Little Owl Folklore

wild little owl sat on edge of farm equipment, looking forward.(Athene noctua)

This little bird occupies a big place in European mythology, as it’s intriguing Greek-referenced Latin name Athene Noctua suggests.  It also casts a long shadow with a burrowing cousin in The Americas. In Mexico, legend has it, the Aztecs believed that the Little Owl was the messenger of Mictlantecuhli, "The Lord of the Land of the Dead", flitting between the living and the dead, perhaps using its burrow to pass between those two worlds.

In Iran the Little Owl is called "Joghde-kochek" in the Farsi language. It is said that this bird brings bad luck. In Islam, it's forbidden (Haram) to eat.

Yorkshire folk, however have different ideas! Here, folklore has it that eating salted Little Owl is a cure for gout. It was also believed that eating their raw eggs was a cure for alcoholism, if given to children, the protection would be for life. They were also believed to be a cure for epilepsy & madness. There’s nowt so queer as folk!

But for the Little Owl, the main event has to be its association with the Greek Goddess Athene and her Roman counterpart Minerva.  All association between owls and wisdom must surely originate here. The Goddess of Wisdom, was so impressed by the big eyes and serious demeanour of the Owl that, having banished the mischievous crow, she honoured the Little Owl by making him her favourite among feathered creatures. Protected, it inhabited the Acropolis in great numbers. It was believed that a magical "inner light" gave Owls night vision. If an Owl flew over Greek Soldiers before a battle, they took it as a sign of victory. The Little Owl also kept a watchful eye on Athenian trade and commerce from the reverse side of their coins.

The Romans took the Little Owl as the companion for their own Goddess of Wisdom, Minerva. Together they conquered most of Europe, Consequently, the name of the owl in some countries was derived from Minerva, for example:  Minervanpöllö in Finland & Minervauggla in Sweden.