The owl has both positive and negative symbolism. The wise owl is associated with many forms of the Crone goddess who embodied wisdom and morality. Women associated with the wise owl are Lilith, Athena, Minerva, Blodeuwedd, Anath, and Mari. The negative aspect of the owl as a death bird appears in the myth and lore of many cultures and is most prevalent in myths of Central and North America, China, Japan, Egypt, and India.
The owl is the Greek symbol of Athena and the emblem of Athens; sacred to Demeter and regarded as prophetic. Celtic myth tells of the magical aspect of the owl, attribute of Gwynn, the Celtic god of the underworld. In heraldry, the owl signifies one who is vigilant with acute wit. Amerindians called the owl the Night Eagle; the bird of sorcerers.
According to Jobes, in the Dictionary of Mythological Folklore and Symbol, in Christian crucifixion scenes, the owl is an attribute of Christ, “who sacrifices himself to give light to those in darkness. As an attribute of Satan, prince of darkness, typifies deception.“
A symbol of darkness, night, and death, the owl’s cry forebodes calamity, sickness, or death. Vedic attribute of Yama, the god of the dead, the owl is sometimes used as a messenger. To the Ainu people of Northern Japan, the Eagle owl is revered as a messenger between gods and man, the Screech out warns against danger, and the Horned owl and Barn owl are demonic and evil. Owls is also symbolizes meditation, silence, wisdom and is a symbol of the itinerant monks, the Fukuro. In China and Japan, the owl signifies crime or ungrateful children. In China, the owl is also associated with thunder and summer.
The owl is the Australian aboriginal messenger of the evil god, Muurup, who eats children and kills people. In Malayan myth, the owl is langsuyar, a ghost or flying demoness. In Hebrew lore the owl represents blindness and desolation and is considered unclean. In Zoroastrianinsm, known as Asho-zushta, the bird who frightens away demons by reciting the Avesta, the book of sacred wisdom. Algonquin Indians believe the owl was the bird of death. They also believed the owl was a symbol of winter and the creator of the north wind. In Mexican lore, the owl is symbol of night and death.