Originally posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Once upon a time, lore has it, an engraver inscribed a tiny image of an owl nested into a curlicue on the back of the dollar bill.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Some claim it to be a spider.  Others claim it is an artifact of the engraving.  It has given rise to considerable speculation as to whether it might be a sign of a secret group called “the Illuminati.”

Only the long-ago craftsman who produced the design for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing knows.  And if he knew, he didn’t tell.

This writer likes the idea of owl.  An owl a symbol of wisdom.  That association may well have derived from its status as a totem of Athena, Greek Goddess of wisdom.  And the Athenian tetradrachm portrayed, and was called, an “owl.”


Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France, via Wikipedia

According to the Wikipedia, “The inscription … is an abbreviation … which may be translated as “of the Athenians”. In daily use the Athenian drachmas were called glaukes (owls).”

The notional owl on the dollar bill is as small as a mustard seed.  The “least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”

Would that our monetary authorities find inspiration from this almost imperceptible embellishment to restore the integrity of the dollar by defining it by grains of gold.