Ancient word of the day: Augury

Ancient word of the day: Augury

The ancient word of the day is “augury” — meaning the practice of predicting the future based on the observation of natural signs and unusual phenomena such as the migratory patterns of birds. Augury comes from the Latin word “augurium”. A term used to describe divination based on the flight & migration of birds.

Ex Avibus

According to the Romans, every sound and motion the bird made had a different meaning according to different circumstances, times of the year and other factors. The Romans divided birds into two classes:

Ancient word of the day: Augury
A murmuration of starlings


Oscines which gave their auspices or auguries through song. Of this class were ravens (corvus) and crows (cornix), owls (noctua) and hens (gallina).


Alites were the second group of birds which gave their auguries by flight. Of this class were eagles (aquila) also known reverently as the bird of Jupiter by the Romans (Jovis als) and also the vulture (vultur).

Rider with birds and a winged figure, perhaps Nike (Victory). Lakonian black-figured kylix, ca. 550–530 BC. Source: Wikipedia

Ex quadrupedibus

Auguries could also be found through the behaviour of four-footed animals. Although the Romans didn’t seem to formalise these kinds of augury. Instead Ex quadrupedibus were looked upon as a form of private divination. When a fox, wolf, horse, dog or any other four-footed beast ran across your path in an unusual place, this was considered an augury. Read more

Owl Warsaw Zoo Copyright Content Catnip 2019
Owl Warsaw Zoo Copyright Content Catnip 2019

The Auguries of Innocence – William Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr’ all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State
A Horse misusd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear
A Skylark wounded in the wing
A Cherubim does cease to sing

Travel: Exploring Ancient Kidwelly Castle in Wales
Birds circle over the chapel ominously in Kidwelly Castle, Wales Copyright Content Catnip 2010

Cromniomancy – Fortelling the future by the direction of growth of sprouts in the garden.

A fantastic beast called an Augurey by JK Rowling

Ancient word of the day: Augury

“Swallows have built
In Cleopatra’s sails their nests. The auguries
Say, they know not, they cannot tell, look grimly,
And dare not speak their knowledge.”
Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra (c.1607)

Ancient word of the day: Augury


A Spanish greeting said at birthdays, Christmas and New years celebrations. Although an augurio is also a bad sign or omen fortelling of bad weather or prediction of bad luck.

Ancient word of the day: Augury

“We defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘‘tis not to come. If it be not to come, then it is now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.” Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

The Knife – A Colouring of Pigeons

One of the weirdest and dopest songs you will ever hear and it has an ancient mystical and ceremonial vibe which I think fits in well with the idea of augury.

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

7 thoughts on “Ancient word of the day: Augury

    1. Yes I think so…I know it’s not realistic to believe in the auguries but there is something incredibly poetic and romantic about them nonetheless!


      1. Yes! I think its one of the most beautiful things about pagan and wiccan beliefs is the natural symbolism and the poetry of it all.


  1. Not a running playlist I’d imagine it would be distractin. Although if you were smoking some hash or ayahuasca, then probably it would be good for a playlist like that! hahaha 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: