Animal Omens and Signs
Omens and Signs: Real or Superstition?
An omen is often thought to be a "bad sign" or a warning of something bad to occur in the near future, whereas a "sign" could be either good or bad but is usually a good thing. The belief in omens and signs dates back centuries to our ancient ancestors. They were very in-tune with their natural surroundings and many either worked the land and hunted in order to survive. Because of this connection with the land and its creatures, when certain creatures showed up near their home or across their paths they often equated this to certain fortunes...be they bad or good.
For instance, have you ever heard of the idea that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck? This is a well-known example of an omen. However, all of these animal omens and signs depend on the culture and ultimately depend on whether you believe in them or not. A black cat in China is actually thought to be good luck! Whether you want to believe omens and signs are real or merely superstition is entirely up to you. Just don't come crying to me if an owl hoots outside of your window and warns you of ill fortune and then it comes true!
Deer, Rabbits, and Woodland Animals
When certain animals are seen in the wild or close to home, often this was taken as an omen or a sign of some kind.
Deer are a magnificent species with much legend and lore surrounding them. If a white deer is seen, this is a bad omen. Also, nearly any albino animal of any kind is a bad omen. This could foretell death or bad fortune in the near future. Where did this belief originate? No one is quite sure as usually the color white is symbolic of purity and wholesomeness, but the idea of a white deer being a bad sign was prevalent amongst the mountain-folk of the Ozarks and Appalachians in the United States.
Rabbits are a favorite woodland animal of many, but if a rabbit crosses your path from left to right this is supposedly bad luck. If you see multiple rabbits in your yard, this may be a sign of fertility or pregnancy in your near future. In the older days, rabbits were thought to be a witch in shifted form. There are tales of men hunting rabbits, shooting them in the leg, and when they went to fetch the rabbit they found a naked woman with a wounded leg in its place. According to Vance Randolph's Ozark Magic and Folklore, if "the same rabbit crosses your path twice, it means you are desperately needed at home."
When one sees a fox in the wild or near the home, it is a message to increase your mental faculties—focus on learning more and using your intelligence in tricky situations. Foxes were said to "charm" squirrels right out of a tree in order to catch their dinner. They were also feared and thought to be nuisances as they would often steal the eggs or chicks right out of a henhouse at night or when left unattended. Don't let yourself be "outfoxed."
It's good luck when an animal follows you home.— Kemp P. Battle
The Wild West and Prairie Animals
The prairies and the wild wild west of the United States had their own ecosystem and unique wildlife inhabitants. The Natives held endearing, encouraging, and even frightening tales of the various prairie animals. Some have carried on to modern times, while others have been long forgotten.
If a coyote is seen, often this is thought to be a bad omen. The coyote was thought by different Native tribes to be a trickster and a thief. The Navajo believed the coyote were associated with "evil magicians" or "witches" who would put the skins of a coyote on their backs and shapeshift into "skinwalker" form.
In contrast to the fear of white animals in the Eastern and Central mountainous regions, the birth or sight of the White Buffalo in the prairie was thought to be a sign from Great Spirit (God) to the Cheyenne and Sioux tribes. There are ancient tales of the White Buffalo Calf woman who was an otherworldly deity or spirit that came to the Natives of the Plains to teach them the Seven Sacred Rites. The association with this deity is clear when a white buffalo is thought to be a good sign.
The javelina or peccary is a type of wild boar seen in the Southwestern United States. They are tough animals that can survive the harsh conditions of the desert. When seen, they strike fear in the hearts of passersby...particularly if that passerby is on foot and in close range to the wild pig. However, to the Natives, the javelin was thought to bring a message of honesty and confrontation. Often the Natives' young men who were being taught a lesson were made to face the peccary and face their truth.
The appearance of an antelope meant your ancestor was trying to bring you a message, according to the Plains Indians' beliefs and folklore. The Hopi even had a deity associated with the antelope by the name Chop Kachina. The sight of an antelope was almost always a good sign.
Birds and Creatures of Flight
Birds were thought to be messengers from the Heavens and of the Gods dating back to ancient times. In more recent times, birds have taken on specific qualities and characteristics that can determine whether their appearance is a good or bad sign.
Owls have much superstition and folklore surrounding them over multiple cultures. In the U.S., often owls were thought to be a bad sign, an omen, of an impending death in the family. In Mexico, La Lechuza was thought to be another form of the shapeshifted witch and brought fear to the inhabitants whenever an owl was seen or heard nearby. While owls are often associated with illness or death, there are those who revere owls and see their appearance as a good sign—one that will bring wisdom and spiritual growth. Perhaps owls are merely trying to warn us of something they know is coming, and not actually the bringers of the bad fortune.
Buzzards and vultures are also regarded as a portent of death, as they are typically seen circling a dead or dying animal or seen feasting on the rotting flesh of a carcass. Again, it all depends on how you want to see this sign—is it good or bad? From death also comes life. The mountain people of the Ozarks feared buzzards so much that many of them would not leave their houses if a buzzard was nearby. To the Natives, buzzards brought messages of blocked travel.
To have a bird fly into your house frightens people and more often than not the message will depend on the type of bird and the bird's behavior; however, the mountain-folk used to believe it was a bad omen.
Roosters crowing at the back door is a bad omen—a portent of death; however, if the rooster crows at your front door you will have visitors before sunset that same day.
Dragonflies, butterflies, and ladybugs are all good luck...particularly if they land on you.
If you find a spider at night, it means good luck.— Kemp P. Battle
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© 2017 Nicole Canfield