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The Magick of Owls by Felicity Haynes

“The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk” That’s one of my favorite sayings. Minerva was the Roman version of Athene, the goddess of wisdom, the Arts and skills, and she often took the form of an owl, or had an owl accompanying her, so the suggestion is that one only acquires wisdom in the later years of life. Her owl had the ability to reveal unseen truths to her, to light up her blind side, enabling her to speak the whole truth, as opposed to only a half truth. I like the way that the bird represents wisdom rather than knowledge. Wisdom is much more difficult to attain than cleverness, and I’m still seeking it. It is knowledge combined with learning from experience, something I’ve had to do while transmuting from a philosopher to a farmer.

Because owls fly only when the sun goes down, many cultures, including the Cherokee Indians, associate them with death. There is a saying in Spanish that still exists today: cuando el tecolote canta, el indio se muere (“when the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies”). When I was seven years old, in the wheat belt town of Katanning, one of the Girls’ Own Annuals that I used to read and reread had a short story about a little girl lost in a snowy wood, when an owl swoops down; terrifying her, but it shows a swiftness, silence, and certainty which is magnificently powerful. When I later read that the American Indians regard it as the messenger from the other world which they go to when they die, the same image of sacred power, terrible and swift, flashed through my mind.  The owl is the messenger of the gods, because it knows their secrets. Like Hermes, he is the messenger of the gods.

Owls have predator vision, which means they see clearly what they look at. They have great intuition: they are often the totem of psychics and clairvoyants and they are the totem of my farm.  A white barn owl flew in front of my car the first time I drove down to the farm from my work in Perth at night. Owls have the courage to follow their instincts. Owl’s medicine, even in Australian indigenous stories, includes seeing behind masks, silent and swift movement, keen sight, messenger of secrets and omens, shape-shifting, the link between the dark, unseen world and the world of light, comfort with shadow self, moon power, freedom.

Perhaps the owl is not always so terrible, but it is nearly always magic. The image below is from the Inuit, whom we used to call Eskimo. This is the Enchanted Owl painted by Kenojuak Ashevak in 1960 and now situated in the lobby of the Museum of Inuit Art in Toronto. It featured in red and white on a Canadian postage stamp.

Didn’t you love the story of the Owl and the Pussycat who went to Sea in a beautiful peagreen boat and ate slices of quince with a wonderful Runcible spoon?  Younger than eight, I had loved A.A. Milne’s  Owl/Wol  in Winnie-the-Pooh who deserved to be treated with respect because you can’t help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn’t spell it right.

These lovable owls are all from the First Nation peoples in Canada, hanging on my wall in my home. Owls can be foolish in their effort to appear wise. There is a wonderful Inuit legend available on U-Tube ( about an owl that fell in love with a goose, and was quite bewildered to find that they weren’t quite as compatible as he anticipated.  I could relate to this. When I left my husband in 1978, I wrote a story so that the children could better understand the rift in the family, about a butterfly and an ant who was fascinated by their differences but who found it very difficult to live together. He took her to live in his comfortable home underground, but the flowers she brought into lighten the home made him sneeze. So she began to taunt him and say you are a miserable creature you cannot fly, which made him very unhappy. When she left the home she said to her children that they had seen the best of both and could choose whether they wanted to be an ant or a butterfly, or bits of both. I’d still rather be an owl than a goose, magnificent as the goose is!

Last year, the builder phoned one morning to ask if I wanted him to make an owl house in the meeting house. I thought that was curious, because I hadn’t told him about my obsession with owls, but said that a better place for it would be in the trees over by the tank, so that owls could hunt over the lavender maze and feel safe. When I walked up to the building site, Marty, the carpenter, told me that we had had a visitor overnight and that a white barn owl had been sitting inside the building when he arrived. So a magnificent owl nesting box is now sitting on the outside wall of the meeting house. There are plenty of owls in the bush, mopokes, tawny frogmouths and my favorite, the barn owl, who keep the mice, rats and snakes down. But there aren’t any babies in the owl house yet.

Did you know that there is an intranet programme called OWL – a multi-user document repository (knowledge base) system written in PHP?  It sounds frightenly clever and useful. But I prefer my library of books! Ted Hughes wrote a lovely poem about the Thought Fox that creeps around the edges of his mind, and suddenly leaps into an insight that forms his poem. But to me the best aspect of owls is their magic ability to arrive unexpectedly, to suddenly illuminate the mind, with their ancient and sacred wisdom of the night.

Felicity Haynes, Tingrith Farm, 2010

Read more about Felicity and find out about the wonderful Tingrith Meeting House she has created on her farm…

Workshops at The Tingrith Meeting House

Welcome to Wonderland

Have you ever thought about Impossibility? At the first of the Welcome to Wonderland sessions on 22nd August, eight friends and three total strangers turned up at Tingrith meeting house with six impossible things in their minds. When some were written on the whiteboard we had to discuss together whether they were really possible or whether we couldn’t decide.  Here is the first list.

Impossible things:

Stones falling through tent roofs without making holes (Ron)
Resolving long-held differences (Miles)
Rain falling from a cloudless sky (Ron)
Rain falling up (Felicity)
Daffodils growing into an oak tree (Angela)
Perfect surf everyday (Jamie)
All humans could think alike (Werner)
Anyone could live for ever in the same body (Shelley)
Humans could grow wheels (Lorraine)
We could all start on a level playing field (Janni)
A woman could lead regardless of gender (Carole)
A square circle (Felicity).

We wondered whether  modern science and  particularly genetic modification could make nearly anything possible, even growing wheels or living for ever. But maybe we would always be trapped into assuming essential differences between male and female that would always act against females. Then we began to really question the relationship between logical impossibility like finding a round square and factual impossibilities like a daffodil bulb seedling growing into an oak tree or rain falling upwards. By the time people left, about 5.15, we began to question the way the language shaped our perception of even what seemed factually possible  eg if water drops fell  upwards as in transpiration or evaporation it wouldn’t be called rain.  We didn’t get into the jam tomorrow and yesterday but never today, but we DID get onto politics! How could we avoid it! The logic of the jam problem will arise no doubt in our discussion of time at the next meeting on September 19th.

It’s about Time

On September 19th, Felicity will offer the second of six afternoon discussion groups in the meeting house, based on Time.  Drawn from Alice in Wonderland, these discussions are open to people from all walks of life and of all ages.
Felicity will be dealing with TIME, and visitors will be encouraged to think about the statement that “Time flies like an arrow”. Does time have to go forward? Is it real or simply a word we use to mark change?
The fun will start at 2 pm and last for two hours. Cost of $10 per person will include coffee and cake.

Please contact Felicity on or by phoning the farm on 08 9757 4014.
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Further Information

Sadly Tingrith Meeting House and the beautiful surrounding areas where it is situated are currently at risk of a coal mine opening and operating on the property directly next door. To read more about the proposed mine and/or voice your concern please follow this link.