Why Are Owls Associated With Halloween? Origins Uncovered

Published July 18, 2022
Halloween Pumpkins and an owl on an old wooden table in front of black background

In ancient Greece, the Goddess of Wisdom, Athena, honored the owl and adopted it as a sacred and revered adviser. Yet, Halloween is synonymous with ghosts, black cats, bats, spiders, skeletons, ghoulish monsters, and more. It's the spookiest of holidays and has many scary symbols. Have you ever wondered why owls are also associated with Halloween?

The Owl, Samhain, and Halloween

Halloween is believed to be the direct descendant of Samhain, the Celtic new year. During Samhain, the barrier between the physical and spiritual world was penetrable, and ghosts rose up from their graves and wandered the streets. Celts believed the owl was the ruler of the night, seer of the souls, and had guardianship of the underworld.

The Middle Ages

In medieval times, the imagery of the owl took a dark turn, and owls became the companion of witches. It was fabled that an owl was a witch or a wizard in disguise. Many believed that an owl's spooky hooting signaled the approach of a witch. Owl symbolism has also labeled them as indicators of nearby death or hauntings. Owls were also seen as bringers of bad luck. One superstition is that bad fate will befall anyone who hears an owl hoot three times.

Other Owl Superstitions

Owl superstitions are many; below are a few spooky superstitions.

  • Hearing the hoot of an owl meant someone was about to die.
  • Owls would swoop down to earth to eat the souls of the dying.
  • If an owl perches on your roof, it's an omen of death.
  • The glassy stare of an owl is an omen for disaster.
  • If an owl lives in an abandoned house, it's likely a haunted house because owls can happily co-exist with ghosts.
  • An owl calling near the home of a newborn baby could cause the child to die or even grow up to be a witch.

Owls Look and Sound Scary

In addition to all the death symbolism related to owls, owls have a spooky aura. They sound and look scary. An owl hoots, hisses, barks, screeches, whistles, whinnies, and screams. They also have eerie, piercing yellow eyes. Even more horrifying, they can turn their head almost entirely around. An owl's ability to fly silently through the dark night sky only makes them spookier. Yes, owls are disturbing and unsettling.

Creatures of the Night

Owls are the most active when darkness shrouds the land. They are fierce, nocturnal flying predators that have been associated with witches, who also fly about at night doing dark deeds. Nighttime was scary for ancient humans; it was a time of witches, demons of darkness, bats, and ghosts. The nighttime activities of owls emphasize their spookiness. This is another reason why owls are associated with Halloween.

Why Owls Are Associated With Halloween

Owls are associated with Halloween for several apparent reasons. Owls are creatures of the night that have been used in pop culture media to intensify elements of fear and suspense. Due to the ancient associations and superstitions, owls grew into popular characters used during Halloween. Owls are often depicted circulating overhead in an eerie sky in Halloween imagery. They are even on Halloween greeting cards and party invitations. Owls can be seen perched on thin branches, wearing cute witch hats, or sitting next to carved pumpkins. One thing's for sure, the owl has carved out a permanent place in Halloween lore.

Halloween Night

While not nearly as frightening as other Halloween monsters and creatures, many people still find the calling of an owl unnerving. However, when trick-or-treaters are going from house to house and hear an owl hoot or screech, the eerie, spooky sounds can make their nighttime Halloween adventure even more exciting.

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Why Are Owls Associated With Halloween? Origins Uncovered