Animals Wildlife 6 Myths and Superstitions About Owls These beautiful nocturnal birds have long fascinated humans. By Jaymi Heimbuch Jaymi Heimbuch Twitter Writer California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer specializing in wildlife conservation, technology, and food. She is the author of "The Ethiopian Wolf: Hope at the Edge of Extinction." Learn about our editorial process Updated October 24, 2022 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Paul Gläser / 500px / Getty Images Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species Many birds are steeped in lore, but the owl is a raptor with no shortage of superstitions. Here are six of our favorites that may incline you to regard this bird with even more wonder. Owls are famous for their exceptional eyesight and it was thought that you could gain better eyesight by ingesting parts of them. In England, the method was to cook owl eggs until they were ash, then incorporate them into a potion. Folklore from India had a more direct method: just eat owl eyes.Owls are a sign of death in many cultures, including some Native American tribes. For instance, dreaming of an owl signified approaching death for Apache people. Boreal owl calls were a call from spirits to the Cree people, and if you answered back to the owl with a whistle and didn't get a response, it was a sign that your death was imminent. On the other hand, Dakota Hidatsa people believed that burrowing owls acted as protective spirits for warriors.For some cultures, the owl was sacred. Among Australian Aborigines, owls are the spirits of women and so are sacred. The Kwakiutl people also thought owls were the souls of people and shouldn't be harmed because, if the owl was killed, the person whose soul the owl carried would also die. In fact, many different cultures believed that a person became an owl after death.Owls are often viewed as a symbol of wisdom. The "wise old owl" character comes from an old English nursery rhyme, which suggests that listening more than talking is a valuable character trait that we would all benefit from developing. As such, the owl has become a sign of learning and mental change. Many people believe that seeing an owl is a profoundly good thing, as it indicates the start of a new phase in life.Owls are, of course, associated with witchcraft—particularly white ones, which are the most elusive. Greeks and Romans believed witches could turn themselves into owls, and in this form would come to suck the blood of babies. In other cultures, owls were simply the messengers of witches, or hooted to warn of the approach of a witch. Unfortunately this led to many owls being hunted and killed in the Middle Ages.Though the owl's nocturnal activity was at the root of many superstitions, the amazing ability of an owl to rotate its neck to extraordinary degrees was even turned into a myth. In England it was believed that if you walked around a tree that an owl was perched in, it would follow you with its eyes, around and around until it wrung its own neck.