In "Bless Me, Ultima," the owl symbolizes Ultima's soul. It is a benign spirit that accompanies Tony whenever Ultima cannot and warns of trouble to come. To Tony and Ultima's other friends, the owl has a positive connotation: protection, goodness, and wisdom.
However, the townsfolk see the owl as proof that Ultima is a witch. They believe it to be her familiar, an evil animal that serves its wicked master. To Ultima's enemies, the owl has a negative connotation: evil, witchery, and malevolence.