Memoirs of My America – The Art of Oomancy

oomancyIf you were to walk into my childhood home on New Year’s Day, you’d find a dining room table covered in tall, clear glasses that had been filled to the rim with tap water and that held a globulous raw egg at the bottom.  The water would grow bubbly as the day went on and there would be strings of congealed egg white floating upwards to the top. I remember thinking how much those gelatinous peaks of egg white looked like the sea monkey habitat ads from the back of my brother’s comic books.

A Colombian custom for the New Year is to have your fortune told by raw eggs in water. My grandmother, who lived with us, had been her small Colombian town’s esteemed medicine woman. A bruja buena, good witch. She was in charge of making the town’s monthly coca water (just what you think it is) as well as possessing the knowledge of reading fortunes; in this case, via egg whites. This is fancily known as the art of oomancy; egg divination through swirly patterns.  

Early in the day on January 31, my family would fill up eight ounce glasses with water. We’d take a still in the shell raw egg, rub it over our body and crack the egg into our glass. We’d let this egg in water ensemble sit through the New Year up until midnight. As soon as the clock’s hands were both on the twelve, our abuela would begin reading our fortunes in the egg white swirls that had formed.

Your swirls could tell you what your future husband would like. They could show you if someone had put the evil eye on you. They could reveal who was the next  possessor of the oomancy powers. If there was to be a long trip in your future, the peaks of the egg white would make sure you were the first to know.

Well, something this awesome can’t be kept secret for long by a bunch of little kids. One year, my five siblings and I went to school and proudly bragged on our abuela and the egg divining powers that she’d be doing this coming New Year’s Eve.   

That New Year’s Eve, people came to our house. They came to our house dressed like Mad Magazine’s Spy vs Spy, incognito in black coats, black head scarves, and black movie star sunglasses; sneakily knocking at the back door, whispering if now was a good time for an egg reading.

None who came seeking were turned away. 

They all cheerfully and hungrily took in what their egg peaks revealed.

By the smiles and cheeriness in their voices, my brothers and sisters and I knew that our visitors did not know the whole to do that went down with your special egg divination.

Your egg session didn’t simply end with an individualized reading of your egg white swirls.

No Sir.

After your egg white fortune telling was complete, my grandmother would hand you back your glass with the raw egg congealed and wobbling at the bottom, and say “salud!” She’d motion for you to clink your glass with hers, and then 1-2-3 you were expected to tilt your head back and let that good fortune slide right down the back of your throat.

We could watch 15 pained gringo egg slammings in a row and never did it get old. 

Years later, my brothers and I went to see Rocky when it first came out. I can remember the three of us gasping out loud as we watched Sylvester Stallone take an egg and in the exact same one handed manner as my grandmother, crack it on the edge of his water glass and drop the yolk in. At the same time, we all said, “Rocky’s Colombian? Who knew.”

 

AlexandraAlexandra

Alexandra is an overanalyzing, oversensitive mother of three boys who somehow found herself named as BlogHer ’11′s Voice of The Year for Humor. She has been a mother since 1994, which means she hasn’t been right about anything since. She blogs of the sweet and the funny while trying to go unnoticed in her small town. You can find her at Good Day, Regular People. Did we mention socially awkward? We should, which is why the internet was made for her.

Comments

  1. tracifoust says:

    Ah.. this is beautiful! Gross, but beautiful

    • Thank you…I’ve heard it said before: there is beauty in the ugly.

      A lot of memories can be like that. Thanks for your comment, and I’m really glad you liked it.

  2. Fascinating! And how lucky you were to have such talent in your family!

    • Oh, I know you appreciate the out of the ordinary like this. Imagine my surprise, when years later, as an adult , I looked up egg reading and pop pop info comes up with the name of Oomancy.

      Holy WOW.

      WHo knew…

      So nice to see you, and thank you for stopping by. Truly.

  3. Your abuela is too cool for school, honestly.

    Loved this post, Alexandra!

    • She was.

      And I am ashamed to say that I never realized how cool she was.

      I always loved her to the moon and back..but cool? She was too off the boat for me back then.

      How sad, no?

  4. I LOVE IT!! I want to to be an egg-slamming gringo, too! If only there was a crazy 8 ball device that could help with the fortune telling part! How fun this would be with my kids, who think that all food is gross anyway (with the exception of chicken nuggest and french fries).

    Happy New Year!

  5. Oh thats just awesome!

  6. haha i would love to see the look on their faces when she said salud….smiles…nice rocky connection too…fun story empress…

  7. I loved Rocky, so he must have been Colombian. Great story Empress. Although I turned a little green on the kicking back congealed raw egg mixture…
    Dana

    • Oh, Dana, how I wish we knew each other when we were teens.

      Really, at the scene when Rocky deftly picked up that egg and dropped it in the tap water.
      wohoa. Worlds. Collide.

  8. Wow, and I thought drinking a shot of Greek coffee to get my fortune told was too much? I don’t think I could have manages the raw egg. Unless your abuela had predicted fame and riches in my future…

  9. Wow, I’m totally fascinated by this. And also, I wish to find someone to read me my egg fortune. I’d even take one down the hatch to know what the year ahead looks like.

    Hope you had a very happy new year, Empress! XOXO

    • It’s a true art.

      I just thought it was another weird thing my unconventional family did…but now that I’m older, I’ve looked up and verified a few things and LORDY if this was only done by those able to do it.

      My family. So odd, so strange, just so interesting…

      HAVE A WONDERFUL 2012, beautiful lady.

  10. So I have to ask,do you remember any readings that rang true? Is your husband the good egg predicted? I just love this story!

  11. Fascinating and funny! Great post.

  12. Your stories from childhood never fail to educate and amaze me. And having to actually throw my head back and have a good laugh looks like it’s going to count for exercise for today. Did someone in your family inherit your grandmother’s gift?

  13. Everytime I read something you write, I get a little happier with life.

    You make it all wonderful – did your abuela see that in your egg water?

  14. I’m with Dina, my fortune would have to be pretty darn good to follow through with the egg shot! I do love your childhood stories.

  15. How have I managed to live 47 years without having ever heard of this custom? I didn’t grow up on Walton’s Mountain, but in the multicultural mishmash of Queens, NY. Clearly, I have no choice but to keep on reading and educating myself. Thanks, Empress. And I think I’m more ooged out by drinking the day old egg water than the actual egg.

  16. Your abuela kicked ass!!! I’d love to meet her.

    I guess there’s a price for everything, right? And those people thought they could get their fortunes told without ‘paying,’ huh? Hahahaha. I could imagine the surprised faces and all the gagging that followed!

    And I agree with Kablooey. Drinking the egg water would be the hair-raising part for me. Yikes!

    • Should I tell you Part II, Sweaty?

      After there were whisperings of my family being “gypsies” at school, my brothers and I were able to sell our cootie catchers for 4 times what the other kids got for theirs.

      On account a, you know, being gypsies and stuff.

      xo

  17. A very interesting tradition – and you are an amazing story teller/writer! I LOVE that you thought Rocky was Columbian! Happy New Year, my friend! If possible, I’d like my fortune told with wine and a chocolate egg!

  18. I never stop enjoying learning about different cultures and their traditions. One (superstition) for us (black people; all the black peoples of the world. I speak for us all!) on New Year’s day is to eat black eyed peas (I’ve never done it as I hate the LOOK of them, like eating eyes, but they’re supposed to bring luck/prosperity. Dates to the Civil War I think? Something about the crops being overlooked and the peas winding up being the most neglected but also the most bountiful. See? Lucky). Also, the first man in the house on the new year will be with you all year, so if you want that baby daddy to stick around…

  19. I can’t tell you how much I love that all her fortunes were positive; that everyone left happy.
    Such optimism is heartening. And lovely. And generous.

    But I can tell you that I thought you wrote about cootCHIE catchers when I was reading through the comments and replies.

    I had to read it three times before I realized you said cooTie.

    Because a cootchie’s a whole other egg, no?

    XO

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