Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Creature Feature: Owls - Wizard's pet? Or Harbinger of Ill Omen?
It's hard to imagine Gamma up top or Hedwig just above as any more than a Wizard's friend but looks can be deceiving. Let's look at how Owls in their antiquity were viewed -- Let's start with Meso-America home of my forefathers. They in particular the Hopi and Aztecs viewed Owls as omens of death, evil, and sorcery hard to imagine why but they did. Like all cultures many of them just didn't know how to attribute things to nature occurring phenomenon, so it must be supernatural? Keep in mind this is all before the Spanish (Also my forefathers) came and colonized much of the land bringing with them disease but also knowledge.
Africa also has Owls and view them much like the Hispanic cultures of The Americas -- Omens of Death. It's not everyone who believes this, it's mainly indigenous tribes like the Kikuyu of Kenya. Now although these cultures are old there is an even older culture that viewed Owls in a significantly less evil way -- Greece!
That's right our modern view of the Owl can be attributed to Ancient Greece where they saw Owls as beings of Wisdom. In fact, Owls can be seen in that culture as one of the symbols of a Goddess which one you ask? Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Warfare, Strength, and Strategy. Who had a city named in her honor you know it as one of Greece's oldest and most influential cities -- Athens in which she was it's Patron.
In our world, the wizard101 one that is the main Owl we can identify is Headmaster Ambrose's pet owl -- Gamma. Besides watching the Spiral in the Headmaster's tower Gamma doesn't do much outside of this. However, in the magical world there is one owl that is pivotal and resonates with people the world over as the pet owl of "The Boy Who Lived" of course you know I am talking about Hedwig. In the magical world of Harry Potter Owls and other creatures are seen as pets, friends, and magical familiars.
Hedwig was Harry's Owl in the HP series and was given to him by friend and Hogwarts's Gamekeeper Rebeus Hagrid. Hedwig represented Harry's innocence as is very obvious during the earlier books of the series. Hedwig was very loyal to Harry throughout the series and was very mature even looking down on other immature owls such as Pidwigeon. Now Owls seen as Ill omens it's intriguing J.K. Rowling picked the Owl which is seen as a bad omen. Although it's only merely speculation on my behalf what if Hedwig's presence marked a doom for the whole series? I mean think about all that befell Harry? Is it not curious to think his closest friend -- one of his most well loved ties to the magical world a warning in disguise?
Honestly, I don't like the idea of that either but it's something to chew on, some food for thought. If you are a fan of the series you already know Hedwig's death in the final book symbolized the death of Harry's innocence. So in a way Hedwig was a harbinger just a symbolic harbinger although I must admit in the movie version of the final book I did like how Hedwig was killed as oppose to the book. Now obviously Hedwig dying the way she did meant the lost of innocence. But in the movie she is seen attacking a Death Eater protecting Harry and subsequently being killed by the Killing Curse. This death is also symbolic for the same reason but in a more profound way -- protecting innocence. Hedwig dies marks the end of innocence but left the impression no matter how the mirror is broken you'll try to protect it before, and after piece the shards together.That girl lived a "Great old life" indeed and if there is a Owl heaven Hedwig is definitely there.
Ok, enough with the symbolism and tears time to focus on the animal itself. Gamma and Hedwig are Snowy Owls which were believed to be a separate genus of Owl until recent DNA results show they are in fact related to the Genus Bubo, or Horned Owl family. Hedwig although a female was in the movies depicted with Male snow owls as males have the iconic white feathers -- females tend to usually have more black/brown feathers.These owls you had trouble making the connection between them and their Horned owl brethren.
But as we see on Gamma the horn "protrusions" are much more dominant showing a clear relation to the Horned Owl.
They are also skilled but opportunistic hunters with talons made for grabbing small rodents or fish out of the surface of the water. They even during low food seasons resort to hunting other species of Owl which is pretty bad to me. It's a wide known fact Owls like Cats are natural predators that keep rodent populations down but Owl poaching threatens this I am happy to say though there are many groups like CITES helping to conserve habitats for Owls as mentioned before cause owls play a pivotal role in the food chain keeping down rodent populations while supplying other species of bird with protection from predators as owls have few to compete with.
That's it for this edition of "Creature feature" I hope you all enjoyed it and come to appreciate these creatures and how they live and captured our imaginations as birds of bad omen and friends.
Until next time your friend,