The Owl’s Tale

They’re very beautiful aren’t they?  Their humanoid big-eyed wide faces have a direct appeal to us.  We see ourselves in them and throughout history have given them human characteristics that reflect our changing vision and understanding of them: wise, wicked, ignorant, powerful, protective… the list goes on.  Desmond Morris says: The owl is a contradiction. It is the best known of birds and least known of birds: Although rarely seen, it’s human headed form is easily drawn by the smallest child.  Our fascination is innate, age-old … the owl is there with the pre-historic animals in cave paintings from over 30,000 years ago. .

unesco owl chauvet caveOwl Cave painting at Chauvet above and Les Trois Frères below in France.


 Fastforward to Pinterest 2015…

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 07.35.06Inimitable and exuding a certain Brooklyn chic? via Paloma 81 blogspot Pinterest.

Where has the owl flown in between?  It’s journey started off well, in Babylon over 4,000 years ago, the Queen of the Night was a Goddess whose mighty ‘owl’ talons  and powerful wings could subdue all.

British_Museum_Queen_of_the_NightNow at the British Museum… watch out.

By Ancient Greece the Goddess Athene who looked after Athens was accompanied by a now wise and powerful owl, here ancient coinage known colloquially as ‘owls’ was flipped  for ‘heads and tails’? sounds familiar? well we’re still saying this. Tails… you lose.

owl athene coin project
See… learn a new thing everyday?

One of my favourite ‘ancient’ owls is a Corinthian perfume bottle, 7th C BC…

louvre owl perfume container corinthian 7th c bchanging out at the Louvre Paris currently but really quite ready for Anthropologie homewares in London and NYC, don’t you think?

It’s Ancient Rome where it all goes wrong for the owl, here superstition turns the owl into the witches’ winged creature: blood sucking babies, hooting ‘death’ calls, grave dancing … you know.. general harbinger of woe.

little_owlDurer’s study of the owl 1508 precedes the owl’s overhaul in popular culture:  Justifiably looking rather sad.

Christianity runs with this Roman theme and it isn’t until the 17th century that the owl’s gradual rehabilitation begins as attempts to accurately understand the world around us get going in the Renaissance, Curio cabinet anyone? This continues through the ‘enlightenment’ and by the Victorian era we are even feeling protective and the owl (in Britain anyway) becomes seen as a treasured part of our native wildlife, symbolic even.  Then Edward Lear and AA Milne shrine ‘owl’ into our collective British childhood memory:

Lear_p2_3Lear’s loving owl and pussycat


Milne’s wise owl with perfect tree house

I grew up with these images and like many people despite never having seen an owl in its natural habitat am strangely drawn to them.  When my children were little I called them the owl and the pussycat and the ‘owls’ starting rolling in, at this stage I have quite a parliament of them at home (parliament is the collective noun for owls … I tease you not).

IMG_8132Mother’s Day, Christmas… there’s often the ‘hoot’ of an owl delivery at my door.

Turns out I am not alone in my owl fantasy, in fact possibly small scale…

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 08.55.44A chic owl greet via pinterest …somewhere (sorry).

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 08.57.50Isabella’s Style Blog, Oly Studio, pinterest.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 08.59.18Farmhouse South African Elle 2011

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 09.00.40Uber stylish Sibella Court owl styling

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 09.01.54curio-kitchen complete with taxidermy owl splendour … pinterest.

Fancy a bit of owl? oh? not taxidermy, well take your pick:

High St to High End has the owl obsession covered.  Seriously-owlish? well 1st Dibs is the place for you, from Picasso ceramics to Cartier jewels the owl is visually arresting and highly covetable:

owl jewellery 1st dibs

I still remember my granny’s owl earrings, a source of fascination as a child, the hidden owl would appear with a sharp twist complete with emerald eyes.owl furniture 1st dibs

As an adult the mid-19th century English candelabras could fly home anytime and the arresting visuals below call out to me:

owl art 1st dibs

While I may stop short of the owl houseScreen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.41.09

Recently constructed in France or the owl door  which has also become a visual landmark in Denmark:Bored Panda owl doorIsn’t he wonderful? I could definitely arrive home to an owl knocker, in fact I have ordered him.  Keep you posted…

owl_knocker the door knocker company

The owl’s tale is enchanted: a journey from darkness and folklore to protected status and decorative charm, their place in our hearts assured from childhood.  Celebrate the owl’s fairy tale:

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Fashion does, the owl’s distinctive appearance and woodland charm have granted it iconic status given only to the fabled few: Fox, Owl and man’s best friend Dog.  Dolce et Gabbana, Burberry, Mcqueen, Isabel Marant, Valentino, Mulberry have all owled up: brands that understand heritage values and tongue in check charm.

Quite frankly it gets me all a flutter, despite the beckoning Spring Summer season, the owl’s place in my heart, home and possibly even wardrobe is assured.



All images have reference or origin attached when you click in, any omissions please contact me.


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