I have been searching for photos that depict wisdom. On the site where I buy photos, the search term wisdom brought up 1000s of photos, but oddly they fell into four categories: owls, elderly people, graduation caps, and human brains. The graduation caps and brain images don’t suggest wisdom for me…maybe learning or education, but not wisdom. The elderly and owls, in contrast, are standard symbols of wisdom, although I want something more subtle.
This quest led me to wonder, Why owls? There must be a story there. Is it something about their eyes? At first I only found information about owl species, habitats, and reproduction. Further searching led me to information on owl mythology. Wow, the owl has an interesting history for a bird that is mostly nocturnal and shy. And yes, the story of its association with wisdom begins with the owl’s eyes and its night vision.
The Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, loved the owl’s eyes and decided to make them a protected bird. The night vision of owls suggested they could see “beyond”, to a deeper understanding of life. Athena’s protection allowed the owls to multiply and take over both the Acropolis and people’s hearts; even coins from that era are imprinted with owl images. However, 1000s of years later, Europeans considered the owl a sign of evil. Current American culture once again associates the owl with wisdom. Yet, if a person dreams about an owl, it may be the unconscious warning about danger or nudge to look beyond the obvious.
I love owls and my woman cave project includes some owl appliques. I have a half-sewn owl purse next to my sewing machine, and in high school art class I carved an owl from a small salt block, a fact I remember because my mom kept it on the fireplace mantle for about 35 years. According to my research, a love of owls means that I have a strong intuition (revealed also in my Myers Briggs profile), can access wisdom usually hidden to others (like interpreting scriptures?), and likes to explore the unknown (even if its windy).
Now, the owl spirit in me wonders, Why are owls so popular again? Nearly everything you can imagine is owl-shaped or has an owl image imprinted in its surface. The last time they invaded our culture was in the 70s, when I carved my owl. That was a time of cultural change and looking beyond the surface of life for deeper meaning–the classic owl thing. Could we again be heading in that direction? Or, is the owl invasion warning us about danger? Is it symbolizing evil? I don’t really know why; perhaps it is just the revival of a cute image. Turtles, kittens, ponies, frogs, unicorns–they all come and go thanks to marketing gurus looking for a new trend.
Or not. I like to think that a new age of wisdom dawns!