The word omen has changed little over the centuries. The Latin word omen meant foreboding and though omens can be good or bad we still think of an omen as a presage for a bad event. In the end, an omen is probably only as strong as you want it to be.
When Haley’s comet appeared in 1066, it was a bad omen for King Harold II but a good one for William the Conqueror. Mark Twain was born as Haley’s comet streaked across the sky and 75 years later when it reappeared, he died.
Breaking a mirror brings seven years bad luck according to ancient Romans who believed the reflection was the soul. Since it took seven years to renew the soul, if you broke a mirror you would be incomplete and unlucky for seven years if you injured your soul by breaking the mirror.
The fear of the number 13 triskaidekaphobia stems from Norse mythology. Loki the trickster was the 13th guest at a particularly unfortunate dinner in Valhalla during which Baldr, the god of joy was killed. Thirteen people gathered together was considered unwise and unlucky since then. Thirteen were in attendance at Jesus’ Last Supper, as well. The thirteenth card in the Tarot deck is Death. Strangely, the dollar bill seems cursed:
• 13 Arrows being held by the Eagle
• 13 Stars above the Eagle
• 13 Leaves on the olive branch
• 13 Berries on the olive branch
• 13 Steps on the Pyramid
• 13 Letters in E PLURIBUS UNUM
• 13 Letters in ANNUIT COEPTIS
• 13 Vertical bars on the shield
• 13 Horizontal stripes at the top of the shield
Three on a match is a bad idea, too, and not just because smoking will kill you. During the Boer war, British soldiers shared matches on the battlefield. Snipers could see the flare as the match was lit. As the second soldier lit up, the sniper took aim and was ready to fire when the third soldier leaned over the match.
The Scottish play is full of bad omens. The horses go wild, a falcon is killed by an owl, darkness when it should be daylight. All signal the chaos caused by Macbeth’s unnatural act of killing Duncan, a guest in his house.
And of course in Just Like Gravity, the magpie rhyme is an omen in one plot line.
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret,
Never to be told.
Just Like Gravity is on the verge of being published–just waiting for the publisher to solve some technical glitches. Follow this blog or go to SorchiaDubois.com for news.