A few years ago, I started to observe not just the 12 Days of Solstice (and/or Christmas) but also a lovely ritual and divination process for the new calendar year known as 12 Omens, a traditional Celtic practice from the people of Wales and Brittany (yes, a Celtic culture!), and other cultures. Who doesn’t love a little bit of Nature augury!
The divination of one’s 12 Omens would traditionally start on the day after Christmas (per this blogpost from Caitlin Matthews) — aka Boxing Day or Saint Stephen’s Day — and continue for 12 Days (following the schedule of the 12 Days of Christmas) until Epiphany (January 6th). In Ireland, that date is also celebrated as Women’s Little Christmas aka Nollaig na mBan.
Each of the 12 Days corresponds with a month in the coming calendar year. So, for instance, the First Day of Solstice (or Christmas or whenever you begin) represents January, the Second Day is February, etc., right through to the 12th Day which represents December.
Know that you can start when it suits you. You can begin at Solstice (usually around December 21st, now officially passed but we are still in the Solstice energy), on New Year’s Day, or simply when it feels right. If starting “late”, you can even look back to your memories of these days past. Perhaps certain images or experiences jump out… perhaps they are your omens. You can also explore in a shorter time span, i.e. over one or more days rather than finding one omen each day.
And please note that the 12 Omens practice can be done at either Solstice, Summer or Winter; it’s a wonderful way to look forward to the coming 12 months or celebrations in the Wheel of the Year, and for potential themes and inspiration.
Throughout the 12 Days of Solstice, I have been raising my awareness to the natural world around me for inspiration for the coming months. Traditionally, folks looked to the world around them for their inspiration, looking to Nature itself for an omen (prediction) of the nature (energy, theme, inspiration, etc) for the corresponding month.
A personal experience from a previous year. . .
Last year on Day 1, I encountered a River Otter in a feeder stream into Vancouver’s English Bay. I was charmed by its antics as it frolicked in the rushing water. For me, this was a reminder to play more, something I forget when busy writing and creating.
On Day 2, I went for a short walk in our neighbourhood with my husband. We came across a cherry tree starting to bud, so much earlier than one would expect! I stood there pondering its beauty: so ephemeral, so powerful and yet so short-lived, each tree and blossom peaking at its own time.
Cherry blossoms remind me how precious life is, to live life to the fullest and to not take anything for granted. This experience also raised my awareness to the rare and unique around me, and this informed the medicine or wisdom for February, to embrace life to the fullest . . . to seize the day! Carpe Diem!
Be open to the messages of your omens. Sometimes they are easy to read and quite obvious (the River Otter example above), and at other times you may have to meditate or journal to see what that medicine or wisdom that omen actually reveals.
But your inspiration can come from anywhere… a book, a movie, a conversation. It can come from tarot or oracle cards (pull a card for each month, per the layout shared below).
This process is aided by the Wisdom of the North that we experience at Winter Solstice, a heightened awareness to all around us, a deep connection to Mama Earth and to your Ancestors, connected to your deep inner wisdom and intuition, and the sense of what inspiration you might need in the journey ahead.
Some of us may not have the opportunity to get outside for any or all of the 12 Days.
No problem! Take your inspiration from that which is around you such as books, crafts, paintings, photographs, or even a television show. Or simply look out the window and observe . . . the weather, the trees, the animals, the birds, the insects, the buildings. What captures your eye? Your heart? What resonates with you, stirs something within?
One of my favourite ways, especially when I was housebound, was to pull out a favourite tarot or oracle card deck, intuitively choosing whichever deck called to me. I then shuffled the cards and once again allowed my intuition to pick a card for the month.
Whatever method you choose, note the cards in your journal and ponder/meditate on each Omen for its meaning and relevance to that month, and to your life.
Once you assemble your twelve Omens (or eight Omens if you choose to follow the celebrations in the Wheel of the Year rather than the 12 months), these can be used as a Vision Board throughout the year to remind you of the Omens as they presented to you.
Even if you choose not to look for your 12 Omens, choose to be present during the 12 Days of Solstice:
- experience fully each and every moment without distraction
- engage in active listening
- use all your senses to be conscious and aware of everything around you
In the words of Eckhart Tolle,
“You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.”
Working with your 12 Omens each month
At the beginning of each month, contemplate your Omen for the Month (per my example above, the River Otter for January, the early blooming cherry trees for February) and review your initial observation notes, what you first sensed or thought when that omen appeared.
Now spend some time connecting to the omen to deepen your understanding of its relevance and message for you, as you view it through new eyes and experiences. What medicine might it now be bringing you for the month? What can you now see or sense that you didn’t see or sense before? It may be that the message is clear and direct (“Play more!”, said the River Otter), or it might be asking (or answering) a question or inviting you to explore even deeper. It might be suggesting some further soul work or shadow work.
Let the omen itself direct the exploration. For instance, working with the River Otter energy, I chose to engage in some playful activity and listen/sense the messages that started to bubble up.
And, if stuck, you might — perhaps — go back to your favourite oracle or tarot deck and pull a few cards to illuminate a basic question such as “What is this omen telling me?”, or create a question from your own intuition.
Perhaps you will find your own unique way divining the medicine and messages or your omens, and aligning with them in your soul work for that month.
Ah, and this is where you bring in your own magic and deep wise intuition.
Enjoy the journey!