Several 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 (or coming months) known as 12 Omen Days, a traditional Celtic practice from the people of Wales and Brittany (yes, also a Celtic culture), and other cultures.
In the 12 Omen Days tradition, one would spend some time in nature each day, and noting what is brought into your awareness as a portent or omen (or even inspiration) for a month in the coming year. Who doesn’t love a little bit of Nature augury?
When to begin
The divination of one’s 12 Omen Days traditionally started on the day after Christmas (per this blogpost from Caitlin Matthews) — aka the First Day of Christmas, Boxing Day and Saint Stephen’s Day — and continued for a total of 12 days, following the schedule of the 12 Days of Christmas, until Twelfth Night on January 6th. That final date is also celebrated by Christians as Epiphany, commemorating the visit by the Three Kings / Three Magi to the infant Jesus, and in Ireland as Women’s Little Christmas aka Nollaig na mBan (roughly pronounced Null-ig nuh mahn).
Each of the 12 Omen Days corresponds with a month in the coming calendar year. So, for instance, the first Omen Day represents January, the second Day is February, etc., right through to the 12th Day which represents December.
Know that you can start and finish your 12 Omen Days when it suits you.
I like to begin the day after Winter Solstice (usually around December 21st each year in the Northern Hemisphere, or June 21st in the Southern Hemisphere), although sometimes I start on the First Day of Christmas (which begins the day after Christmas) or on New Year’s Day, or simply when it feels right. If starting “late”, you can even look back to your memories of the 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, or a longer time span. I’m often completing this in mid-January!
And please note that the 12 Omen Days 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 Omen Days, raise your awareness to the natural world around you for inspiration for the coming months, looking to nature itself for an omen (prediction) of the nature (energy, theme, inspiration, etc) for the corresponding month. Any element of nature can be your inspiration: plants, trees, fungi, weather, wind, clouds, snowflakes, rocks and stones, mountains, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, rodents, creatures of the sea, lakes and rivers, and the elements themselves (depending on your traditions, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Wood, Metal, Ether, etc).
Even if you choose not to look for your 12 Omen Days, choose to be present during the 12 Days of Solstice and the deep wisdom held at this liminal time. You will be supported by the Wisdom of the North that we experience at Winter Solstice, with a heightened awareness to all around you, a deep connection to Mama Earth and to your Ancestors, to your deep inner wisdom and intuition, and with a sense of what inspiration you might need in the journey ahead. And if doing this at the Summer Solstice, you will have the passion of the Fire element guiding your way.
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.
A personal experience from a previous year. . .
A few years ago, 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. These blossoms also reminded me that we each have our own rhythm, our own season, which may not align with that of others. 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 (my River Otter experience above), and at other times you may find that a meditation or journey on the experience can take you deeper into the medicine or wisdom that omen actually holds.
Some of us may not have the opportunity to go outside in nature for any or all of the 12 Omen Days.
No problem! Know that inspiration can come from anywhere, and not just from an element of nature you experience outdoors. Take your inspiration and find your omens from that which is around you such as books, crafts, paintings, photographs, or even a movie or television show. Or simply look out the window and observe the weather, the trees, the animals, the birds, the insects, the buildings, the sky, etc.
What captures your eye? Your heart? Your imagination? What resonates with you, stirs something within?
You might also use your tarot or oracle cards, pulling a card for each month, per the layout shared below. You could also use this format to record your observation(s) for each month with a word or drawing. Take some time to look at the images collectively, not just individually. A pattern or theme may be revealed when you look at the sum of the parts.
Click the individual card layouts to download the image in US Letter PDF format.
One of my favourite methods, 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 work with 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.
- experience each omen fully each and every moment without distraction
- engage in active listening to you intuition, heart and soul
- use all your senses to be conscious and aware of everything around you
Working with your 12 Omen Days each month
At the beginning of each month, contemplate your Omen for the month (per my examples 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. With the wisdom and experience since the omen first revealed itself, what now comes through to your awareness?
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 and inspire your next steps. 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 when I did so.
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.