Researchers say global mortality rates could be cut by half or more if individuals heeded these common warning signs.

GENEVA—Explaining that simply identifying the phenomena can significantly reduce the risk of early mortality, the World Health Organization released a study Wednesday revealing that the vast majority of deaths worldwide are caused by a failure to heed omens.

Researchers, who analyzed worldwide mortality data from 1980 to 2014, reportedly discovered that disregarding ominous signs, portentous dreams, and other harbingers of darkness accounted for over 38 million deaths each year. According to the study, failing to take notice of prophetic signs of one’s end was the largest contributing factor to fatalities in every geographic region and socioeconomic demographic.

Advertisement

“We’ve found that as many as 95 percent of people who’ve witnessed dark portents could have survived if they had taken the simple step of paying attention to the forewarnings of their impending doom and acted accordingly,” said WHO coordinator for public health Dr. Alex Kazberouk while presenting images of spilled salt, a white moth attempting to enter a home, six crows, and other commonly dismissed omens. “Prompt recognition of a presage is crucial. Individuals can greatly increase their life expectancy by responding with prayers and sacrifices or exposing the source of the omen to strip away its power.”

“Unfortunately, regardless of age, sex, or race, those who clearly see signs of their looming demise often neglect to take basic precautions, such as wearing a necklace of amber or carrying an acorn,” Kazberouk added.

“If we’ve learned anything from our analysis of global mortality statistics, it’s that as soon as a wizened old hag visits your doorstep in the dead of night, you need to immediately kill and bury a bird, then recite a hymn over a goblet filled with polished pebbles.”

Advertisement

An analysis of health records revealed that of the 2.5 million individuals who died in the United States last year, a full 50 percent reportedly saw a woman in white, a raven with a broken neck in the middle of a footpath, or other augury at some point in their lives. In addition, roughly a quarter of the deceased had reportedly dreamed about multiple moons, drowning in mud, or a thorny tree sprouting from their heart, yet took no preventative action upon waking.

WHO officials told reporters that properly identifying a portent of death and immediately visiting a local shaman dramatically reduced the impact of omens, especially if individuals combined the practice with regularly ringing a bell to ward off evil spirits.

The study also confirmed that even after experiencing an unmistakable and foreboding premonition, such as an owl appearing in the daylight, nine out of every 10 people failed to carry out even the most routine measures to subdue the unhallowed forces surrounding them by burning a tin of sage and sweetgrass in the center of a room in which they eat and drink.

Advertisement

“If we’ve learned anything from our analysis of global mortality statistics, it’s that as soon as a wizened old hag visits your doorstep in the dead of night, you need to immediately kill and bury a bird, then recite a hymn over a goblet filled with polished pebbles,” National Institute of Health director Francis Collins told reporters, adding that younger men in particular shouldn’t take their safety for granted if the crone suddenly disappears into the fog of night. “In the morning, go back and sprinkle smoldering ashes on the bird’s gravesite, then stomp three times with bare feet to vanquish fire with flesh.”

“Everyone sees the omens, but how you react will make all the difference,” Collins added. “You can live a long, healthy life in the presence of these omens if you just take the necessary steps and incant the names of the four directions every day.”

Researchers were careful to note that as with all studies on mortality, there are notable exceptions to the rules, such as the rare case of a 104-year-old Japanese woman who has dreamed of her skin peeling away every year since 1950, yet has refused to rub a brown egg on her body. The health experts warned that in the vast majority of cases, however, individuals who fail to heed the dire signs of ruination are essentially writing their own death sentences.

Advertisement

“Above all, people need to know that early detection is the key to preventing omen-foretold deaths,” said researcher John Oakey of Washington University at St. Louis, noting that teenagers should begin purifying their bodies upon the first sign of hearing horse hooves where no such beast exists. “In the meantime, the best we can do is continue to fund research, educate the public, and remind people to seek help as soon as they see a phantom dog with fire-red eyes.”