Owls are among the most mysterious of bird species. Perhaps this is because they are nocturnal and rarely seen in the wild. There are many superstitions about owls, as there are with other such mythical creatures, such as bats, cats, crows and the like. Indeed, the Internet abounds with such superstitions about owls that exist all over the world:
In parts of Africa, owls are considered harbingers of evil.
Aborigines believe owls represent the souls of women.
Celtic traditions regard the owl as a sign of the underworld.
In Germany, if a howl hoots as a child is born, then that child will live an unhappy life.
In Ireland, an owl that gets into the house must be killed at once. Otherwise it will bring bad luck.
In Hebrew tradition, the owl represents blindness and is considered unclean.
An owl's hoot in New Mexico signals the coming of witches.
The list goes on and on and on (for more, check out Controverscial). Of course, these negative connotations about the bird were always evident to me, and I thought nothing of them until I treeled to Italy in 2002 and 2004. During both trips to my ancestral homeland, I came across many, many talismans made in the image of the creature, and a woman in an alabaster shop told me that they were good luck.
For whatever reason, I thought that was cool and I found in that shop a nice little souvenir that I could get for all of my friends to bring them good luck. They were these cute little statuettes of an owl's head. In the years since, I've continued to pick up other such owl figurines that I keep in my house for good luck.
When I decided to check out the validity of the girl in the alabaster shop's statement, I found that owls are not really considered goo luck in Italy after all. Giuseppe Noel of Italy, says on his blog about owls:
We have superstitions about animals, too. An owl, black cat, and a fox bring bad luck. When you are walking and see an owl, or if you are walking or driving and you see a black cat crossing the street, you should stop and let the person or car behind you go ahead of you so that the bad luck goes to that person, not to you!
More bad superstitions of owls in Italy trace back to ancient Rome:
In early Rome a dead Owl nailed to the door of a house averted all evil that it supposedly had earlier caused. 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.
Another Roman superstition was that witches transformed into Owls, and sucked the blood of babies.
So, have I been displaying owls in my house for the past ten years only to bring bad luck into my house? And my poor friends that I gave the owl heads to, what about them? Eh, it's all just superstition. I still think that owls are fascinating creatures and I like them, and so I think I'm going to keep them around anyway...