This post is part of our ongoing series exploring daily creativity via The 64 Arts.
After a fabulous, if jam-packed, weekend I proceeded to lock my keys in the car Monday morning. (At the lab where I stopped for blood-word, as if that isn’t adding insult to injury.) It’s not a leap to imagine it was a sign of things to come for the day.
I suppose, though, the Universe was just providing me a handy segue into the next Art:
49 Observing the Omens
Observing the favorable or unfavorable signs before any enterprise.
So, what is an omen? It’s a portent or sign of something to come. Not always bad (favorable omens are a thing, a good thing!) but a lot of the times we pay more attention to the negative ones than the positive. What an omen is not, however, is a superstition.
(Direct link for the feed readers: Superstitious music video by Europe–this song keeps popping into my head every time I think about this subject; there are worse earworms to have.)
Superstitions are more like if-then statements or cause and effect occurrences. Like breaking a mirror leads to seven years of of bad luck, if a black cat crosses your path you’ll have bad luck. Even the childhood “step on a crack, break your momma’s back” rhyme is a superstition.
(Direct link for the feed readers: Superstition by Stevie Wonder)
And like Stevie says, “when you believe in things that you don’t understand you suffer.”
I don’t consider myself a very superstitious person. A black cat can walk where they want in relation to me and I feel no fear. I avoid walking under ladders more for the protection against things falling on me from heights above than any long-term potential. And avoiding cracks in the sidewalk just takes too much effort!
But haven’t you ever gone somewhere and found a parking spot right next to the door (bonus points if it’s also in the shade and it’s summertime) and thought ‘yes, this is a good sign’? Well, that right there is a sign of our subconscious mind seeing fate/diety/or lady luck bestowing some sort of blessing on our venture. We may not think of not getting that close-up spot as a sign of bad luck and it dooming our trip to the depths of darkness (no, other shoppers usually take care of that for us), but other things, like my keys held hostage, can certainly turn our thoughts of the coming day to less than positive avenues.
Some very common omens involve sensations of our body “telling” us things we need to know. It’s said that an itching right palm signifies money or wealth coming to you, but an itching left palm means you’re going to lose or spend money soon. (The whole right-good/left-bad thing dates back to at least Roman times, all you have to look at the words for right and left–dexter and sinister, respectively–to see the bias.) Have you ever heard “your earns must have been burning” from someone when you entered the room? Tingling ears mean someone is talking about you. Now, it could be anything from spreading gossip to extolling your virtues, that’s why it helps to add outside insight to simple observations!
One of my favorite movies, Practical Magic, has a scene where a broom falls and the aunts say “Broom fell… company’s coming.” Of course, if you look up what a falling broom can mean you’ll see all sorts of portents, both positive and negative. In the case of the broom, it’s always struck me that most people clean up before guests come over, so a broom has a higher chance of falling over when it’s casually leaned up against a wall rather than in the closet, cupboard, or hook where it might usually live. Ergo, the broom fell before company arrived, and that became tied to the action. But, in the movie, they were in the midst of a tense scene, so in that sort of setting, maybe company isn’t quite a welcome. It’s all about context.
Owls are a good source of omens and there is tons of lore about what seeing or hearing an owl might mean. Even though owls are considered wise, their large eyes and nocturnal habits often get them associated with death. So, hearing the hoot of a screech owl portends death soon to come. Okay, but what if live next to an owl-happy forest? You’ll be hearing hoots all the time and be scared half out of your wits that your demise was imminent 24/7. Context.
The other thing about omens, as opposed to superstitions, is that they are warnings of possibilities, not carved in stone. Take the broken mirror/bad luck superstition: you’re pretty much sunk on that one (if you believe it) as you cannot unbreak the mirror. Carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot (which wasn’t so lucky for the rabbit, was it?) could be an attempt to nullify one superstition with another, but they still stand along. An omen of trouble ahead, though, when contemplated could be avoided. Just like horoscopes and tarot, being aware of a situation via an omen has the power to change or guarantee an outcome though our actions, as much as we ever control a situation, that is.
Where on the omen spectrum do you sit: don’t believe at all? casual observer? or always on the lookout for signs and portents?
What local omens have you heard about or are common to your family?