The Localist

Please tell me about my future and me

I remember waiting anxiously for the release of my matriculation results in Myanmar (Burma). It was thrilling to anticipate, and I was not the only one contemplating a fate that seemingly depended on these results.

I would have liked to say curiosity got the better of my mom, but as with many other decisions and dilemmas in life, she went and saw a fortune teller to try and find out my results before anyone else did. Truth be told, I believed in fortune telling at the time and was quite happy to learn that the fortune teller predicted I’d get 5 distinctions out of 6 subjects (passing with a distinction in matriculation is quite the big deal in the Burmese education system).

The morning the results came out, I did get 5 distinctions.

I don’t remember my first experience with astrology, but for as long as I remember, our house has always been filled with palm reading, mole reading, old astrology and numerology books claiming to have the answers for all of life’s questions. We have a 100 year old Burmese calendar to look back to with our Gregorian calendar birth dates to find out the date in the Burmese calendar (a lunisolar calendar in which the months are based on lunar months and years are based on solar years). You often need to know your date of birth according to the Burmese calendar to calculate your numerological predictions.

Fortune telling in Myanmar is taken seriously. There are always sections dedicated to horoscopes and other astrological and numerological predictions in magazines and journals. The day you are born is particularly significant, and the majority of Burmese are actually named according to their birth date. There are letters and signs representing the days of the week. For example, “tha” and “ha” Burmese letters represent Friday. Being the Friday baby that I am, my name starts with “ha”; hence, it’s haymon. The day you are born plays a major role in telling your fate, match making and business dealing, even buying a car and building a house. People often consult with astrologers or Buddhist monks who then make a calculation, with reference to your birth date, to tell you what you can do and what you should avoid.

There are also certain characteristics or personality traits associated with a person’s date of birth, and these are usually very vague and widely known. For example, people born on Friday are known to be talkative and to have bubbly personalities. Though these generalisations are not taken as seriously as the predictions given by fortune tellers, they are generally accepted and embedded in Burmese culture.

So you might wonder, what sort of things does a fortune teller tell you?

For that, you should know that there are different kinds of fortune-tellings. There are ones based on astrology and numerology. There is palm reading. Tarot card reading and psychic readings are also quite popular if you have specific questions. By popular, I mean, you actually need to book in and make an appointment for famous fortunetellers.

And, of course, there are great ones and not so great ones. Some fortune tellers and monks can tell you things about your past that are so accurate it will shock you to your core. I’ve had the experience of a psychic telling me about an idea that only me and my soul only knows. I hadn’t even verbalised the thought. Not so great ones, however ,will tell you vague things and try to get some money out of you. It’s such a widespread practise that it’s not uncommon to see this.

So what sort of things do they say? Some give you specific dates when things will happen in your future. Some assure you of where your problems are at, when you are likely to get married, and whether this is good for you, what kinds of business or professions are good for you and how often you should wear the colour red.

Growing up and learning a thing or two about psychology and how easily people can be convinced into thinking that they have a great future, I’m now quite wary of fortune telling. Readers who have been brought up differently might find this way of thinking and living quite strange – as if our lives are predetermined by our birth dates rather than our own doings.

But I must say that fortune telling can be frighteningly accurate in some cases. Every fortune teller I have been to always told me from the start (after just a few scratches of calculations based on my birth date) that I would go and study abroad and that would be the best option for me. And here I am, in Sydney, having just finished my bachelor degree. Whether it is the best option for me or not is debatable. But you know what? I’ll never know.






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