Owl Goddesses Across Cultures: Athena, Ragana and More
Our ancient ancestors believed birds were messengers from the gods. They had the ability of bridging land, sea, and sky. Because of this, they were also psychopomps (guiding souls to the afterlife). Throughout the ancient world, every culture and civilization had a fascination with birds. Owls are just one of the sacred ancient birds, and in this article, we identify owl goddesses (goddesses linked to owls) across various cultures.
Athena: Greek Owl Goddess
You might already know the name of one of the more popular Greek goddesses—Athena. Athena was the owl goddess of wisdom, war, and crafts. She was the protector of the city of Athens, her namesake, and was born in armor pulled from Zeus’ forehead. Athena is often related to horses and snakes; however, one of Athena’s most sacred animals is the owl.
Athena in Owl Form
Before Athena was depicted in human form, she was depicted in owl form. An owl of Athena adorns the back side of an ancient Athenian silver dollar. In other ancient images, Athena is seen with an owl perched on her hand or flying over her shoulder. The owl’s representation as a wise animal is attributed to Athena and wisdom in ancient Greece. One source states owls were kept in Athena’s sacred temple in Athens in honor of the goddess.
Blodeuwedd: The Flower Owl Goddess
Blodeuwedd is a lesser known owl goddess of Welsh Celtic mythology. The hero Llew Llaw Gyffes was forbidden by his mother Arianrhod to never have a human wife, so two magicians created him a wife out of wildflowers: meadowsweet, oak, and broom. Llew was more than pleased with his beautiful, flower-faced wife. Unfortunately, Blodeuwedd felt enslaved and unable to make her own choices for love. She fell in love with Gronw Pebr and together they hatched a plan to kill Llew so they could be together.
Cursed to Be An Owl
When their plan doesn’t work, and Llew escapes the attempted murder, Blodeuwedd is cursed to never see the light of day. The curse also entailed Blodeuwedd being transformed into an owl. Blodeuwedd, while portrayed as a traitor and adulterer, in modern times represents feminine strength and liberation oppressed women everywhere.
Lakshmi: The Hindu Owl Goddess
Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune. This owl goddess is also recognized in Jainism and Buddhism. She is the wife of the high god Vishnu, and his incarnated consort when he comes to earth as Krishna and Rama. Her symbol is the lotus flower. The Hindu Owl goddess has six sacred abilities and is inherntly present in every living woman on earth.
Lakshmi and the Owl
Lakshmi is often depicted riding an elephant, but she is sometimes seen riding an owl or having an owl guide. In Hinduism, the owl symbolizes the pursuit of knowledge in the darkness. Wisdom. Insight. It’s a reminder to remain humble and seek wisdom, even after abundance has been granted by the universe. This fortuitous owl goddess will bless you, but will also make sure you don’t turn greedy or immoral.
Lilith: The Dark Owl Goddess
Perhaps one of the most ancient goddesses is Lilith, also called Lilitu. A popular theory of her origins says she was Adam’s first wife, and was created in God’s image just like Adam. However, when she disobeyed Adam, God threw her out of the Garden of Eden. She then mated with the fallen angels and spawned a generation of demons (or so the story goes). Later legends claim she is the Mother of Vampires. Neo-pagans dismiss these accounts of her “wicked” nature and acclaim her as a powerful owl goddess who was grossly demonized by the Church.
The Owl Goddess in the Burney Relief
Lilith is thought to be the goddess in the famous Burney Relief (1800 BC) which shows a woman with “owl” feet, wings, and flanked by owls. In many classic paintings and illustrations, Lilith is accompanied by owls. Theory is the association between Lilith being a “demon” or “hag” of the night who flies around and causes nightmares to the unsuspecting. Perhaps when the owl was regarded as sacred, and Lilith was still a goddess, this is where the owl-Lilith connection began.
Ragana: Baltic Owl Goddess
Ragana was once a widely-venerated Baltic goddess, until the people were converted to Christianity and she became an evil witch. The name Ragana became synonymous with the words witch and hag. Sources say worship of Ragana dates to Neolithic times – she was a pre-Indo-European goddess who foretold the future. Ragana was the owl goddess of women, childbirth, menstruation, menopause, and fertility. Ragana was a guide to the other worlds and a powerful healer. When demonized, she became merely a witch who flew with owls in the dead of night.
Witches, Owls and Ragana
Owls are often associated with witches, theories on why vary by scholar. Some say it’s linked to the owl’s sacredness to ancient goddesses, some say it has to do with nocturnal nature of witches and the owl. Ragana shifts into the form of a bird, namely the owl, and flies around at night in Lithuania and Latvia.