Song of Spring: Meeting Omens in Nature | Culture
The return of spring is so joyful here in Western Maryland. It seems the chorus of birds at dawn is getting a little louder each day as the warm sunshine convinces more spring flowers to open. With grateful hearts, we welcome the return of the growing season. We start dusting off our hiking boots and gardening gloves; we plan to go out.
In the pagan worldview, nature is part of the divine tapestry – it is both creator and creation. Messages from ancestors, spirits and deities resonate not only in our hearts, but also in the world around us. We believe that the spirit thread connecting all living beings can be used to communicate. When communication with the natural world occurs, it is sometimes referred to as “receiving an omen” – drawing meaning from something you see or experience. Spring is a wonderful time to observe nature and read omens. Our eyes are freshly opened after the winter gloom. The trees aren’t fully leafy yet, so we can see further into the woods. Our furry and feathered brethren are very active with spring affairs, which makes the likelihood of crossing paths much higher.
Certain omens are sought after. One of my favorite approaches to problem solving is to take my question, or the situation that intrigues me, for a walk in the woods. As I walk, I keep my problem in mind while observing the world around me. I note what my gaze is drawn to and what birds and animals cross my path. I welcome feedback from the natural world, then wait to see what I encounter.
Some omens appear uninvited. By stepping out, we make ourselves more available to the natural world and those who speak through it. The most memorable omens I’ve ever received weren’t researched – they just popped up, announcing changes to come or carrying a message I needed to hear. The common denominator is that they all showed up while I was walking my dogs outside or hiking the trails around Catoctin Mountain Park.
We are lucky to live in a part of the world where encounters with nature are quite easy to come by. So, how to discern between an omen and a bird or an animal going about its usual business? Look for actions and appearances that are outside of what may be considered the norm for that species in our environment. Seeing herons at Carroll Creek in Baker Park is normal. If you live far from the nearest body of water, seeing a heron cross your path or visit you in your yard is more remarkable.
The interpretation of the omen is very personal since the “conversation” you have with the natural world is specifically for you. I associate my late father with coyotes, so a coyote carries a different message for me than for someone without that personal connection to the species. If an immediate personal connection doesn’t surface for you, notice what the animal or bird you encounter is doing. There may be a message present in their actions or behavior. If they try to get your attention or make eye contact with you for a while, the message may be related to the nature of the creature you are interacting with.
When you return home, ask about the animal or bird you encountered. Seeing a heron as an omen could indicate the need to take a step back from a situation in order to better understand it, and then act quickly and decisively. Herons are incredible hunters; this skill comes from patience, observation and committed action. Seeing a fox could indicate a need to apply more intelligence or a need to loosen your grip and have fun. Foxes are good problem solvers as well as a very playful species.
If you have a problem in your heart or in your mind, consider reporting it at our area parks and trails. Let the beauty of our land in spring speak to you. Open yourself to the possibility of communication. Use all your senses – messages can come through the murmur of tree branches, the smell carried by the wind and the texture of the rocks along the way. Listen to birdsong and animal calls, watch for the appearance of flora and fauna, and breathe deeply in the spring breezes.
May nature’s blessings be abundant for you this spring and may the message you need to hear reach you. As Albert Einstein said, “Look deeply into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Irene Glasse is President of the Frederick Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, providing events, rituals, classes, and workshops to a large, vibrant community, including Frederick’s Pagan Pride Day. She is a pagan religious professional and serves communities throughout the mid-Atlantic region as a minister, teacher, musician and community organizer.