A ghost in the shadows, he comes from behind scooping up the quiet mouse no one ever saw and only he heard. On white wings he travels off silently caring death in his talons. There is no remorse, only absolute recognition of the cleverness in him that reflects the genius of the Divine. He finds a fence post on which to perch and brings his claw adeptly up to his beak. This is his sixth meal of the night and he is no rush to fill his belly. Instead, he snaps the neck of the mouse and sits stoically with it in his talons. He owns the night, the night without moon or stars, the night that sends most creatures into hiding. With his white, heart-shaped face and pitch black eyes he is both a light in the darkness and an invitation to it.
Navigating in the Dark
Owl symbolism across all species of owls is spoken of as hearing and seeing in the dark, but no owl embodies this talent like the barn owl. Barn owls are so incredibly successful at what they do that they are found throughout the world and “are arguably the most widespread bird species on earth” . There are 46 races of barn owl with the race in North America being the largest. No other owl or animal is able to outcompete them at hunting in the dark. In addition, the barn owl has adapted to human intrusion into natural habitats. He is just as comfortable nesting and hunting in a barn, hence the name, as his is in the open prairie or box canyons. Still, despite his conspicuous pale coloring, the barn owl is rarely seen by humans. If you have had the opportunity to encounter one of these mythic beasts especially during the day, there is a significant message about fear of the unknown and the courage to navigate it that you must heed.
Do you feel like you’re groping around in the dark? Time to call on barn owl’s help for understanding what you haven’t been able to know before and making your way to the dawn.
Power of Listening
It is the excellent hearing of the barn owl that enables him to hunt in absolute darkness using sound alone. No other animal on earth has this ability. Other owls can hunt in near darkness, but they still need some measure of light to see. Being able to sense in absolute darkness speaks of the talent in ourselves to locate resources while blind. By listening deeply and intently like the barn owl spirit animal you can tap into the ability to find what you need where others may see nothing. The barn owl is able to create a “neural map” of auditory space. Not only will the medicine of barn owl help you pinpoint what you need, but he will also grant you a picture of the unknown with more detail and accuracy than any other animal.
Barn owls and eight other species have asymmetrical ear openings. One ear is higher on the barn owl’s head than the other. This speaks of the power to listen at all levels. By integrating what we hear from above and below , we are blessed with the gift of receiving guidance from the heavens and the earth. The guidance can relate to mundane matters of the every day as well as the most profound spiritual truths. Barn owl symbolism is about being able to discern where the intuition you receive applies to and from where it comes. This could be why owls are associated with wisdom because they can hear and know what others may not.
Not only does the barn owl find the resources he needs, but he finds an astonishing amount. He catches 3-6 mice a night for himself and just as many for each chick he helps rear. This is no small feat as barn owl clutches range from 2 to 18 eggs! He brings food to the female while she incubates the eggs and then for all of those chicks for the first two weeks of their life. Then his mate joins him for the hunt to help keep up with the voracious eaters. The amazing feat of potentially catching 50 or more mice in a night is compounded by the fact that the barn owl and his mate may raise up to three broods in a given year.
Strong signatures of barn owl symbolism are abundant creativity as well as fantastic capacity to produce well beyond what others may do. This productivity will not always be visible either since the barn owl hunts primarily at night when others are sleeping. The barn owl is monogamous which speaks of a steady commitment to what you are producing in the world.
When are you producing the most? What is your relationship to productivity? Do you wish you could produce more? Call on the barn owl spirit animal to help. Are you worried about others seeing what you’re doing? If so, now is not the time to pine for recognition. Now is the time to take advantage of the energy you have and to harness it.
The barn owl has a terrifying blood curdling scream and his white underside causes him to look like a ghost. He have a calculated and solitary way about him that is different from the outgoing, hooting nature of other owls like great-horned owls. Sightings of barn owls in the wild are relatively rare. All of this combines to make his visits chilling. He have a coldness or callousness about him that reminds us of the other side of the veil and not in a friendly way. At the same time, he is a light in the darkness and can light the way for us through our own fears, nightmares, and shadows if we are brave enough to follow.
I work extensively with a barn owl in my soul retrieval work. His ability to hear and see in the dark helps me search through the unconscious and find what has been missing. Thus, for you, the barn owl too can help with seeking out parts of yourself that you have long neglected or forgotten. The barn owl can also help you work through fears to find the “mouse” or gift that is waiting in the darkness.
He mostly swallows his prey whole after breaking the prey’s neck to kill it, but he can also dissect and eat the mice piece by piece with surgical precision. So much about these creatures is detached and distant. When he looks at us with his black eyes he appears to see straight through us. Is there a person or circumstance you need to distance yourself from? Have you seen the dark side of the situation and find a need to think analytically about it without getting your emotions involved?
This may be one of the most productive times in your life if you get the timing right and open your senses beyond the ordinary. The fruits of what you do may not “show” in the world for a long time or to many people, but that is not the point. The point is to join the barn owl in mapping the unknown and allowing the gifts to flow in as a result.
I recommend you check out the “Barn Owl Cam” at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website for an opportunity to see video footage of barn owls in their nest. There is nothing happening live outside of the breeding season but you can page through the video clips under the live stream to see highlights from the previous breeding season. Very fun! http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/42/Barn_Owls/
 The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Paul R. Ehrlick, David S. Dobkin, and Darryle Wheye.
About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch
Stacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.