Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Omens



By Linda


All people in the Wheel of Time world believe it is possible to forecast the future—read the Pattern. Foretelling, dreams and seeing auras are accepted by all characters, but few can actually do it. Instead, many try to get an idea of the future by reading omens into what they see and hear in their surroundings. Everyone believes their own harbingers and thinks everyone else’s are rubbish.

In the Westlands, omens are mostly based on a kind of “steady state” theory: like creates or attracts like; and what is familiar and similar is usually equated with positive events, whereas unusualness and difference are likely to be bad. The Seanchan have the most sophisticated omen reading system and are less judgmental. They use apantomancy (divination by chance meeting with things, especially animals), arachnomancy (divination by spiders), entomomancy (divination by actions of insects), ornithomancy (divination by studying the flight of birds, augury), and theromancy (divination by movements of wild animals to guide their actions or decisions. With so many possible harbingers, interpretation can be quite complex as Tuon explains:

"Obviously, what the birds told us was modified by the ants. It is never simple,”

- Knife of Dreams, Dragon’s Eggs

especially as she allows for the possibility of unconsciously perceiving omens (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). As with all omen reading, her forecasts depend on what occurrences she recognises as an omen, what omens she actually chooses to notice or consider significant, and when she decides to look for an omen (see Fate, Free Will and Divining the Pattern article). This type of omen reading is often disregarded, even by the reader, because the Seanchan joined the story later, long after the reader became familiar with the cultures of the mainland nations, but it is as valid as the omens recognised on the mainland.

However all peoples favour what is “natural” to the Land and shun examples of mutation or “wrongness” as portending disaster, and rightly, since this is an infallible omen of the Dark One’s touch. Another very reliable omen is that of Rand’s ‘miracles’, his ta’veren twistings of the Pattern, and later his restoration of an area to its correct or natural state, which indicate he is nearby. Apart from naturalness, people also favour higher status, believing that this is an omen that things will be good for a while.

This article will discuss the various omens as they appear in the books, and they start in the first chapter:

"An ill omen," a scratchy voice announced, "no storks nesting on the rooftops at Bel Tine." Cenn Buie, as gnarled and dark as an old root, marched up to Tam and Bran and leaned on his walking staff, near as tall as he was and just as gnarled. He tried to fix both men at once with a beady eye. "There's worse to come, you mark my words."
"Have you become a soothsayer, then, interpreting omens?" Tam asked dryly. "Or do you listen to the wind, like a Wisdom? There's certainly enough of it. Some originating not far from here."

The Eye of the World, An Empty Road

Cenn Buie may be a misery-guts, but he is correct. This portent shows disruptions of the proper order due to the Dark One altering the seasons to induce famine, infertility, hardship and despair. The omen is based on the actions of a wild animal, something the Wisdoms who can’t Listen to the Wind also do. Listening to the Wind is a mild form of short-term precognition that some channellers can do, see Weaves and Talents article), and those Wisdoms unable to channel or without the talent make their short to medium term weather forecasts based on the actions of animals and insects instead (Lord of Chaos, Prologue).

His name was Rulan Allwine—good omen, Rand thought, with so much of the sound of Emond's Field to it—and he eyed them up and down, then politely mentioned paying in advance.

The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits

Rulan Allwine’s name is similar to those of the Two Rivers and this familiarity makes Rand hopeful of some good fortune—comfort and safety—since most changes and unexpected events have been bad for him so far. Rand’s hopes were met: he and Mat were able to sleep well and Mat’s sight partially returned.

"We cannot reach the mountains by nightfall," Lan said, "and it is dangerous to move at night, even for a Warder alone."
"There is a place not far off," Moiraine said. "It will be a good omen for us to camp there."

The Eye of the World, The Blight

Moiraine thought that the Seven Towers in Malkier, a staunch champion of the Light, would keep away the worst of the dangers. (She also Warded the camp.) The idea is that positive places have a positive influence because like makes or attracts like. They were not disturbed and made it through to the high passes.

"I search for . . . someone. A man." His eye ran across Perrin, Mat, the Shienarans, dismissing them all. "He Who Comes With the Dawn. It is said there will be great signs and portents of his coming. I saw that you were from Shienar by your escort's armor, and you had the look of a Wise One, so I thought you might have word of great events, the events that might herald him."
"A man?" Verin's voice was soft, but her eyes were as sharp as daggers. "What are these signs?"
Urien shook his head. "It is said we will know them when we hear of them, as we will know him when we see him, for he will be marked.

The Great Hunt, A New Thread in the Pattern

The Aiel searched for signs – remarkable events – that might indicate the advent of the Dragon Reborn. Rand was prophesied to do great deeds and was made an extremely strong ta’veren to help achieve this. The passage of the Horn of Valere, and Rand shadowing it through an alternate world, would be one such sign; other signs are encountering a murdered Myrddraal and using a Portal Stone. Verin understood what was going on but decided to say nothing to Urien, not knowing how the Aiel fit into the Pattern.

The sign over the door of the inn Lan led them to, nearer the river, read Wayman’s [or Wayland’s, depending on the edition] Forge, which Perrin took for a good omen, though there seemed to be nothing of the smithy about the place except the leather-aproned man with a hammer painted on the sign.

The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave

While blacksmiths represent familiarity to Perrin—and he loves the craft—blacksmiths are regarded as people who make a very positive contribution by all societies. Favourable events occurred here: Perrin met Faile and Gaul, themselves each searching for strange trails, and they were a great help to him, and in the Last Battle.

More Aiel were encountered in Cairhien:

“You have asked many questions, Aes Sedai. I wish to ask one. You must understand that we look for omens and signs. Why do three Aes Sedai walk a land where the only hand without a knife in it is a hand too weak with hunger to grasp the hilt? Where do you go?”
“Tear,” Nynaeve said briskly, “unless we stay here talking until the Heart of the Stone crumbles to dust.” …
The Aiel women were looking at one another, Jolien frozen in the act of closing Dailin’s gray-brown coat. “Tear?” Aviendha said in a cautious tone. “Three Aes Sedai walking through a troubled land on their way to Tear. This is a strange thing. Why do you go to Tear, Aes Sedai?”…
“Shadowrunners in Tear,” Bain said, and as if part of the same sentence Chiad added, “And three Aes Sedai seeking the Heart of the Stone.”

The Dragon Reborn, Threads in the Pattern

This is another Aiel group searching for signs of the Dragon Reborn. Gaul did not have to explain about searching for omens because Perrin straightforwardly told him that Rand was travelling to Tear. The Maidens know that Aes Sedai are proscribed in Tear and were surprised that any were going there, particularly on foot in this desperate land. They follow and rescue the girls.

Outside in the darkness, a cock crowed. Mat shifted uneasily and told himself not to be foolish. No one was going to die…
He was sure the cock had crowed for him. Whatever his father said, the omen had been real. But he would not give up and die.

The Shadow Rising, Whirlpools in the Pattern

A cock crowing while it is still dark is an omen of death, and the bubble of evil in Tear did its utmost to kill the three ta’veren and the people with them, but the ta’veren twisted the Pattern back and escaped the omen.

Perhaps that fellow's comment [Mat’s that next Daughter of Nine Moons would come and claim him] had been an omen. Perhaps the Return would come soon, and the Daughter of the Nine Moons with it. Surely that would be the greatest omen of victory.

Lord of Chaos, The Answer

The arrival of a very high status person is seen as very favourable and it did put the breaks on Suroth’s darker activities and ultimately resulted in the Seanchan gaining considerable lands and finally allying with the Westlands for the Last Battle. A victory for the Light.

Elayne hoped the woman knew more of Kandor than the name; when Birgitte had last been born, there had been no Kandor. She should have taken it as an omen.

The Path of Daggers, Into Andor

Errors and ignorance are seen as likely to lead to more problems and therefore misfortune in general can be expected. In this case Elayne found out how poorly the populace regarded House Trakand, and that there was a Black sister (Careane) among them committing murder.

A soaring albatross seemed to be following the Kidron, an omen of victory indeed, though the bird's long wings were black instead of white. It must still mean the same thing. Omens did not change according to location. An owl calling at dawn meant a death and rain without clouds an unexpected visitor whether in Imfaral or Noren M'Shar.

Winter’s Heart, What The Veil Hides

Tuon insists that omens don’t vary according to place and maybe not context. This may or may not be right. She was victorious in extending Seanchan influence and in stabilising the Return; also in contributing to the Last Battle and making a treaty which ratified her de facto borders and damane. But not without some cost and the corruption of her high office bearers and Seekers by the Shadow (represented by the albatross’ black wings?)

She could ask Anath, her Soe'feia, to administer a penance, but it was less than two years since Neferi's unexpected death, and she still was not entirely comfortable with her replacement. Something told her she must do this on her own. Perhaps she had seen an omen she had not recognized consciously. Ants were not likely on a ship, but several sorts of beetle might be.

Winter’s Heart, What The Veil Hides

Whether Tuon saw an omen or not, it is fortunate she kept her counsel to herself, rather than divulge anything to a Forsaken. Thanks to another important omen:

Three long gray porpoises rose beside the ship and sounded. Three, and they did not rise again. Hold to your chosen course.

Winter’s Heart, What the Veil Hides

The omen told her to hold to her purpose – a pun on porpoise! So she told Anath:

"I will wear the veil until an omen tells me the time has come to remove it, Anath," she said, schooling her voice to calm.

Winter’s Heart, What The Veil Hides

This omen was when Mat said the right things and let Tuon go free.

Egeanin alleged that the search would be in utter secrecy, that many of the Seanchan themselves might still not know Tuon was missing.
Her explanation involved the shock to the Empire and ill omens for the Return and the loss of sei’taer, and she sounded as if she believed every word, but Mat refused to buy a penny’s worth.

Crossroads of Twilight, Time to be Gone

“The streets are full of rumors about her,” he said, nodding toward Tuon, “but nothing about her disappearing. I bought drinks for a few Seanchan officers, and they seem to believe she’s snug in the Tarasin Palace or off on an inspection trip. I didn’t sense any dissembling, Mat. They didn’t know.”
“Did you expect public announcements, Toy?” Tuon said incredulously. “As it is, Suroth may be considering taking her own life for the shame. Do you expect her to spread such an ill omen for the Return about for everyone to see on top of that?”

Crossroads of Twilight, A Fan of Colors

While the arrival of a very high-status person is expected to bring good fortune, the loss of one is very unfortunate. In this case, resistance to Seanchan rule increased in Altara, Queen Tylin was killed, the Sea Folk escaped, and Ituralde launched his campaign in Tarabon and Arad Doman. Liandrin attracted unwanted attention from the Seekers by poisoning Alwhin. Of course, some of these events were directly associated with Tuon’s disappearance, but the Seanchan could not know that.

None knew what the Aes Sedai knew, yet the biting, sulphurous smell that filled the chill night air seemed an ill omen, and hardened men offered their prayers aloud as fervently as the beardless boys.

Knife of Dreams, When Last Sounds

Dragonmount is venting, as Rand becomes increasingly dark, corrupted by the Shadow’s manipulations. The sulphurous gas is natural from a volcano, but as an omen is a whiff of hell’s brimstone. The Dark One’s touch is strong; the Pattern is unraveling, sickness and corruption ailing the Land and the people.

It seemed a bird had managed to get inside during the day, an extremely bad omen apparently, and the pair of them had to spend the night in prayer and contemplation to avert some evil or other. They seemed to run half their lives according to strange superstitions. Tuon or Selucia either one would make odd signs with their hands if they saw a torn spiderweb with the spider in it. And Tuon explained to him, just as serious as if she were making sense, that the sure result of clearing away a spiderweb before shooing the spider out of it was the death of someone close to you within the month. They would see a flight of birds circle more than once and predict a storm, or draw a finger through a line of marching ants, count how long it took for the ants to rejoin their line, and predict how many days of fair weather lay ahead, and never mind that it did not work out that way. Oh, there was rain three days after the birds—crows, disturbingly enough—but it was nowhere near a storm, just a gray, drizzling day.
"Obviously, Selucia miscounted with the ants," Tuon said, placing a white stone on the board with that oddly graceful arching of her fingers…. "Obviously, what the birds told us was modified by the ants. It is never simple, Toy. You must learn these things. I will not have you ignorant."
Mat nodded as if that made sense and placed his black stone. And she called his uneasiness about crows and ravens superstition!...
"It is bad luck to name a horse before riding it," Tuon replied, taking the reins.

Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs

Gestures to ward against evil occur in the real world as well as among the Seanchan and are discussed in the Protection Against Evil article. Tuon and Selucia are using them to repel or undo the influence of an unfortunate omen.

As for averting evil, the world rippled three times (due to large amounts of balefire being used in Shara, probably) about the time the bird was trapped in the wagon, but the group was unaffected by it.

Early on, a flight of ravens winged overhead, a dozen or more big black birds. They flew swiftly, never deviating from their line, but he eyed them anyway until they dwindled to specks and vanished. Nothing to spoil the day there. Not for him, at least. Maybe for someone farther north.
"Did you see some omen in them, Toy?" Tuon asked. She was as graceful in the saddle as she was in everything else she did. He could not recall seeing her be awkward about anything. "Most omens I know concerning ravens specifically have to do with them perching on someone's rooftop or cawing at dawn or dusk."
"They can be spies for the Dark One," he told her. "Sometimes. Crows, too. And rats. But they didn't stop to look at us. So we don't need to worry."

Knife of Dreams, A Village in Shiota

The birds were possibly searching for Perrin, to report on how he and Masema were doing.

Thanks to the animals from the If world, the Seanchan have far fewer Shadowspawn and don’t know too much about the Dark One’s minions.

He stroked his long mustaches with a knuckle, failing to mask a small smile.
"He's ta'veren, my Lady, and you can never tell what will happen around a ta'veren. It's always . . . interesting . . . when you travel with one of those. Mat has a tendency to find what he needs when he needs it. Sometimes before he knows he needs it."
She stared at him, but he seemed serious. "He's tied to the Pattern?" That was how the word would translate. "What is that supposed to mean?"
The old man's blue eyes widened in astonishment. "You don't know? But it's said Artur Hawkwing was the strongest ta'veren anyone had ever seen, perhaps as strong as Rand al'Thor. I'd have thought you of all people would. . . . Well, if you don't, you don't. Ta'veren are people the Pattern shapes itself around, people who were spun out by the Pattern itself to maintain the proper course of the weaving, perhaps to correct flaws that were creeping in. One of the Aes Sedai could explain better than I." As if she would have conversation with a marath'damane, or worse, a runaway da mane.
"Thank you,'' she told him politely. "I think I've heard enough." Ta'veren. Ridiculous. These people and their endless superstitions! A small brown bird, surely a finch, flew out of a tall oak and circled widdershins three times above Toy's head before flying on. She had found her omen. Stay close to Toy.

Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

It’s interesting that the Seanchan don’t even know of ta’veren, let alone that Hawkwing was one. Tuon has been thinking of whether she should be leaving Mat or not, because she has duties in Ebou Dar.

She came to believe that she needed to spend this time away from her people to understand him and the Westlands culture, as well as to get to know him:

So far as she knew, since his raising, Beslan hadn't made any plans to have her assassinated. Remarkable. Any Seanchan would have immediately begun scheming. Some would have tried an assassination; others would have decided to make only plans, but remain supportive. But all would have considered killing her. Many on this side of the ocean thought differently. She'd never have believed it, if not for her time with Matrim. That was obviously one reason why Fortuona had been required to go with him. She just wished she'd interpreted the omens earlier.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

She has not yet realized that such loyalty brings the pressure of remaining worthy of it; that she can’t justify any and all scheming or breaking of her word, and that there are some things she should not stoop to. Mat showed her this in the aptly titled chapter A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens:

Great change. So this was the meaning of the Dragon's omen. Fortuona could swoop in and all of those damane would be hers. Hundreds upon hundreds. With that force, she could crush the resistance to her rule back in Seanchan.
It was the Last Battle. The world hung upon her decisions. Was it truly better to support these marath'damane in their desperate fight here, or should she use the chance to retreat to Seanchan, secure her rule there, then defeat the Trollocs and the Shadow with the might of the Empire?
"You gave your word," Knotai said softly.
"I signed a treaty," she said. "Any treaty can be broken, particularly by the Empress."
"Some empresses might be able to do that," Knotai said. "But not you. Right? Light, Tuon. You gave him your word."
Order in one hand—something known, something she could measure—chaos in the other. Chaos in the form of a one-eyed man who knew Artur Hawkwing's face.
Had she not just told Selucia she would bet upon him?
"The Empress cannot be constrained by words on a paper," Fortuona said. "However . . . in this case, the reason I signed the treaty remains, and is real. We will protect this world in its darkest days, and we will destroy the Shadow at its root.”

Yes it was better that Tuon fight the Shadow because she won’t get another chance. If the Shadow wins (or Rand loses) the world would be destroyed and there won’t be a Seanchan to rule and fight the Shadow from. Luckily Tuon did not ignore the omens.

For someone who claims she is order, it is ironic Fortuona had to be reminded of order and justice by the personification of chaos. Normally it is trickster Mat who looks for loopholes.

There were few omens concerning cattle, and she was relieved when the herd dwindled behind them.

Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

At this stage Tuon wants all the knowledge of the Pattern that she can get. Not the least is wondering when she should return to Ebou Dar to check on what has been happening without her there.

An owl hooted twice, somewhere behind him, and Tuon sighed.
"Is there an omen in that?" he asked, just for something to say.
"I'm glad you are finally taking an interest. Toy. Perhaps I will be able to educate you yet." Her eyes were liquid in the moonlight. "An owl hooting twice means someone will die soon."

Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box

Mat had laid an ambush for the Seanchan forces and a lot of them died. Comparatively few from his group though.

Rotting food was so common here. Karm blamed the heat of this strange land. But travel rations couldn't rot or spoil, at least not this un-predictably. The omens were all bad, these days. Earlier today, she'd [Tylee'd] seen two dead rats lying on their backs, one with a tail in the mouth of the other. It was the worst omen she'd ever seen in her life, and it still chilled her to think of it.

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

This is like a rat king, which is when rats are joined by their tails knotting or fusing together in the nest. It was regarded as an evil omen in earlier times. Tylee thought the two rats the worst omen she’s ever seen, and indeed she suffered heavy casualties, including Mishima, and nearly died herself.

Rats are the Dark One’s spies, and a rat with the tail of another in its mouth might be a reference to the situation of the Seanchan and the mainland forces fighting each other being a plot of the Shadow. After defeating the Shadowspawn, Tylee actually argued in Tuon’s court that the Seanchan were focused on the wrong enemy and should be fighting the Shadow alongside the westlands armies.

Tuon had seen a black dove the hour she was informed of Turan's [the captain of the Seanchan forces in Tarabon] predicament. The omen had been clear. He would not return alive.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

This was fulfilled. At Turan's request, Ituralde executed him.

"This morning when I arose," Tuon said, "I saw a pattern like three towers in the sky and a hawk, high in the air, passing between them."
The various members of the Blood in the room nodded appreciatively. Only Beslan seemed confused.
How did these people live, not knowing the omens? Had they no desire to understand the visions of fate the Pattern was giving them? The hawk and three towers were an omen of difficult choices to come. They indicated that boldness would be needed.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

"This is the Dragon Reborn," Tuon said. "And not just an impostor. I am convinced of it. He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin. And so we must stay. It is not an accident that the Return happened now. We are needed here. More than we are needed, unfortunately, in our homeland."…
"If these marath'damane are connected to the Dragon Reborn, then we have greater reason to strike now, before he can use them against us. Perhaps the raid will enrage him—but it will also weaken him, which will place you in a better position for negotiating with him."
Tuon nodded thoughtfully. Undoubtedly, this was the difficult decision of the omen. But her choice seemed very obvious. Not a difficult decision at all. All of the marath'damane in Tar Valon must be collared, and this was an excellent way to weaken resistance to the Ever Victorious Army with a single, powerful blow.
But the omen spoke of a difficult decision. She gestured to Selucia. "Are there any in the room who disapprove of this plan?" the Voice asked. "Any who would offer objection to what General Yulan and his men have advanced?"…
She sat back, waiting . . . For what? Perhaps this wasn't the decision the omen had referred to. She opened her mouth to give the order to go forward with the raid, but at that moment the opening of the doors made her pause…
"If it pleases the Highest Daughter," Tylee said, voice betraying exhaustion. She nodded to her man, and he opened his sack, dumping things onto the floor. The heads of several animals. A boar, a wolf, and . . . a hawk? Tuon felt a chill. That hawk's head was as large as a person's. Perhaps larger. But they were not . . .right. The heads were horribly deformed. She could swear that the hawk's head, which rolled so that she could see the face clearly, had human eyes.
And . . . the other heads had . . . human features as well. Tuon suppressed a shiver. What foul omen was this?...
"These . . . creatures . . . attacked my company during our return ride, ten leagues from Ebou Dar. We took heavy casualties…”
"A difficult decision is not always a decision where both sides are equally matched, Tuon," Selucia said suddenly. "Perhaps, in this case, a difficult decision is one that is right, but requires an implication of fault as well."…
And yet, meeting with the Dragon Reborn, in person? She did need to contact him, and had planned to. But would it not be better to go to him in strength, his armies defeated, the White Tower torn down? She needed him brought to the Crystal Throne under very controlled circumstances, with the understanding that he was to submit to her authority.
And yet . . . with Seanchan in rebellion . . . with her position here in Altara barely stabilized . . . Well, perhaps some time to think—some time to take a few deep breaths and secure what she already had—would be worth delaying her strike on the White Tower.
"General Galgan, send raken to our forces in Almoth Plain and eastern Altara," she said firmly. "Tell them to hold our interests, but avoid confrontation with the Dragon Reborn. And reply to his request for a meeting. The Daughter of the Nine Moons will meet with him."

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Those creatures, she thought. The Trollocs. What did their appearance foretell? Tylee had destroyed them, and the scouts had found no others. Looking at the intensity of this man, she hesitated. Yes, the Last Battle was close, perhaps as close as he said. That made it all the more important that she unify these lands beneath her banner.
"You must see why this is so important," the Dragon Reborn said. "Why do you fight me?"
"We are the Return," Tuon said. "The omens said it was time for us to come, and we expected to find a united kingdom, ready to praise us and lend us armies for the Last Battle.

The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

Tuon reports many omens to the Blood to explain her decisions. Min is persuading her to do otherwise for her viewings. While her viewings are infallible, Min is aware that her interpretions are not, and also the knowledge they bring can be destructive.

The omen of the Trollocs is that the Last Battle is imminent. It is a simple and literal omen, but the Seanchan don’t believe in Trollocs. Nor do many of the mainland people in the southern nations such as Altara, so they would not be able to enlighten Tuon much.
Trollocs, an unnatural blending animal and human for evil, do bring misfortune themselves in battle as well as signal the end of an epoch or an Age. Tuon’s bold decision was to meet with Rand at a parley as heir to the Seanchan throne rather than as conqueror or Empress – as his equal rather than above him. This is not what she preferred and so it was a difficult decision to make. The Pattern made sure she was never able to meet him as superior.

All armies were needed against Shadow, not just those of the Westlands. That is why the Seanchan and Aiel were brought to the main continent. Tuon is aware that the Seanchan, at least, are needed here rather than in Seanchan. The Seanchan followed omens to the Westlands; the Aiel were sent by the dreamwalkers and were instructed to look for signs (omens) to find Rand, who he led the spears back to the Wetlands.

As he [Rand] sat down, a distant flare of lightning arced between two clouds, though Malai—one of the damane who could tell fortunes of the weather—had insisted that no rain was near. Lightning on a day without rain. Tread very lightly, she thought, reading the omen, and be careful what you speak. Not the most illuminating of omens. If she trod any more carefully, she would have to take flight into the air!

The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

Self-explanatory. Tuon did not express her feelings of revulsion and started talking about Mat as an ice-breaker, and saw Mat, Nynaeve and Rand in a more positive light because of it.

As the raiding party departed for Tar Valon Selucia said:

"Light follow you. Know that Her Majesty, may she live forever, saw a new spring rose drop three petals in the garden today. The omen of your victory has been given.”

The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

Fulfilled. The raid on the Tower was successful.

She [Tuon] had heard an owl above her window the last night, and it had not flown away when she looked out. An omen indicating great care should be taken, that the next days would be ones of important decisions. The proper response was to wear jewelry with powerful symbolism.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Tuon's important decision was to make another attack the White Tower now that their damane can Travel, and collar all the Tower channellers to weaken the Dragon Reobrn and make it easier to overcome him. She also thought that it was a bold decision and so was consistent with the earlier omen of the times requiring boldness.

That line turned sideways along a central axis, opening a hole directly in front of Fortuona's throne. Trees rustled beyond, and Fortuona's breath caught as she saw a hawk with a white head streak away from the portal. An omen of great power.

Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber

Self-explanatory. Travelling is a weave of great power.

"You [Rand] have delivered yourself to me," Tuon said. "It is an omen." She seemed almost regretful. "You did not truly think that I would allow you to stroll away, did you? I must take you in chains as a ruler who resisted me—as I have done to the others I found here. You pay the price of your ancestors' forgetfulness. You should have remembered your oaths."

A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered

What Tuon regrets is that, by Seanchan rules, Rand must be put in chains (which would have been a bad omen, since Rand is one with the Land and so symbolic of the Land too being enslaved by the Seanchan). Rand pointed out how much the Seanchan had forgotten, or, conversely, the unrealistic ideas they had, since he once ruled the whole earth but also left for a time, and so cannot expect to have it just handed back to him. Hint, Tuon.

She interpreted this omen wrongly. Rand did not deliver himself to her, but met with her as an equal and restored health to her garden, just as her treaty with Rand maintains her borders and his, and allows her rule to be stabilized.

She [Tuon] couldn't [kill Mat or do away with him] until she had a child by him, anyway—it would be ignoring the omens to do otherwise.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore The Omens

More properly it was foretold that Tuon would marry only Mat and she needs an heir, therefore Mat should supply it…This is being fulfilled.

Nearby, a burst of wind carried away some dust. It revealed the small skull of a rodent, peeking from the earth. Another omen. Her [Tuon's] life had been cluttered with them lately.
This was an omen of danger, of course. It was as if she strolled through deep grasses, passing between stalking lopar and among holes dug to catch the unwary. The Dragon Reborn had knelt before the Crystal Throne, and the omen of peach blossoms—the most powerful omen she knew—had accompanied him.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore The Omens

The partially hidden skull of a rodent represents hidden perils—such as Moghedien and the Sharans. The peach blossom omen and Rand’s actions prevent Tuon from feeling superior to him. He met her while she was at a particular disadvantage, being vulnerable in the garden against her guards’ wishes instead of in safety and grandeur in the Palace.

Great change. So this was the meaning of the Dragon's omen.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore The Omens

Tuon knows peach blossoms are a powerful omen, but their meaning might vary according to context. As Rand suddenly and dramatically created the peach blossoms, with some unknown power (unknown to the Seanchan) so he brought great change to the Seanchan.

"You married Matrim Cauthon?"
"The omens predicted it," Fortuona said.
"You let yourself draw too close to a ta'veren," Egwene said, "and so the Pattern bound you to him!"
"Foolish superstitions," Fortuona said.

A Memory of Light, Considerations

The omen was Lidya’s Foretelling which Egwene does not know was a Foretelling and explains differently. Not that either woman would be inclined to consider the beliefs of the other valid…

Mat managed to avert the very bad luck of cracking a long fingernail (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides) by chewing it off and dropping it at the feet of an officer with dubious loyalty that he had newly turned to his favour, thereby raising him to the low blood. The Empress is quite impressed.

The marriage of the fox and the raven was important to the outcome of the Last Battle and the wellbeing of the lands into the Fourth Age, therefore both parties had to be made to accept it, whether justified as ta’veren effect, fortune telling, Foretelling, omen or Aelfinn oracle.

"You saw the sign of the white boar," Tuon said.
"I don't know the meaning!"
"The boar is the symbol of one Handoin, one of my rivals in Seanchan," Tuon explained patiently. "The white boar is an omen of danger, perhaps betrayal. This woman works for him, or will in the future."

A Memory of Light, A Yellow Flower Spider

Here we see Tuon’s interpretation of an omen and resulting decision to execute someone. For once Min is the objective one…and objects to someone being executed for a possibility. Tuon believes in omens implicitly and therefore saw this betrayal as a certainty. Tuon accepted Min’s objections and her wish to keep her viewings and interpretations private. She was reassured Min stood up to her and that Min was not likely to claim false omens for her own ends.

Fortuona thought she was the only one who saw the twin lines of smoke rising exactly behind him from the Heights. An appropriate omen for Knotai: a large gamble would yield large rewards. Or a great cost.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

Definitely correct—Mat gambled that he would lose while waiting for the right moment to turn the battle around:

But blood and bloody ashes, he's [Demandred's] strong. Without a gamble, we're dead. Finished. Buried."
She grew silent.
Here's the thing about cards," Mat said, holding up a finger. "Cards aren’t like dice. In dice, you want to win as many throws as possible. Lots of throws, lots of wins. It's random, see? But not cards. In cards, you need to make the other fellows start betting. Betting well. You do that by letting them win a little. Or a lot.
That's not so hard here, since we're outnumbered and overwhelmed. The only way to win is to bet everything on the right hand. In cards, you can lose ninety-nine times but come out ahead if you win that right hand. So long as the enemy starts gambling recklessly. So long as you can ride the losses."
"And that's what you're doing?" Elayne asked. "You're faking that were losing?"
"Bloody ashes, no," Mat said. "I can't fake that. He'd see through it. I am losing, but I'm also watching. Holding back for that last bet, the one that could win it all."

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

It worked, but there was a huge cost in lives. Mat the gambler is as willing to play the odds as Demandred.

To do that, of course, would be to ignore the breaking sky, the trembling land, and the Dragon Reborn's fight. These were not omens she [Tuon] could let pass her by.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

If Tuon lives her life by omens, then she should definitely not be ignoring the most important ones of all: the wrongness of the Dark One’s touch and the battles of Rand’s forces against the Shadow’s armies and Rand at Shayol Ghul (if Tuon has received evidence of this last).

I'm almost certain that she's fond of me. Maybe. She's a hard one to read, Tuon is."
"You do not call her by that name," Karede said.
"I'll call her what I bloody well want."
"Not if we're to come with you," Karede said. "If I am to ride with you, Prince of the Ravens, I would not have my men hearing such from your lips. It would be a bad omen."
"Well, we wouldn't want any of those," Mat said. "Right, then, Karede. Let's dive back into this mess and see what we can do. In Fortuona's name."

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

Even Mat can’t always do what he likes where luck is concerned, but he respects the demands of luck.

Mat was symbolically demoting or lowering the status of the Empress by refusing to give her correct name. This is both low status and going against proper order, and therefore likely to attract very bad events. Karede forcefully corrected Mat—especially considering the difference in their ranks—but he was looking after both Mat and Fortuona by doing so, protecting them and the Empire from a bad fate.

Min

The discovery of Min herself is regarded by Tuon as a very favourable omen (and she is the woman of the Dragon Reborn, who met Tuon under the strongest possible omen):

Fortuona ignored her, standing. "This woman is my new Soe'feia. Doomseer, Truthspeaker! Holy woman, she who may not be touched. We have been blessed. Let it be known. The Crystal Throne has not had a true reader of the omens for over three centuries!"

A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire

Min is at the apex of the Seanchan omen system, both in the quantity and validity of what she sees (see Min's Viewings article), and is sacred for it.

"Let us see how the Pattern treats you, Empress, if you torture the bearer of omens."
Instead, Tuon smiled. "You take to this well. Explain to me what you desire, bringer of omens."

A Memory of Light, A Yellow Flower Spider

If Min is sacred, she cannot be blamed for seeing bad omens (as happened in the Two Rivers) and she survives to continue to read the Pattern. The idea is to avoid Min’s ability being lost or damaged.

Min sees herself as a bearer of tidings, a reporter of the Pattern, but also the bearer of the burden of foreknowledge, whereas Tuon sees her as bringing omens, almost as if she created or attracted them. Min is regarded as having some oneness with the Pattern and so to hurt her is to arouse the wrath of the Pattern, or at the least attract bad omens.

Symbols and omens spun around his head, like those above Galgan's—and, indeed, Beslan's.

Light, Min thought. Am I really starting to think of "omens" like Fortuona? I need to leave these people. They're mad.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

Like most Westlanders, Min doesn’t believe in the Seanchan system of divination but can see that they see her as an important part of it.

Written by Linda in 2013 and updated July 2017

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