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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in omens
Feather Messages: Symbols on the Wind

As you jog through the park or walk to work, you might find a feather in your path. It could be a message. You might glean hidden meanings, for example, in the glistening iridescence of a raven’s feather. Native peoples believed feathers to be gifts of healing or “feather medicine” from the Great Spirit. The wind is a form of the change-bringing element of air.

Another type of daily exercise in mindfulness is to actively look for feathers. There is much magic that can lie within something as small and light as this.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

Lilac Bush: Plant Care & Growing Guide

 

Half a moon to Samhain, and here in Minneapolis the lilacs are blooming.

Anomaly. Anomaly. In the American Midwest, lilacs usually flower around Bealtaine.

What's going on?

I first noticed the phenomenon a few weeks ago at Sweetwood sanctuary down in the Driftless Area of southwestern Witchconsin. I made a few lame-ass jokes about the Glastonbury Thorn—“...but at Sweetwood, the lilacs bloom both at Bealtaine and at Samhain, haha”—but inside I harbored less cheerful suspicions.

Lilacs, like most blooming woody plants, set their blossoms in the fall. An old apple tree will often bloom out of season just before it dies, one final, poignant, display of beauty before the end. Apple trees are the poets of the orchard.

But no, the resident priest assured me that the Sweetwood lilacs had done the same the previous year.

A couple of hundred miles to the north, lilacs were blooming here in Minneapolis just last week. Others, not yet blooming, are leafing out, as in a normal year one would expect to see in late April.

I hear different things from the voices around me. It's normal, it's not normal. It's drought-stress (but Sweetwood hasn't been in drought this summer). It's climate change. It's this autumn's extended warm weather.

Well, omens are notoriously ambivalent in the interpreting. If this is an omen, I for one am uncertain how to read it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

Housefly - Wikipedia

 

Here's the odd thing this Yule: I've been experiencing a plague of flies.

What's odd is not the flies themselves, but the timing. Usually about a fortnight or so after I move the outdoor plants inside before Samhain, there's a hatching of flies. I presume that the eggs come in with the plants, and the warmth of the house hatches them out. Hence, flies. It always takes me a few days to hunt them all down. With flies, I've learned, you have to be pretty ruthless. If you don't get them before they breed, you'll be sorry.

This autumn there was no hatching of flies. At the time, I remarked the fact, but can't say that I missed them.

On the first day of Yule, though, I saw the first fly. The next day, there were a couple more. The next, a few more.

You know how it is with the Yuledays: things that happen then somehow take on added significance.

Well, the mistletoe is still hanging, and has been since Midwinter's Eve. Technically, this means that the house is under the bough, i.e. in a state of Yulefrith—the peace of Yule—and that nothing should be killed here for the duration.

I'll admit that this gave me pause, but only briefly. Call me impious, but in my house the Yulefrith extends to fellow humans and—if we're pushing it—to fellow mammals. Yes, flies are kin, too—We be of one blood, you and I—but when it comes to frith, I'm sorry: bugs don't count. As I've said before, sometimes you have to be ruthless.

So, I killed them as I saw them. Every day, through all the first Twelve Days of Yule, there were more flies for me to kill, like some sort of weird sacrificial holiday ritual.

Was this a seasonal anomaly, I wonder: the usual autumn hatching, come late? Did I maybe bring them in with the Yule tree, or with the holly from the yard that I cut and brought in a couple of days before Midwinter's Eve?

A buddy of mine once made the observation that omens imply the out-of-place. To know what's unusual, you first have to know what's usual. (He was dating a Druid at the time who, out walking one day, picked up an oak leaf from the ground and said: Oh, it's an omen of great good luck to find an oak leaf! as if this were some nugget of ancient Druidic wisdom.  My friend thought: Um, it's November, and we're in a stand of oak trees. Needless to say, that relationship didn't last long.) In Minnesota, flies in late December are out of place. So what does it mean that I've had an infestation of flies through all the days of Yule?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Eek!
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think of flies as omens of tribulation. Each fly you dealt with per day would mean the number of tribulations you will face eac

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

I don't know if you have this thede (custom) where you come from, but around here the first ornament on the Yule Tree—after the lights and star, of course—is the Luck.

First ornament on, last ornament off. That's the Luck o' the Tree.

I don't suppose that there's any particular form that a Luck has to take, but here at my house it's a huge, clear glass bubble, big as your two fists held together. (Being the largest ornament on the Tree, it makes good aesthetic sense that it should be the first to be placed, as well.) After a lifetime of collecting, there are many rare and beautiful ornaments on my tree, but the plain, unadorned Luck is always the most beautiful of them all: in it the lights of the Tree, and in fact the whole Tree itself, are reflected (upside-down, of course). It's the whole Tree in little, the World-Tree in small. I suppose that's what makes it the Luck.

Last year, while decking the tree, I heard something bounce, and land. An ornament from one of the upper branches had slipped its twig and fallen onto the hearthstone. Fortunately, it hadn't broken when it landed. Whew, I thought.

It wasn't until I crunched glass underfoot that I realized what had happened. In its fall, the ornament had bounced off of the Luck and—gods, what an omen—broken it.

No wonder 2020 turned out the way it did.

Heartsick, wondering what the omen meant, I turned to take down the Luck. As I did so, I realized that, though the accident had broken out a section of the glass bubble's surface, the Luck itself was still largely intact. From a few steps away, you couldn't even tell that it had been broken.

I left it up for the remainder of the season, and it was the last ornament off the Tree, as usual.

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Sometimes an Omen is Only an Omen

At exactly 12 midnight last night, the wire broke on the Thunder icon that has hung over my bed for the last 25 years, and the whole heavy panel of painted wood slid down the wall to where I lay sleeping below.

If it had clobbered me on the head, it would have been painful, at very least, if not downright injurious. Instead it wedged neatly between the edge of the futon and the wall, and I woke to the sound of rattling bed-slats.

To the best of my knowledge, that's the first time I've ever woken up with a god in the bed.

All's well that ends well: I'm fine, the painting's fine. I put things right, read for a while, and go back to sleep.

Moral of the story:

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, That is indeed why one of Apollon's epithets is, "Loxias"... "The Oblique". Glad the Deathless Ones saw fit to spare
As the Crow Flies: Of May Bowers, Nests, and Omens

I didn't really notice the crow until it flew over the second time.

The coven had gathered for New Moon in the park, not so much for ritual as for the reassuring pleasure of one another's company. As covens go, we're a close one—that happens, after 40 years together—and it was good to be able to catch up and sing together again. Whatever pleasures social distancing may take away, you don't have to be close at hand to sing.

That's when the crow flew over for the first time.

Now, in a park in April it's not unusual for birds to fly overhead. But when it flew over again in the opposite direction shortly thereafter, you could see ears pricking up. This is, after all, a group of witches. Like other predators, witches are hyper-aware of surroundings and, of course, an omen is an omen.

Then it came back again.

In folk prognostication, crows are generally accounted bad omens—often omens of death—but crows and witches share certain affinities, and besides: this crow was on a special mission.

We watched it alight high in a budding maple tree. After a brief struggle, it flew back overhead, twig in beak.

Well, there's your answer. Whatever else it may be, a crow building a nest is no omen of death.

We discuss the advantages of building your nest with fresh, supple twigs. (All the better to weave you with, my dear.) We watch to see where it's nesting. (We can't tell, though it's clearly—here's an omen for you—in the pagan neighborhood.) We laugh, and sing another May song.

Chances are that, back when we still lived in trees, like our cousins the gorillas, we humans built nests there for sleeping. When we came down from the trees and moved out onto the savannahs, we kept building nests for ourselves, though tipped up onto their sides: twig bothies offer something in the way of privacy, shelter from the wind, and protection from lions. (Lions, being—after all—cats, prefer to sneak up on their prey from behind.)

Back in the old days, just before May Eve, the young bucks would spend time in the woods building May bowers. That way, you'd have someplace (relatively) private to bring your sweetheart back to after the bonfire revels.

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In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Hopes that He's Wrong

The Romans (of course) had a phrase for it.

Absit omen: “May it not be an omen.”

As resident priest here at the Temple of the Moon, I make offerings twice daily—mornings and evenings—and pray for the well-being of pagan peoples everywhere. As one might expect of a pagan temple, the prayers take different forms depending on what time of year it is.

The prayers, of course, are recited from memory. Twice now during the last few days, I've slipped up and started prayers in their Winter form. Both times, thankfully, I've managed to catch myself before I'd got very far, and corrected the prayers to the proper Summer form instead.

But now I'm starting to worry. Even though, here in the North, Winter is the general default setting, somehow (whether rightly or wrongly) when things go wrong in ritual, they seem to take on a super-charged significance.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Well it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. I did read a magazine article about climatologists watching three of Antarctica's i

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