Pallas Athene (or Minerva to the Romans), the goddess of wisdom, honored the owl as her sacred bird. The owl was recognized as an emblem of penetrating sight and intelligence. It was considered to be a favorable omen if an owl was spotted on the battle field or at times of crisis. The Athenian silver tetradrachm bore the owl (Athene noctua); and owls were protected and thrived in great numbers at the Acropolis of Athens (a temple dedicated to Athena).
The Bavarian Order of the Illuminati
Minerval Seals of the Illuminati: two of three known to still exist. P.M.C.V. stands for Per Me Caeci Vident (Through me the blind become sighted). An owl holding an opened book (signifying learning), surrounded by a Laurel wreath (a symbol of learning or graduation); Per Me Caeci Vident was a reminder to the Superiors of the class, whose responsibility it was to properly instruct the Minervals. These medallions were worn around the necks of Minerval initiates.
For a secret society called the Order of the Illuminati – emulating the ancient schools of wisdom, and having a "Minerval Academy" as a foundation – would there have been a more fitting symbol than the Owl of Minerva? The class of Minerval was a relatively low rank in the scheme of things. However, it was the soul of the Order, and functioned as a sort of assembly line for recruits.
Candidates advanced from Novice to the Minerval degree, where they were properly vetted, scrutinized, and indoctrinated. The Quibus Licet notebooks were introduced, maintained and thoroughly kept (which eventually turned into a detailed history of yourself and those around you). You were admonished to gain wisdom from figures in ancient Greece and Rome; essays were required to pass the test; and the art of Scrutator (or Physiognomy) was elevated to a sacred science. The Minerval Superior – a Minor or Major Illuminatus – was given the code: Nosce te ipsum; Nosce alios[Know thyself; Know others]. A Minerval Academy was also known as a Church; its meetings marked on the Illuminati's calendar as sacred. To the right is the seal of the Freising Minerval Church. Instead of the letters P.M.C.V., they are replaced with S.E.M.T.: Sigil Ecclesiastic Minerva Thebes; or, "Seal of the Freising Minerval Church" (i.e. Freising's alias within the Order was Thebes).
Another layer of the owl symbolism, was to assure its initiates that the Illuminati does its bidding at night: nocturnal toil (see Perfectibilists: The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati (Trine Day: 2009), pp. 220-2). It harkens back to the tradition of night being the "mother of counsels." Desiderius Erasmus, for instance, recorded the Latin adage: In nocte consilium [Night is the mother of counsel]. Apparently, the lesson is to be cautious or prudent, not to undertake a thing impulsively ("sleep on it"). Indeed, for one of the maxims the Illuminati had given to the Minervals, was: Quidquid agis, age prudente et respice finem [Whatever you do, do cautiously, and be mindful of the end] (Perfectibilists, op. cit., p. 227 n. 33). During each Minerval ceremony, the initiates recited, and received a lecture upon, a translated and slightly altered version of the Ode to Wisdom by Elizabeth Carter (1717-1806):
ODE to WISDOM, By a Lady. I. The solitary Bird of Night Thro' the thick Shades now wings his Flight, And quits his Time-shook Tow'r; Where, shelter'd from the Blaze of Day, In Philosophic Gloom he lay, Beneath his Ivy Bow'r. II. With Joy I hear the solemn Sound, Which midnight Echoes waft around, And sighing Gales repeat. Fav'rite of Pallas! I attend, And, faithful to thy Summons, bend At Wisdom's awful Seat. III. She loves the cool, the silent Eve, Where no false Shews of Life deceive, Beneath the Lunar Ray. Here Folly drops each vain Disguise, Nor sport her gaily-colour'd Dyes, As in the Beam of Day. IV. O Pallas! Queen of ev'ry Art, That glads the Sense, and mends the Heart, Blest Source of purer Joys! In ev'ry Form of Beauty bright, That captivates the mental Sight With Pleasure and Surprize; V. To thy unspotted Shrine I bow: Attend thy modest Suppliant's Vow, That breathes no wild Desires; But taught by thy unerring Rules, To shun the fruitless Wish of Fools, To nobler Views aspires. VI. Not Fortune's Gem, Ambition's Plume, Nor Cytherea's fading Bloom, Be Objects of my Pray'r: Let Av'rice, Vanity, and Pride, Those envy'd glitt'ring Toys divide, The dull Rewards of Care. VII. To me thy better Gifts impart, Each moral Beauty of the Heart, By studious Thought refin'd; For Wealth, the Smiles of glad Content, For Pow'r, its amplest, best Extent, An Empire o'er my Mind. VIII. When Fortune drops her gay Parade, When Pleasure's transient Roses fade, And wither in the Tomb, Unchang'd is thy immortal Prize; Thy ever-verdant Laurels rise In undecaying Bloom. IX. By Thee protected, I defy The Coxcomb's Sneer, the stupid Lye Of Ignorance and Spite: Alike contemn the leaden Fool, And all the pointed Ridicule Of undiscerning Wit. X. From Envy, Hurry, Noise, and Strife, The dull Impertinence of Life, In thy Retreat I rest: Pursue thee to the peaceful Groves, Where Plato's sacred Spirit roves, In all thy Beauties drest. XI. He bad Ilyssus' tuneful Stream Convey thy Philosophic Theme Of Perfect, Fair, and Good: Attentive Athens caught the Sound, And all her list'ning Sons around In awful Silence stood: XII. Reclaim'd her wild, licentious Youth, Confess'd the potent Voice of Truth, And felt its just Controul. The Passions ceas'd their loud Alarms, And Virtue's soft persuasive Charms O'er all their Senses stole. XIII. Thy Breath inspires the Poet's Song, The Patriot's free, unbiass'd Tongue, The Hero's gen'rous Strife; Thine are Retirement's silent Joys, And all the sweet engaging Ties Of still, domestic Life. XIV No more to fabled Names confin'd, To the Supreme all-perfect Mind, My Thoughts direct their Flight. Wisdom's thy Gift & all her force From thee deriv'd Eternal Source Of Intellectual Light. XV O send her sure, her steady Ray, To regulate my doubtful Way, Thro' Life's perplexing Road: The Mists of Error to controul, And thro' its Gloom direct my Soul To Happiness and Good. XVI Beneath Her clear discerning Eye The visionary Shadows fly Of Folly's painted Show. She sees thro' ev'ry fair Disguise, That All but Virtue's solid Joys, Are Vanity and Woe.
[The Bohemian Club's] symbol is an owl, which has been in use since the first year the Club started. The owl has come to symbolize the wisdom of life and companionship, that allows humans to struggle with and survive the cares and frustration of the world. The owl is found on all Bohemian materials from matchbook covers and doormats to the most elaborate Club publications. For $34.00 you can even own an owl-emblemed sports shirt. A forty foot concrete owl stands at the head of the lake in the Grove. This owl shrine was built in 1929 to serve as a ceremonial site for traditional Bohemian rituals and is used yearly for the Cremation of Care Ceremony. – Peter Martin Phillips, A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club (1994), p. 44 The Bohemian Club – akin to a new Illuminati of the elite – also pays homage to the Owl of Minerva/Athena.
Left, Athenian Owl at the Acropolis — the chief temple dedicated to Athena/Minerva — in Athens (c. 500 BC); right, an exact replica at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco, which even includes the missing beak (see Perfectibilists, op. cit., pp. 211-2, 228-9 n. 7)
Screen shot from the video "Inside The Bohemian Club."
As one can plainly see by the above comparison, the owl statue, situated within the library at the Bohemian Club headquarters in San Francisco, is an exact replica of the one at the Acropolis – thus, there is no doubt that the "Bohos" (by duplicating a famous statue located at the chief temple dedicated to Athena) are alluding to Athena/Minerva, or the goddess of wisdom. Furthermore, the statue in the Bohemian Club has a plaque on its front base, stating: "Replica of Ancient Athenian Owl" (see the "Inside The Bohemian Club" video at approximately 07:24). There's also the tale of Minerva and Arachne (Greek for spider). It concerns a weaving contest between Minerva – also known as the goddess of the arts, needle work and weaving – and Arachne. The latter was turned into a spider after losing the contest. "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here," the motto on the seal of the Bohemian Club, may well be alluding to the myth; the mere fact that it is accompanied by the owl, which represents Minerva, is significant and noteworthy (and too semiotically sound as to have been a mere coincidence).
But just because the owl is venerated by the Bohemian Club does not mean that it is only meant to symbolize Athena/Minerva. Lilith is also an apt identification: Lilith (Queen of the Demons), the great screeching owl mentioned in Isaiah 34:13-16; the night owl goddess that inhabits the ruins of Edom which subsequently became a permanent fixture of Kabbalistic demonology. Lilith is also closely related "to the Greek figure of Hecate, with her demands for human sacrifice," and the Grove participants perform a mock human sacrifice at the base of a 40-foot owl as part of the Cremation of Care ritual. In addition, the poet George Sterling, one of the most prominent "Bohos" of his time, wrote a play titled Lilith; a dramatic poem(1920), in which Lilith herself mentions the owl – demonstrating that they at least knew of such symbolism. Sterling stayed at the Bohemian Club in his own private room toward the end of his life, where he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide. Schlaraffia Founded in Prague, Bohemia, 1859, thirteen years before the Bohemian Club, the Schlaraffiawere initially composed of actors, artists, literati and musicians (much like the Bohemian Club); and they too (like the Bohemian Club) have an owl as their totem.
The society of men, which is called Schlaraffia, is in the strict sense, a fraternity. Its clubs are spread all over the world and can be found on each continent. Artists and academicians in Prag (Prague), which was considered at the time the Mekka(Mecca) of German culture, founded the Schlaraffia society in 1859. Its aim was to offset the chauvinistic and egotistic behavior of the nobility, and to create a hideout for men from the exertions and worries of the profane life. The Society's maxims consist of fostering art, humor and friendship. An actor by the name of Victor Mueller-Fabricius founded the club in Cincinnati in 1893. Almost the whole Symphony Orchestra of Cincinnati joined the Society at that time. The name of the Cincinnati settlement is Schlaraffia Cincinnatia. The official language used during meetings and correspondence is German. Many customs and some semantics of medieval times are used at the sessions, since Schlaraffia maintains its relationship to civic societies of the Medieval Age. During the meetings that occur weekly during the winter months and less often during summer months, attendees listen to lectures prepared by speakers on such topics as problems of technique, art and literature. The lectures are followed by discussions where much wit and humor are usually exchanged. The place of the Schlaraffia assemblies is called Burg. In Cincinnati, the Burg is the former Steuben House on Rohs Street in Clifton. The Society venerates the owl, called UHU in German, as the emblem of wisdom. The owl was honored at the times of the Antike (Greek and Roman antiquity) as the representative of prudence and wisdom. Of the three goals of Schlaraffia, the most important one is the sincere friendship that glues the membership together and obligates each Schlaraffe to provide mutual aid and assistance according to his potential. (Source; bold emphasis mine)
There was a branch of Schlaraffia instituted in San Francisco as early as 1884, so there is the possibility of real connections and influence among the two groups. Similar to the Bohemian Club's concept of destroying "Care" ("the release of everyday mundane concerns for the brotherhood of Bohemian friendship" [Phillips, op. cit., p. 46]), the Schlaraffia say: "As soon as he [the Schlaraffian] enters a 'castle' [or 'Temple'] and comes under the rule of Uhu, the great horned owl of Minerva, he is expected to forget all foolish things of everyday life." While researching the espionage of Aleister Crowley, author and historian Richard B. Spence came across some intriguing connections to Schlaraffia. Spence found that both George Sylvester Viereck and Hugo Muensterberg were members of Schlaraffia. In Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult, p. 71, Spence writes:
While replete with Masonesque ritual and symbolism, it lacked heavy occult overtones. On the other hand, Schlaraffia shared membership with more esoteric groups such as Sat B'hai and the Royal Order of Sikha, the former one of the constituent orders of the OTO. So, there may have been more going on than met the uninitiated eye. British and American intelligence identified Schlaraffia as a "Secret German Propaganda Society" that encouraged artists and writer to "spread German propaganda in a silent, secret way." At the least, Schlaraffia provided a ready-made, secret, Germanophile organization with branches throughout the country – an ideal vehicle for espionage and other activities. Source: http://www.conspiracyarchive.com/2015/04/18/owl-of-wisdom-illuminati-bohemian-club-schlaraffia-james-gordon-bennett-jr/