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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

omens In attempts to discover meaning in every natural event or condition, we have used considerable imagination. There are many genuine clues provided by nature: The changing angle of the Sun charts the changing of the seasons, the reappearance of migratory birds heralds the advent of spring, and behavioral differences——what we could call “symptoms”——in animals and humans can indicate physiological situations.
      We should not be too surprised to find that our forefathers extended their observations beyond reasonable limits, believing that almost everything that occurred bore some relationship to upcoming events. Thus, not only the position of the Sun, but the configurations of the stars and the planets were also thought to hold significance. Even the general flight patterns of birds and indeed the arrangement and variations of their internal organs took on meaning to observers. Chosen “sacred” animals, by their most minor behavioral meanderings in a temple court, indicated important conditions that could be interpreted, with enough skill. Thereby were born such arts as astrology, phrenology, palmistry and augury.
      It might be hoped that we are now free of such impediments to progress. Not so. Most major modern office buildings omit the thirteenth floor, and highly paid lawyers and bankers avoid ladders and black cats. Astrology, worldwide, is a billion-dollar business. Palm readers are sought out by Wall Street brokers, and otherwise bright folks call unseen “certified psychics” by phone to ask their advice.
      Progress is often difficult to define. Perhaps it should involve the process known as growing up, as well.

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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.

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