" - yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noonday , upon the marketplace
Hooting and shrieking."
Shakespeare, "Julius Caesar".
The Tawny Owl is the most common owl in Europe. It is responsible for the classic sound of owls at night. It is a night creature and remains well hidden during the day.
Across the world owls have become birds of folklore and legend, and the tu-whit, to-whoo of a tawny owl is among the most obvious calls of any bird. Many superstitions are associated with owls. Witchcraft, medicine, weather, birth and even death. In the past the owl was thought to be both wise yet foolish, feared but venerated and despised while being admired.
In Aesop's fables and in Greek myths and beliefs the owl represent wisdom and helpfulness and have powers of prophecy. Owls were associated with Blodeuwed, the goddess of betrayal in the ancient Welsh story Maboginion and the Greek Athene was a goddess of wisdom and was represented by a Little Owl to which she gave her name.
In Celtic folklore the owl is a sign of the underworld, the Inuits on Greenland see the owl as a source of guidance and helpfulness, the Tartar shamen of Central Russia could assume owls' shapes and in Scotland it's bad luck to see an owl in daylight.
In medieval Europe the owl had become associated with witches and the inhabitant of dark and lonely places - the owl's appearance at night linked them with the unknown - but superstitions
died out in the 20th century, and the Owl has returned to its position as a symbol of wisdom. In fact the owl has become quite hot with the success of the Harry Potter books which have reminded adults and kids alike of the mystic nature of these beautiful birds.
photo 100208: grethe bachmann, Forsthaven, Århus