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Examples of omens from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493): natural phenomena and not natural births.

An omen (also called portent or presage) is a phenomenon that is believed to foretell the future, often signifying the advent of change. Omens may be considered "good" or "bad", but the term is more often used in a foreboding sense, as with the word "ominous".A omen can be a sign of the future(good or bad)these signs can be anything.


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In ancient Rome

Ancient Roman religion employed two distinct types of professional omen readers. Augurs interpreted the flights of birds, while haruspices employed animal sacrifice to obtain the entrails necessary for divination.

Astrology

See also: Eclipse cycle, Metonic cycle, Saros cycle, Comets

In the field of astrology, solar and lunar eclipses (along with the appearance of comets and to some extent the full moon) have often been considered omens of notable births, deaths, or other significant events throughout history in many societies. One biblical example is the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew who predicted the birth of Jesus after seeing the Star of Bethlehem.

Good or bad

Halley's Comet's appearance in 1066 was recorded on the Bayeux Tapestry. ISTI MIRANT STELLA literally means "These ones are looking at the star". National Geographic translated it in a 1966 article about the tapestry as "These men wonder at the star."

Omens may be considered either good or bad depending on their interpretation. The same sign may be interpreted differently by different people or different cultures.

For example, a superstition in the United States and other countries across Europe indicates that a black cat is an omen of bad luck.

Comets also have been considered to be both good and bad omens. The best-known example is probably Halley's Comet, which was a "bad omen" for King Harold II of England but a "good omen" for William the Conqueror.

Omens in Indian Astrology

Omenology is called Nimmita or shukuna shastra in Vedic Astrology

Omen seen or heard or even visualized at the initiation of an activity, are said to foretell the outcome of the activity. Omens & portents (Shakun & Utpaats) is a useful branch of India astrology, which includes interpretation of dreams, status of living & non-living items in the environment, sounds produced by human & animals, portents, mode of pacification of adverse omens & portents. It acts as a guide in horary astrology, to clinch the issue when there is a stalemate. Coming events cast their shadows before & it is the ingenuity & skill of the interpreters to decode omens correctly for their profitable usage in their daily life.

Treatises on omen (Shakun) have commended that omen has the final say in Election. Omens seen at the start of an action does foretell its success. In case adverse omen is seen or heard or even visualized; the activity should not be initiated.

Omen is a wonderful knowledge which acts like a medicine. Vasant Raj in his treatise titled ‘Vasantraj Shakunan’ - an authoritative book on the subject - has opined that when ephemeral elements (Tithi, Nakshatra, election ascendant etc.) are fully auspicious & efficacious (Uttam & Gunyukta), fortified ascendant & strong Moon is present, but there prevails an inauspicious omen (Shakun) then, nothing materializes regarding election.

Some opine that an election clinched only on the basis of an omen, does not have lasting effects. Some has opined that in the matter like making a theft or the like activities, omen is to considered. The treatises on Hindu /Vedic electional astrology have dilated omens in details in travel elections. On seeing an inauspicious omen, the person should return (not undertake journey), & recite Pranayam (a specific Mantra’s recitation) eleven times & then start the journey. If inauspicious omen is again is seen, then he should return & recite Pranayam 16 times & start the journey. And if inauspicious omen is again observed at the third start of the journey, the journey should be abandoned. Best of the sages agree with this, & from this one may infer the importance given to omens in elections.

One must develop faculty of interpretation of omen seen or heard or even visualized at the initiation of an activity, & use it profitably. In case of adverse omen of high potency, execution of an election should be withheld / postponed.

Interpretation of omens

Exponents have laid down rules to interpret omens, examine potency of an omen & timing of event based on omens. Potency of an omen is examined based on its position with respect from the observer (front / back / left / right / higher & lower level), position of omen in geographical direction (East-South-West-North), time of its observation, motion / speed of the omen, sound produced / heard, expression, place where it is observed.

Here are some items & persons signifying auspicious / favourable & inauspicious / unfavourable omens. The list in no means is exhaustive, but provides adequate information. Omens differ from place to place, country to country & religion to religion.

Items signifying omens

Auspicious items: Following fifty items are auspicious items & seeing them is auspicious at all the times. Curd, milk, rice, pot filled with water, ripe food, mustard, sandal, mirror, fresh green grass (Durva- a kind of grass), conch shell, meat, fish, soil (wet), a bright yellow pigment prepared from urine of cow (Gorochan), cow dung, cow, honey, idol of god, Veena (a musical instrument), fruit, seat of king, flower, black items used to decorate eyes (Anjan / Kajal / Surma), ornaments, hand weapon, beetle leaves, conveyance, palanquin (Palki - man carried conveyance), a covered pot or box to keep medicine or wine (Sharavsanput) , flag, parasol (Chhatra), hand fan, clothes, lotus, Kakash (pot), glowing fire, elephant, goats, drums, device to control elephant (Ankush), tail of animal used to whisk flies (Chaamar), gems, gold, silver, copper, herd of tied animals or an animal whose legs are tied, medicine, drink, tree with fruit, fresh vegetables.

Inauspicious items: A sparkle without smoke, ash, fuel-wood-cow dug cake (Upla), rope, mud, device used to make powder by hammering action (Tilkuta), cotton, husk (Tush), bones, opened hair (untied hair), black item, iron, bark of a tree (Valkal), skin of a tree, black sesame (Til) or black pulse, stone, stool, snake, medicine, oil, raw sugar, boneless meat, empty or broken utensil, salt, dry grass, butter milk, wood, iron chain, rain & wind.

Omens related to persons

Auspicious persons: Sight of the following persons is auspicious: a king, happy Brahmin, prostitute, virgin girl, gentle person, well dressed person sitting on a horse or ox, a fair complexion lady in white dress & wearing white garland on her fore head; a pious Brahmin wearing white clothes-sandal & flowers-having properly fed & having received donations, reciting Mantras; a lady with a man or either of them having fruit in his or her hands- seen in front; a child saying something on his own; a beautiful person, person dressed in white clothes-wearing white garland, speaking sweetly if is found coming from front or right side during journey or at the time of entrance- it is an auspicious omen.

See also

References

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1911 encyclopedia

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Omen

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German

Noun

Omen n. (genitive Omens, plural Omen or Omina)

  1. omen

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


Occurrence or incident regarded as fore-shadowing a favorable or unfavorable issue in a certain conjuncture. The belief in prognostic signs is closely connected with Divination and mantic, from which it is distinguished, however, in that it presupposes neither higher inspiration nor special knowledge. The principal characteristic of the omen is the fortuitousness of the phenomenon or of the event, which otherwise need be in no way remarkable. Usually it is even a commonplace occurrence. The belief in omens, in the more accurate acceptation of the term, is the most primitive stage of divination and soothsaying. Studying the signs of the heavens (Astrology) and predicting from the flight of birds (Augury) or from other circumstances (Divination), were prohibited by Judaism. But this superstition was so deep-rooted that, in a form in which it did not betray its connection with idolatry and magic, it was practised in the time of the Talmud, and it is tolerated even at the present time.

The best-known examples from the Bible are the signs accepted by Eliezer (Gen 24:14) and by Jonathan (1Sam 14:9), which the Talmud declared to be simple omens. "As his name, so is he; Nabal [= "disgrace"] is his name, and folly is with him" (1Sam 25:25), suggests the "nomen et omen." A man by the name of Kidor was distrusted by R. Meïr (about 150 C.E.) because in Deut 32:20 occur the words, "For a generation ["ki dor"] of perversity are they." Name-superstition was wide-spread, although many sought to combat it (Yoma 83b). Even the Sibylline Books (iii. 224 et seq.) already declared the signs of sneezing, the flight of birds, etc., to be illusory (comp. Josephus, "Ant." xix. 8, § 2; Blau, "Das Altjüdische Zauberwesen," p. 164). As examples of sentences which, in accordance with the Biblical prohibition of divination ( (missing hebrew text) ; Deut 18:10; comp. Lev 19:26), it is forbidden to regard as ominous, the following are quoted: "The bread fell from my mouth"; "My staff fell from my hand"; "A snake crept to my right"; "A fox ran to my left and his tail blocked the road in front of me" (Sifre, Deut. 171). The Babylonians took omens from weasels and snakes, references to which occur in the Talmud (Blau, ib. p. 45), and Winckler is probably not wrong in maintaining ("Alte Orient," iii., parts ii. and iii., p. 41) that the oldest form of the sibyl was modeled after the pattern of the Babylonian collections of omens.

Omens are divided into two main groups—good and bad omens. Examples are given in the article Augury; but there may be enumerated here some of those which are of a specifically Jewish character, showing a Jewish-monotheistic tinge. If upon rising in the morning a passage of the Bible occurs to one's mind, it is a sort of prophecy (Ber. 55b, below). Especially well liked were prognostics which were suggested by Scriptural passages recited by children (Yoma 75b et passim). The name of Mount Sinai is looked upon as a good omen for Israel (Shab. 89a). The eating of a plant the name of which means "to multiply" ( (missing hebrew text) ) is recommended (Ker. 6a), and even to-day carrots are eaten for this reason. On the eve of the Feast of New-Year, in South Germany, one eats cabbage cooked in water, because of the resemblance in sound of the German "kohl mit wasser" ("cabbage with water") to "kol mewasser," the ordinary pronunciation of (missing hebrew text) ("announcing voice"). The calendars record numerous varieties of weather-omens the prototypes of which can be found in the Talmud. Regarding omens in the Middle Ages, see Augury. See also Bibliomancy.

Bibliography:

See works cited in the bibliography to article Augury;

compare especially Meyer, Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters und der Nächstfolgenden Jahrhunderte, pp. 132-147, Basel. 1884; Blau, Das Altjüdische Zauberwesen, pp. 17, 44-48, 149-150, 164, Strasburg, 1898; Grünbaum, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sprach- und Sagenkunde, pp. 149, 359, Berlin, 1901.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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