After reading some of the True Tales on About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena section, I got the idea to write something about omens.
The word’s etymology is from the Old Latin word “osmen” and came into common use in the 1580s.
While the word itself has neither negative nor positive meaning, there has usually been a negative bent with such words as ominous.
A famous example of the same omen having different meanings for different people would be the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1066 over England on the eve of the battle that would forever change English history. For King Harold, the comet’s appearance was a bad omen; for William the Conqueror, it was a good omen.
Since we’re in the season of Halloween, I am going to list some omens cultures believe in which signify death.
Animals usually bear signs of pending death, the most common omen being birds. They usually involve one or more of the following:
- the bird flying through an open window
- the bird flying down the chimney
- a bird tapping on the window
- a bird hovering above a house
Some of the types of birds associated with these omens include: cocks, crows, bitterns, pigeons, goose, eagle, jackdaw, pagpie, vulture.
Other signs of impending death:
- A picture that falls of the wall for no apparent reason
- A clock that stops
- A clock that fails to chime or ring
- A mirror that breaks while still on the wall
- A cat that leave the home and will not re-enter it
- An owl seen during the daytime
- A dog that howls for no reason during the night
Some cultures even believe that an apparition of a living person is a sign that that person will soon die. In Irish folklore, a banshee’s presence signals a person’s death. In other areas of the UK, the black shuck or black dog is a sign of death. This particular omen was a feature of the Harry Potter series when his godfather – Sirius Black – made an appearance in his life, he was told of the dog’s meaning in divination.
In most cases logical explanations can be found for the seemingly unexplained, but all omens and the folklore surrounding them have roots in a time when people didn’t think about alternative explanations.