“Sometimes an Omen is an Omen, and sometimes its just random stuff that happened…”
If you are new to the occult and dealing with Hekate or other Spirits, then one big problem you have is telling when those Spirits are trying to tell you something. Unless you have a close relationship with Hekate, and even then, She won’t normally just come out and say what She want you to know. Often, I would say more than often, the communication will be subtle and confusing. One of the skills you need to learn then, is how to interpret the signs She send us.
There is a name for this, Augury.
This is the type of divination where you look for signs and messages from the Natural World. This could take place in the animal or plant world, with the appearance of unusual types or numbers of either, or signs can be of unexpected weather or natural occurrences. Earthquakes or eclipses were seen as messages from the Gods in ancient times. We know more about science and how the Earth behaves now but still, while the Gods and Spirits have the power to cause things to happen that scientists would attribute to natural occurrences, a skilled occultist knows they have a deeper meaning.
The problem for us is that neither we, nor the Gods like Hekate necessarily see the World in the same way. How then can we help cut down on the confusion?
We need to establish a common language between us.
“Sailing Ships and Messages at Sea”:
Humans have sailed the oceans and seas of the World for thousands of years, and yet radio has only been available for a little over a hundred years. Before that we were left with primitive methods like lamps, torches or shouts across the waves. As ships got bigger and nations developed navies, the need to be able to send complicated messages and commands between ships became very important. What developed was a system of brightly colored flags, each of which meant something specific, which were displayed among the rigging of a ship and could be seen from far off through a telescope, or just by a sharp eyed lookout.
What we need to do, is come up with our own “colored flags” which both the Gods and we can use to make our communications clearer.
Consider the Tarot Cards. If you are like most of us, you have a set of cards which you use to do divinations and figure out what influences are going to affect you and your future. Depending on which cards you turn over, will have different meanings and foretell different situations.
You can’t just pick up a deck right out of the box and expect to get good results, can you? It takes time and practice. One of the important things I suggest to new occultists, is be sure to read the book of card meanings you get with your cards. In fact read it several times, and let the meanings soak into your unconscious, or if you are good at memorizing, your conscious mind.
You want to do this because having a common understanding of the meaning of each card, allows the Spirits to pick what they want to tell you. And more importantly, allows you to understand what they mean. Just like the signal flags of old navies, both of you then have a common language, even if you must do some personal interpretation. Reading up on the original creator’s choice of meanings for each card is especially important if the deck is a non-standard one.
“First Step, Get In Touch With What Is Normal”:
Now the Natural World around us doesn’t come with a simple instruction manual. What you will need to do is write your own.
Consider this, if you stepped out of your door tomorrow morning, and found two crows watching you, what would this mean? What if one flew away, and one stayed?
Would this be unusual?
The animal world, especially of birds, offers a good way for Spirits to communicate with us, through a wide variety of messages. Whether you are in a city, in the suburbs or out in the country, birds are all around us. Bird augury is one of the easiest to start with. Once you learn how to see signs and omens via birds, you can adapt the methods for other animals, or plants, or weather and other things around you.
How do you start then?
Well the only way to tell what is unusual in the environment around you, is to know what is not unusual. That means getting out there and studying Nature around you.
Finding out what birds are native to your area. Finding out what their habits are. Do they show up first thing in the morning, or do they favor the afternoon or evening? Do they come in groups, or are they solitary? Try and identify the birds who are in your neighborhood. Take a few pictures. Sometimes you can identify individuals who come back on a regular basis. Read up on the Internet. These will be your messengers from the Spirits.
Remember those two crows I mentioned earlier? Supposed my neighbor came out of his house one morning and saw them, what would he think? Crow is associated with magic, and with warning. The number Two, can signify harmony and balance. With one crow leaving, and one staying, perhaps the message is a warning that your balance is out of wack, or faces problems soon.
Or it might just mean that I had changed the time in the morning when I feed the birds in front of my house. Which I recently did. I found that I was staying up until 2 or 3am, and then waking late in the morning. I began to intentionally turn in around 11pm, and rise at 6am. While I’m having my first cups of coffee in the morning, I put out a variety of bird seed and nuts on my driveway. My cats and I then get to watch which birds show up. I get to see black birds, doves, finches and sparrows, along with those crows on a daily basis.
I also occasionally see a pair of cardinals, the male bright red mostly and the female less so. And once a hawk decided that all those other birds might make a good snack, though she didn’t get one. In the evening its not uncommon to hear owls, and in the Summer, hummingbirds in the garden.
Along with the many birds, I also have squirrels, a woodchuck who sometimes sleeps under the neighbor across the street’s side porch, very early morning possums, nighttime raccoons, and the occasional deer at sunrise. Knowing how and when the wild life in my neighborhood come by, lets me know when something is out of place and deserves my attention. Then I can see if they have a message for me.
BTW, feed your local wildlife. Not only does it encourage them to come by and visit, but its polite and shows respect for Hekate as well as for Nature and the Spirits who are using those animals to communicate. Start doing it, please.
“You Knew There Would Be A Journal, Didn’t You?”:
Seems like every time a beginning magician takes up a new skill, someone is telling them to start writing things down. Learning to read omens and signs is no different. As I opened this post sometimes and omen isn’t an omen. It may be days or even weeks before you understand what a message sent to you by Hekate means or understand the situation you’ve been informed of. She doesn’t have the same sense of Time as we do.
Second, you’ll want to see how accurate your interpretations are. Different messengers can have different meanings. Crow is thought of as an indication of magic in your life, but it can also give warning. Most of the omens you receive will only be understood in hindsight. Its only as you gain experience that you will start trusting your intuition as to what a sign is, and make the correct interpretation. Its going to take some time and a lot of writing things down before then though.
Third, a dedicated journal for your work with omens, will save you time. If you come across a messenger today, which you remember encountering 6 months ago, you can go back to that entry and see what possible meanings it had for you then. Even see if your interpretations came true. Remember we are coming up with a shared language between Hekate and ourselves. Some signs will be reused and you want this.
Pick up one of those blank books from the occult or specialty goods store. There are dozens and dozens of nice ones out there. I prefer one that is pre-lined but get what works for you.
You’ll want to have some space for general notes and comments, so thumb back 20-30 pages to start your recording of omens and signs. We’ll talk more about just what notes in a moment.
Begin writing down the signs you see today. You don’t have to wait until you have a better handle on the process, in fact, starting when you are still unclear is better. You approach it with less preconceptions. I typically date the entries, then first list the omens I see, followed by any thoughts I was on how I felt at the time. Then later I look up online or in books, what meanings others have found correspond to those signs.
One of the better books I’ve found in understanding what signs mean, is Ted Andrews’ “Animal Speak”. I’ve taken much of the techniques I’ve described here from that book and use it as one of my first references when trying to figure out the messages Hekate is trying to send me.
“Understanding the Messages”:
There is more to a message than just what species of the messenger. An unusual animal or situation in itself is important, but more than that, how the sign appeared, its actions and the environment are just as significant.
Here are some of the ones I note.
1) Number: Magicians have long thought that numbers hold a special magical meaning and the number of messengers can hint at the correct interpretation of what Hekate is trying to communicate to you. I normally only count up to 9. If its more than that, or I’m unsure of the number in total, or it varies as I watch, say its a flock of birds in the sky, or on the ground, then I consider the message is in flux. I often go on to seek more clarification with a divination.
That is always an option. If the message you receive in an omen is unclear to you, consider doing a reading afterwards and ask for more information from Hekate.
2) Sex and Age: In some animals it is easy to see whether the messenger is male or female. Deer are a good example. A large buck, with antlers has a different meaning, from that of a doe and perhaps young. Birds or small animals can be harder to identify the gender but with study you can. Same with the age.
3) Color: Bright colors can reveal the intensity of the situation, though many animals have a subdued color so they can blend into the environment. A brightly coated animal, or one that stands out from its background can signify to you how important the message is.
4) The Landscape: Where did you see the omen? A large deer at the edge of a stand of trees is a different message, than one casually walking across a parking lot. So too are the plants and features of the place the messenger appears. Is it standing on a prominent stone or is it in the branches of a distinctive tree? A squirrel on a statue might mean something different than if its watching you from the branch of an oak.
Also, is this a natural environment for the messenger? Urban landscapes by their nature are limited, but then omens can come on you while you journey through your day.
5) Direction and Distance: Each of the major directions, East, West, North and South, have traditional spiritual meaning but beyond that, did the messenger appear from the right or the left of you? That can change its meaning. So too if the messenger appears in front of you, or approaches from behind. So too in how far away the messenger is when you notice it. Did it appear at your feet as you exited your home in the morning, or was it far off but noticeable?
6) The Activity: Whether the messenger is standing still, or is in motion is also important and can tell you things about the message. Unusual activities especially.
Recently on one of my morning walks, I came across a English Bulldog. My neighborhood is suburban and of houses, duplexes and apartments so pets are a common occurrence. I often have dogs bark at me as I walk, which I take as a sign from Hekate that she is watching me. In this case though, the bulldog was in the front yard, and was sitting in a chair. It watched me as I walked past without barking, then watched me as I walked past again on my return. This was out of the ordinary. The next day, the bulldog was again outside, but this time it was standing on the driveway. It watched me pass, but was gone when I returned.
Each of these clues will have a positive aspect and a negative aspect. You may not be able to tell which applies at first but you should consider as you ponder the message, is Hekate offering me a suggestion or is She giving me a warning? Sometimes it can be both.
I have written small tables of each of these in those first 20-30 pages in my journal. Not huge entries but shorthand notes to remind me of their meanings. Field notes if you want. Later as you become more experienced with the occult, there may be times you have your journal with you, and come upon a suspected message you want to interpret at that moment. These field notes can help you do that.
Remember, the journal is for you and you can put what ever helps you in there. If you run out of room in front, then don’t hesitate to add sections elsewhere in the journal.
“The Most Important Thing”:
All of these points won’t make you the next Oracle of Delphi unless you make a conscious effort to invite Hekate and Nature into your life. Just as a deck of Tarot cards are meaningless in the hands of someone mundane, but a precise tool in the hands of a skilled magician, the signs and omens that She puts before you will fall on deaf ears and blind eyes unless you want them to have meaning.
No amount of book learning is going to do you as much good as getting out of that house and into the natural world outside. Take walks and see what you come across. Visit parks and just sit. Keep a cunning eye out for the ways Nature interacts with the creatures in it, and how it interacts with YOU.
FOOTNOTE: One thing about opening your eyes to the signs around you, and developing your skill at reading the omens that Hekate sends you, is that this communication is not just one way. A skilled magician can use the language they develop to not just passively listen but to also actively ask.
Ted Andrews, the author of “Animal Speak” gives the example of his relationship with his Totem Hawk. That when he drives he can sometimes gain information about road conditions and situations like where the police are waiting, by sending out a mental message and asking for a sign. A hawk on the side of the road, which flies off to the left, may warn Andrews of a situation ahead, where one that flies off to the right may tell him that the road is clear.
This is a bit out of my level of skill right now, but it certainly makes me want to work at developing it.
As always, opinions or comments are encouraged. Thanks.