Animal symbolism permeates world cultures. Owls hold a special place amongst the most symbolic animals in the world.
Barn owls are not an exception, on the contrary. This curious-looking owl species has a deep, complex, and sometimes contradictory symbolism and spiritual meaning.
Barn owls are the most widespread birds in the world. They could be found on every continent, except the South Pole, so no wonder the folklore and myths about barn owls are present all across the globe.
Beautiful and somewhat strange, barn owls are easily distinguishable from other types of owls.
Their feathered legs, the peculiar shape of their tail, but most importantly their white, heart-shaped face with opaque, onyx eyes and a feathery ‘nose’ inspire various associations.
Barn Owls Symbolism
Barn owl folk names and symbolism is rich and somewhat scary and somber.
They are known as ‘death owls’, ‘demon owls’ and ‘ghost’, ‘lich owls’, or ‘corpse owls’. In various traditions, barn owls are considered heralds of death.
Rural superstitions are not in favor of this particular type of owl. They are mostly, though not exclusively, considered a bad omen, the bringer of evil. Their appearance makes people think of ghosts and demons.
The white face and black eyes of barn owls, along with their white bellies easily seen as they fly across the ground give them a strange, ghostly appearance.
Besides, these owls make odd hissing sounds and they screech, which might scare people.
Some cultures associate them with evil forces and take them as bringers of disease.
The Tzeltal people from Mexico believe barn owls bring diseases and death. Thai people have a similar belief about barn owls.
They believe barn owls bring death to a house they fly over.
If they land on the roof of the house, one of the residents will die, according to this Thai superstition.
South African superstitions about barn owls are mostly negative.
Some South African people associate barn owls with witchcraft and dark magic.
They fiercely persecute barn owls because of that. Some others use them in traditional medicine.
Many African cultures hold the belief that things that happen to us are caused by the impact of the spirits of the ancestors or some individuals using spiritual powers.
Illness and misfortune are, according to belief, caused by such influences.
In South Africa, the traditional medicine called muthi is believed to invoke the spirits and chase away negative energy.
This spiritual cure includes the consumption of animals with spiritual powers – like owls, including barn owls.
Barns owls are not an endangered species, but many of the birds are being killed by people unaware of the barn owls’ beneficial role and place in the ecosystem.
Not all beliefs about barn owls are negative. In some parts of the world, barn owls are associated with fortune, prosperity, and wealth.
Among Hindu people, barn owls symbolize positive outcomes, wealth, and fortune.
In India, these heart-shaped face owls are a symbol of the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of fortune and wealth.
Besides the examples given above, barn owls share symbolism with owls in general.
Therefore, barn owls also stand for wisdom, mystical and higher knowledge, and death and renewal.
Barn Owl Spiritual Meaning
The barn owl is considered a creature of special spiritual powers, like owls in general.
Barn owls symbolize death, rebirth, wisdom, higher knowledge, and mystical insights. They are associated with the world of spirits.
White heart-shaped faces, hissing sounds, and the behavior of barn owls make people see them as creatures from between realms.
Indeed, barn owls are associated with the duality of existence, with realms of the living and dead.
Barn owls have a sophisticated sense of hearing. They can hear little rodents from great distances.
A barn owl can catch a little mammal like a mouse from beneath the snow. This makes people think of barn owls as magical creatures, which have an insight into worlds we cannot reach.
Although folklore and superstitions about barn owls are mostly negative, the most common spiritual meanings about these birds include some very positive interpretations. However, barn owls remain mysterious.
Barn owls and owls in general are mostly nocturnal creatures, although some hunt during the day.
All nocturnal animals, birds in particular, are associated with darkness and mystery. In almost all folk traditions, mythologies, and belief systems, the night is the time for spirits to come out.
For this reason, owls are generally associated with darkness and night.
Since the night is the time when we sleep, everything that takes place during that time is considered strange, being the opposite of what we do.
Barn owls might be the creatures of the night, but there is much more to it.
Let us dive into the spiritual world of barn owls. What are the most common meanings of barn owls?
Barn Owl Meaning – Wisdom and Higher Knowledge
To start with one of the most positive associations of barn owls, these birds symbolize wisdom.
For centuries, owls have been associated with wisdom and knowledge.
The belief possibly comes from the mythology of Athena, the Ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.
Athena is often portrayed with an owl – not a barn owl, but the symbolism and meaning of owls are shared amongst the different species.
Owls, including barn owls, see in the dark and have a well-developed sense of hearing.
This made people believe owls ‘know’ things we hardly reach.
In truth, barn owls are not as intelligent a species as, for example, crows (counted amongst the most intelligent birds in the world).
However, their peculiar traits, skills, and behavior made them a symbol of wisdom.
Thus, the barn owl symbolizes wisdom and deeper knowledge.
Owls can learn by observing what is happening around them and they can pass the ‘knowledge’.
Barn owls, with their unique, otherworldly appearance look as if they come from another realm.
Barn owls are associated with higher knowledge, wisdom, and learning.
They are believed to possess incredible spiritual potential.
Barn Owl Meaning – Hearing and Listening
We have already mentioned barn owls have an incredibly delicate sense of hearing.
By using their ears, they can register the frequencies we, humans, can only imagine. They can hear a little rodent making its way through the grass from great distances.
This makes barn owls excellent hunters. This special gift of barn owls makes us think they can predict the future.
By listening to what is happening around, a barn owl knows what will happen next. The delicate sense of hearing makes barn owls great predictors of events.
Barn owls symbolize patience and careful listening. They observe their surroundings and take in the finest sounds made by other living creatures and nature around them.
Barn owls embody the idea of intent and silent listening. They are an especially good omen for people who feel constantly judged or criticized, without being heard.
For example, dreaming about a silent barn owl carefully watching and listening means there is someone who hears you, someone who has both patience and understanding for you.
The barn owl is a symbol of a higher power watching over you.
Barn Owl Meaning – The Power of Intuition
Barn owls symbolize the power of intuition. This is in close connection with their incredible skills and senses.
Barn owls’ use of echolocation makes them a symbol of intuition.
We have already mentioned how polished is the barn owls’ sense of hearing.
These birds have the ability of echolocation, which means they register sound waves.
They can find their prey easily and from a great distance by using echolocation.
Barn owls typically hunt by night, meaning they have special traits and senses enabling them to determine where their prey is under the veil of darkness.
Barn owls are able of noticing things we humans are not.
This nocturnal creature is thus thought to possess a special sense – we would say a sixth sense.
This is closely associated with the concept of intuition and intuitive acting. Barn owls simply know what to do; they do not require any special lessons.
As a spirit animal, the barn owl symbolizes strongly developed intuition, the ability to see and sense the invisible, and the power of prediction.
Barn Owl Meaning – The Creature of the Dark
The barn owl symbolizes darkness and night. As mentioned, barn owls are nocturnal.
They hunt during the night and rest in the daytime. Barn owls usually avoid moving around during the day. This is not a habit unique to barn owls, though.
This habit, found in nocturnal animals, including ghostly-looking barn owls, is often associated with darkness, introverted nature, quietness, the hidden side of our personality, and life in general.
Barn owls represent the other side of ourselves and our life.
Everything in life has its ‘dark’ and its ‘bright’ side. It does not necessarily correspond with the concept of good and bad.
The dark side, in this case, does not have to be the negative side, but a hidden one.
Barn owls represent those aspects of our personality we do not tend to show off.
Everyone has their ‘dark side’. This dark side could be something we try to hide on purpose, but it could also represent our unconscious self.
There is much going on behind the level of awareness. Barn owls represent our hidden self, the deeper sense of self.
There is something particularly interesting considering this spiritual meaning of barn owls.
They are creatures of the night, they rule the realm of darkness, but their appearance is oddly bright – their faces are white.
Although according to various superstitions, barn owls are associated with ghosts and dark news, precisely because of such features and behavior, we can also think of them as light in the darkness, although this is not what anyone would commonly say about barn owls.
Their appearance and behavior make them a symbol of both life and death. Barn owls represent the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Barn Owl – Guidance Through Dark Times
Barn owls symbolize guidance in life and especially guidance through the darkness.
Barn owls can see in the dark and they can hear sounds we are unable even to imagine.
Spiritually, barn owls represent the light in the dark.
Although taken as the creature of the night and often associated with negative energies taking place during the darkest hours, barn owls can also represent the opposite.
They symbolize guidance through the darkest of times.
As spiritual animals, barn owls lead us through our uncertainties, and through the most difficult times and situations.
They help us find our way out of the darkness and overcome our troubles.
Barn owls help us discover our true selves and bring into awareness the hidden parts of our being.
In that sense, barn owls represent quite the opposite of a ‘demon owl’; they can appear rather angelic.
Barn Owl Meaning – The Herald of Death
Barn owls are known as ‘ghost owls’, ‘death owls’, ‘demon owls’, etc.
The belief in barn owls are heralds of misfortune, death, and disease is widespread across the world.
It has to do with the birds’ appearance and their strange, creepy call.
Barn owls do not produce the sounds we associate with the majority of owls.
They produce screeching sounds that resemble a woman crying and screaming.
For this reason, barn owls are often taken as bad omen.
The barn owl is thus seen as a messenger from the realm of the dead, which naturally makes people scared of barn owls.
In many cultures, barn owls symbolize death and people are not happy to see them.
On the other side, barn owls could be taken as a symbol of both life and death. Barn owls travel between the realms.
In the spiritual sense, they encircle the cycle of life, which consists of birth, life, and death.
In addition, barn owls represent rebirth. Rebirth and renewal are impossible without decay and death.
Barn Owl Meaning – The Importance of Silence
Barn owls are quiet nocturnal hunters. Owls generally do not make sounds when hunting for prey.
These silent hunting experts symbolize the importance of patience, silence, calmness, and precision.
Silence helps us reach deep within ourselves and hear our inner voice. Barn owls bring calmness and silence into our lives.
They remind us of the importance of spending some quiet time, far from the noise, and distracting surroundings.
Barn owls use their precise, sensitive, and sophisticated sense of hearing to detect their prey.
They need silence to do that. We need silence to distinguish messages that are truly important to us, the same way a barn owl needs silence to achieve its hunting goal.
Barn Owl Meaning – The Mask of Mystery
Barn owls look as if wearing white masks!
This bird also has very soft feathers that may produce a velvety purring sound when a barn owl flies.
All this makes it appear mysterious and captivating.
The bird’s big opaque black eyes appear mysterious on their own. They look magical and magnetic.
The barn owl symbolizes the mystery of life and death, it is a traveler in between realms.
Barn Owl Cultural Significance and Symbolic Meaning
Barn owls live in almost every corner of the earth. They are present in various traditions and local beliefs.
The meaning of barn owls in different cultures varies.
Here are some of the most notable examples of barn owl symbolism in different cultures.
Barn Owl – Native American Symbolism
Native Americans hold barn owls and birds of great spiritual power.
The barn owl has somewhat varied symbolism depending on the tribal folklore, but in most native American traditions, barn owls represent the cycles of life and death, with an emphasis on the concept of death, the transition from this world to another, and transformation.
For Native Americans, this nocturnal and mysterious bird of prey represents the symbol of rebirth.
Stories and legends related to barn owls vary amongst Native American tribes.
While some see it more as a symbol of death, others consider it a symbol of enlightenment.
Barn owls, just like their other owl relatives, hunt at night, as recounted above.
For this reason, they become the subject of folk tales meant to prevent children from wandering around alone at night. According to stories, barn owls can take human souls.
The most common belief related to barn owls in Native American folklore considers these mysterious birds companions or guides of the souls of the deceased on their way to the afterlife.
This belief is present virtually in all mythologies around the world; only the guide changes.
Barn owls have the role of transferring souls from the world of living to the realm of death. For this reason, they are seen as heralds of death.
Their unusual screeching cry is associated with misfortune and death.
Barn owl – Hindu Symbolism
In India, barn owls enjoy a completely different symbolic status.
These birds are associated with the goddess Lakshmi, the deity of wealth and fortune in Hindu mythology.
Hindu people respect and praise beautiful, though strange barn owls.
The benevolent goddess uses a white barn owl as her vehicle.
For this reason, the white barn owl enjoys special status in Bengali culture.
While in other parts of the world, people would chase away barn owls from their rooftops or even kill them, the situation is different in India.
In Bengal, a barn owl landing on the top of your house, especially a white barn owl, is considered an auspicious omen, a sign of fortune and wealth.
Moreover, the white barn owl is a Brahmin – this is the upper class, a caste in India – and a Vahan – vahan is the aforementioned vehicle of Lakshmi.
Barn Owl – Celtic Symbolism
In Celtic folklore, the barn owl is also associated with a deity – the goddess of death, Cailleach.
This deity, according to Celtic tradition, takes souls from the realm of the living to the underworld.
The goddess Cailleach is the deity with a gift of clairvoyance. She helps people uncover deceptions and lies.
Barn owls, as birds with an incredible ability to hear and see in the dark symbolize this deity. They are seekers of truth and breakers of lies.
Barn Owl – Christian Symbolism
In Christianity, the symbolism of barn owls is dual. Barn owls may symbolize prophecies, an insight into the future, and visions of the unknown.
However, owls in general could be seen as forbearers of death.
On the positive side, the more mystically inclined Christians see barn owls and owls in general as a symbol of wisdom, but also challenges given by God, meant to strengthen our faith.