For the past few weeks, when my daughter’s team had a game on their home turf, and I stood at the edge of the field, subbing them in and out and frantically trying to instill into them the entire tactical concept of soccer while they sit on the bench for a couple of minutes, panting and gulping down some water, a crane (the bird) has flown over the field.
A crane. I’m a Druid. There are crane bags in Druidry. Cranes mean a lot to Druids. Does this crane flying over me every other Saturday mean something? Is it an omen?
No. It’s just a crane flying between a couple of bodies of water, probably with food for its kids in its stomach, which it will vomit out right into their throats. It’s not an omen. Nor was that owl in the picture above that visited us one evening in our back yard. We just have a lot of chipmunks.
When strolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds, I often run into questions posted like, “I’m at an amusement park, and see a lot of crows. Is that telling me something?”
I am really glad that more and more people build an awareness that there is much more to the reality we all experience, to the apparent world. It is healthy when we connect with the Otherworld, or just peek beyond the veil every now and then. Let’s just make sure that this remains healthy, and does get out of proportion.
So, let’s unpack this omen business for a moment.
When we talk omens, for example the meaning of the appearance of certain animals, we are already in the midst of talking about Magic. And every time we talk about Magic we talk about an intent and a mode of manifesting that intent. Typically, this mode is a ritual. Sometime, this ritual is highly verbalized, a spell. And then we need to understand that there needs to be a “transmitter” of the intent, so that, even though we sit here, the manifestation can happen over there. This transmitter is, in many cultures, seen as some kind of energy that flows through everything and everyone. The most commonly (relative to the world population) used term for that energy is ch’i or ki. Many other cultures have different words for that. In Druidry, we call it Nwyfre.
When we practice Magic, we manipulate that energy, that connecting life force. This manipulation is rather limited, comparable to manipulating wind when sailing. We cannot change the wind’s direction entirely, but a little bit by maneuvering the sail in such a way that the actual wind drives us forward, thus creating head wind. Which in turn, actually changes the direction of the natural wind just a bit, just around the boat. And faster we go.
So, if omens are part of Magic, there is necessarily some Nwyfre involved. It comes in as a direct link between the Omen and the person to which it presents itself. It’s just there for the moment, when the person and, for example, a crow are suddenly connected, directly linked by that life giving energy. For an instance in time a space, person and whatever presents as the omen share the same vibration of the life force.
Now, why does that happen? Again, we are talking Magic here, about intent and manifestation. And since the Omen is the latter, it follows that the Magus had to have conjure it through their intent. When we look at ancient reports, the first ones describing Druids of antiquity looking at the sky to watch the flight of birds and interpret it, we see clearly that this didn’t happen by chance. The Druid didn’t hopscotch through the village of thatch roofed roundhouses, chatting with the smith and the fish vendor about the latest gossip and whoops, a flock of birds revealed the fate of tribe.
No, the Druid would prepare for the public bird flight pattern viewing, don their Druid garment (probably not a white robe, but something official), maybe imbibe some psychoactive drink, have their helpers lead them to an auspicious place of observation, and invoke the Gods of old to ask them for an Omen. And whatever happened then, was one.
In other words, the Druid would have built up the energy, linked themselves into Nwyfre through ritually formulating their intent, and then observe its manifestation.
The stag that stared at the Druid last night when he took a piss at the edge of the forest during the feast was not an omen; just an animal weighing flight or fight.
I just described the situation using Druids. But the same counts for High and other Priestesses and Priests, Witches and what have you.
Intent – ritual (mode) – omen (manifestation).
However, sometimes it does occur that something happens out of the blue, like a murder of crows rises from the trees all around you, cawing like mad. And then you get one of these immediate insights. You know exactly what they meant. Yes, that’s an omen, too. And when you think about it, it most likely happened when you were somewhat spaced out, not really anchored fully in reality. Well, even though there was no conscious intent, there was one sub-consciously. And yes, you linked up with Nwyfre through your daydreaming (as some call it). These omens happen, but they are rare.
More often than not, if you want to conjure an omen, you prepare yourself for it, link into Nwyfre (or however you call that life energy) and see what happens. Caitlin Matthews describes one where you would, on a Monday morning before you do anything else, walk around the hearth three times, sunwise, then open the front door, and, while standing in the doorway, observe what happens.
So you have a liminal time (dawn at the beginning of a week), express your intent through a ritual (walking around the hearth), and position yourself in a liminal place (the doorway).
Or, an old Alpine tradition for a young woman to ask for an omen telling her whom she will have as a husband is to stand in the barn door (liminal place) on the night of December 24th (at the end of the three days of the Winter Solstice, a liminal time) and listen to the sounds around her. Sound will give her a clue of the profession of her future husband.
So, by all means, look for omens – intentionally. And be as much aware of omens you conjure through unintended spacing out in deep, meditative thought.
The rest of the time, don’t worry about the black cat crossing your path.
The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.