From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Monday, January 23, 2017

In Augur Nation, Bird is the Word

Augur and Friend   (Public Domain)
The Official List of the Birds of District of Columbia (from 1842 through 2016) is quite extensive.  Fortunately for presidential planners, it includes owls, eagles, woodpeckers, ravens and
(without a doubt) vultures.

Ancient Romans knew that inaugurations would be nothing without these fine-feathered friends.  Hopefully, such wisdom is alive and well in the hub of today’s Empire.

So here's how it worked back then:  The official priest (augur) interpreted “the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds.”  Not just any birds, mind you, but particularly the aforementioned Big Five.

Priestly interpretations had specific guidelines, based upon omens such as “region of the sky, height and type of flight, behavior of the bird and place where it would rest.”  Observations of eagles would take precedence over those of other birds (and still do, see dollar bill).  

Such flights of fancy were rooted in a story told by Cicero.  It seems that a poor farmer named Attus Navius lost one of his pigs.  He promised the gods a big juicy grape if they would lead him to Porky.  The gods came through, so Attus followed some birds to an extraordinarily large grape.  This he gratefully gave the gods.

These days, pundits have replaced priests, but birds still rule the roost.  One misplaced Tweet, and the world could quickly become an empty nest.


Copyright January 23, 2017 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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