49 | Creative Prompts: Omens

64 Arts

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring the everyday applications of The 64 Arts.

As we wrap up this relatively brief foray into omens and related topics–let’s face it, you know whether you buy into superstitions, omens, etc. or not and it’s not my goal to convince you–we’ve come to my favorite part of each Art, the creative prompts.

See, what I said above is true: I’m not here to convince you one way or another. But my goal with this series is to encourage us all to live more creative lives. And that means approaching topics in creative ways. So here we go!

1. Have your chart done.

Chart? You mean astrology? Yeppers!

Now, you might be wondering why I believe (as friends have opined) that clouds of gas hundreds of thousands of light years away have any bearing whatsoever on my day to day life. Let me quote Guggenheim Grotto:

It’s not that I do or don’t believe
It’s that I just don’t not believe
In god and aliens and love at first sight…

And astrology. Some folks have said that since the Moon can affect the tides, and we’re made up largely of water, it’s not impossible that celestial events affect our pedestrian existence. And then there’s the point I read about how we’re not who we are because of where the stars were when we were born, but that we were born when and where we were in relation to the stars because of who we are. I tend to really like that last bit, because it puts astrology in the same light as reading Tarot and other forms of “divination:” a tool for reflection, meditation, and insight.

For instance, Mercury is about to go retrograde on September 18, which signifies an increase in technical issues, computer problems, and communication upsets. Now, most people see this as a prediction of doom, gloom, and general miserableness for 3 weeks. I prefer to see it as a reminder to be more careful with what I say, not to jump to conclusions, give people the benefit of the doubt, take my time, and backup my computer data. See, it’s all about perspective.

But I digress.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to have your chart done. Not just your sun sign, but the whole shebang. While you can pay people to do these for you, I’ve found a really fabulous resource in astro.com and if you know the time and place of your birth you can generate your entire chart and look up all the bits and pieces to explain it. And if you’d like some very down-to-earth astrological advice, I suggest heading over to MysticMedusa.com. I’ve especially enjoyed her “Style Your Ascendant” series (your ascendant being your “rising sign” and the sign other people initially perceive you as; for instance, I’m sun/moon Taurus with Virgo rising, so most people’s first impressions of me fit the Virgo mold more so than Taurus).

2. Grab your crayons and destress with this coloring page I made you.

See, one of the many “side effects” of paying attention to superstitions, omens, astrology and more could be a propensity towards worrying. Worrying leads to stress and stress leads to all kinds of other bad things. Not to mention, stress can bring about a lot of those things we’re already worrying about, or seem to, self-fulfilling prophecy style. Apparently the simple act of coloring can be very therapeutic (who knew? Oh, right, I did–it’s been a sure-fire way to bust through a creative block for ages).


Just click the pdf link here jvanderbeek_omens_coloringbookpage to download a full-size version.

And if you have watercolor pencils (or my Portable Plein Air kit, now available on etsy) you can absolutely print this out on watercolor paper and have even more fun with it!

3. Writing prompt: Hindsight is 20/20.

Sure, omens are all about portents of the future, but what about the past? Once a chapter of our lives has come to a close, it’s far easier to see the signposts along the way that we may have missed or brushed off as nothing in the moment. What can we learn about trusting our gut and our intuition by examining the past?

Along the lines of ‘those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,’ take an experience from your past (or a friend’s or family member’s past, if that’s what comes to mind more easily–we can learn from other’s mistakes just as much as our own!) and write about lessons learned and ways it can be applied in the future. Or draw something, collage something, create something from it. Anything goes, medium is up to you.

In my comic book, Rings on Her Fingers, I talked about the different signs and omens I ignored leading up to my first marriage (which, by virtue of calling it the first one, I’m sure you can guess that it didn’t last–not really a spoiler there). Case in point:



If you choose to do one, two, or all of these prompts, I’d love to see what comes out of it. Leave a comment here with a link or tag me (@scrapsoflife) on twitter or instagram!

49 | Ominous Music Starts to Play

64 Arts

This post is part of our ongoing series exploring daily creativity via The 64 Arts.

After a fabulous, if jam-packed, weekend I proceeded to lock my keys in the car Monday morning. (At the lab where I stopped for blood-word, as if that isn’t adding insult to injury.) It’s not a leap to imagine it was a sign of things to come for the day.

I suppose, though, the Universe was just providing me a handy segue into the next Art:

49 Observing the Omens
Observing the favorable or unfavorable signs before any enterprise.

So, what is an omen? It’s a portent or sign of something to come. Not always bad (favorable omens are a thing, a good thing!) but a lot of the times we pay more attention to the negative ones than the positive. What an omen is not, however, is a superstition.

(Direct link for the feed readers: Superstitious music video by Europe–this song keeps popping into my head every time I think about this subject; there are worse earworms to have.)

Superstitions are more like if-then statements or cause and effect occurrences. Like breaking a mirror leads to seven years of of bad luck, if a black cat crosses your path you’ll have bad luck. Even the childhood “step on a crack, break your momma’s back” rhyme is a superstition.

(Direct link for the feed readers: Superstition by Stevie Wonder)

And like Stevie says, “when you believe in things that you don’t understand you suffer.”


I don’t consider myself a very superstitious person. A black cat can walk where they want in relation to me and I feel no fear. I avoid walking under ladders more for the protection against things falling on me from heights above than any long-term potential. And avoiding cracks in the sidewalk just takes too much effort!

But haven’t you ever gone somewhere and found a parking spot right next to the door (bonus points if it’s also in the shade and it’s summertime) and thought ‘yes, this is a good sign’? Well, that right there is a sign of our subconscious mind seeing fate/diety/or lady luck bestowing some sort of blessing on our venture. We may not think of not getting that close-up spot as a sign of bad luck and it dooming our trip to the depths of darkness (no, other shoppers usually take care of that for us), but other things, like my keys held hostage, can certainly turn our thoughts of the coming day to less than positive avenues.

Some very common omens involve sensations of our body “telling” us things we need to know. It’s said that an itching right palm signifies money or wealth coming to you, but an itching left palm means you’re going to lose or spend money soon. (The whole right-good/left-bad thing dates back to at least Roman times, all you have to look at the words for right and left–dexter and sinister, respectively–to see the bias.) Have you ever heard “your earns must have been burning” from someone when you entered the room? Tingling ears mean someone is talking about you. Now, it could be anything from spreading gossip to extolling your virtues, that’s why it helps to add outside insight to simple observations!

One of my favorite movies, Practical Magic, has a scene where a broom falls and the aunts say “Broom fell… company’s coming.” Of course, if you look up what a falling broom can mean you’ll see all sorts of portents, both positive and negative. In the case of the broom, it’s always struck me that most people clean up before guests come over, so a broom has a higher chance of falling over when it’s casually leaned up against a wall rather than in the closet, cupboard, or hook where it might usually live. Ergo, the broom fell before company arrived, and that became tied to the action. But, in the movie, they were in the midst of a tense scene, so in that sort of setting, maybe company isn’t quite a welcome. It’s all about context.


Owls are a good source of omens and there is tons of lore about what seeing or hearing an owl might mean. Even though owls are considered wise, their large eyes and nocturnal habits often get them associated with death. So, hearing the hoot of a screech owl portends death soon to come. Okay, but what if live next to an owl-happy forest? You’ll be hearing hoots all the time and be scared half out of your wits that your demise was imminent 24/7. Context.

The other thing about omens, as opposed to superstitions, is that they are warnings of possibilities, not carved in stone. Take the broken mirror/bad luck superstition: you’re pretty much sunk on that one (if you believe it) as you cannot unbreak the mirror. Carrying a lucky rabbit’s foot (which wasn’t so lucky for the rabbit, was it?) could be an attempt to nullify one superstition with another, but they still stand along. An omen of trouble ahead, though, when contemplated could be avoided. Just like horoscopes and tarot, being aware of a situation via an omen has the power to change or guarantee an outcome though our actions, as much as we ever control a situation, that is.

Where on the omen spectrum do you sit: don’t believe at all? casual observer? or always on the lookout for signs and portents?

What local omens have you heard about or are common to your family?

Timing Is Everything

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

For our original wedding vision, though the locations and reception menu were in flux, I was pretty much set on a sunset ceremony.

Image via StyleMePretty | Photography by Our Labor of Love

Image via StyleMePretty | Photography by Our Labor of Love

Not only was it very romantic, sunset for our wedding day was predicted at 6:49pm which was just perfect as it was on the clock’s upswing.

Years ago a bride-to-be come into the shop to order her invitations and Mama Leadfoot commented on the very precise time she had written into her wording. It wasn’t just “half past two” or “two thirty in the afternoon” but two thirty-ONE in the afternoon. She explained that her daddy was the luckiest person she ever met and he said getting married while the clock was on an upswing was lucky, so that’s what she was gonna do!

While I’m not overly superstitious, I do think that doing little things like this certainly can’t hurt. For me it’s more about going in with the right intentions and the right mindset, and the clock being on an upswing is a physical reminder of those good intentions.

According to a little bit of Internet research, the clock-upswing superstition is common in China, but seems to have filtered throughout the various cultures. And while the notion seems to focus more on the minute hand, I figured if one hand going up was good, then both would be double-good!

When we switched our wedding from sunset to mid-morning, it became a matter of deciding how early was too early. Neither of the Road Trips are the cheeriest morning people, so too early wasn’t a great idea, not to mention asking our guests to be up bright and early wouldn’t be the most hospitable thing. Mid-morning seemed like a good idea, but we also knew that most of our guests would be driving about 45 minutes to get to our venue, which could make an even a mid-morning start a bit touchy.

Good thing we were already thinking it’d be fun to have the cocktail hour before the ceremony, so that gives us some wiggle room if people aren’t really up and moving as early as need be. (Not to mention gives us plenty of time to get ready in the morning without having to get up at the crack of dawn.) And since I never had any intention of hiding away in some bridal lounge before the ceremony, it also gives us plenty of time to greet our guests, take some photos, and generally make merry before the ceremony.

How did you determine the timing of your wedding?

Random Appetites: New Year’s Food Traditions


Along with watching the Rose Parade (and, I suppose, the football game afterwards), I grew up knowing that New Year’s Day meant 2 things: cabbage and black-eyed peas.

Supposedly, the cabbage (or any greens for that matter) symbolizes wealth (get it: green–>money) and the peas were for health (some say luck, I prefer to go with health). As a child I recall not liking either of these foods all that much but Mom insisted we eat at least one bite of each! Things change over the years, however, and I enjoy both immensely these days.

Now, the cabbage/greens are pretty obvious, but what is up with the peas (actually beans, but common terminology calls them peas) and luck/health? The prevailing theory seems to date back to the Civil War when the crop was the only one available (since it was usually grown for animal feed) after the North marauded through the South. Hence, black-eyed peas were an important form of sustenance for those who survived the War. The irony, of course, is their name: a black eye would be considered neither lucky or healthy to have, so maybe the above is all some apocryphal nonsense trumped up by the Black-Eye-Pea Farmers of the world. Either way, done right, they can be very tasty.

Cabbage is easy to cook: Remove the outer leaves and thick stem from the head of cabbage. Cut in quarters or so and then separate the leaves in chunks, putting as much will fit into a large pot along with a ham hock, hambone, or some rendered bacon and a little bit of water. Not too much since cabbage has a high water content and will cook down to a fraction of its former self rather quickly. If you have more cabbage than will fit in the pot to begin with, put the lid on and wait a bit and then add the rest once it’s cooked down a bit. Cook until tender, add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

If you just can’t stand cooked cabbage, greens or green salads I see no reason why, say, coleslaw couldn’t be substituted for the same benefit.

Black-eyed peas can be a little tougher, only because it takes a while to bring out the best of their flavor. You can start from dry and soak over night, drain and then cook until tender or you can do what I do: buy good quality canned, drain and rinse thoroughly, then cook with the de rigueur ham hock, salt pork or bacon, salt (watch it if you’ve used salt pork that you don’t overdo) and pepper. The peas should be cooked until tender but not mush and, if done right, have a slightly buttery flavor even without additional seasoning. If you’re really pressed for time or haven’t had much luck getting your peas to turn out right, the Glory brand of canned black-eyed peas is a decent substitute for home-seasoned.

In some parts of the South, Hopping John–a “salad” of black-eyed peas and rice–is the customary way of getting your peas for the year. I’ve never had a batch that wasn’t really dry and mealy and don’t much care for it, myself. I’ve also heard that you should eat 365 black-eyed peas for luck/health every day of the year but, as much as I’ve come to love them, that’s a few too many peas for one day!

No matter how you prepare them, the only other thing you need to add for your traditional (if a bit superstitious) New Year’s Meal is plenty of corn bread–not only is it tasty on it’s own (try adding whole kernel corn, ham chunks and some chopped jalepenos if you don’t like the plain sort), it’s great for soaking up that pot liquor from the cabbage and peas.

Want something sweet to round out the meal? I’ve heard that the Italians (and other wine-folk) make a habit of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Day. Some even go so far as to use it as a bit of a divination tool: if, for instance, the fifth grape is sour you can expect May to be a sour month and so forth.