Ask Your Mama: Watching for Omens

By catalyst

Recurring themes may reveal your spiritual path.
by Donna Henes
Dear Mama Donna,

I want to be able to walk my own path, but I don't know where I am going. I am wandering around without a map and that scares me. I feel like I am lost in space. How do I know my place in the universe?


Dear Drifting,

As we begin to pay attention to the inner process of our spiritual journey, we start to notice certain special, uncanny, lucky surprises that seem to keep popping up in our path. Soon we begin to recognize that these personally relevant recurrences are omens, and it behooves us to take very careful note of them. They are the guideposts of our soul. They help to show us the way to go and keep us on our correct and rightful track. Like divine affirmations, these privately meaningful signs and signals serve to assure us that we are in the right place at the right time. I like to think of them as road markers along the miracle trail.

Some people find money wherever they go. They can't help it. They rake it in. When he was about 11 years old, my foster son fell head first down a flight of subway stairs, scaring me (and probably himself, though he'd choke on that fearful truth rather than admit it) half to death. But supple kid that he was, he simply sat up and brushed himself off, completely unhurt and unfazed. And lo and behold, there, beneath his butt, was a $20 bill that we both swore was not there before. A small payment for his pain, perhaps, which he could hardly wait to spend.

Most people recognize these coins and bills as the small miracles that they are. They pick them up and count them as lucky. Of course, some people could walk with their heads down, eyes perpetually scanning, waving around a metal detector, and never find a single penny.

Other people find feathers or shells or sea glass or rainbows or certain number combinations everywhere around them. Each of these items represents something particular to the people who see them. In the case of coins, for instance, they might check if they are heads or tails. Or they may figure out the numerology of the denomination and thus determine its significance and whether or not it seems to be auspicious.

My friend Dominique finds heart-shaped stones. To her, they symbolize the mission of the "heartist" which is her life's chosen work. Each rock she encounters is like a small pat on the back. Her collection is huge. Whenever I come across a heart rock, I know that our paths have crossed that day and I pick it up, pack it up, and post it to her. My dear Kay finds doll arms. Doll arms! They remind her of the little metal Mexican charms called milagros (miracles) that she loves. And when I occasionally find one I either send it to her priority mail, or put it on my altar so that I can think of her for a while.

My own life is littered with signs and portents. Not only do I find feathers, but bird dreams, bird wings, bird skeletons, dead birds, injured birds, and even a live bird that came home with me from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and lived with me for nine years. Birds are widely thought to be angel messengers from heaven. And so I knew that some fond, dead soul had sent me a sign on that propitious day and I am happy.

In addition, I notice Y-shaped twigs scattered everywhere. I think of these as Tree Goddess crotches that I collect to decorate and make into amulets. I also find knots of all sorts, which are symbols of connection straight from my long-ago vision of Spider Woman and the knowledge of universal interconnectivity that She imparted to me. Of late, I have been collecting discarded rubber bands, which seem to stand for keeping it all together! Or staying flexible, whichever applies. And of course I pick up all these unlikely objects, as unsanitary as that may seem.

Once in a while I don't bend down to gather something up. I am too lazy perhaps, or distracted, or in a rush. But when this happens, I always, always force myself to return to the site, even if it's blocks away. Because when we ignore or disregard our omens, we eventually lose the ability to recognize them. And this causes our internal instinctual compass to malfunction, leaving us on the long and winding road without any breadcrumbs to follow.

Annie Dillard, in her wonderful book "An American Childhood," describes a different tactic. She spies these fallen coins, notes them, congratulates herself on her great good fortune for having encountered them, then leaves them where they lay for others to find along their way and delight in as did she.

Practice searching out your own omens. If you keep looking for directions, connections, synchronicities, messages, miracles, you will certainly find them everywhere. After all, what is the difference between a seeker and a seer?

Happy trails to you,

Mama Donna

Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. Send your questions about seasons, cycles, and celebrations to Mama Donna at

This article was originally published on September 30, 2007.