What is an omen in divination?

An augur can refer to a divinatory practice. It is one of the divinatory tools. But it also designates a diviner who practises ornithomancy. The latter consists of observing and interpreting the different behaviours of birds in order to deduce a prediction.

What you need to know about the augur

In the Roman religion, the augur is a diviner charged with observing and interpreting certain signs or natural phenomena in order to derive omens from them. Generally, this priest observes the natural behaviour of a group of birds to deduce the will of the gods.  The augur must interpret the song and flight of the sacred birds. In order to take the omens, this diviner must turn east to have west to the left and north to the right. The gods are favourable if the flight passes to the right of the diviner. The gods are unfavourable if the flight passes to his left.

Omen and ornithomancy

Ornithomancy is a divinatory art which aims to analyse birds. Indeed, it is the augur who practices ornithomancy. This Roman priest managed to receive an omen by observing and analysing the behaviour of different birds. This soothsayer had a gift for interpreting signs. Ornithomancy is based on the natural behaviour of birds. Owls, crows and ravens are among the birds that oscillate. For these birds, the augur analyses and interprets only the cry or song. To consult the flight, the priests choose the prepetual and bedridden birds such as vultures, harriers and eagles. Some birds such as the woodpecker and the crow are both bed-ridden and wobbly.

Interpretation of bird behaviour by the augur

The observation and interpretation of bird flight and song is based on the fact that birds have an excellent understanding of the gods since their flight brings them closer to the deities. There are different ways of interpreting the behaviour of birds. Generally, the diviner chooses to interpret the behaviour of birds of prey. They are solitary birds and birds of omen. All birds can associate themselves with deities and deliver their message. The owl is one of the animals dedicated to the goddess Athena. He understands it as a favourable sign when an Athenian witnesses her flight. As for the vulture, it symbolises the family. The buzzard is a symbol that oscillates between good and evil. For the eagle, this bird embodies glory and power. It represents Jupiter for the Romans and Zeus for the Greeks.

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