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Owls and HalloweenWhoo goes There

October 29, 2015

Some of my favorite decorations for Halloween have always included owls. They are a favorite of mine and have been gaining more and more popularity over the years. Owls have a long history of being featured in folk lore and also being associated with Halloween.

In ancient Greece the goddess of Wisdom Athena was often linked with the owl. The Greeks revered the owl and protected them. Owls were encouraged to live in their temples and inhabited the Acropolis in great numbers. They believed that the gods gave the owl a magical inner light which gave them the ability to see in the dark. To have an owl fly over an army before battle was sign of impending victory.

To the Romans, the owl was a creature from the underworld and a sign of impending doom or death. To hear the hoot of an owl meant that there would soon be a death. The Romans also believed that witches were able to transform into owls.

In many cultures owls have been symbols of magic often seen along with witches and bats. Owls were often considered messengers for witches and that if you saw an owl, a witch would soon appear.  The owls screech is often thought to resemble a witch’s cackle.

The owl entered into our Halloween traditions much like the bat. As a hunter of bats, owls would often be seen near the Halloween bonfires searching for food alongside bats. Silently flying owls often scared nighttime travelers as they swooped down to catch their prey. A creature that moved silently, hunted at night and sounded like a witch cackling it is natural that the owl would be associated with Halloween.

In today’s world we have seen that these superstitions are just stories from a time when people were fearful and trying to learn more about the environment. Owls today are seen as beautiful hunters feeding on undesirable rodents. Silent hunters with amazing eyesight and hearing and the ability to turn their heads 270 degrees we welcome owls in our back yards.

Some famous owls include Mr. Owl from Tootsie Pop, Hedwig from Harry Potter, Owl from Winnie the Pooh, Archimedes the Owl from Disney’s the Sword in the Stone and Woodsy Owl the United States Forest Service mascot. You may remember Woodsy’s old motto ‘Give a Hoot-Don’t pollute’ which has been since changed to ‘Lend a hand-care for the land’.

At the zoo we have 2 Eastern screech owls as animal ambassadors.  Errol and Bugsey help us teach about predators and prey in our camps and school programs. These handsome owls also make appearances at special events and snoozes. Both of our owls were rescues and are unable to survive on their own in the wild. With us they receive all the food they need, medical care and have a safe environment to live in.

Stephanie Peters