Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And Then They Came for the Astrologers...

With summer here I've been busier than usual and haven't been blogging as much. This story is from two weeks ago but still interesting enough to comment upon.

Things are currently going well for the government of Sri Lanka after its victory over the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group that has spent the last forty years fighting for an independent homeland for members of the Tamil ethnic minority. But according to Chandrasiri Bandara, an astrologer working for a pro-opposition newspaper, a planetary aspect beginning on October 8th of this year will create difficulties for the ruling regime. The Sri Lankan government responded to this prediction by arresting Bandara.

Chandrasiri Bandara, who writes an astrology column for a pro-opposition weekly, was taken in on Thursday, police spokesman Ranjith Gunasekara said.

"The CID (Criminal Investigations Department) is questioning the astrologer," Gunasekara said Friday, adding that they wanted to find out the "basis" for the prediction.

Well, let's take a look. While I'm guessing that Sri Lankan astrologers use the Vedic rather than the Western system so you need to adjust by about 22 degrees to determine the signs that planets fall into, all the aspects between planets are figured the same way as in the Western system. The main thing I see on the chart is that on October 8th Saturn goes into conjunction with Mercury in - I believe - Virgo according to the Vedic system.

The astrologer had predicted that a planetary change on October 8 will be inauspicious for parliament and the government may not be able to arrest rising living costs -- a prediction already made by private economists.

Since Mercury represents commerce and Saturn is the major malefic, this could be what Bandara was referring to in the prediction. Virgo is the sign most closely related to "reaping the harvest" and as a result it doesn't seem completely off the wall to suppose that such a conjuction could be inauspicious for macroeconomic policies. Mercury is a fast-moving planet, though, so the conjuction won't last for very long and an alternate interpretation might be some sort of short-term economic problem that will be overcome in the space of a couple of weeks.

The opposition United National Party condemned Bandara's arrest and accused the government of heading towards a dictatorship.

"The crime which Chandrasiri Bandara committed was publishing an astrological column which was adverse to the government," UNP general secretary, Tissa Attanayake, said.

Sri Lankan politicians take astrology seriously and most have their own personal seers who decide the auspicious times to launch any new programme or work.

Indeed, it's a bad sign when they come for the astrologers.

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