Bamboo as Oracle

bamboo fortune sticksThe Jakarta Post, Australia’s most reliable source of information about the fate of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia, recently posted an article about bamboo sticks for fortune telling. The oracle has Chinese origins and is very popular at Buddhist temples around Asia.

The equipment for the oracle is usually set up to one side in a temple. There are three main components:

  1. A long cylindrical cup, or a tube with one open end, often bamboo.
  2. The tube contains some flat sticks, usually made of bamboo. These sticks will have a number on them. In the Eastern tradition there will be 100 sticks.
  3. Nearby you should see pieces of paper with the 100 written oracle outcomes that correspond with the numbers on the sticks.

bamboo fortune sticksHolding the question you want answered in your mind, shake the tube with the sticks while holding the tube at a slight downward angle. One stick will fall out (usually). The number on the stick will give you your answer.

The detail of the ritual varies from country to country. In Indonesia, if you read the article, it is quite complex. My most recent experience with the oracle was at the Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest temple. I drew number 62, Excellent Fortune.

bamboo fortune sticks

 I suspect that for hosted foreigners (like myself on this occasion – Thanks, Megumi!) indulging in the oracle, things are much simplified. At large temples that have lots of foreign visitors, the oracles may be found with translations into English and other major languages. There are of course, Western home-versions of the oracle. These are in English and will probably only contain 78 sticks – or less. Garbagefinds found a set of bamboo sticks in a bamboo tube, but with only 38 sticks. I’m not surprised someone threw them out – only 38!

If you would like try the bamboo stick oracle, without a trip to
Asia, you will find sets of fortune sticks on eBay au., or there is even a free online version.

Was my oracle accurate? Of course.
Do you indulge in local fortune telling while travelling?

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