I was in high spirits, swinging my black dog stick, as I walked down the cobbled winding street for the first session in the four-day series of adventures in Active Dreaming I am leading at Maitrea in Prague. My spirits rose higher when I saw there was a friendly black dog out for his evening walk right in front of me. I am in favor of personal omens, and for many years the appearance of a friendly black dog has been a happy omen for me. On Týnská ulička, the black dog squatted in front of me and proceeded to pump out a prodigious quantity of poop on the sidewalk,right at my feet. Hmm, did this mean my evening was going to be crappy? I decided to cleave to the traditional belief that shit, as a dream symbol, is auspicious, boding abundance and fortune. In the Greco-Roman world, the belief was related the fact that excrement goes into underworld, from which we get gold and silver. A name for the Lord of the Underworld is Pluto, meaning the Wealthy (not the Disney dog, though there is another canine connection) from which we derive the word "plutocrat." My choice of symbolic frames of reference worked out well. I opened the evening workshop with my fresh story. Czechs have a great, often very earthy, sense of humor, and the sixty people packed into our space loved my dog story. "That touched my poetic intestine," one of them laughed, using a wonderful Czech tongue-in-cheek expression. We received an abundance of gifts as we proceeded to play my Coincidence Card Game, turning a simple deck of index cards into an impromptu oracle that delivered amazingly specific and arousing responses to the questions we posed on life issues. The black dog dump gave me a great way to ensure that we all had our sense of humor in good working order at the start of play. The general title of my series in Prague is "On Wings of Dreams". The black dog episode, and the funny story it gave us, will make it likely that we bring all our discoveries and heady adventures in flying between the worlds back down to solid ground by the close of play.
We spent some time in the class that followed this sidewalk oracle discussing how you come to recognize personal omens, and how - if they are to be practical, rather than "mere" superstitions - you are going to want to watch closely what follows after one of them turns up on the roads of life. I provide guidance on this in my book Sidewalk Oracles, from which I excerpt the following:
Game Rules for Recognizing Personal Omens
1. Start by checking on superstitions you may have inherited or picked up from others. For example,that walking under a ladder or having a black cat walk in front of you is bad luck, or that having a bird poop on your head or your car might mean money is coming. Have any of these supposed omens worked for you the way they are supposed to? If so, keep them on your personal list of practical omens. If not, scratch them.
2. Check recurring images or incidents that catch your attention.
3. Keep track of what happens after sightings of this kind. Does a certain kind of incident follow? Does the day turn out well or badly? Does the repeated number or similar sighting seem only to be saying, “Listen up, pay attention”?
4. Make a short list of your personal omens, the ones that seem to work, and pay attention to what follows your next sightings of them.