Many were 'borrowed' or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions. The Greeks and Romans made it the emblem of wisdom, and sacred to Minerva, and indeed its large head and solemn eyes give it an air of wisdom.
The Definition and Meaning of the Owl as a Catholic Christian Symbol
Catholic Christian symbolism in art provides a clear graphic illustration which represents people or items of religious significance. What is the definition and the meaning of the Owl? The Owl is a nocturnal bird of prey with hawk-like beak and claws and large head with front-facing eyes. Owls are mostly nocturnal in their habits. The Owl as a Christian Symbol represents symbolizes mourning and desolation because it lives for the darkness and is often found near tombs and lives in caves. In the Scriptures the owl is commonly associated with desolation; poets and story-tellers introduce it as a bird of ill omen.
Christian Symbolism of the Owl in a Medieval Bestiary
A Bestiary was a medieval book with allegorical descriptions of animals, such as the owl, which were often full of symbolism and reflected the belief that the world itself was the Word of God, and that every living creature had its own special meaning. Used as an allegory in the Medieval Bestiary the owl represents the Jews, who showed that they preferred darkness to light when they rejected Christ.
Reference to the Owl in the Bible
The following reference to the Owl is in the Bible:
Leviticus 11:13-18: The law says that a variety of owls are included in "the birds you are to detest and not eat because thy are detestible".
Leviticus 11:17-18 - 'Laws about Animals for Food', the following 'Avoid the Unclean'
: and the little owl and the cormorant and the great owl, 18 and the white owl and the pelican and the carrion vulture