain to effectively triangulate locations of prey or objects when flying. Although its eyesight is fine, it just pales in comparison to its astonishing sense of hearing. Another special adaptation of the Barn Owl is its soundless flight. While not completely soundless, it is nearly soundless and quiet enough to hunt its prey without giving them warning.

The Barn Owls main food source is mice. It eats mice almost exclusively. If it cannot find mice it will eat rats, small rabbits, frogs, lizards, small sea birds and insects. It is so tied to mice as a food source that its population rises and falls in line with mouse populations. A person with a Barn Owl Totem would be wise to look at the mouse Totem as well because of this direct correlation. A Barn Owl chooses his habitat based on his affection for mouse meat. It likes to live in trees, caves, or structures nearby grassland that could contain mice. This is why barns are so perfect. Barn Owls can rest up in the rafters of old wooden barns and come out at night to hunt. In fact a Barn Owls hearing is so efficient that it can hunt a mouse in a pitch black darkened barn with its hearing alone. Its soundless flight aids them here significantly. As humans encroach upon the wild, Barn Owls have less and less habitat to live in and their numbers dwindle. Also, newer metal structure barns have had an impact on Barn Owls as they get too hot during the day for the Owl to rest, and the Owl is nocturnal, so it rests in the day. It is saddening, as the Owls are only beneficial to farmers, clearing their fields of creatures that would feed off its crops. Unlike other animals, you can actually build a birdhouse for a Barn Owl. If you build a structure of the right dimensions, a Barn Owl will likely take up residence there. The Barn Owl is mainly hunted by the Great Horned Owl and similar species. Its only other threat in this world is man. We encroach on their habitat and take a few out with cars here and there.

Barn Owls are monogamous by nature, mating for life. During courtship, the male will circle the females’ roost screeching. If the female responds with a croaking frog sound, then he may approach. The male will usually give the female gifts of field mice during courtship to show his worth. They mate during warm periods throughout the year. Unlike other animals it isn’t dictated by season. The Barn Owl can mate in spring, summer, or even the dead of winter if it is warm enough. They can mate up to 3 times a year if the opportunity arises. The female lays between 3 and 15 eggs and the male will feed her while she incubates them. The interesting thing about Barn Owl eggs is that they do not hatch all at the same time (nor are they laid all at the same time). They will hatch days apart (a month after being laid) and often the older hatched fledglings will help feed the newly hatched ones as they have learned to hunt already. They are ready to leave the nest by about 3 months. Barn Owls do not migrate at all, they simply wander from the territory of their birth in random directions to set up their own nests. Up to 80% of all barn owls don’t make it to adulthood, which is about 10 months of age.

Mythologically, one might assume that the Barn Owl would be associated with Athena in the Greek pantheon. Well, this is not so. It turns out that the Greeks saw a difference in these types of owls as well and the Barn Owl was sacred to Ares, not Athena. With its excellent predation, you can see why Ares might be a fine choice. The Barn Owl is unfortunately one that is villainized in Mythology. The Newuk tribe believed that if you were a wicked person, you became a Barn Owl when you died, otherwise you would become a great horned owl. In Britain, a screeching Barn Owl supposedly predicted a storm was coming. Or if you were in a storm, it predicted that the storm would be over. Most interesting though is that there have been plenty of UFO sightings that were in reality Barn Owls. Apparently barn owls sometimes get luminous mold or fungus on their feathers due to where they perch, etc. This combined with their white belly gives the appearance of a glowing object in the sky. Combined with its silent flight, you get a silent glowing object zipping this way and that. Just like a UFO!

Just like the animal, a person with a Barn Owl Totem will have a polarizing effect on those that they know. Some will find them irresistible and others will feel discord and unease around them. This is paralleled with people finding the Barn Owl either strikingly beautiful or haunting. Perhaps its the asymmetry that people sense in the Barn Owl that causes discord, or perhaps its the quiet yet predatory way in which they may look at people. It is because of this polarizing that a Barn Owl Totem will be quick to decide who his or her friends are and who are not. They will fall into neat little categories in his or her brain and once decided, the Barn Owl will probably not revisit this decision. Once a friend, always a friend. Once an enemy, always an enemy. In love, this sense of commitment follows as well. Barn Owl Totems will have committed relationships, preferring mates that are similar to themselves. In the relationship, Barn Owl Totems like to share responsibilities rather than opt for traditional roles. Even though they may be quiet individuals, their love live will be on the spicy side behind closed doors (as indicated by their active predation). Career wise, the Barn Owl Totem is not one which will do well in jobs involving a lot of social interaction, although it is not like other totems which shun social interaction altogether. Jobs where it can show its gift of sound will be optimal. An audio technician, composer, musician, mixer, foley artist, or audiologist would be good examples of this. The asymmetry of the Barn Owl indicates that a person with this totem will tend to do things in a different fashion than what is expected. Not different in a bad way, just different. It is good because these differences often lead to ingenuity and inspiration. With its silence and stealth, the Barn Owl Totem will prefer to be relatively unnoticed in a crowd. It prefers to be unnoticed, but not overlooked. There is a subtle difference here that perhaps only a barn owl could appreciate. If they are overlooked, you will find out in their sudden change from quiet watchfulness to loud and predatory action.

Written by RavenDreamer


Review of: Owl Spirit Meaning, Symbols, and Totem
Reviewed by: Author
Last modified:July 26, 2013

Owl totem description, symbol, and spirit animal meaning.
More Details

Insight and Symbolism of Spirit OwlOwl Spirit Symbolism Words: Wisdom, Silence, Magic, True Sight, Solitude, Enlightenment, Secrets, Night, Change, Omens, Vigilance, Dreams, Feminine, Intuition, Stealth, Mystery, Insight

Owl Meaning and Symbolism: The spirit of Owl brings with it many different meanings. If the Owl symbolism has entered your life recently take a moment to stop and reflect on some of the following messages:

Silence, Solitude: Is the bustling cacophony of daily life overwhelming you, are your words getting you into trouble? If Owl has glided silently into your life it is important to heed this totem’s important meaning. Owls are generally solitary and they have the remarkable ability to fly silently and to quietly move from perch to perch. The silence and symbolism of the owl spirit offers lessons of stealth and poise in our everyday lives. You may need to remove yourself from the noise of life and become the still silent observer. After slowing down and becoming stable you will be amazed by the wealth of information and meaning that surrounds you.
True Sight, Secrets: Is someone in your life being dishonest, are you being left in the dark by friends or family? The owl totem can help to reveal those who would take advantage of another or deceive others. If the owl guide has appeared to you, it may be bringing you the ability to see what others may miss. Open your eyes and truly examine how things are, you will be surprised that suddenly you can see things that are normally hidden from view – like the motives of those around you. External appearances will give way to the truth and meaning hidden beneath.
Owl Symbolism in DreamsChange, Intuition: Do you feel stagnant or apathetic; does that little voice in your head constantly nag at you? Owl is often thought to come to those who need to let go of some part of their life that is no longer needed. Listen carefully to that inner voice and be guided to recapture the knowledge of your true path in life. Owl’s senses pierce through shadows, beyond fear and darkness, through to the other side that promises light, happiness and knowledge.
Night, Dreams: Are you being hounded by fears and worries, have you been having strange or disturbing dreams? Because most owls are active between dusk and dawn, they are sometimes called Night Eagles or messengers from the dark side. If the Owl totem comes and sits nearby, it may indicate a need to peer into the darkness and face your fears. Also, pay close attention to your dreams, they carry powerful meaning and symbols of your unconscious and emotional well being.

People with Owl Totem are…

Creative Dreamers
Great Listeners
Wise Counsels

Meaning of Owl PeoplePeople who possess the power of the owl share many traits with their totem animals and feel a strong connection with the night and to the occult. Owl medicine brings the gift of wisdom and insight.

It is almost impossible to keep a secret from an owl-person, as they see through even the best hidden ploys. They always grasp the whole truth and often take this gift for granted. It is because of this uncanny ability to see through the masks that most people wear, that owl people are often unpopular and feared by others. If Owl is your spirit guide it is important that you do not use your sight against others but instead to help them discover the meanings of life messages that surround them.

The gift of owl medicine is wisdom and the ability to see in the shadows, this translates into great insight, for the self, and for the others. People with owl as their symbolic spirit guide find it easy to intuit deeper reasoning and meaning in relationships and events. Like the beat of the owl’s wings you must be gentle in sharing your wisdom, and subtle about its delivery. If all goes well the subject of your gaze may not even be aware that you are giving them valuable advice.

Many owl people are overly secretive or isolate themselves from others. Imagine a person who stays inside, up late at night, pursuing knowledge and understanding. The secretive habits of the owl, its quiet flight and various calls, whistles, screeches and hoots, have made them objects of fear and superstition. As an owl person it is important to remember that there is both a night and day, and to not get lost purely in the spirit of night and mystery. Remember that the owl totem carries with it the gift of insight, and what use is this gift if it is not shared?

Message and Meaning of OwlOwl’s Message: Owl brings with it the message of truth and awareness. When owl hoots at you or swoops into your life make sure to stop and become aware of your surroundings, seek truth in every aspect of your life and interactions.

Owl symbolism in Dreams: The appearance of owl in your dream brings several different meanings. In the dreamtime this totem symbolizes wisdom, insight, magic, expanded awareness and virtue.

If the owl is silently observing you, remember that this spirit is a symbol of insight. Examine your own life and reconnect with your intuition.

If the owl is flying, swooping, or stalking it represents your fears and negative behaviors. Do not let your worries hang silently over your head and instead address any problems so they may be changed.

To hear the screech or hoot of an owl symbolizes a disconnection with your inner voice. Your conscious and unconscious minds are out of synch. Alternatively, the cry may carry the meaning of loss or regret.

Cultural Owl Symbolism: Throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them.

Cave Painting Symbolism of Owl

Native American Symbolism: The most prevalent Native American symbolism of Owl is one that is associated with death and spirits. Many Native American tribes viewed the owls as spirits of the dead, or the souls of the recently deceased. Some tribes also believe that owl was a messenger of the underworld and carried spirits to the afterlife. Owls were also viewed as powerful spirit protectors and their feathers held great meaning and value.
Celtic/Gaelic Symbolism: In Celtic symbolism, the owl is noted for wisdom, keen sight, and patience. The owl is a guide in the underworld and an effective hunter. At the same time this night-dweller was considered a “corpse-bird” or “night hag.”
Indian Symbolism: In early Indian folklore, Owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy.
Greek/Roman Symbolism: In most lore the owl symbolizes wisdom and protection and was the favorite bird of Athene, the goddess of wisdom. To the Romans, the owl was both a symbol of victory and doom. To hear the hoot of an Owl presaged imminent death. The deaths of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Commodus Aurelius, and Agrippa were apparently all predicted by an Owl.
Chinese Symbolism: Asian peoples told tales of the owl stealing children in the night. Others believed witches could fly about in the form of owls and that sorcerers could send messages by means of this bird.

Biblical Symbolism:

Because he is a solitary night bird, the owl has come to represent the forsaken. Job in his affliction calls himself “a companion to owls” (Job 30:29). The owl is associated with ruins – places that have been utterly abandoned and are unfit for human habitation. The complete ruin of the cities of Israel’s enemies is emphasized by the following statements: “the owl and the raven shall dwell in it (Isa 34:11 NKJV); it shall be an habitation of dragons and a court for owls” (Isa 34:13); “the owls shall dwell therein: and it shall be no more inhabited forever; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation” (Jer 50: 39). Christianity saw in the owl a symbol of Christ, who came to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:79).



6 thoughts on “Barn Owls – Totem Symbolism

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