Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

#MythpunkMonday: Owl Punk


Happy #MythpunkMonday! Today I thought I’d take a look at owls. I’ve always loved them and our myth-bank has a particularly sad and moving story about the barn owl which has haunted me since I first heard it.

In this tale, the sun god chases his sister the moon goddess around the earth in lust until at last he catches her. Her child is born, a winged, liminal creature of darkness and light with a terrible shrieking cry. The moon draws her night cloak over all her children – the foxes, bats, badgers, deer and all the other nocturnal creatures – but the barn owl she casts out in revulsion because she shines with her father’s light – a wood demon burning with a ghastly flame –  and her mother, after all she has suffered, finds that light too painful.

Across world mythologies owls tend to be recognised as symbolic of either wisdom / good fortune or death / ill fortune, or sometimes both.

There’s a nice article on some different cultural beliefs about owls right here:

Owls are also often associated with the divine feminine – often linked to a goddess such as Lakshmi / Alakshmi, Athena or Blodeuwedd and it’s this aspect of the owl-image within our collective consciousness that I feel is a good in-road for punk fiction.

In truth of course all owls are not wise, or evil and seeing an owl is more likely to indicate that we have stumbled into its territory rather than it has sought us out to give us some dire warning of our own imminent demise.

But it is interesting, I think, that a creature which is seen as magical, wise, lucky (if you eat it), ill-omened, deadly and even evil should also be so often associated with the feminine. I feel it says a lot about historic cultural views of innately feminine attributes which now, in the light of modern cultural paradigm shifts, need to be challenged.

So bring on the stories that break the owl-shaped mould for the parameters of feminine form – and visa versa of course! Bring on the stories which illuminate the prison bars of feather and bone, and set us free to really fly.

How about you? Do you have a favourite owl myth? Have you included owls in your own mythpunkery? Or do you have a real life owl encounter you’d love to share? Feel free to join in the fun in the comments below or using the #MythpunkMonday hashtag!


Beautiful owl image by Gavin Vincent


6 responses

  1. With titles like Owl Dance and Owl Riders, I think it’s pretty clear that both owl fact and myth played a strong role in the development of my Clockwork Legion steampunk series. My own personal fascination with owls came from discovering a family of burrowing owls in my neighborhood. I would make a point of walking by their next each day. They would chirp at me and do a little dance from one foot to the other — in fact, something of a warning gesture and sizing me up as a threat, I’m sure — but I found if I stayed in one place and chirped back, they calmed and we could carry on something of a dialogue. I wondered about someone who had more time to keep it up and spent more time with owls and thought they might get a pretty good understanding, which then led to the development of Fatemeh Karimi. Of course, Fatemeh had the misfortune of moving to a place where owls are often seen as the familiars of witches. Although I explore that aspect a little in my novel, one of the truly classic New Mexico novels, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya explores it in detail.

    Liked by 2 people

    November 18, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    • smithandskarry1

      You know how much I love your Clockwork Legion series, David, thankyou for sharing it on here – and that is one awesome wild owl story! I really wish I could claim such close encounters in the wild but although I’ve had the honour of many brief sightings, none so magical as yours! Also thanks for the book rec, I haven’t read that one I shall look it out! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      November 19, 2019 at 3:04 pm

  2. I offer a shout out for Elen Sentier’s Owl Woman – which I think is much inline with what you’re talking about. Rooted in folklore, powerful femininity, magic, and modern characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 19, 2019 at 11:12 am

    • smithandskarry1

      Huge thanks for that lovely! I love Elen Sentier’s books but although I’ve had that one on my radar for quite a while now I haven’t yet dived in – a much appreciated nudge my dear, thankyou! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      November 19, 2019 at 3:06 pm

      • It has things to say about cup maidens, and the Fisher King tradition, that have stayed with me…

        Liked by 1 person

        November 20, 2019 at 9:21 am

      • smithandskarry1

        It does sound like my cup of tea, and I do love her non-fiction so I must a round to reading it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        November 20, 2019 at 10:44 am

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