Tuesday, December 06, 2022

A reprise on the “omen days” post from 2016

 Years back I learned about the omen days from reading Caitlin Matthews’ books, and was enchanted by the opportunity to look at the 12 days of Christmas, which she identifies as December 26 - January 6, as days in which to watch for signs that might portend the 12 months of the new year. 

I thought I’d share this now, in case anyone wants to try it out. This is something I have to be prepared to do in advance, so I remember to start on the 26th. Once you get rolling with it, it is a wonderful way to look for signs and omens, and really, just for beauty and moments of joy, and let those inform the months ahead. See the full explanation quoted at the end of this post.

This year we’re having some gray and rainy days in early December. Some are cooler than others, but it’s a perfect backdrop to the Christmas tree. We had a lovely time selecting our tree from a local farm, along with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, who is now 21 months old and a total delight. He exudes curiosity and finds so much joy in the world he’s exploring. I love the years when humans are young and learning constantly about the world. My therapist self of course has to add that we must honor and nurture this in our children. It’s their natural inclination but most fully manifested when children are loved and cared for and also protected. And importantly, allowed to do the kind of free-form exploration that requires the adult humans to be nearby and paying attention - ideally joining the exploration and celebrating it. 

This is our tree for this solstice season:

A few years ago I read the following excerpt from Caitlin Matthews (who has wonderful books if you're interested in mythology and symbols and all things Celtic). 

She writes:

In the medieval liturgical calendar, the festival of Christmas Day stood alone by itself as a supreme holy day, and so the counting of the twelve days began from 26 December which is the 1st day of Christmas until the 6th January which is Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas.  What has this got to do with anything?

Well, in Brittany and in Wales, the Twelve Days of Christmas, which mark the intercalary days of the year, are called ‘the Omen Days,’ and they have a special purpose. ‘Intercalary days’ are really the days left over from reckoning up the solar year and, in calendars throughout the world and at different times, they are special because they are considered to be ‘the days out of time.’  It is in this interval between the ordinary count of days that gods are born or conceived in many different mythologies, including the Irish one, where Oengus Og, Young Angus, is conceived, grown and born at Brúg na Boinne within this time, all in one day, by the magical workings of the Dagda.

Within these twelve days lies a wonderful secret that those dismissive of the Christian tradition might well miss, for each of the twelve days is assigned to a month of the coming year, with the first day of Christmas the 26th December as symbolic of January, the second day or 27th December representing February and so on, right through to 6th January which represents the December yet to come.  It was the custom of many to go out on each day of the Christmas festival to observe the signs in nature and divine from them the state of the year to come. The omens experienced on each of the Omen Days indicate the nature of each month in the coming year.

The divining of oracles from nature has a long tradition in Celtic lore.  The Scots Gaelic tradition of the frith or the augury from the signs of nature is well established. The listening to bird’s calling was a critical part of druidic lore, as was the movement and behaviour of other animals.  Some of these auguries have come down to us, like the little white book of meanings in a tarot pack: some people used them, but others did not.  The real skill is to read the signs in accordance with your understanding at the time, and as it relates to the question that provoked the augury in the first place.  I’ve been teaching this skill for over 25 years and not yet found anyone who couldn’t do it, as long as they first asked a well-framed question.

In this case, you treat each day of Christmas as the opportunity for an augury for the month it represents in coming year.  This might be experienced during a daily walk, or perceived in the nature of the day itself and how it falls out. Personally, I like to make a frame for each Omen Day, by asking to be shown an augury from nature and allowing the next thing I experience, see or hear to be the sign I am expecting.  It helps to find the right place to do this on a walk, to close your eyes, to spin around on the spot and then be attentive.


Grey Horse Matters said...

The Omen Days sound interesting. If I have time I'll check it out. Your tree looks lovely. Sorry I was late getting to this post but I've been very busy with the holidays as I'm sure you are too.

billie said...

No worries - I hope you are enjoying your holiday season!

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing this. I can't wait to start next week. Wishing you beautiful omens!

billie said...

I thought you might like this! Thank you for the wish of beautiful omens; the very same back to you. I was just getting ready to send you an email when your comment appeared, so that’s a little omen right there. :)