Barred Owl Totem and Meanings: Small but Mighty


A barred owl is perched at the opening of a whole in a large tree. It has brown and white feathers and black eyes with a small yellow beak.
Barred Owl in a Tree

Barred Owls are a medium-large sized owl with mottled brown and white feathers. Bar-like vertical lines cover its breast and it has somewhat large, black eyes. Underneath all the feathers, a bird weighing only about 1-2.5 lbs exists with all its might. They are a variable predator, eating almost anything from rodents, reptiles, insects, and even fish and crayfish. Do you consume variety in what you take in (be it food, information, experiences)? However, they can also be predated upon by other larger owls and falcons, such as Great Horned Owls and Red Tailed Hawks.


They live in mixed forests, many times near water, and stay put through the year (non-migratory). It's believed that they mate for life and, like this, there are some aspects of a Barred Owl's life that are still secretive. When I have run across them, most of the time they are either perched in an evergreen tree, or there are evergreens nearby. In the Midwest, that often means seeing them in Eastern Red Cedars (let's read about that tree's medicine here).


Their eyes are piercing and remind us of their ability to see through the dark. Similarly, how are you looking into your shadow and are you doing so with ease and calmness? Whenever I see a Barred Owl, I'm reminded of being humble and of the mysteries that exist in the world. Have you stepped back lately to see where a little dose of magic is happening in your own life? If you'd like to read more about the biology, habits, behavior, and habitat of Barred Owl to get to know it even better, I recommend this site.


Crows are often seen harassing and chasing away owls that roost near nests - after all, the owls are predators of other birds and their eggs! If a group of crows is heard gathering and sounding an alarm through the tree tops, they might be chasing off an owl. What is keeping you from your goals? Is there something hounding you and distracting you from what you want?


Finally, Barred Owls are quite vocal, confidently and loudly singing their song at dusk. If you walk between the worlds of "normal" reality and they etheric, spiritual, and mysterious, don't be bashful about claiming your gifts and strengths. They are a reminder that the magic and mystery of the spiritual world does, in fact, exist and extend into our daily lives.


I once saw a dead Barred Owl at the side of a busy highway. As trucks and cars flew by, its feathers stretched back and I couldn't fathom leaving a bird who lives in the peace of a silent forest at the side of a thundering roadway. Stopping the car, I got out and picked it up to walk it into the woods (I don't recommend doing this, by the way, for many reasons) - I was caught up in the moment. As I carried the body into the forest, looking for the right spot to place it, I noticed a stand of cedar trees and turned to toward them. Standing below one, I was giving gratitude before laying the owl down, when I hear scuffling in the tree above me: another barred owl flapped its wings and stared down at me before lifting into flight, turning, and flying away.


Dumbfounded, I stood there holding the dead owl and saying, "I didn't do it! I promise"- but I felt it was a sign that I'd found the best place to lay it down. I finished giving blessings and thanks, laid the owl at the base of that tree, and left. Some saw this as a grave omen. In my heart, I felt something else: a kind of initiation of sorts into a new direction or deepening of my own spiritual journey.


Ever since then, I've run across Barred Owl often when paddling on rivers or hiking. They sit quietly and observe attentively from their branches, but rarely fly away. From these experiences, Barred Owl has become a sign (for me) to pay attention to the spiritual messages that are coming in - they are particularly significant during that time.


If you'd like to read more about tracking totems for your own personal messages and meanings, read this blog. For information about crows, in case you saw them chasing a Barred Owl, it might be helpful to read about them here.

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