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Owls in Lore and Culture

Paper by B. G. Marcot, D. H. Johnson, & M. Cocker Updated 2012-10-31 Created 2000-06-15
Page 9 of 10

Appendix 3

Owl Tales from North America by Bruce G. Marcot - Postscripts to "Owls in Lore and Culture"

1 December 2001

I recently had an opportunity to spend a day hiking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona with a wonderful Native American lady, and we discussed owl lore. She comes from two pueblo tribes, the Hopi in Northern Arizona and the Isleta which is south of Albuquerque along the Rio Grande River, New Mexico. She relayed to me some owl stories she was told while growing up. Owls were viewed by these tribes as harbingers of ill health and ill fortune. An owl once came to their house and shortly thereafter her younger brother fell ill. If an owl was heard calling, she and her siblings would go outside and shout at it, trying to compel it to leave.

23 November 2004

I had an interesting discussion on the role of animals, and on owl lore in particular, with Ernie Philip, Elder and Cultural Coordinator of the Shuswap Tribe. We met at the Quaaout Resort & Conference Centre on the shores of the Little Shuswap Lake outside the small town of Chase, British Columbia, Canada (east of Kamloops in south central B.C.). Ernie conveyed to me several owl stories of his people. Mostly, owls are viewed as messengers and usually portend a forthcoming death, but the messages are not always bad. You have to know how to read the messages, how to understand the owl’s calls. Ernie told me that, as a youth, he was taught this by his elders. I asked if it is only the larger owls that convey the messages of death and he said no, it is all the owls, including Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, and the others as well.

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