An omen is in Divination, a sign of a future event. An omen in and of itself is neither good nor bad.
Many omens are found in the natural world, such as changes in the Elements, the movements or appearances of animals and birds, and the movement of heavenly bodies. Unusual occurrences, such as monstrous births, eclipses, comets, meteors, novae, floods, storms, and earthquakes, have been considered to be omens of future disasters or of divine unhappiness with the state of human affairs. The ancient Babylonians, Sumerians, and Assyrians kept detailed records of such omens, interpreting nearly all events as portents of the future.
Other sources of omens are various methods of divination, dreams, and the appearance of apparitions and visions. In FAIRY lore, the banshee, or “fairy woman,” is a spectral omen who wails to herald the impending death of members of old families and of great and holy persons. Joan of Arc’s soldiers saw favourable omens in heavenly visions of the archangel Michael and of the Holy Spirit, which appeared as a dove perched on the Maid’s shoulder.
See also Prophecy.
- Seligmann, Kurt. The History of Magic and the Occult. New York: Pantheon Books, 1948.
- Thomas, Keith. Religion & the Decline of Magic. New York: Scribners, 1971.