Tag Archives: omens

The reality of omens

When looking for omens in the world around us, it is necessary to consider how reality works in the first place. One of the things I have rejected outright is that other autonomous beings could show up in my life as messages from spirit – because the idea that a hare, a sparrowhawk, or some other attention grabbing thing could have its day messed about purely to try and give me a sign, is profoundly uncomfortable to me. I have something of an animist outlook, and I do not think the universe is *that* into me.

At the same time, influenced by a number of spiritual traditions and myths, I have a sense of the universe as an unfolding thing – a river, a cloth – I don’t know. Something complex, flowing, and with the past informing the future. In that great flow, signs of the flow may emerge like ripples in the stream.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that the best place to look for such ripples is in random things that probably don’t have intent of their own. The behaviour of a moustache is a family favourite. The shape of a bird poo, the patterns made by random natural things, especially if they look a bit like something else. Clouds are great fun for this.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that an amazing encounter with nature can be read in other ways. I saw an otter in town recently. I think the otter was minding its own business, but I can read a number of things into the sighting. It tells me very clear things about the health of my local streams and rivers, it tells me I live in a good place, and that there are reasons to be hopeful. The otter was not bearing this message to me, it is simply what it means in this context, and anyone seeing it could infer the same.

I can however read something into my behaviour at this point. I was in the right place at the right time, and I think that tells me something about my relationship with the flow. I take exciting nature encounters as good omens not because I think nature is bringing me a special message, but because it means I was in just the right place, at exactly the right time, looking the right way and paying attention. That in turn means I am in tune, and would seem to bode well for anything else I’m doing


Dragons and omens

Last night I had the huge urge to go up on the hill, despite being very tired. So, up the hill we went. It had been a wet day, but there were breaks in the cloud and we were able to sit out and look at the Severn river.

When we first arrived, there were intense shafts of sunlight over the water, and as we watched a patch of intense darkness, largely blotting out the hills beyond, moved up the water for some distance. The sky out towards Wales glowed a strange, peachy colour, but we could see it was raining heavily over the Forest of Dean. At one point, rain on the river was so intense that we could see the disturbance of the surface, despite being miles away. It did not rain on us, but that’s often the way of it with these hills, weather can be very localised indeed.

Up the Severn Vale came a parade of dark clouds, low, heavy and moving a lot faster than the pale clouds above them. Behind the pale clouds lay bright blue sky, and sometimes we could see all three layers, and sometimes some of the clouds were golden from the setting sun. The dark clouds that came were each incredibly distinctive. Animalish shapes – we saw lots of elephants, but far more dragons. Huge, serpentine Chinese style dragons with distinctive heads and faces, winding up the Severn. If it had just been me there, I might have put it down to whimsy on my part, but my husband and son saw much the same things. At one point, a kestrel came and hovered right over us.

I’m not one for symbols. I tend not to infer meaning from natural events except in the most literal ways – it’s a big cloud so it could well rain – is about my level for this sort of thing. Last night was something else entirely. There was such a sense of presence, and significance, of something big in motion. Towards the end, the sky looked like one of those old paintings of divine retribution. As we were leaving, a mix of rain and setting sun had flooded the plain towards Slimbridge with a dense orangeness unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a landscape before.

It all felt important, and I have no idea what to make of it.


Signs from nature

I recently read a rather new agey book, which talked a lot about the presence of angels (author William Bloom, if anyone was wondering). It included such notions as nature being the face of spirit and that if we pay attention to nature, it will give messages to us. I’ve also recently read a Ross Heaven book on shamanic healing, and that too offered the idea of messages from nature. Now, on one hand I do divination and the idea of simple things that give inspiration and prompt insight works fine for me. But on the other hand…

I spend a lot of time close to nature. I’m living on a small boat on a large canal, there’s a lot of water, trees and wildlife right outside my window and I’m out there in it every day. I see a lot of nature. I’ve watched the grebes diving at twilight, and seen them enough to know perfectly well that they aren’t there for me; they are there for the spot they like to fish in at sunset. I know when the bats and badgers are likely to come out, which bit of towpath the toads favour, where the owls like to perch, and where to hear a cuckoo in the spring.

Encountering any of these things as a one off, they might feel mystical and magical in the sense of conveying specific meaning to me. Living with them every day, I can’t take them as personal omens. I can see how the weather impacts on some of them, seasons, times of day. I see that all the living things around me have their own needs, communities, habits. I will gasp with the sheer pleasure of seeing a tern, I am delighted by the badgers. I know where to find them, and I know I won’t see any of them so much in really bad weather, or at the season when they are elsewhere. There is a magic in experiencing nature.

It seems a touch arrogant, to me, to imagine that the natural world has nothing better to do than run round bringing us messages about whether to apply for that job, or whether to ditch a lover. My honest impression is that unless I am directly interacting with it in some way, the rest of nature couldn’t care less whether I live or die, succeed or fail. If I have bread crusts, the swans will love me, for a little while. If I am noisy, the birds will fly away from me. The more time I spend with them, the less able I am to see patterns of meaning in nature that do not pertain to the other living entities. I am also ever more conscious that these are spirits too, all of them from the tiniest bug on my finger tip to the big fish that occasionally leap at dusk. They are all spirits. They all have their own paths to follow. Do any of them taking my coming and going for an omen?