"What on earth is an Omen walk?" I pondered.
I've been doing shamanic work for over 2 decades, and yet had never heard of Omen walks.
I've been dabbling in Oracle cards and Tarot for even longer - but seeking omens on a walk, rather than in cards, had also never occurred to me.
"So, you mean, going out in nature and asking for an insight into one event is a 'thing'?"
And it's a very specific thing indeed.
Different to medicine walks which seek deep and winding answers to help answer our life questions, where nature acts as a mirror in coaching, or the spirits work with us through our interconnectedness in the web of life if we look at it from a shamanic/animistic perspective..
It's different, and it seems its roots are in the 12 Days of Christmas.
And I'm wondering about extending this beyond the 12 Days - if you'd like to find out how YOU can get involved in this, read on!
It starts with a walk...
This rather unprepossessing leaf, is my Omen for January.
On 26 December, Boxing Day in the UK, I left my house for a walk. At a certain point in the walk I set about crossing a 'threshold' to start on my walk with the intention to be shown an omen for January.
I wasn't alone.
I knew there were many others, most based in the UK, setting off with the same intention on the same day of the year. What's more, I was with my husband and dog.
Our walk was fairly uneventful, but I recorded the main points to refer back to.
It was unusually stormy weather...
Magpies scuttling up, suddenly....
A chat about his work and mine...
Cora barking at a pheasant...
His work didn't seen fun...
It felt really good to talk....
As I crossed the threshold, it seemed little had happened. But I noted these points. And in the name of experimenting, I opted for one more.
I decided to apply the principles of my shamanic way of working in nature, and cross another threshold, with the same intention, but to open my heart and allow nature to lead me.
Within seconds, I could not shake off the 'pull' of a cluster of birch trees around the corner. I walked towards them and was stopped suddenly.
Black and squidgy mud, squelch after squelch. And in the high storm and darkening afternoon a tiny, bright green, perfectly fresh leaf shone against the black sludge of the path. I stopped to look, and my heart's craving for the birch ceased.
This was another omen for January. I knew it. I knew it in my heart, in the same way I know when I search on a medicine walk, or seek a power place in nature. Beyond any intellectual doubt my heart and soul were sure, as if the whole resonance of nature, me and the Universe aligned in that moment.
Stealing a photo to remind me (above) I turned and crossed the threshold.
And yet there was more!
And then there are the the dreams...
That night (in fact, the night before as this seems to most naturally fit the date of the 26th to me, I had three main dreams. Dreams can be part of the omen, if we set the intention before we sleep.
Phone unusually by my bed, ready to record my whispers without having to turn on the light or speak loud and wake the household here are the 3 gists of my nocturnal travels:
The third, slightly different, but involving me being in charge, and getting support from someone (the secretary).
Give it a title
The trick to pulling it all together is to give it a title.
So mine, at least the (rather cumbersome) working title is: "It all turns out way better than expected: A storm, muddle and confusion, I do it on my own and in the end I get more help than I ever expected."
"It all turns out way better than expected: A storm, muddle and confusion, I do it on my own and in the end I get more help and it's better than I ever expected."
Work in Progress...
So, January is still work in progress - but I can see some of it falling into place.
The jury is out. Like Tarot and Oracle card reading, runes, Ogham sticks and other divinatory tools it's feeling into the experience for the answers that helps. Sensing, trusting intuition, or being aware of spirit guidance along the way.
So where does it all come from?
I have had a few sources for this work. One is Caitlin Matthews, who wrote a blog on this part of her work. I believe her partner, John, has also written on this Celtic animistic practice too, but his book is out of print and rather expensive! Another is Mandy Pullen, who has been doing this work for a few years.
Although I've been doing shamanic work with many, many teachers for over 20 years, I never stop wanting to learn more! I often as my helping spirits directly, and sometimes I get inspired by what's around. Mandy offered a short online course this Christmas. I felt keen to join a group to experience this more deeply (and the accountability was helpful on wet, windy, darkening days!).
Its roots are basically medieval. In the medieval liturgical calendar, Christmas Day stood out as a supreme holy day. After this day the 12 days of Christmas were counted as 'time between time' before the starting of the next calendar. These days were known as 'intercalary days' in Brittany and Wales, and fell between the two years ending on the 6th of January - or Twelfth Night. These days were used for finding omens, or auguries, for the forthcoming year.
Caitlin has more background here, in her blog on the topic.
It is rather wonderful to think of our ancestors doing this animistic practice. Trusting in the spirits of nature to show omens to help guide and warn them of future events. Insights, open to anyone, regardless of background, mystical training (to some degree at least!), or education.
So how can you get involved?
So, you may have missed Christmas for a year or so but here are some options you could play with.
Tell me how you get on...
And I'd love to hear how you get on! Do let me know in the comments if you give it a go, or if this inspires you in any way. And feel free to share any photos you collect along the route.
And you can find me, and wonderful like-minded people, over in my Facebook Group - where you're very welcome to post pictures and comments too!
Joanna Shipley - I help you find joy and freedom by connection to your heart's desires and spirit guidance so you can live your life on purpose.