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The Totem of the White Barn Owl

bird barn owl
Photo by mark broadhurst on

After I returned home from an evening walk as I was unlocking the door, I felt as if I was being watched. The entrance to my apartment was dark as the lights in the lobby were not working. I looked to my left and saw a beautiful large White Barn Owl perched on my window and looking at me. He blinked a couple of times and so did I. For a moment I was slightly taken aback as I had never expected to see a White Barn Owl perched right next to me. As a matter of fact, this is third White Barn Owl that I have spotted in the last two years that too in different places across India.

I like to believe, that an owl is a good omen. The Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth in the Hindu mythology, is known to have a White Barn Owl as her vehicle. As a result, in Bengali households, one never drives away an owl, especially the White Barn Owl, as it symbolizes good fortune and wealth. This is a kind of totem that helps us save and preserve such rare species of birds. According to Bengalis, the White Barn Owl is also considered as a Brahmin (an upper caste amongst the Hindus) and is worshipped as the vahan or the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi.

I was the happiest to spot this beautiful bird. I tried my best to unlock the door without scaring off the bird and hoped like hell it wouldn’t fly away as I went in to fetch my digital camera, which is always kept handy in my study. I came out of my house and he was still perched in the same spot. I took a picture and captured this beautiful bird’s image. I was tempted to take more pictures, but I did not want to disturb him.
Personally I feel that as humans we should be interested in nature, but we should know where to draw the line. If you ever spot a rare animal or bird, and have a camera take one or two good pictures and leave it at that. It is not fair to disturb the animal or bird. Remember, it is us who are exploring in their territory and not the other way round.

During my Sociology class back in college, I still remember the lecture on Totems and Totemism. Most tribal communities are known to have a totem, like a plant, an animal, a bird or something that they all can identify with as a clan or tribe on the basis of their totem. According to Wikipedia, “The totem is usually an animal or other naturalistic figure that spiritually represents a group of related people such as a clan.”

Believe it or not, usually such plants/ animals/ birds are endangered species, which the tribals (who are closest to nature, than the urban populace), mark it as a totem and worship it. In that process, harming or killing the plant/ animal/ bird is considered sacrilege. For example, the Black Buck in Rajasthan is a protected species by the villagers and tribals as a totem. Similarly, by making the White Barn Owl a symbol of good luck we signify it as a totem.

A few days back I had read in the newspaper that a certain group of people sacrificed white barn owls to please the gods to obtain more wealth. This is blind faith and highly unpardonable. We must understand that the White Barn Owl is by far one of the rarest species of birds and needs to be protected.

So the next time you the majestic White Barn Owl, know that good luck is just round the corner and make sure not to harm this beautiful create of God.

The Lifestyle Portal

Tanya is a graduate in Sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, a post-graduate in Communications and Media from SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai and holds a Master's Degree in Journalis & Mass Communications from Chandigarh University. A former writing mentor and a seasoned lifestyle writer, Tanya writes columns on The Lifestyle Portal of life and living.

4 thoughts on “The Totem of the White Barn Owl

  • ronak borana

    just a few sec before typing this text I saw two large white barn owl sitting on the terrace of my building.. 😀 they just looked so amazing.. any help I can do to help them build a nest..?

  • On Wednesday I saw a small white owl at my window. It came for hardly 10 seconds and flew away. I was wondered. What does it mean please explain.

    • Hi Payal,
      Oh wow, that is so cute. Please don’t be afraid. Owls are harmless nocturnal birds. The little owl may have come to rest for a while, so don’t worry. Kindly don’t associate anything negative with owls they’re gorgeous little birds. Next time if it comes, kindly don’t drive it away, allow it to rest and don’t disturb it.


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