Omens are occurrences that are interpreted as being signs of luck, either good or bad, to come. For example, among the Scots, Irish, and Welsh, some people believe that seeing or hearing a spirit known as the banshee is a sign of impending death, either of the person having the experience or of one of that person’s loved ones. Also among the Welsh, the sight of a “corpse candle”—a mysterious light seen in the distance, perhaps as though being held aloft by an unseen hand—foretells death, with the colour of the candle indicating the gender of the person who will die (white for women, red for men) and the height of the candle indicating the person’s age (the taller the candle, the older the person).

In various cultures the sight of certain animals is believed to foretell death as well. For example, in the United States some people believe that seeing a black cat running across one’s path is a bad omen, and among Native Americans the sight of a white buffalo is considered a good omen. In ancient times, not only was seeing a particular animal considered to be an omen of some sort, but the direction the animal was moving was thought to influence the degree and nature of the predicted occurrence.



The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning