by Ma Thanegi
Most Myanmar people believe so much in the importance of predictions that they will check the auspicious days and inauspicious days of each month before he goes on a journey or hold a ceremony. These two days you can easily check on the calendar. Bit when there are more important occasions, he will consult an astrologer to find out not only the date but the exact hour of good fortune. This is the reason that many weddings are held at the same time, and if you are invited to two or more, you rush from one to the other.
Astrologers are not the only predictors of good or bad luck, for knowing something about the future is indeed very useful. Apart from them, there are learned men who scrutinize every line on your palms. There are people who close their eyes and gather the predictions out of thin air: they are the psychics. Others have their partner Spirits whistling at them, and the messages can only be predicted by them. Then, some fortune-tellers shake out little cowry shells and read the future in how they fell. Some use cards.
And there are even wise little sparrows who are carried about in pretty wooden cages. After being told which day you are born on, such as a Sunday or a Monday, the sparrow will hop out to take a card of from a number of them spread before him. He does not take up just what is under his beak, he will hop to one end or the other if need be to flick up the card predicting your future. It is up to its handler to read out the contents, however, but you will see that the day matches your birthday. The sparrow is rewarded with a few grains of aniseed, and you can see its smug expression of a Wise Bird getting its job done.
Of course, if you always follow the advice of the astrologer, you find yourself restricted in doing a lot of things. And what if there is an unfortunate event looming up on the horizon of Time? Don’t worry, there is always something you can do to change the fates. But let me hasten to tell you, a really big Happening which is due to something you did in your past life cannot be changed: this is punishment you must suffer. But for most irritable inconveniences or loss or hurt, there is a way out. It is called Ya Da Yar Chay.
These are rituals or ceremonies or something very simple to do or to keep on your person, that will protect you from the bad fortune. The fortune-teller knows what to do: he will ask you to present a Homage Offering (Kadaw Pwe) which is a green coconut with stem intact, surrounded by three hands of green bananas. Or he will tell you to place a certain number of a certain flower, or leaves, at a particular corner of the pagoda.
Now, on all pagodas, there are pillars at eight compass points. Each of them belong to a day in the week. There are eight, because Wednesday is technically two signs: one between midnight and noon, and the other from noon to midnight before Thursday.
Each sign has a different animal symbol.
The Sunday is the Garuda bird, a sort of a magical eagle which can change to human form.
Those born on Sundays are learned, introvert, dignified. They are good workers.
The Monday is the Tiger. Those born on Mondays are brilliant in business, extrovert, happy personalities, but with a fierce temper.
The Tuesday is the Lion. They are aloof, quiet, intelligent, proud. They are good scholars.
The Wednesday morning is the elephant with tusks. They are sincere, good hearted, optimistic, talented.
The Wednesday afternoon is called Yahu. It is the sign of the elephant without tusk. They are diligent and wise, but can be moody.
The Thursday is the sign of the mouse. They are introvert, intelligent, shy, and very very nice.
The Friday is the sign of the hamster. They are bright and witty, they talk too much.
The Saturday is the sign of the dragon which can also change into human form. Saturday borns are brilliant, ambitious, hard, successful. They have a fierce temper but they can control it.
Among these symbols, there are allies and enemies. A Garuda (Sunday) is enemy of the Dragon. (Saturday.) It means an unhappy time if a Garuda marries a Dragon. A Dragon makes a good union with an Elephant, though, and they together will gain riches.
But the Tiger should not marry an Elephant.
Now, to go back to the Ya Da Yar Chay of turning around the Fates. What if a fortune teller tells your wife that you are going to marry another woman?? Alarm and consternation! Horror! Anger! Quarrels!
Your wife screams at you and try to make you admit that you are seeing someone else. After a week of interrogation, you are about ready to confess to anything you have never done in your life, just to get some peace. By now you are so exhausted that you don’t even want to stay in your first marriage, let alone get into another. When you have been spiritually beaten to a pulp at this stage, your wife will tell you what the fortune-teller had told her to do as a Ya Da Yar Chay to remove the threat of your second marriage. If she had told you before the torture session, you would have walked out.
The solution, suggested by the fortune-teller, is that you go through a mock wedding ceremony. But with whom? Using another woman is dangerous, for she might demand later that she WAS truly married to you. So a replacement must be found.
Since a woman has two legs, a living creature with two legs must be used. That gives you the choice of either a duck or a chicken. Or even a goose or a peacock, if you want someone from a higher social level.
The fortune-teller himself may perform the ceremony, saying a few words to bind the marriage. For seven nights your wife will sleep elsewhere while the chicken, or duck, or goose, stays in your room. It need not stay on the bed, for which you are thankful because you do not like chicken poop on your pillow.
After a week, the chicken is let loose, and your wife moves back. The fowl ‘wife’ can be released or cooked, by personal preference. So now, technically, you have had a second marriage already. You hope your friends never find out, and the whole act scares you enough to stop you looking at pretty girls for the next five years.
© Ma Thanegi