In our family December has a deep stillness about it that can be heard underneath the hustle and bustle. It is a deeply magical time of blood red holly calling to mind all of the ancient Goddesses who were so in love with life that they just kept creating and birthing new creatures, and ivy that calls to mind the strong Gods, surefooted protectors of all that is virginal and wild.
This is the time of year in the Southwest when the trickster tales of Coyote are allowed to be told (being forbidden at other times of the year in many tribes) in the hopes that Coyote’s antics will hurry on the coming of Spring. In much of the Northern Hemisphere, December marks the beginning of the true season of storytelling and in the United Kingdom there are certain tales about faeries that can only be told during this month, once safe distance from Samhain has been attained.
Where I live, in South Central Texas the weather is typically mild and so it is a time for being outside and watching the deer and other creatures as they move across the land.
In Catholic tradition much of the Christmas celebration occurs “out of ordinary time” indicating that this we are now in time beyond time, we are in liminal time. The many festivals marking re-birth the occurred in the ancient world during this time of year support the liminal feeling as do the many stories of Christmas ghosts, perhaps made most famous by Charles Dickens in the Christmas story. Old stories claim that on Christmas eve night just as on Halloween, the spirits of the Dead are given license to walk the land once more. To those of us that honor our Ancestors this makes perfect sense: why wouldn’t our Beloved Dead want to get in on all of the parties, festivities, and delicious foods?!
The Wild Hunt, a mythic procession composed of faeries, elves, and the Dead and led by various mythic male figures (most often the Norse All-Father Odin) is traditionally said to be most active from Halloween through Christmas as well.
Anytime our Beloved Dead are seen as especially active is a good time to perform divination and exercise foresight. Christmas is no exception to that and there is actually a lovely tradition supporting this endeavor known in Brittany and Wales as “Omen Days”, more popularly known to us as the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas is a bit confusing because they actually begin after the celebration of Christmas on Christmas Day (December 25th).
The Twelve Days begin on December 26th and run through January 6th, commonly known as Twelfth Night. Twelfth Night is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany or simply Epiphany and celebrates the Magi visiting and blessing the infant Jesus. Twelfth Night is also known as the Day of Misrule and in Tudor England was a time when noblemen and women would switch places with their servants for the entire day.
But let us return to the Omen Days and the art of divination.
As we move from the old year into the New Year it is natural to wonder about what the new year will bring. Many tarot readers offer special new year type readings and many astrologers do the same. The happy news is that you can be your own oracle by participating in Omen Days.
The process is simple. Keeping in mind that this is a liminal time when our Ancestors and your Otherworldly allies have better access to you, you simply have to pay attention. On December 26th the question you hold in your heart should be concerned with the month of January, what will the month of January bring into your life? Another way to phrase this: what do you need to know about your upcoming January? On December 27th you will ask about February, December 28th turns your attention to March, and so on and so forth until you reach January 6th which will give you insight into next December, a year from now.
Once you ask your question, the Celtic traditions say that you wait for a natural omen to appear, some of the omens I have received in the past include: a black cat, a white deer, a fruit ripening out of season, and a feather just to give you an idea of what you might be working with. You can also receive literal signs like “road closed” or “detour route” as omens on these days.
Interpreting signs and omens can feel a bit like treading water at first but my experience is that as long as you record the omens in some way so that you have a record you will be fine. Often when the omen first appears an immediate interpretation comes to mind and you simply know what the significance is for you and your coming year. In other cases like a dream, an omen might take awhile to crack open. Make a note of what it was and what month it is attached to and simply go about doing other things, the answer will reveal itself in time.
I recommend that you DO NOT go to a book of signs and symbols in order to “decode” your omen because a deer can mean many things to many different people but the important information at the moment is what the deer means to you and only you can say what that might be.
My community of sacred seekers has been participating in Omen Days for several years now. Starting on December 26th we go into our days with eyes and ears open and mouth closed to see what there is to see. I invite you to join us, share your own omens, and see what others are discovering by using the hashtag #omendays in your social media updates.
My holiday wish for you all is that you will allow yourself to peer below the surface glitz of this season into the heart of the very real mystery and magic that it carries. The land is quieter as are we, which means that this is the perfect time to listen deeply.
About the Author: Briana Saussy
Hi, I’m Briana! I am a writer, teacher, and spiritual counselor, and I am part of a growing community of soulful seekers, people who are looking for wholeness, holiness and healing – for better, more rewarding lives.
If you enjoyed learning about Omen Days and would like to learn more about folk magic traditions and practices then please join me for the Remembering Way.