I Give A HOOT – I Collect Owls
I have been a collector from as long as I can remember. As a child, I collected books, pebbles, magnets, seashells, erasers, postage stamps etc while always focusing on only one collection at a time. I think it kept my little head busy while my parents were away at work. Collecting for me has not just been a childhood hobby, but a lifelong pursuit.
My hobby of collecting often goes hand-in-hand with my current interest in the objects collected and what they represent to me, like collecting stamps as a pre-teen reflected my interest in traveling to different places and cultures.
Collecting like any hobby is very therapeutic. Maintaining, rearranging, sorting, rating and adding to a collection is a relaxing activity that I look forward to, one that counteracts the stresses of life, while providing me with a purposeful pursuit that is both gadget-free and boredom-free.
So, without further ado, here’s my 6-year old hootiful collection of owl jewelry. I’m not adding to this collection as frequently as I did six years ago but I do make sure to pick up an exquisite owl every now and then.
OWL ALWAYS LOVE YOU
Why do I collect owls? Owls are mysterious creatures and the subject of innumerable stories, symbolism, lore and myths. When I bought my first owl pendant though, I was smitten with just how cute it was. Then of course, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to the owl’s solitary/wise connotations. What added to my owl fascination was its near god-like depiction as Goddess Lakshmi’s vehicle. Did you know what a group of owls is called? A Parliament!! So am I a Strigiphiliac? Not really, because it’s only the owl jewelry I’m after- not living owls or even figurines.
I love vintage owls the most and got many from Etsy owing to the fact that many old ladies collected them in the 60s and 70s. See, I knew I was a flower child born in the wrong era – this confirms it. I found many owl jewels at stores in India and around the world. A couple of them I even got custom-made in gold and silver. Before you dismiss me and say I need to watch that crazy TLC show about hoarders – let me tell you that being a Type A personality, I have a mild panic attack every time I watch it. Did someone say ‘intervention’? Fuck Off!
OWL YOU NEED TO KNOW
Here’s some owl trivia that really gets me going every time I think about it:
Once you get to know owls, you realize that they are like the stealth fighters of birds. They have different types of wings than other birds, so that in the dark they can fly and hunt noiselessly. They can see great distances in nearly pitch darkness. The wind just whistles over them. You actually can’t hear them coming. If you are a squirrel, snake or a mouse, that’s absolutely terrifying. Why can owls turn their heads so far around? Are they possessed by the devil? No, Owls are remarkably flexible and it is a hunting adaptation. They can turn their heads 270 degrees.
This is my favorite nursery rhyme first recorded in 1875 called “A Wise Old Owl”
A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?
In Pop Culture:
Through pop culture references, like Harry Potter’s Hedwig, Owl from Winnie the Pooh, the ‘birds’ at Hooters Restaurant, through folklore, we all associate owls with wisdom at some time or the other and with sexy ‘birds’.
The owl was a symbol for Athena, the greek goddess of wisdom and strategy and Minerva, her syncretic reincarnation in Roman mythology. According to myth, an owl sat on Athena’s blind side, so that she could see the whole truth. In Ancient Greece, the owl was a symbol of a higher wisdom, and it was also a guardian of the Acropolis. Diana, the Roman response to Athena, was strongly associated with the moon, and also the owl. Among Native Americans, the Pawnee and the Sioux saw the owl as a messenger (akicita) to the first of all evil creatures (Unktehi). While the Lakota tribe had an “Owl Society,” where the warriors fought primarily at night and painted dark rings around their eyes because they believed that would allow them to have an owl’s acute vision. There are many superstitions surrounding the owl, many of which focus on death. In Europe and America, owl was seen as a harbinger of death. This was due to certain peoples, like the Dakota, and some Germanic tribes and Scandinavian Vikings, who would signal the approach of attack with the hoot of an owl. This was and still remains the easiest bird call to imitate. The Mayans called the screech owl of the Yucatan “the moan bird,” and believed that it meant death. There are myths and legends from all over the world, from the Americas to the Far East. Owls, as they always have, continue to be a source of wisdom, spiritual and intellectual.
In Hindu mythology the owl is the chosen vehicle of Lakshmi the goddess of wealth. Lakshmi’s owl signifies the patient striving to observe, see and discover knowledge particularly when surrounded by darkness. As a bird reputedly blinded by daylight, the owl also serves as a symbolic reminder to refrain from blindness and greed after knowledge and wealth has been acquired.
It has the ability to foretell events. The owl asks of Lakshmi’s devotees not to be trapped by wealth and its splendor. It then becomes a symbol of universal wisdom that warns about arrogance and indiscipline. When Lakshmi’s wealth is used unscrupulously, then one is said to be blinded.
Another school of thought believes Lakshmi never goes anywhere without her sister Alakshmi, the goddess of poverty and strife. In other words, wealth never goes anywhere without the seed of strife. Some scholars say that Uluka the owl could be Alakshmi. Failure to acknowledge Alakshmi is dangerous for she represents all the negative energies that accompany any wealth. Everyone knows that money breeds strife and jealousy. Alakshmi embodies that dark aspect of wealth. She is the one that makes rich brothers quarrel and divides families. The only way to make Alakshmi weak is to constantly be aware of her; acknowledge her as much as her sister.
A story goes that Lakshmi and Alakshmi visited a merchant’s home and asked him which one of them was more beautiful. The merchant was scared of making either one unhappy so he came up with a clever answer that would please both. “Lakshmi is beautiful when she walks towards me. Alakshmi is beautiful when she walks away from me.” Pleased with this response, fortune moved towards the trader while strife moved away.
In conclusion, Uluka, Ullu, Goobay, Hibou, Bahaw, Uil, Uggla or whatever you call it – there’s no denying that these stealthy, iconic birds of mystery closely resemble human beings. Is it because of their forward-facing eyes, their sense of all-knowing, or a feeling of deep wisdom? Go figure.
In the meanwhile, do let me know if you spot an owl collector’s item somewhere. Owl love you even more if you get it for me though. Just kidding!
Which one of my two drawings did you like more? I know I’m asking too many questions, but I haven’t counted my owl collection yet – did you count? If yes, how many are there? Wait, don’t tell me, I don’t think I’m ready to hear it.
Which animal do you most identify with? My spirit animal would probably be a combination of a Dog, Elephant and Owl – an elephant with big owl eyes and a curled up dog’s tail. I just made up a name for this imaginary animal too – a Phandow!
Thanks for reading!