The white owl is a beautiful and mystical creature who has captured the imaginations of storytellers throughout history. What is it about these snow-colored birds that captivates us? In this post, we’ll explore different aspects of white owl symbolism and meanings, from their spiritual meaning to white owl mythology, folklore, dreams, and more.
(If you’d like a deeper dive on owl symbolism, be sure to visit my overview post on owl meanings.)
Table of Contents
- Types of White Owls
- What does it mean when you see a white owl?
- Spiritual Meaning of a White Owl
- 1. Purity
- 2. Protection
- 3. Wisdom
- 4. Guidance
- 5. Supernatural Powers
- 6. Spirits
- 7. Death or Transformation
- 8. Divinity
- 9. Spiritual Enlightenment
- Additional White Owl Meanings
- 10. Fresh Starts
- 11. Marriage
- 12. Good Luck
- 13. Peace
- 14. Meaning of Seeing a White Owl at Night
- 15. White Owl Dream Meaning
- Stories and Movies with White Owls
“You don’t need anything but hope. The kind of hope that flies on silent wings under a shining owl moon.”
– Jane Yolen
Types of White Owls
A few species of owls come in shades of white or have predominantly white feathers. So, before we go into more detail about white owl symbolism and meaning, I thought you might be interested in learning about the kinds of owls who are white. Here they are:
- Snowy, or arctic, owl
- Barn owl
- Spectacled owl
- Barred owl
- Northern white-faced owl
What does it mean when you see a white owl?
If a white owl has ever appeared in your life, whether by flying in front of you or perching somewhere nearby, you are a lucky person indeed. Owls in and of themselves have powerful associations. But the white owl has their own set of mystical qualities. So, here are high-level meanings associated with white owls. We’ll go into more detail on these throughout this post:
- Supernatural powers
- Death or transformation
- Spiritual enlightenment
- Fresh starts
Spiritual Meaning of a White Owl
Throughout the world, white animals symbolize purity. For example, in Buddhism, the color white is associated with the kind of self-mastery that comes from meditation and clearing away the clutter in one’s thoughts.1
So, a white owl appearing in your life can be a sign to pause, take a deep breath, and get back to the true essence of what really matters in your life.
The white owl also symbolizes the purity of unconditional love.
White owl symbolism also includes protection and, notably, spiritual protection. For example, the Tlingit Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest carve owls in their totem poles because they view them as protective spirits. For example, they believe the owl helps warriors in battle.
In addition, many Native American tribes have owl clans. Clan animals are protector spirits.
There is a Winnebago legend about a white owl who protects a hunter. The hunter and his family were starving, so he went out to find food. As he was walking through the woods, he came upon a giant white owl in a tree.
While it was against his people’s traditions to kill the owl, he was so hungry and worried about his family that he raised his arrow towards the owl.
But to his astonishment, the owl spoke. The owl said, “I also have a family to feed and care for. If you spare my life, I will protect you.” So, the hunter spared his life and returned to his wigwam.
When he got home, he was happy to see that his wife had found berries for them to eat. After that, the hunter did not have trouble finding food.
Later, when the Iroquois waged war on the Winnebago, the hunter also joined the fight. After many seasons of fighting, the Iroquois were in retreat.
Thinking the enemy had left his lands, the hunter fell into a deep sleep. However, he was soon awakened by the screech of a white owl. The owl warned him that the enemy had returned. Because of the owl’s early warning, the hunter was able to escape.2
Within the word “knowledge,” you can find the word “owl.” This is fitting as owls are known to be highly intelligent birds.
In fact, the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, was always accompanied by a small owl. The owl was an important messenger for her, helping her to expand her wisdom and warning her of changes to come.
In addition, a number of Native American tribes believe that the owl holds ancient knowledge and is therefore a carrier of mystical wisdom.3
The white owl, in particular, is associated with wisdom because they are like older people who have earned the white hair on their heads after living a long life.
Furthermore, in Norse mythology, the white owl was seen as a guardian spirit who possessed sacred wisdom. The ancient Scandinavians called the Nordic owl the Katyogel, which was also their name for their goddess of wisdom.4
White owl symbolism also includes guidance. To begin, all of the white owl species mentioned above – the snowy owl, barn owl, spectacled owl, barred owl, and northern white-faced owl are nocturnal (with the exception of the snowy owl who also comes out during the day.)
As nocturnal creatures, owls have special eyesight that enables them to navigate while flying in the dark.
Because of their exceptional navigation skills, owls symbolize guidance.
In addition, because owls are night creatures, many Indigenous cultures associate them with spirits, who are believed to roam more freely at nighttime. For example, the Intuit believe that the Arctic owl helps to guide the spirits of the dead to the afterworld.5
The color white is also like a beacon and it’s the color of the moon. Thus, the white owl is a powerful symbol for spiritual guidance and determining one’s path in life.
5. Supernatural Powers
A number of ancient cultures, including the Celts, Scandinavians, and Native Americans, believed that shamans could shapeshift into owls and then back into human beings. They viewed the owl as having extraordinary spiritual powers. (Indeed, as I wrote about in my overview post on owl symbolism, owls have extraordinary physical powers too.)
The Celts associated the color white with the supernatural. So, a white owl was believed to move easily between the physical and supernatural worlds.
Even in Japanese pop culture, there is white-faced scops owl from the Kakegawa Kachoen bird sanctuary named Popo-chan. He is said to have extraordinary powers of transformation, much to the delight of his adoring fans.6
As a nocturnal animal, the owl is associated with spirits in many cultures because it’s believed that the veil between the physical and spiritual world grows thin at nighttime.
Indeed, in certain parts of Africa, where the Northern white-faced owl is native, owls are associated with sorcery and witchcraft.
In Africa, owls are also believed to travel freely between the material and spiritual worlds carrying messages. So, as in Celtic an Native American cultures, some African cultures associate owls with spirits.
Generally, in African mythology, owls have negative connotations. For example, in African folklore, the hoot of an owl presages change and something negative to come.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, a number of shamanistic cultures believe that special individuals within their communities can shapeshift into owls and communicate with spiritual entities.
7. Death or Transformation
As they are associated with nighttime and spirits, owls have also come to be symbols of death and transformation.
For example, Roman, African, and Native American cultures all had mythologies about the hoot of an owl being a sign that death was imminent.
White owls, in particular, have associations with death in ancient cultures. For example, the Celts called the barn owl Cauilleach-oidhche gheal, which means “white old woman of the night.” The Cauilleach is the Celtic goddess of death. The Celts also believed that the screech of an owl was an omen that meant someone was about to die.7
In Buddhism, a white owl symbolizes spiritual transformation. Just as in other spiritual faiths, in Buddhism, death is simply another state of the soul’s transformation. So, just as a white flag is a symbol for surrender, a white owl symbolizes the surrendering of one’s earthy, physical body to enable the soul to fly.
The white owl can soar in the sky all the while having a keen view of what is happening on Earth. Because of this, they symbolize the power of divine energy. The white owl also symbolizes our desire to soar and connect with our Higher Power.
Plus, because they’re so beautiful, like the snowy egret, the white owl makes it easy for us to see that divine energy manifests in all living things.
Furthermore, because of their color, the white owl is associated with the sixth chakra, or the energy center in your body that’s located at the crown of your head. Also called Sahasrara, the crown chakra rules your connection to your super-conscious and divine energy. In this way, like white butterflies, a white owl is associated with angels.
9. Spiritual Enlightenment
White owl meaning also represents spiritual enlightenment.
As mentioned above, the color white is associated with the crown chakra, which governs your super-conscious and your connection to the metaphysical world. As they are symbols of wisdom and divinity, the white owl also embodies our own ability to reach a higher state of consciousness.
Additional White Owl Meanings
10. Fresh Starts
As with white butterfly symbolism, a white owl is a positive sign for a fresh start or new beginning. In other words, the white owl symbolizes starting off with a blank slate. Thus, the white owl is also a symbol for hope and renewal.
In many cultures, the color white symbolizes marriage. In addition, owls are monogamous animals who mate for life. So, a white owl is a very positive symbol for marriage and long-term relationships.
12. Good Luck
For the Ainu People of Japan, a white owl symbolizes good fortune and material success. In fact, they have an owl deity named Chikap Kamui, who is said to cry tears of gold and silver.8
The Sami People of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia also believe the Arctic owl brings good luck.9
Furthermore, the Vikings saw the white owl as a symbol of good luck and good fortune.10
As with white pigeon or dove meaning, as well as white wolf meaning, the white owl symbolizes peace. Notably, in Native American culture, the color white represents peace.
In addition, as mentioned earlier, the color of the surrender flag is white. On a symbolic level, this doesn’t mean giving in to your enemies. Instead, as the Buddhists believe, it can represent the state of non-attachment and finding your own inner peace.
14. Meaning of Seeing a White Owl at Night
As most owls are nocturnal, seeing a white owl at night has more to do with your own state of mind than anything unusual about the owl!
However, owls are more reluctant to make their presence known to human beings than, say, crows. So, if you are fortunate enough to see a white owl at night, it is a special event. So, it is a positive sign of good fortune and tapping into your own superpowers.
15. White Owl Dream Meaning
What does it mean if you dream of a white owl? Dreams are personal to every dreamer, so dreaming of a white owl can have a variety of interpretations. What’s important is to understand the emotions that you felt in your dream. Generally, our subconscious emotions don’t lie to us.
Then, you can apply some of the qualities embodied by the white owl to better understand your dream.
For example, some psychics say that if you have a vivid dream that stays with you the next day, you are likely to have connected with an angel, spirit guide, or some other spiritual entity in your dream.
As mentioned above, the white owl represents wisdom, protection, and guidance, So, a positive dream about a white owl could represent a connection to a spiritual entity who is a guardian angel.
A dream about a white owl that is more anxious in nature could mean that you are not dealing with certain things in your conscious, wakeful state that you should be addressing. The white owl dream can be like a light shining on your subconscious, urging you to look into matters more deeply. After all, the white owl is bright and they can see in the darkness.
Dreams are obviously highly personal and subjective. Yet, what they all have in common is that they can present powerful experiences that urge us to better understand ourselves. Hopefully, learning more about white owl symbolism can provide added insights into what your dream means.
Here are some additional resources about white owls:
Stories and Movies with White Owls
White owls have inspired storytellers for generations and they continue to do so today. Here are some stories and movies with white owls:
- Harry Potter
- The White Owl
- Ovid’s Metamorphoses
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
In summary, the white owl is a beautiful creature who has captivated people from a variety of cultures for centuries, just as they enchant us today. So, if a white owl appears in your life, or you have always felt a special connection with these snow-colored creatures, know that you are already divinely blessed!
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