I believe that studying the sacred animals of the Gods can teach us something about the nature of that God. Even the perceptions of animals by other cultures can be important.
Owls, that special animal of Athena, have a complex mythology. To some cultures, such as the Ojibwa and Pueblo Native American tribes, they are a symbol of death and a bad omen. To the Pawnee Indians, however, it was a protective symbol. In ancient Rome, it was believed that if you placed an owl feather on a sleeping person’s body, you would learn his or her secrets.
The owl, although perfectly capable of seeing by day, is primarily a night creature. Owls are able hunters, capable of killing more mice then five cats in a single night. They sweep down on their prey swiftly and silently.
Both their hearing and their sight are incredibly acute. Their wide, luminous eyes lend the owl a haunting aura. It is probable that the owl’s stare is responsible for the prominent place it receives in the mythology of many cultures. Whether it is interpreted as a symbol of higher wisdom or a portent of doom, the owl retains its mysterious and otherworldly nature. Ted Andrews, the author of Animal Speak, a primer on the symbolic nature of many animals, birds, and reptiles, has this to say about the symbolism of the owl’s eyes:
The yellow coloring of the eyes is very symbolic. It makes the eyes much more expressive, but it hints of the light of sun, alive in the dark of the night. The sun lives through the owl at night. Meditation on this alone will reveal much about the magic of the owl. … Even in the darkest night, with its acute eyesight an owl can pinpoint the exact location of its prey. … The owl, like hawks and other birds of prey, has a third eyelid. This nictitating eyelid moves from side to side. It cleanses the eye, clearing its vision. Again, this symbolizes so much about new vision1.