Thailand: Part Two
This article is the second part of a description of my visit to Thailand. The initial part appeared in the Sagittarius 1984 issue of The Mutable Dilemma. At the Sai Baba ashram in India, my son Bill and I had met an engineer who traveled often in the orient, doing consulting for the U.N. Dr. Albertson recommended our hotel and gave me the name of a local woman, Emorn, who was interested in astrology. We were very pleased with the hotel, the Opera; about $15 U.S. funds for twin beds, shower and tub, air conditioner, and even a swimming pool which felt wonderful after a hot and humid day wandering the city.
The local contact also was a wonderful addition to our visit. We saw Emorn several times, at our hotel and at her toy shop, went to dinner together a couple of times, and she arranged a meeting with one of Bangkok’s most famous astrologers. As it turned out, the meeting was unproductive. The astrologer knew no English. Emorn tried to interpret, but we made little headway, and his only interest proved to be getting some money for doing my chart whereas I was hoping for an exchange of information about our respective systems of astrology. Though I could not understand his verbal language, his body language, tone of voice, etc. showed clearly that he felt he already had all the information he needed.
So Emorn took us back home and tried to explain the Thai system to me. I was able to grasp most of it since I already knew the basics of Hindu astrology and the Thai system, at least as far as Emorn knows, is founded on the Indian system.
Thai horoscopes (sample included) are drawn with two horizontal and two vertical lines defining the cardinal houses. Diagonal lines bisect the corner spaces, to form the succedent and cadent houses. The Indian style diagram most commonly used in Raman’s magazine produces an oblong box with four divisions on all sides (wider than they are high) around an open center. In both Indian and Thai charts, the signs and the houses are synonymous; the houses do not cut the signs with parts of a sign in two houses.
Both Thai and Indian charts agree in placing Aries at the top, but then they are strikingly different, with the Hindu charts continuing with later signs in a clockwise direction from Aries, while the Thai charts, like the western world, continue the signs counter- clockwise. The Thai house-sign of Aries is actually in the square house at the center and top of the diagram. The Indian house-sign of Aries is the left one of the two center top oblong houses in the diagram.
Both India and Thailand use a sidereal zodiac, but I was not able to determine which one is most common in Thailand. The two most common in India are B.V. Raman’s and one favored by a man named Lahiri, but several more are also in use by different astrologers. The sidereal zodiac developed in the west by Fagan and Firebrace seems to have few converts in the Orient. The ayanamsa (difference between the tropical zodiac and whichever sidereal zodiac is chosen) can vary by several degrees, so planets can be in totally different sign-houses in the different systems.
In the Indian systems with which I am familiar, whatever sign is rising (the Ascendant is called “Lagna”) becomes the first house and the other sign-houses follow in order. Even if the Ascendant degree is at the end of the sign, that sign (or perhaps we should say constellation since they are theoretically using constellations or groups of stars rather than signs) is still the first house, the next sign is the second house, etc. If two astrologers are using different sidereal zodiacs and therefore get different rising signs for the individual, all the signs will be in different houses in the two charts. If you don’t like the interpretation with one, you can change the whole picture by changing zodiacs.
For readers who are not familiar with the sidereal zodiacs, they are supposedly based on the groups of stars called constellations which have the same names as the signs of the tropical zodiac. Since the constellations vary in length, and some overlap in longitude measured along the ecliptic, and some are separated by several degrees, there is no obvious way to produce equal- length segments and no obvious place to begin the division of space into twelve segments. The Fagan-Firebrace zodiac is based on considerable experimentation by many western astrologers. The different Indian sidereal zodiacs are based on personal experience by their different proponents. All divide the sky into 12 segments of 30 degrees each, but all start the first “constellation” in a slightly different place in the sky.
The actual constellations range in size from a width of under 20 degrees for Gemini, Cancer and Libra to over 45 degrees for Virgo, with Pisces nearly as long. The Gemini 1984 issue of our journal discussed the possible value of the actual placement of the constellations as a key to history through the astrological ages. Though modern astrologers have made some changes in classifying and naming constellations, most of the ones lying along the ecliptic which are used in the various zodiacs are defined pretty much as Ptolemy did nearly 2,000 years ago.
The tropical or seasonal zodiac used by most western astrologers defines zero Aries as the intersection of the ecliptic (earth’s path around the sun) and the equator (belt around the center of earth) where the sun is visible when it is spring in the northern hemisphere. There is also an intersection of ecliptic and equator where the sun is visible in the fall. Each intersection is called an equinox, referring to the fact that on those days the length of day and night are equal. Days are longer in the summer and shorter in the winter. The southern hemisphere’s seasons are the reverse of ours, so they have summer while we have winter.
My own experience, especially in working with psychologists and their clients, has convinced me that the tropical or seasonal zodiac which remains coordinated with our earth seasons and which has a clearly defined starting point, is the most accurate one for psychological understanding of individuals. But a moderate number of western astrologers have converted to one of the sidereal zodiacs, and the great majority of eastern astrologers still use them. Only massive research will finally determine which if any of our systems is most reliable.
When Emorn did a quick chart for me to demonstrate the Thai system, she put the planets in the sidereal sign-houses and then put in something she called “your place”. (If I were doing it, the proper phrase would be “my place”.) I asked if that was the Ascendant or rising sign, but Emorn did not recognize those words, and just continued to call it “your place.” Since it was in Libra and I have Taurus rising, even with the sidereal zodiacs, I was not sure what to do with the factor until I clarified that she was calculating it for Bangkok which is about halfway round the world from my birthplace, so it was an attempt to get an Ascendant. The Thai word for it began with “L”, so I later decided it was as near as the Thai language came to “lagna”, the Hindu word for Ascendant.
The houses in the Thai chart following the house of “my place” were described in terms similar to the houses numbered from the Ascendant; the next house (going counter-clockwise) was the house of money, then friends, relatives, son, foe, husband, death, property, work, luck, and destroy. We can recognize traditional astrology with a few variations, property replacing the search for truth and God. Property is an ultimate value in many areas, and many western astrologers still associate Jupiter with wealth. Thai astrology clearly takes a dim view of the sixth and twelfth houses, associating them with enemies and destruction.
Since Aries is always the center top house in the chart, the meaning of each of the houses will vary in different charts. In other words, the signs stay in the same box but the meanings of the boxes shift. Aries, in its top position, can be associated with any of the twelve house meanings. Most U.S. charts use preprinted forms with equally sized houses, with the Ascendant represented by a horizontal line to the left, the first house always just below it, the houses maintaining the same meaning while the signs shift according to the birth time. The most common chart style in Europe (provided equal houses are not being used) draws in houses of varying sizes but keeps the Ascendant as near as possible to the left side of the circle. An increasing number of U.S. astrologers may also be using the personally drawn house lines as the techniques of Cosmobiology and Uranian astrology are adopted. Aspects are more graphically visible in such charts since the actual angle of the aspect is shown in the chart with planets and house cusps placed at the proper degree in a 360 degree circle.
One minor item in the Thai charts, at least as learned by Emorn, is a system of numbering the planets in place of using their symbols. The Sun is one, Moon is two, Mars is three, Mercury is four, Jupiter is five, Venus is six, Saturn is seven, north node of the Moon is eight, and south node is nine. I had a struggle with the last two since Emorn never heard of nodes and described numbers eight and nine as “the shadow of the earth.” When I asked if they were the dragon’s head and tail and mentioned the Indian names Rahu and Ketu, that got recognition and agreement. But the Thai astrologers apparently do not know the astronomical source of the nodes, or perhaps do not bother to explain them in beginning classes.
Emorn’s teachers did add Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (as is done by some but not all Indian astrologers), using zero for Uranus and the symbols for the other two planets, apparently not wanting to go to two digit numbers when placing them in the chart.
The element associations of the sign-houses were identical with ours; fire for Aries, earth for Taurus, air (translated as “wind” by Emorn) for Gemini, water for Cancer, etc. But I ran into total contradiction when it came to elements and planets. They associate Sun and Saturn with fire; Moon and Jupiter with earth; Mars and north node with air; Venus and Mercury with water. The south node and the outer planets lacked associations. I didn’t find out if they totally lacked any concept of rulership or whether they just lack consistency. The Hindus certainly use rulerships, but like all siderealists, they can get into trouble when they talk about the ruler of one house being in another house. That technique which is so useful with the tropical zodiac tends to be dropped by siderealists since more often than not, they have changed the sign in the house and consequently changed the ruler.
I was not able to determine which sidereal zodiac was used by Emorn, since a comparison of my planets with the degrees derived from her ephemeris had a variation in ayanamsa from 18 degrees and 8 minutes on the Moon to 23 degrees and 19 minutes for Pluto. However, it is probable that the calculations being done in haste, there might have been an error on the Moon, and Pluto’s position may well have been off a bit in their ephemeris. (Of course, their Moon may also be questionable). The rest of the factors were 22 degrees and some minutes (ranging from 6 minutes to 47 minutes) variance from the tropical zodiac positions, so we can assume a Thai sidereal zodiac with an Ayanamsa of around 22 plus degrees in 1921. The Hindu zodiacs with which I am familiar range from around 21 to 26 degrees for my year. The Fagan-Firebrace ayanamsa is about 23 degrees and 41 minutes variance from the tropical zodiac for my birth date.
The Thai method of calculating the Ascendant was totally unfamiliar to me, and may prove to be even more imprecise than the minutes of the planets. They equate each sign-house with two hours of time (so far so good). They put the Sun at 6 A.M. (an average time for sunrise) and call its house 5 to 7, the next house 7 to 9, the next 9 to 11, etc. They count from the 6 A.M. time to the birth time, keeping two hours for each sign-house, move ahead in the zodiac from the Sun sign (constellation) the right number of sign-houses to determine the one for “your place”; i.e. Ascendant. Sometimes it works, and you get the right sign for the Ascendant. But if your Sun is late in a sign and the Ascendant is early, or vice versa, you can end up with the Ascendant in the sign before or after the one that would be derived by calculation. Since every sign is in a different house if you change the Ascendant to a different sign, you can drastically alter the chart when sunrise was not at 6 A.M. in the area, or (as mentioned above) when Sun and Ascendant are not in the same general part of their signs.
I must add that Thailand is close enough to the equator to have nearly equal houses and probably their sunrise is relatively uniform compared to the charts we handle in the western world. It is also possible that in my limited time with Emorn, I did not fully understand her procedure. I do plan to write to her to check whether I am handling the system properly, but my mail tends to be postponed indefinitely.
When I asked what techniques were used to get current patterns and to project ahead, Emorn said they mostly used transits through the sign-houses. If Saturn was in a sign-house, it meant trouble for that period in that part of the life. Jupiter in a sign-house would be good luck in that part of the life, etc.
I checked to see whether the Indian system of dasas and subdasas was in use. Hindu astrology uses these periods to describe one’s current situation and to project ahead for forecasting. Emorn did not recognize the names, but when I described the procedure, she recognized the techniques. Some astrologers in Thailand use the method, though with some minor variations. The Indians have two systems, one of 108 years and another whose length I have forgotten. (My vague memory is 120 years for the alternate period). The Thai who know the system use the 108 year period and have their own order of planets and timing for each period. The planets in order are Jupiter (19 years), north node of the Moon (12 years), Venus (21 years), Sun (6 years), Moon (15 years), Mars (8 years), Mercury (17 years), and Saturn (10 years).
The Hindus have a complicated procedure based on the Moon’s position in the 27 or 28 asterisms to find where you plug into the system. (Some Indian systems use 27 and some use 28 divisions of the sky to form the asterisms). Also, depending on exactly where in the asterism your Moon is placed, you enter anywhere from the beginning to nearly the end of the dasa or period of years. The Thai have simplified the system. You enter according to the day of the week on which you were born. People born on Sunday start at the beginning of the Sun period, then continue in order through as many as they survive. Those born on Monday start with the Moon’s period, etc. I assume no one gets to start with the north node period since we have a week of seven days.
Like the Hindu system, each major period has subperiods with the same relative proportions and in the same order. Emorn had heard about the system but did not know whether it was used by many people.
The preceding material may be hard to follow for those lacking some familiarity with the sidereal zodiacs and the systems of astrology practiced in other parts of the world. I should not judge on the basis of my brief introduction to the subject, but I came away suspecting that western astrology is ahead of most of the rest of the world in sophistication and complexity and accuracy. We certainly have a long way to go before we can exhaust the potentials of the “map in the sky,” but with the help of computers and with time and patience, we are on our way.
Even though my initial impression of Thai astrology was not impressive, I was happy to learn that an astrology study group exists in Bangkok, and that they are working together to gain more knowledge. There was no meeting during my week in Bangkok, but Emorn was very helpful in trying to track down data that I wanted. In the Sagittarius 1984 issue, we presented and discussed the horoscope of the present Prime Minister of Thailand, and also gave the data when the country became a republic (though their King and Queen are still highly important), and the data which they use for the founding of the present capital of Bangkok. The stress aspects in the chart of Prem, the Prime Minister, were fulfilled during the recent months when the Vietnamese invaded Thailand, pursuing Cambodians, and had to be driven out by Thai armed forces. The border continues to be tense, with periodic incursions and fighting. I surely hope that peace can be restored and Thailand can continue to offer an example of a successful democracy in a troubled world.