Trivia Teaser

Which country has the second largest number of Hindus?




By Christine Lovatt

Since the ancient times of the Greeks, owls have been perceived as being wise.

Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom is often depicted with an owl perched on her head or on one of her shoulders, symbolising knowledge and scholarship.  Athena and her ‘Little Owl’ appear on opposite sides of ancient Athenian coinage. The Latin name for Little Owl, Athene noctua translates to ‘Athena’s Night’ or ‘Athena of the Night’.

In Hindu mythology, the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi has an owl as her vehicle. In Bengal she is worshipped on the brightest night of the year. It is believed that on this night she, along with the great white owl, descends to Earth and takes away the darkness of poverty, stagnation, anger and laziness from our lives. 

In early Indian folklore, owls represent wisdom and helpfulness and have powers of prophecy.
Owls are also popular figures in literature. They pop up in Shakespeare’s works as well as in Aesop’s fables where animals go to wise old owls for advice. A.A. Milne’s Owl in Winnie-the-Pooh has "the gift of brains" and offers advice, anecdotes and opinions to the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood. In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, the wizards each own an owl for carrying messages, packages and brooms.


The nursery rhyme A Wise Old Owl refers to the traditional image of owls as the symbol of wisdom:

A wise old owl
lived in an oak
The more he saw
the less he spoke
The less he spoke
the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like
that wise old bird?

Today, a person who appears wise or serious is said to be owlish or have owl-like characteristics.  Owls are popular logos for institutions of learning and are included in the crest of arms of many universities.

An owl is the unofficial mascot of the high-IQ society Mensa .

Collective nouns for owls include ‘a parliament of owls’ or ‘a wisdom of owls’.
The truth is, research shows that a bird’s intellect is tied to how big its brain is compared to its body, which means owls in their own right aren’t particularly clever. In fact, a goose has a larger brain than an owl, although I can’t imagine ‘as wise as a goose’ catching on. Can you?

Happy puzzling!

Christine Lovatt

PS: Why not put your owlish qualities to the test with a round or two of Quiz Time - our most popular General Knowledge Trivia Quiz? 

8 Responses to


June 21, 2012 at 10:02 PM

As a Brownie Leader I was an owl and an appropriate story was told to the girls involving the wisdom of an owl. Owls must have a certain wisdom to bide their time as a night animal of prey or they'd go hungry. I certainly wouldn't go round saying as wise as a drongo after seeing the pathetic nests they create. Geese make too much noise and fuss to be regarded as wise. Sometimes perhaps we do choose the right simile after all. Maybe it's the definitions of cleverness, intellect and wisdom which need attention.

June 22, 2012 at 6:26 AM

Standing in front of a class the fully engaged students do indeed look like owls, ie. wide eyed and blinking less. Ipso facto, look like an owl, learn and become wiser.

June 22, 2012 at 6:32 AM

The eyes, of course, must be focused on the subject. Otherwise they're probably warring a 'boss' on Nintendo.

pdiaco said:
June 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

Enmeshed in an ongoing political and legal battle since 2006, I can very well relate to the 'A Wise Old Owl' poem above.

June 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM

they say as we get older the wiser we become agree with that saying

pdiaco said:
June 23, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Oscar Wilde: 'I am not young enough to know everything.' 'The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, and the young know everything.' That's fresh from the late 1800's!

pdiaco said:
June 23, 2012 at 2:54 PM

I just noticed something. Within Oscar WiLde lies an O.W.L.

Dottoo said:
June 23, 2012 at 5:01 PM

If you see an owl, it is an indication that a teacher of great significance is coming into you life.