The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division , at sacred-texts.com
Consulting the Astrologers
Within the Vietnamese cultures-arising out of religious beliefs-there is an emphatic belief in the validity of the many types of "fortune tellers". The geomancer aids in the determination of the proper location of houses and tombs and informs one as to the best orientation as to north, south, east or west; the physiognomist, like the old-time phrenologist of the western world, is supposed to be able to look at a person's features and tell not only what type of person he is, but also what the future holds for him. This is similar to the folklore of rural America in which people tend to judge an individual almost entirely by first appearances. There are also such people as the sorcerer and the astrologer or caster of horoscopes. Normally the astrologer is, reputed to be the best educated, trained and most popular of all those who predict the future with the possible exception of the various bonzes who engage in this art also.
Without attempting to analyze the functional precepts of the astrologer or his art, we should recognize the place he fills in Vietnamese life. Among his various chores are such things as choosing wedding dates; funeral dates for prominent persons; and the choice of proper dates for many official occasions. Many people will not start a new business or a journey without first consulting this "artist" to ascertain if the cosmic forces are in harmony with their plans. Such a practice is not confined of course to the Vietnamese. The ancient Hebrews had to face this issue and the Scriptures tell how it was done; a casual look at American newspapers and newsstands reveal that many Americans must also believe in this art, for otherwise such items or magazines like HOROSCOPE would not be evident. It soon becomes obvious that much of the Vietnamese art of astrology is based upon Chinese writings with the most famous being a fifty three volume set titled, So-Ly Tinh-Uan. The patron saint of Chinese astrology was an individual named Quy Coc Tien Sinh, who was reputed to be able to see the past, present and future; others claim the system of astrology based on the star Tu Vi did not come into existence until about 1,000 A. D.
Without discussion of the various methods whereby the astrologer makes his predictions, it ought to be noted that the following beliefs seem to exist: The stars belong to either a northern half or a southern half of the system into which they are divided, with either half being ruled by a major star. In addition there is a pre-arranged chart with many items of life on it; if the chart which has children in the square has more of the southern stars, you are to have more boys than girls; if, to the contrary, the northern stars predominate, then your children will be mostly girls. Such factors must be carefully weighed while the family is planning a marriage.
Each star is believed to be related to one of the major elements of earth, fire, metal, wood and water. There are other stars believed to produce either happiness and prosperity or their opposite numbers which bring woe, tragedy and decline of fortune: the stars so control the future that one might as well conform-otherwise failure will greet every effort. The system continues to exert an influence on many who have been educated in Western institutions, even if apologetically they say, "We go through the form to please our parents".
When a child is born, one of the first acts will be to have his horoscope prepared without delay in order to be prepared for what the future holds. From then on, either the prepared horoscope is carefully studied, or else an astrologist is consulted again and again until burial finally removes that individual from the scene.
Whether the American accepts the idea of astrology or not, he must be prepared to see his best laid plans sometimes go astray, or be delayed beyond effective use, because a horoscope indicated that any undertaking on that particular date will cause harm to befall the individual. While some Americans tend to believe in horoscopes, few are so firmly committed that it makes too much difference in their daily lives. Not so where so many of the Vietnamese are concerned; to ignore it would bring certain doom. Sufficient is a word to the wise--diplomatically ascertain the beliefs in such arts before attempting plans that require the full support of your loyal Vietnamese counterpart lest you suffer due to non-consideration of what seems such a small item to you.