Wise men and women have recognised traits worthy of respect in both wild and domestic creatures for as long as humankind has recognised animals as teachers. The cultural and spiritual significance of certain animals transcends geographical boundaries, unifying diverse peoples. Not so the majestic and mysterious owl, which has over many millennia served as the focal point of numerous contradictory beliefs. Though owls have been regarded with awe and fascination, they have also inadvertently served as agents of fear. Since owls are nocturnal, human-owl encounters tended to occur at night and likely when a bird was swooping silently down to earth to grapple with prey. Yet even as some shied away from an owl, calling it an agent of darkness, others recognized the depths of awareness in the beautiful eyes of owls.
In the classical Greek tradition, an owl could often be found perched on the shoulder of Athena, goddess of wisdom, as owls could ward off bad luck in Roman lore. It is in Native American mythos, however, that the owl attains its own unique identity. Owls are patient messengers, bringers of information and the holders of wisdom, and they are capable of seeing the unseen. With their keen eyesight, they can glance into the soul to discern meaning and motive, and they are totems of truth. Unlike our distant forebears, we may never encounter an owl in the wild, but we can nonetheless internalise the wisdom of the owl by attuning ourselves to its most venerable qualities. Fully integrating the medicine of the owl into spiritual existence is a matter of considering how we might open ourselves more fully to the wisdom that can be found in the larger universe.
Should you find your efforts blocked as you commune with the owl, remember that it was not always revered as an icon of wisdom. This denizen of the night time has overcome many prejudices in its long association with humankind. To reveal those hidden elements of the self that impact your life for better or for worse, you must often make your way through the darkest parts of your soul as if you yourself are the nocturnal hunter. There is indeed darkness both inside the self and outside the self, but like the owl you can transcend it by drawing nourishment from the insights you receive when you penetrate it.
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