Hoo, Hoo, Tattoo – Owl Tattoo Guide With Meanings & 50+ Examples

owl tattoo guide featured image

Looking for a unique bird tattoo? Well, we say – the owl tattoo should be on top of your list.

Owl is a bird of prey that can be found on almost all continents and places around the world. They are nocturnal beings and as such often connected to the supernatural, mystical and higher intelligence.

There are over 200 species of owls, among which 5-6 are most commonly found in owl tattoo designs.

These nocturnal birds hold important meanings in cultures all over the world, from ancient Greece to modern day pop culture (Hedwiga, anybody?).

Let’s dive deeper into owl symbolism, owl meanings and owl tattoo ideas below!

Every Tattoo Has A Story – Owl Tattoo Meaning

Now, what is owl tattoo meaning?

This gorgeous and elegant birds that without sound moves through the night, apart from their iconic hoooo, hooo (sometimes also used as the owls pointing fingers at the who – symbol of curiosity and thinking).

Owl is a deeply meaningful bird of pray that has inspired humans since ancient times, just like the eagle.

It can hold both positive and negative meaning, depending on the culture and context.

Associated with a broad range of ideas including dark ones such as death and misfortune, and virtues such as wisdom and benevolence, the owl is a common mythological figure and fairytale character.

As owls effectively hunt under cover of darkness, they represent the stillness of night and the hidden worlds that are contained within the realm of night.

Their nocturnal lives are connected with fear, death and dark themes, where they are very much alike their other dark feathery friends – ravens.

Furthermore, owls are associated with magic, especially the snowy owls – which is why Hedwiga from Harry Potter was one.

More further in history, there are many fairy tales that portray owls as wise and knowledgeable, often company to witches and warlocks.

The owl means a person doesn’t have to be clever but to have a good intuition that keep them from making a wrong decision.

It can also be commonly used together with a clock in a tattoo to symbolize the wisdom and the time it takes to acquire it.

In modern Western belief, the owl is usually associated with wisdom and vigilance and generally has positive connotations.

Owls can thank this to both Ancient Greek and Egyptian mythologies. This animal was the main symbol of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

In Ancient Egypt, owls were also seen as the main gatekeepers of the underworld, helping protect the souls of those who unintentionally strayed into this land. They were seen as auspicious symbols of courage, higher assistance, and supernatural wisdom.

So, let’s go through the main symbols of owls:

  • courage
  • wisdom
  • dreams
  • change (white owl)
  • endurance
  • magic
  • supernatural
  • fear
  • death

Going further West, in the Native American tribes there is a belief that owls are the spirits of a deceased ancestor or other spirits. Owls are believed to serve as a bridge between worlds — life and the afterlife

In the furthest East, in Japan and China, owls symbolize good fortune and protection will banish negative energies and bring about abundance: mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Just like in the Ancient Egypt, in the Celtic mythology is the guide to and through the Underworld, a creature of keen sight in darkness, and a silent and swift hunter.

Owl Types In Tattoos

There are 254 species of owls – but certain ones stand out more than others, especially when it comes to owl symbolism.

Here are the most common owl species and what they mean:

  • Barn Owl – good finances, rebirth, transformation, mysteries.
    This owl species is commonly associated with a good financial situation in the near future, and in some sources, rebirth, and transformation. In terms of the mystery meaning, the barn owl can be your guide in discovering the meaning behind a mysterious encounter or find the deeper truth behind a lie.
  • Barred Owl optimism, peacemaking, rebuilding of relationships, forgiveness, guardian.
    Unlike other owl species that are usually connected to darker motifs, a barred owl is an optimistic symbol. It symbolizes protection, and as such is seen a guardian but with a token of peacemaking to it. If you see it, it can be an omen of rebuilding of lost relationships or forgiveness.
  • Snowy Owl – happiness, peace, individuality, adaptability, hidden danger.
    Seeing a snowy owl for many represents happiness and peace shortly. This owl represents individuality or adaptability. Its white feathers can appear as though nothing sinister appears below, so it conceals, and means the hidden danger. As such, it alludes to hidden things or the capability to adapt to sudden change.
  • Great Horned Owl – courage, strength, beauty, the need for decisive action, determination.
    Great Horned Owl is the most common owl species and has the most positive meanings of courage, beauty, strength, and similar. Whether it’s confronting a challenge without fear, or just sheer beauty, this owl is a positive symbol and omen.

Best Owl Tattoo Placements

You can very commonly see that people go for an owl neck tattoo, and with good reason.

For this animal tattoo that has a round shape it is very easily included in the neck area. Additionally, it’s meaning syncs well with this position, as it gives you wisdom to communicate and express yourself.

Further, the round shapes makes it perfect for an owl hand tattoo (see below among small owl tattoos).

If you’re looking to get a more elongated form, and put the owl on a branch and surround with some elements, a great option would be to go for a forearm owl tattoo. This is a great option for both women’s tattoos as well as tattoo for men.

Similarly, an owl tattoo on the shoulder can be a great option for a larger scene, or a leg tattoo.

Lastly, if you want a large tattoo, with many elements, and include the big-eyed animal in a big scene, we strongly recommend going for an owl back tattoo or a tattoo sleeve.

Owl Tattoo Ideas

To help you with your research for your next tattoo design, we went on a hunt through Instagram to find the best owl tattoo ideas.

Take a look below to check them out all:

Are you looking for a custom owl tattoo design? We got you.

Our expert tattoo artists will provide a quick initial draft to get you going.
Happy inking ❤

Milena Petrovic

Milena Petrovic

Co-founder of Tattoo Stylist

About the author

Milena has decided to start an organization that will create a safe environment for everybody to get their first, second or third tattoo and to encourage young people to transform their ideas into tattoos safely, with talent and vision.

You can find her writing about tattoos on Quora or updating our Pinterest profile with awesome tattoo ideas!

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