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This is typical of the cup being too often consulted by some people. It

is almost void of meaning, the only symbols indicating a short journey,

although the flower near the rim denotes good luck, and the fact that

the bottom is clear that nothing very important is about to happen to

the consultant.

_Principal Symbols_:--

Line o
dots leading W.S.W to


Two letters near rim


How have omens been regarded in the past? An appeal to anciency is

usually a safeguard for a basis. It is found that most of the earliest

records are now subsisting. See official guide to the British Museum.

Babylonian and Assyrian antiquities, table case H. Nineveh Gallery, the

following appears:

"By means of omen tablets the Babylonian and Assyrian priests from time

immemorial predicted events which they believed would happen in the near

or in the remote future. They deduced these omens from the appearance

and actions of animals, birds, fish, and reptiles; from the appearance

of the entrails of sacrificial victims; from the appearance and

condition of human and animal offspring at birth; from the state and

condition of various members of the human body."

In India, where the records of the early ages of civilization go back

hundreds of years, omens are considered of great importance.

Later, in Greece, the home of the greatest and highest culture and

civilization, we find, too, omens regarded very seriously, while to-day

there are vast numbers of persons of intellect, the world over, who

place reliance upon omens.

That there is some good ground for belief in some omens seems

indisputable. Whether this has arisen as the result of experience, by

the following of some particular event close upon the heels of signs

observed, or whether it has been an intuitive science, in which

provision has been used to afford an interpretation, is not quite

clear. It seems idle to attempt to dismiss the whole thing as mere

superstition, wild guessing, or abject credulity, as some try to do,

with astrology and alchemy also, and other occult sciences; the fact

remains that omens have, in numberless instances, given good warnings.

To say that these are just coincidences is to beg the question. For

the universe is governed by law. Things happen because they must, not

because they may. There is no such thing as accident or coincidence. We

may not be able to see the steps and the connections. But they are there

all the same.

In years gone by many signs were deduced from the symptoms of sick

men; the events or actions of a man's life; dreams and visions; the

appearance of a man's shadow; from fire, flame, light, or smoke; the

state and condition of cities and their streets, of fields, marshes,

rivers, and lands. From the appearances of the stars and planets, of

eclipses, meteors, shooting stars, the direction of winds, the form of

clouds, thunder and lightning and other weather incidents, they were

able to forecast happenings. A number of tablets are devoted to these


It is conceivable that many of these omens should have found their way

into Greece, and it is not unreasonable to believe that India may have

derived her knowledge of omens from Babylonia; or it may have been the

other way about. The greatest of scholars are divided in their opinions

as to which really is the earlier civilization.

The point to be made here is that in all parts of the world--in

quarters where we may be certain that no trace of Grecian, Indian, or

Babylonian science or civilization has appeared--there are to be found

systems of prophecies by omens.

It may be accounted for in two ways. One that in all races as they grow

up, so to speak, there is the same course of evolution of ideas and

superstition which to many appears childish. The other explanation seems

to be the more reasonable one, if we believe, as we are forced to

do, that omens do foretell--that all peoples, all races, accumulate a

record, oral or otherwise, of things which have happened more or less

connected with things which seemed to indicate them. In course of time

this knowledge appears to consolidate. It gets generally accepted as

true. And then it is handed on from generation to generation. Often with

the passage of years it gets twisted and a new meaning taken out of it

altogether different from the original.

It would be difficult to attempt to classify omens. Many books have been

written on the subject and more yet to be written of the beliefs of the

various races. The best that can be offered here is a selection from one

or other of the varied sources. In Greece sneezing was a good omen and

was considered a proof of the truth of what was said at the moment by

the sneezer.

A tingling in the hand denoted the near handling of money, a ringing

in the ears that news will soon be received. The number of sneezes then

became a sign for more definite results. The hand which tingled, either

right or left, indicated whether it were to be paid or received. The

particular ear affected was held to indicate good or evil news.

Other involuntary movements of the body were also considered of prime


Many omens are derived from the observation of various substances

dropped into a bowl of water. In Babylon oil was used. To-day in various

countries melted lead, wax, or the white of an egg, is used. From the

shapes which result, the trade or occupation of a future husband, the

luck for the year, and so on, are deduced in the folk practices of

modern Europe. Finns use stearine and melted lead, Magyars lead,

Russians wax, Danes lead and egg, and the northern counties of England

egg, wax and oil.

Bird omens were the subject of very serious study in Greece. It has been

thought that this was because in the early mythology of Greece some

of their gods and goddesses were believed to have been birds. Birds,

therefore, were particularly sacred, and their appearances and movements

were of profound significance. The principal birds for signs were the

raven, the crow, the heron, wren, dove, woodpecker, and kingfisher, and

all the birds of prey, such as the hawk, eagle, or vulture, which the

ancients classed together (W. R. Halliday, "Greek Divination"). Many

curious instances, which were fulfilled, of bird omens are related in

"The Other World," by Rev. F. Lee. A number of families have traditions

about the appearance of a white bird in particular.

"In the ancient family of Ferrers, of Chartley Park, in Staffordshire, a

herd of wild cattle is preserved. A tradition arose in the time of Henry

III. that the birth of a parti-coloured calf is a sure omen of death,

within the same year, to a member of the Lord Ferrers family. By

a noticeable coincidence, a calf of this description has been born

whenever a death has happened of late years in this noble family."

(_Staffordshire Chronicle_, July, 1835). The falling of a picture or a

statue or bust of the individual is usually regarded as an evil omen.

Many cases are cited where this has been soon followed by the death of

the person.

It would be easy to multiply instances of this sort: of personal omen or

warning. The history and traditions of our great families are saturated

with it. The predictions and omens relating to certain well known

families, and others, recur at once; and from these it may be inferred

that beneath the more popular beliefs there is enough fire and truth to

justify the smoke that is produced, and to reward some of the faith

that is placed in the modern dreambooks and the books of fate and the

interpretations of omens.