Thursday, April 13, 2017

Why are macrame owls a thing?

by Giselle Renarde

Last night I watched an episode of Nature all about owls. It reminded me that, throughout my childhood, I had a macrame owl hanging on the back of my bedroom door. I found it eerie, like everything from the 70s.

Owls are gorgeous, but this macrame one... well, it wasn't what you would call "attractive."

At some point in my childhood, I asked my mom if I could take the owl down. She said no. The owl had to stay there. It was given to me as a baby by a woman my mom worked with. Owls bring luck. That's what my mom was told.

I'd totally forgotten about the macrame owl until last night. That owl documentary started me down a rabbit hole of Google searches such as: "Why are macrame owls a thing?"

I'll tell you this much: even the internet doesn't know.

Even when I asked Google why owls are considered lucky, I didn't find a lot of information. Also, it was two in the morning so it's possible my mental processors weren't functioning to their greatest potential.

I did find a website devoted to macrame owls.

According to

Nocturnal creatures are symbolic of inner-knowing, psychic ability, and intuition. Birds are considered by many cultures to be messengers between earthly creatures and spirit.


The owl’s gift of heightened senses enables it to see through deception, external appearances and illusion and to discover hidden truths.

If you are drawn to owls or owl symbolism, you may have this same ability to uncover secrets. People may feel uneasy around you, as if you are able to see through pretense. The owl also teaches us to acknowledge the dark side of our personality, and in that darkness we may find food for growth.

Actually, seeing through pretense is something I'm pretty damn good at.

My sister and I got on the subject just recently. I forget who we were talking about (a public figure) and we were both saying, "How could anybody believe him? All you have to do is look at his face. It's so obvious he's lying."

It hadn't occurred to me that a lot of people can't tell when they're being lied to. My sister and I attribute our shared ability to see through pretense to having been raised by someone who was undoubtedly a sociopath. When you see the people around you being manipulated by a parent, you learn pretty fast what's going on beneath the surface.

I had an owl and my sister didn't, but we both developed the same power of insight.

I'm still not totally sure why the owl is considered lucky, or why my mom's coworker gave me the macrame one. Part of me wonders what happened to it. Knowing my mother, it's still in her basement somewhere. My mother never throws anything away.

So I'll put the question out there: does anybody know why owls are considered lucky or why you'd give one to a baby? Did anyone else have a macrame owl hanging in their bedroom as a child?

No? Just me?

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  1. I have no profound answers. There may have been a macrame owl in my childhood home in the 1970s, but if so it wasn't symbolic and it had more to do with macrame as a decorating fad than owls in particular. I find macrame ugly and owls frightening, but the saving grace is that if you combine the two, you get something that looks enough unlike an owl to me that it takes the edge off. (The frighteningly realistic owl image at the top of your post is a silkscreen and not macrame, right?)

  2. I remember the macrame owls, but I didn't realize that they were supposed to bring luck, or anything else. When the macrame fad came along, owls were an easy shape to imitate with knotted cord, so I assumed that was why they were so widespread. I owned a college-town store at the time, and several import businesses I ordered from offered extremely cheap (and ugly) macrame owls made in southeast Asia, mainly the Philippines, I think. I didn't order them. I could have made one myself in fifteen minutes or so. Yes, I did macrame, and I do feel nostalgic thinking about it.

    Hmm, Maybe I should save these thoughts for my own post for Monday, but what the heck. I made plant hangers, and candle hangers (for big candles I designed and made myself.) My foremost defense of macrame as an art of sorts, though, relates to the jewelry I made with very fine nylon cord that I dyed myself in what I'd think of as jewel tones. The cord was fastened to metal neckpieces, brass or copper wire, and then I knotted the colors I'd chosen into intricate patterns that emerged as the various colors merged and diverged in the varieties of knots I used. Really quite therapeutic to work on, watching the overall design emerge. I had a few customers who collected them, but they were pretty labor-intensive, and with the business growing and young children at home , and the fact that I could no longer get the one brand of dye that worked well on the white nylon cord I used, I stopped doing it.

    Yes, back then I was sort of a wannabe hippie type, except that even ironing my hair wouldn't make it straight, and long frizzy hair wasn't yet allowed in hippiedom as far as I knew, and anyway I had kids to raise and an inconvenient core of common sense.

    1. My foremost defense of macrame as an art of sorts, though, relates to the jewelry I made with very fine nylon cord that I dyed myself in what I'd think of as jewel tones.

      Micromacrame! (:v>

  3. And then theres macromacrame. I did make a very large multi-level floor-to-ceiling jute plant hanger for my brother, a student at UMass (and now an associate Chancellor there.) It was just his style back then, but certainly not now (and certainly not his wife's stye.) I wonder what became of it.

    1. Knowing UMass, they're probably using it to accommodate overflow classes.

    2. (But maybe don't tell your brother I said that. (:v>)

  4. No macrame. Never liked it. But I will say that in my antiques/collectibles biz, that owls sell. Lots of people collect them, all types and vintages. These people don't appear particularly lucky, though. :>)

    In our home, we do have a large vintage b&w photo of an allegorical scene: an owl on a branch whispering into the ear of a young, blindfolded girl. It's not a sexually suggestive image, but it does convey the concept of old wisdom and blind innocence.

  5. A macrame owl seems kinda kitschy. The odd thing is not being allowed to take it down. That's what would endow something like that with power for an impressionable child.

    Owls can turn their heads all the way around and look at you very deliberately. Most birds can't do that. It gives them a kind of magical quality.

  6. Somehow the macrame owl fad seems to have passed me by!

    I did create some macrame plant hangers, though, during that period.

    Not something I'd feel nostalgic about, though!

    Owls have been associated with wisdom, vision and magic for centuries, though. Remember that Harry Potter's familiar is an owl.

    They are also raptors--like hawks and eagles. They swoop down to catch live prey. A bit scary!

  7. I'm fond of owl images because they are sometimes used to represent knowledge and academia (scary profs?). I'm fairly sure my spouse Mirtha, who learned all sorts of folk beliefs while growing up, has said that owls bring bad luck. (Of course, that might only apply in the Southern Hemisphere.) :) In the Harry Potter world, owls are messengers. A local nature conservation group has publicized the plight of burrowing owls, who are apparently native to the Canadian prairies, but they are endangered because their "nests" are actually holes in the ground -- not the safest place for them to to live, especially where the endless horizon makes everything on the ground visible for miles. I assume their burrows were originally adaptations to the cold.

  8. "I found it eerie, like everything from the 70s."

    Growing up in the 80s, around a lot of 70s artifacts in people's basements, I really feel this comment. Maybe it's that anything in a basement is scary?

    I don't know about macrame owls, but I do know owls can be quite scary. I just about jumped out of my skin when I saw the owl in the nocturnal house at one of our local zoos. It made me understand every single spooky reference I've ever seen about them. There is something super disturbing about them in a pitch black environment.