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How Do You Know An Omen When You See One?

Illustration for article titled How Do You Know An Omen When You See One?

Or, as I found myself asking this morning, when is a dead dove on your doorstep just a dead dove on your doorstep?

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The day started quietly enough: coffee, email, shower. Then I stepped out to get the paper, and that's when I saw it: a bird, stiff and dead, feet up, staring me in the face. Far from any tree. I gasped and slammed the door. Needless to say I have not been out since. Immediately, horrible scenarios ran through my head. "Why is there a dead bird on my doorstep?" I asked the Twitter universe. "Maybe it's some kind of good omen," a friend responded optimistically. I quickly Google'd "dead bird, omen." This being the Internet, someone had posed my exact query to Answers.com! Here was the "best answer:"

"you are in for a terrible experience. sorry"

Here are the various explanations:

1. Bad Omen.
Probably death. Or so the Internet tells me. But my grandfather died last week! This seems unfair.

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2. Sign from beyond the grave.
A dead bird just doesn't seem like Grandpa's style. But I guess it's plausible.

3. Sicilian warning.
Trying to remember if I squealed on anyone recently.

4. Sinister escalation of feud by hippie neighbors.
Currently most likely scenario after "bad omen."

5. Random Halloween hijinx.
And if so, why? We put out Snickers AND Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!

6. A cat.
And does this cat hate me...or love me?

Either way, it seems wrong to just wrap the bird in newspaper and toss it in the garbage — bad omen or not. Call me superstitious, but even if it is just a poor bird who made a spectacularly wrong turn, the fact that he's loaded with this much symbolism seems like grounds for a respectful burial. Or at least for my boyfriend to handle it when he gets home. Birds, whatever else they are, are filthy.

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DISCUSSION

zaprowsdowermst
zap rowsdower

When I was about 6 or 7, my brother and I were raking leaves while my parents were out. Our next door neighbors had just moved away but hadn't really done a good job cleaning their backyard as it was still full garbage and old toys. It was a triple decker (three floor apartment for non Bostonians) but all of the crap was there's as they were the only ones with kids. My brother called me over to the fence between the two yards and pointed to the tree in the yard and said "That's a bad omen." I had no idea what he was pointing at or what an omen was. He pointed at two dolls - a boy and a girl - that were caught in the branches of the tree. He explained what a omen was and I started to get scared. I didn't understand why those had to be a bad omen for us and not someone else but he was my big brother and I'd believe anything he said. Then he told me that we had to knock them down and smash the faces to break the omen. We didn't know if any of the other floors were home so we snuck over and knocked the dolls from the branches. He said that we each had to smash our individual doll for it to work. He took a big branch and smashed his with ease but I could get mine and started crying. He said that if I held his hand while he smashed it, it would be ok which he did. We snuck back into our backyard and sat in the yard and it began to snow.

True story. We've also never spoken about this since it happened and that was 20 years ago.