Any haruspex in the house?

Coincidences do happen. This may sound like a truism, but it’s always a good thing to keep it in mind. In the past, too, there seems to have been a similar notion, for if someone reported a uncommon phenomenon, it was up to the Senate to analyse the information and determine if it was neglectable or a sign from the Gods. A prodigy was only a prodigy if the senators declared it as such and only then would the Romans set about the task of discerning divine will and act accordingly. It’s a bit like asking someone wiser or older (an elder or senex) about something strange in order to determine if you should be worried or forget about it. Nowadays, in the absence of the religious and formal institutions of ancient Rome, cultores are on their own and must either teach themselves what’s left of the old traditions or resort to each other with a healthy doses of scepticism (or both).

It is well known that Europe is at a dangerous juncture, not just financially but also politically. Like in the 1930s, economic woes may spell political downfall and Greece may be the first victim: expect a military coup if a stable government doesn’t come out of the next (and second-try) elections and the country leaves the Euro. It may stop there or it may go on and take (part of) the European Union with it. It is also known that the EU has its earliest origins in the Coal and Steel Community, which was founded in 1951 as a Franco-German agreement aimed at sharing vital resources, preventing a new war between the two countries, and make way for a united Europe. The leading role of France and Germany in the current crisis is not accidental and derives directly from the first steps of the European Union. So, given the context, how should one interpret this?

Harmless coincidence? Well, lightning is fairly common around the world, with around 40 cases every second. Planes have been struck before and no doubt that will keep on happening, as it’s a natural consequence of flying through rough weather and it’s no more of a divine sign than a beach house being hit by a wave. It’s there and sometimes the probability comes true for no special reason. And yet, what makes this case particular is when and what the lightning struck: a plane carrying the newly elected President of France for an official visit to Germany at a time when Europe may hang by little more than a thread; and it happened on the Ides of May, i.e., the monthly day dedicated to Jupiter. That’s more than you can say about the average lightening strike, so what is it: a prodigy or a neglectable coincidence? Any haruspex or fulgurator out there?

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