They represent intelligence, wisdom and learning as well.
"In China they are seen as signs of coming misfortune. According to the Hottentot people of Africa, the hooting of an owl at night is an omen of death.
Early cultures in Mexico regarded owls as sacred to the rain god, but later the Aztecs of the same region viewed them as evil night demons. Some Native American legends portray owls as destructive and malicious; others show them as helpful beings who warn people of dangers. The stories may include a person who is transformed into an owl. In the Navajo creation myth, an owl resolves a bitter quarrel between men and women, allowing the creation of the human race." (From: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com)
"Owl has been thought of as mysterious mainly because she?s nocturnal, flies silently, has sharp eyesight and hearing and attacks her prey swiftly. Those who fear her have thoughts of her presaging doom. People who admire her think of insight and knowledge.
Owl The Raptor
Owls, with the exception of the great grey owl, are nocturnal predators. Because their thick feathers have soft edges, flight is silent, allowing them to pounce on their prey without warning. These birds have the sharpest night vision of all animals. Their hearing is extremely keen.
These carnivores, closely related to hawks, are found on every continent except Antarctica. They have two styles of hunting. One is to perch on a branch of a tree, waiting for prey and, when spotted, suddenly striking. The other is flying near the ground to hunt for quarry.
Owls? prey includes other birds, rodents, frogs, insects and fish. Large ones will also hunt foxes, weasels and fawns. These birds have no significant predators.
Celtic Owl Tradition
Cailleach-oidhche, Owl, represents wisdom, stealth, initiation, change and detachment. She is associated with arcane lore, clairvoyance, seeking deeper knowledge and death as a new beginning. Owl is aware of her surroundings at all times, has great intuition and the courage to follow her instincts. She offers keen insight into obscure occurrences, a bringer of hidden truth, omens and secrets. She is the power animal of psychics." (From: http://paganismwicca.suite101.com)
Deities associated with owls include Athena, Ares, Hades, Lakshmi, Pueo-Nui-Akea, Durga, Epopeus, Blodeuwedd, Quaayap, Ascalaphus, Chia, Indra, Lilith, and Minerva.