Signs and Portents

“Getting into the right vibe and energy sometimes involves letting go of something you’re been working hard at. When wasps keep chasing you away during your invoking pentagram ritual, it’s probably a sign that it’s okay to skip it for a few days. Sometimes its a sign you’ve been on the wrong track.”

Practicing even my currently watered down form of Religio Romana implies that I’m one to look for and take seriously omens, signs, and portents.

This inappropriately titled post is not, however, about looking for and interpreting signs, at least not directly.

You see, signs are usually associated with some level of subtlety. That’s kind of how they stand out and make an impact on you. Seeing a flock of geese out here in the fall isn’t unusual, but if one of them happens to be black, then it stands out and might signify something. The subtle different that is part of the ordinary but stands out just enough to give pause is what omens are usually born of.

And that can be a problem with such signs, for they can be so subtle that you might worry more about whether or not it actually was a sign than what the sign indicates.

But I’m not concerned with the subtleties of a minor difference among members of a flock. I’m more interested in that moment where you are pondering a major course of action that seems just what you should be doing, and one or all of the geese crap all over you. There is nothing subtle about such an omen, and worse, they often come when you are trying to do what you just know you should have been doing.

When I went to Heartland Pagan Festival this year (yes, another HPF anecdote!) I was in the middle of a rather intense ceremonial magic project. I found a suitable site at the camp to perform my ritual work for the length of the festival, and was successful for the first two days. Then, while beginning one particular ritual, I was chased out of the circle by a group of wasps. I waited a while and came back, found them gone, and started my ritual work over again. As I began the same ritual as before, the wasps re-appeared and ran me off. After one more wait and another attempt, they ran me off for good and I decided that ritual magic was not on the agenda anymore.

This let me to question the entirety of my ritual magic working, and has let me to re-evaluate my magical goals in general. And I think that this has worked out to my benefit in the long run. Even though I was certain that the work I was doing would be to my ultimate benefit, I was doing it for the wrong reasons when I had other things that were more immediate that I needed to address. And that one incident — being harassed by a swarm of enormous flying death-bringers — opened me up to the thought processes that helped me realize that.

And this sign was still somewhat subtle, by which I mean a skeptic could easily dismiss it. But when taken in the context of where I was and what I was doing, it was a deafening call to reassess what I was doing.

Sometimes the gods do not answer your questions. Sometimes they answer in that still, quiet voice that is difficult to hear. And sometimes they scream loudly to questions you didn’t ask, and you cannot help but listen.

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