What Is Augury?

by Craig Shrives
Augury is divination (i.e., prediction) through observation of natural occurences, but originally of birds' behaviour, such as pecking, flight and song.

An augur (a Roman holding an official constitutional position) was charged not with predicting the future but with assessing their gods' approval of political and military courses of action. Certain creatures were sacred to the gods, such as the eagle (Zeus) and the owl (Minerva) and their sudden appearance would affect an augur's divination.

An augur's reading was known as 'taking the auspices', which is almost homophonous to a common, modern phrase meaning 'not being serious', and, may well even be its origin.

Commonly we use the phrases 'augurs well' and 'bodes well' when we get a feeling that something is going to work out favourably.

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