The Meaning and Symbolism of an Owl Tattoo


A highly detailed owl tattoo can be a magnificent addition to any other tattoo art on your body. As with other animals, the owl has a long and ancient history of meaning and symbolism across many human cultures. So what does it mean to get an owl tattoo?

The Wisdom of the Owl

To many people, the owl is a symbol of wisdom. With large eyes and a steady stare, the owl is also often associated with intelligence. If you’ve ever thought about why you should get an owl tattoo, here are some common meanings associated with this most mysterious of animals:

  • Wisdom, insight, and intelligence
  • Mystery and enigma
  • A transition from one state to another
  • Protection
  • Secrecy
  • Communication and messages

The owl is most commonly seen only at night. It is a nocturnal hunter and many people associate it with the mystery and solitude of night. In this sense, it seems to possess some darker connotations. In fact, it has been linked with death and the underworld in some cultures. It conveys messages to people who have died; in this sense, it is a mysterious figure with an air of terror.

Ancient Origins

To Native Americans, the owl was a spirit animal and was also a guardian of sacred knowledge. To seek out the owl was to know your higher self and to seek the truth about yourself. In this sense, the owl is a symbol of wisdom of the self and represents the path of gnosis.

The owl is also an expert hunter and flies gracefully. The ancients connected the owl to the air and travel. It was thought that the owl could help one travel in a spiritual sense and find some core self and a path of wisdom and knowledge.

The essence of the owl is truth. The owl cannot be deceived and it is thus the animal most associated with the transition to a higher spiritual path and the path of righteous self-knowledge and personal transformation. Perhaps this is also why some people find the owl so terrifying too. If the owl appears in dreams, it may signify an upcoming personal transformation where no lies can be tolerated and the truth will be revealed.

The Owl and Death

For some people, the owl is also a symbol of death. Our modern understanding of death may place more emphasis on the material but to ancient people, death was simply a transition from one state of being to the next. In this context, the owl is a very important spiritual figure.

The ancient Egyptians revered the owl because it was also one of the gatekeepers to the afterlife realms. As people passed from this life to the next, the owl accompanied them on their spiritual journey, guiding the way, offering protection, and helping them transition from the physical state to the spiritual or astral state of being. For the ancient Egyptians, physical existence was merely the beginning of the transformational process and the owl was a key aspect of this transformation.

The Crone and the Goddess

For the ancient Celts, the owl was also sacred and important in their understanding of life and death. The owl was an aspect of the Goddess and actually represented the Crone aspect of the Goddess. In this guise, the owl helped to guide people on their journeys after death into the underworld.

Once again, the guiding aspect of the owl was recognized by ancient people. And it is perhaps the keen perceptions and nocturnal hunting instincts of the owl that gave it the power to protect people after death and guide them on their journeys into a new state of being.

Athena and the Sacred Owl

Athena was the patron deity of the ancient Greek city of Athens and was also one of the most interesting spiritual figures in ancient history. For Athena, the owl was a sacred animal. It symbolized protection and was often invoked by soldiers before battle. For the ancient Athenians, if an owl was seen to fly over an army, it was interpreted as a good omen that symbolized protection and victory.

The expert hunting aspect of the owl also played a large part in this representation. As agile and stealthy hunters, owls are almost unmatched.

The Owl and Harry Potter

For any fan of Harry Potter, the owl may not be so mysterious. The long tradition of granting owls a special place in our many human cultures perhaps gave JK Rowling the idea to include owls in her Harry Potter series.

Perhaps the most famous owl in this story is Hedwig. This is the snowy white owl that accompanies Harry Potter. For Harry, Hedwig is not just a comfort in lonely times but is also a connection between his magical world at Hogwarts and his normal everyday world outside of it.

In this context, Hedwig is a messenger and a protector. Here, the owl also accompanies Harry during his transition from one state to another — the movement between the Hogwarts world and his Muggle world.

Apart from Hedwig, there are lots of other owls in the magical world of Hogwarts. Here, they not only represent wisdom, magick, and mystery but they are also messengers.

Why Should You Get An Owl Tattoo?

The owl has a rich history of meaning and sacred symbolism across many cultures in human history. It was associated with Athena, the ancient Greek goddess, and also became important to the ancient Celts. The ancient Egyptians also recognized the owl as a protective figure and a guide to the underworld. For the Native Americans, the owl was also a vital spirit animal and was associated with gnosis and the search for truth and knowledge.

Lots of people around the country have tattoos but the owl is not a common motif. It may appeal to you if you want to get something truly unique so that you stand out in a crowd.

Given its long association with wisdom and gnosis, you might also think about getting an owl tattoo if you have a personal interest in truth seeking. Perhaps you’ve been lied to in the past or you have an interest in being honest with yourself and others? The owl represents a truthful approach to life where there is no room for illusion from yourself or others.

There is always the dark side of the owl too and this may draw you in. Because the owl is rarely seen by people, it has an air of mystery about it. The owl operates only at night and is an effective, stealthy predator. For some people, this association with the night, the moon, and hunting is important.

Conclusion

The owl has a long, rich history of meaning and sacred symbolism across many different human cultures. Even today, it is a tattoo motif that is not very common. For this reason alone, it may have some appeal.

Whether you relate to the owl as a messenger between worlds, as a mysterious nocturnal hunter, as a protector or symbol of wisdom, or as a totem of personal gnosis and truth seeking, a well-done owl tattoo will certainly draw the eye.

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