Posted by: Didapper PJ10 APR 2014
We are all familiar with the fact that a wide range of plant species have been used in folk medicine. Over the years, many such plants have been featured on this page.
Less well known is the use of animals in traditional medicine, and one such creature is the owl.
Britain has five native species of owl, with occasional rare visits from five others, but it seems that the barn owl has been the most popular species in traditional medicine.
Barn owls do not hoot like the more common tawny owl. Instead they emit an eerie screech and also produce wheezing, snoring and gurgling sounds.
Because these latter noises resemble those produced by sufferers of whooping cough, an owl broth was administered to patients with this disease in the belief that it could help alleviate the symptoms.
But if you wish to experiment with your own owl broth, be warned that all Britain’s owls are strictly protected. Producing your antipertussive concoction will be illegal unless you resort to the use of roadkill. The same proviso also applies to an old Yorkshire belief that gout can be cured by eating the salted flesh of the little owl.
Another ancient tradition holds that owl flesh mixed with boar’s grease can be used as an ointment to ease the pain of gout.
Owl eggs have also been used in folk medicine. Eating them was once reputed to help improve eyesight and to avert epileptic fits.
However, you should also be aware that taking eggs from any bird’s nest is illegal.
The raw eggs of the little owl were once believed to be a cure for alcoholism. And children who ate the eggs would supposedly be protected from alcoholism for life.
Other old suppositions include a Welsh belief that if an owl is heard among houses then an unmarried girl is going to take a lover and lose her chastity.
A more pleasant Welsh tradition says that if a pregnant woman hears an owl, her child will be blessed.