15 White Owl Meanings: What Do They Symbolize?

Snowy Owl

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.)

Barn owl in yellow flowers
“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:

  • Purity
  • Protection
  • Wisdom
  • Guidance
  • Supernatural powers
  • Spirits
  • Death or transformation
  • Divinity
  • Spiritual enlightenment
  • Fresh starts
  • Marriage
  • Peace

Spiritual Meaning of a White Owl

Barred Owl
Barred owl.

1. Purity

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.

2. Protection

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

3. Wisdom

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

4. Guidance

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

Northern white-faced owl.
Northern white-faced owl. Photo: Ltshears.

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

6. Spirits

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. 

8. Divinity

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

Two Spectacled Owls
Spectacled owl mother and chick. Photo: Steve Wilson.

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. 

11. Marriage

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

13. Peace

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:

Summary

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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8 Responses

  1. I have 2 white owls living in a tree beside my house. They hoot all day long, and today I was walking up to my door and I said, Baby, I can’t see you. And he moved from one branch to another, and while I was trying to spot him again, two beautiful solid white owls flew out of the tree. It was amazing! I read your article and the symbolism fits so many parts of my life. 1st I’m getting married. And my fiance and I are going to move hours away from where we live now. That’s just one of them.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. Wow, how lucky for you to see these owls, and the pair! I wonder if they are barn owls. Sounds like a positive sign to me! Best of luck on your marriage, the move, and your next chapter!

  2. I encountered a large white owl in the middle of street at night. I went around it. It did not move. So I backed up to see if it was hurt. It still sat there. So I stopped to see if it was ok, but it flew away. I went around and back to the same spot but it was gone. I felt blessed.

  3. I just got out of a bad time of my life which took place three years straight of bad luck, law troubles, broken love and friendship relationships and ultimately ending with me going to jail. After 6 months my sentence was reduced to a misdemeanor allowing me to go to a rehab for 60 days that luckily I completed in 30 and was released to go home. I found peace within myself during my incarceration and in rehab and decided to not let the bad years I lived through affect me any longer and decided to forgive those that wronged me and myself for the hurt and wrong I did to others. Three days ago while I was walking to a church I visit after midnight almost everyday since I got home to pray and ask for guidance, patience and serenity I saw a huge white owl fly over me close enough to almost touch and land in the gigantic tree my dead father planted over 40 years ago before my birth. The owl was all white and a bright white I may add and beautiful to watch so close. I have now accepted that it was a good sign and luck I saw this beautiful bird. I felt a calm I haven’t felt in many years and during a time I needed peace in my life.

    1. Thank you for sharing this story, Gilberto. And it’s an incredible story. We are all here to learn and we are all works in progress. Sometimes it’s easy to forget there is divine energy all around us. And this divine energy manifests in living things – including animals, trees, and us. It’s our choice to be receptive to that energy or not. I am heartened to hear that you have taken these hard experiences as something to learn from and now you are turning them into positive energy, such as forgiving others and yourself. What profound spiritual growth you are going through – and the validation for it with your visit from the white owl in your father’s tree. Wow!

  4. I had a dream a while ago, a beautiful one about a white owl. The dream started where I was in a basement of a house looking for something can’t remember what it was but I had my husband and one of my daughters with me. I heard music and went to a small window the basement had. My husband nor my daughter heard the music only I did. When I went to the window I saw 3 Indians playing flutes and dancing and behind them came a bunch of animals that were carrying a wooden stand and on top of that stand was a beautiful white owl. It had blue eyes. I gazed at it and it turned its head and looked at me. The animals were all kinds but only one of each. I remember a bear, birds flying above, a lion, and I can’t remember the rest. The animals had a leash attached kind like a sleigh and they were pulling the wooden stand. The music sounded beautiful and as I looked behind them it looked like a normal city people were standing around and looking as they went by. It felt like a parade.

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Kristen M. Stanton

Hello. Thanks for visiting UniGuide. My name is Kristen and I started UniGuide as a tribute to nature, animals, and spiritual exploration. I hope you enjoy your experience here!