Have you ever seen something that you couldn’t explain? Something unusual that strangely ended up foretelling the future of your life? In the United States, this could be the visit of a black cat or presence of the number 13, which are symbols of bad luck and danger. Or the ultimate bad omen, Friday the 13th. In Greece, a crow would introduce bad news and the breaking a hairbrush is considered an omen of misfortune in Japan.
In my own definition, an omen, or augury, is a good or bad sign. It is an energy; a “blip” in the universe that has a history specific to you. Made just for you. They’re like foreshadows or symbols in your story. Seeing your lucky number 7 multiple times in one day or a shooting star would be considered an omen of good luck. Whereas seeing your initials spelled out in a spider web could be a grim and ominous warning.
At a young age, I started having a dream and visions about a tall man in a suit wearing a black hat. I saw him many nights for months at a time. It got to the point where the dreams felt so real that I was having trouble separating them from reality. I couldn’t tell if I had really woken up the night before and saw him in my mirror, or if it had been a hyper-realistic dream. The recurring dream slowly faded, and I still don’t have the knowledge to decipher what this all meant.
Not everyone is gifted enough to be able to divulge in the true meaning of these prophecies but a diviner of omens can be called upon to help you interpret your own. Omens present themselves in many ways; through dreams, tarot, the prophecies of an oracle, runes, and by an actual event. These all can be observed through the precise and careful study of divination. One of the most well-known forms of divination is tasseography, or the process of reading the patterns found in tea leaves, coffee grounds, or wine residue. In more ancient days, practices would find answers in drops of wax, oil in water, and lead.
The earliest traces of omens go all the way back to Mesopotamia, around 3000 BC. Atypical weather conditions have always been highly regarded as serious portents or catastrophic omens. In particular, solar eclipses are thought to foreshadow devastation. Both the ancient Babylonians and the Chinese saw them as warnings that were sent specifically to the rulers. Freak events like the birth of disfigured animals and humans, astrological abnormalities, or the presence of the sinister crow were also seen as signs and messages sent from a higher power. Omens were present in almost every ancient society before many of them had ever interacted with one another.
There are two sides to every omen. “Protasis” is the implied theory and “apodosis” is the actual outcome. As an example, a classic portent would be one of a dead dove found on your front doorstep. In lieu of the common agreement that doves symbolize love and friendship, the protasis could be that a relationship will come to a brutal end. The apodosis, or end result, could go many ways. They could be anywhere between your marriage coming to a crashing halt or a lifelong friend dying. The possibilities are endless.
In Babylonian and Assyrian societies, the ritual and incantation of ‘namburbi’ would be enacted to attempt to reverse the potential apodosis. There were numerous steps to the process including the breaking of clay pots, the cutting of hair and nails, and the feeling of an onion. After, the impending evil should have been averted. If only things were that simple these days. But omens should be happening every day, in this state of affairs. War, famine, and disease are infecting our world as it has for the whole of history but still, we have not been able to halt the inevitable. Is the legend of omens merely a myth, passed on by our ancestors as a way for us to feel in control? Whether you believe it or not does not undermine that there is always truth behind the myth. But I do believe this: there are no coincidences. Nothing is an accident. And the universe is too powerful for anything to be random.
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