The Art Of Reading Omens

I named this article Nimitta, because back when I was a student of Jyotish (what most people call Vedic Astrology) this was quite an important part of the art of Prashna, their version of Horary Astrology.

Regional variations of Prashna do not stick with the calculation of planetary positions however; they may look more like Geomancy or use various methods of working with geometric diagrams or “Chakras.” It sometimes is a divinatory art that is not astrology, but uses similar language. But Prashna is almost always preceded by the reading of Omens.

At any rate, here’s something interesting that was written by the South African poet Isobel Dixon:

Days of Miracle and Wonder

So, one thing about Omens, if I’m getting Ms. Dixon’s feeling about this, is that poets can read and learn from them; one does not need training in one of the established arts of divination to hear the voice of what indigenous Australian people call “The Speaking Land.”

Now in India, the Prashna readings I described above are full-scale methods of divination. Before the reading occurs, however, the diviner typically read omens. They often sat under trees or in an outdoor environment in which many synchronicities can appear as the sitter approached- but if they were in a room, when the visitor entered, there were traditional signs that they read. Moles, where and how the person might touch themselves, general behaviors and so forth all had traditional meanings that they learned very early on.

In Japan, some diviners carry a small hand mirror into which they gaze when it rains while the Sun is out, and “listen” for the first sound they hear.

Throughout the world there are traditions about things that are signs as to what can happen, like the art of counting crows or other animal behaviors. Some forecast earthquakes by unusual behavior. In fact, the majority of Omens are marked by out-of-the-ordinary events or occurrences – not like UFO’s, which usually don’t rely on small events in the natural world to tell someone they’re coming. Omens are generally things that come to us unbidden, yet may be interpreted or understood by certain rules, or through a given framework.

The most important thing to know about reading Omens is that you need to pay attention. That’s because observation, or attention, changes what is being observed, as in Heisenberg’s principle or other experiments in Quantum Physics. This is true even if you’re only observing time – because when the Kairos moment (which is when omens usually show up) arrives, there is a change in the “feeling” of time; you’ve arrived in the speaking land, where the world has something to say to you.

Dreams can carry Omens. They are often filled with signs, rather than prophecies. When something that happened in a dream occurs afterward in everyday life, you may or may not see what’s coming next, but you can certainly expect change. That’s why some people do their best to focus their attention while dreaming, rather than trying to control dreams while experiencing them. I, for instance, always write them down. Even though I go to sleep with an intention to discover a message I might need, I think it’s more important to find out what the personal/collective unconscious is trying to tell me than it is to make my imagination show me something specific; that’s a task that can be done easily enough while in the waking state. Nevertheless, some messages are important enough for the dreaming to honor my pre-sleep intention.

When the “conscious” awareness is trained to stalk omens and synchronicities, and the dreaming self carries a similar awareness, one can reach a state where “knowing what’s next” can be par for the course. One of my Tibetan teachers, Tarthang Tulku, wrote many years ago that (and I paraphrase here) the practice of Dream Yoga makes the dreaming more precise, and the waking state softer and more malleable, therefore soon you might realize that the miracles performed by the gurus and Bodhisattvas may be more than myths…

So when I consider reading omens, I always think of Muries Rukeyser’s statement: “the universe is made of stories, not atoms.” Everything around you has a story. Reading Omens is just a matter of receiving the story that is being told you at any moment, especially during the odd Kairos moment. You don’t have to learn a language or special terms; the world speaks to you in the universal language of the heart.

The practice is so rewarding that I will be placing many articles and short posts about it. Learning to read the world about you won’t turn you into a psychic, but it will enrich the experience of daily life for yourself and all those with whom you come into contact.