Saturday, 30 January 2016

My parliament’s an unpolitical hoot!

It's my every second Saturday day to post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog but I'm reblogging a slightly different post here. 

My parliament’s a hoot!
My newest owl doorstop
I have a collection of owls. Some are tiny. Some are large. 

They’re made from glass, volcanic lava ( from Mount Etna in Sicily), resin, clay, stone, iron, copper, paper, plastic, gourd (South American), cuddly fur, jacquard, cotton, polyester. 

They’re to be found all over my house and surprise, surprise—some are even in the garden. 

What I don’t have is a live owl.

There’s generally some catalyst that begins a collection and in my case the habit was formed during my teaching years at Kintore Primary School, the owl being a school symbol to be found in many of the public areas of the school, in different forms. 

In my own classroom, I used my personal collection of owls as a weekly symbol of excellence. The current ideology was for mixed ability table groupings in the classroom and the table which had the best performance (i.e. via a points system) —based on effort, group co-operation and participation in activities, and general behaviour— ‘won’ the award for the week. This meant their table gave home to whichever of my owls was used that month. When I look back, I’m amazed that my lava owl survived seen in the top shelf above, the large black one at second left!

Burgh Coat of Arms 1959
The village of Kintore, where I live, has evidence of having had some form of school operating since 1574; though education for the local people was possibly even earlier since the official status of Royal Burgh was granted in 1506 (this was, in fact, a reaffirmation of an earlier status) and money for a school was gifted at this time by the Burgess of Kintore.

For centuries after 1574, Kintore remained a Royal Burgh giving it prestige not granted to many other villages. However, it wasn’t till 1959 that Kintore was granted an Official Coat of Arms, any previous insignia used for a long time had never been recognised by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in Edinburgh! The tree of knowledge became central to the design, the other aspects reflecting historical traditions in Kintore.

As a special event in 1959, the school was also given its own official set of ‘arms’ which could be used as a school badge. 

The tree of knowledge symbol was used in conjunction with the open books to reflect excellence in a school in Kintore. 

cloth blazer badge of 1959
In 1959, this official charter cost the Provost of Kintore a whopping £50! 

I’m not exactly sure, since I’ve not done the research, but I don’t believe many other schools in Scotland would have had this status!

(Apologies for the image quality. My original photos are stored on floppy discs & can no longer be accessed via this computer. )

1960s Kintore School blazer
By the late 1980s, the wearing of a school blazer had gone out of fashion and a new version of the school symbol was decorating the new school sweatshirts. 

The tree of knowledge and the open books became central as a shield inserted into a symbolic owl image. From then on the school image was in black and white and stamped onto school products.

The owl had arrived at Kintore School!

Kintore School owl symbol

 Why an owl? 

The owl is also a long recognised symbol of knowledge and has had its own place in the myths and legends across the globe. 

It also has, regrettably, an equal reputation of being a ‘dark’ symbol.  

In Scotland it was said to be ‘bad luck’ to see an owl in daylight. 

I’ve even read on the internet that in the US there’s a lovely saying that “You must return the call if you hear an owl cry, or if you can’t do that you need to remove an item of your clothing and put it on again inside-out.” 

Owls are revered in some cultures as being birds of power; feared in others for a similar reason of emitting negative power. Varying versions of superstitions are around regarding owls—you’ve maybe heard of some yourself?

The owl has a long tradition in Celtic lore details of which can be found in many internet sites like this one:

Owls (Cailleach, Oidhche, Comachag) were most often associated with the Crone aspect of the Celtic Goddess but were also seen as a guide to and through the Afterworld—the state inhabited after a person died and before a soul re-incarnation phase. The owl was lauded as a creature of keen sight in darkness, a silent and swift hunter. An owl was also thought to help unmask those who would deceive you or take advantage of you.

In my Ancient Roman studies, I’ve learned that the hoot of an owl presaged death- as with Julius Caesar "...yesterday, the bird of night did sit Even at noonday, upon the market place, Hooting and shrieking" (from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). During the period I focus on in my novels—84 AD to 211 AD—if a traveller dreamt of an owl, it would mean they’d be shipwrecked or robbed. The ancient Romans believed that witches transformed into owls and sucked the blood of babies. Nailing an owl to a door warded off evil and lightning: a superstition which persisted in the UK into the 1800s. Owl eggs and cooked owl has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. 

In England, owl egg was used to treat alcoholism. Some mothers gave their children raw owl eggs believing it would give a lifetime of immunity to drunkenness. Cooked till only ashes were left, owl eggs were used in a potion to improve eyesight. The one I like best of all is that children suffering from Whooping-cough were given owl broth.

Much of owl superstition is negative, i.e. bad things are going to happen, so I was delighted to also find that in northern England seeing an owl is considered Good Luck! That’s just as well since I see them every day in my collection. 

One thing I often wish is that I could be a true night owl regarding my writing. I’ve sometimes felt that my best writing has been penned late at night but my problem is that I’m not also a lark. I can’t cope by day if the night has lingered into the wee owl hours!

How about you?

Another site with info:


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