Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I was walking in the forest, on a dim afternoon, hunting for mushrooms. Ruckus and the poodle were with me--the poodle dashing joyously ahead, Ruckus engaged in top-secret cat stuff in the brush. Suddenly a barred owl sailed silently through the tree trunks. It was close enough to touch, though I did not touch it. The owl rose and then folded itself onto the limb of a tall birch tree beside the pond. And there it sat, for as long as I watched it, a vivid mothy shadow in the faded daylight, looking down on the three of us, considering us as dinner prospects, I suppose. I picked up Ruckus, who was the only one of edible size, and I looked up at the owl, which looked down on me--tamely, one might say, or indifferently.

In The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer writes of owl mythology. He not only records the common tale of the witch's familiar but notes that eating an owl's eyes is said to give a person the power to see in the dark. He also speaks of the owl's place in the traditions of "many tribes of South-eastern Australia," where "each woman believes that the lives of her mother, sisters, daughters, and so forth, equally with her own, are bound up with the lives of particular owls, and that in guarding the owl species she is guarding the lives of all her female relations besides her own."

But if anything, the owl I saw was guarding me. Or it was planning to eat my cat. The interaction was mysterious; it was both beautiful and ominous.
                                          Well, I would like to make,
thinking some line still held taut between me and them,
poems direct as what the birds said,
hard as a floor, sound as a bench,
mysterious as the silence when the tailor
would pause with his needle in the air. 
--from Denise Levertov, "Illustrious Ancestors"


Maureen said...

My only studies bird mythology. His own animal spirit is the raven.

It's fascinating to learn how different cultures regard or regarded owls. The Greeks thought of them as good luck symbols, the Romans as impending disasters. Native Americans vary in their myths about owls, some regarding them as protective, others as symbols of death.

Carlene said...

A little over a year ago, I was undergoing some personal stress, and I felt a strong calling to Athena's blessing (it's on my FB now), and along with that, I started seeing owl imagery everywhere. Although they are a bit trendy, I think that owl imagery vibrates in our psyches; they are mysterious, benign, aloof...raptors that mesmerize and fascinate. (Or is that the same thing?) I recently bought an original piece of artwork that is, of course, an owl. It's beautiful, and it graces the paneled wall of my living room.
Thanks for sharing such a distinct image of meeting the barred owl...the image, albeit from actual events, is also rife with myth. Owls, forests, woman
The universe is speaking to you, Dawn...time for another "fairy tale" poem?

Dawn Potter said...

Bats are another interesting spirit animal . . . feared in European tales, but not in other cultures. Like owls, they have a secretive flight pattern: I wonder if that is part of the attraction/repulsion.