What now for Sri Lanka’s ‘royal astrologer’?

In an earlier post I mentioned how the just-defeated Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, a very superstitious man in a very superstitious country, frequently consulted with his astrologer to ensure that the stars were properly aligned to ensure his success in all things, including his re-election bid. It turns out that even I underestimated the extent of his dependence on astrologers, as this article describes, written two days before the election.

Few people will be watching this week’s presidential election in Sri Lanka with more pointed interest than a balding, prosperous-looking man wearing a gold amulet under his shirt, who claims the title of “royal astrologer.”

For decades, the astrologer, Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena, has stood beside the longtime politician and current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, occupying a role that, in this part of the world, combines the functions of spiritual adviser, political consultant and life coach. On television, it is not uncommon to see panels of astrologers debating the fortunes of political leaders, in a format something like that of “The McLaughlin Group.”

These days, Mr. Abeygunawardena’s main work is identifying auspicious timing for the president’s political acts — “10:48 a.m. was a strong time, the bird becomes king,” was one recent recommendation. But he also weighs in on such details as whether to submit nomination papers to the election commissioner’s right or left side and performs rituals in an ornate shrine in his attic, which is bracketed by six curving elephant tusks.

This ‘royal astrologer’ was pretty confident that the stars were good for Rajapaksa and terrible for his rival Maithripala Sirisena who defected from the president’s side and ran as his rival.

Asked about the defection, Mr. Abeygunawardena gave a small grimace of regret: He said he was close with Mr. Sirisena until he mysteriously stopped visiting a few months ago.

“I didn’t expect it and didn’t predict it,” he said of the defection, adding that Mr. Sirisena’s horoscope was not strong. “The planet Saturn is in his house, and it’s a bad time for him. A very bad time,” he said. “His house is clearly spoiled irreparably.”

“The president, he has such auspicious time and so much power in his planetary position that he cannot be defeated in an election,” he said confidently.

The article goes on to describe the major role that astrologers play in decision-making by politicians and ordinary people in Sri Lanka. It is a menace and this predictive debacle will not change things because astrologers always have an out.

Identifying auspicious times, [Abeygunawardena] said, is “very dangerous work, very risky work,” and, for astrologers working at his level, potentially career-ending.

“Even if there is a slight defect, it can result in something bad,” he said. If an astrologer errs, “the whole thing goes wrong,” he said, noting, “Sometimes their houses are demolished.”

“I have never received any admonitions,” he hastened to add, “because I have never given any wrong advice.”

I have examined the horoscope of the astrologer favored by the new president and see that the Moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter is aligned with Mars and so predict that the new occupant in the position of ‘royal astrologer’ will have a successful career until his candidate is defeated as a result Saturn secretly creeping into his house when no one is looking and destroying it.

Based on my successful prediction, I will then apply for the newly vacant position of royal astrologer.


  1. steffp says

    Wonderful. I lived for a while in Thailand, and there was a little temple on the other end of my street. I often went there, as it was a place of quietness and serenity, only meters from the bustling, overcrowded road. Nice trees, too, and mostly silent monks, something I hold in high respect, it requires lots of discipline (and skills in nonverbal communication). But smack in the middle of the temple area was a franchise of “The Royal Astrological Society”, drawing heavy traffic from ordinary people. New shops, e.g. will open at the exact date and time that some adept extracts from geocentric star charts, and marriage ceremonies begin at strange times like 11:32, because the astrofraud says so… It always helps me to remember that in European history, one of our bloodiest war was, on both sides, advised chiefly by astrologers -- 30 Years War, Catholics and Protestants alike. And there’s exactly one daily newspaper in Germany’s media landscape that has no horoscope section: the still existing former “Central Organ” of the Communist party SED.

  2. steve314 says

    Joan Quigley held quite a bit of sway here in the US 30 years ago.

    Crazy, crazy, crazy.

  3. WhiteHatLurker says

    So, peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars, eh? I’m not seeing that one happening any time soon. Perhaps it would be best to stick with Physics.

  4. grasshopper says

    Did the Royal Astrologer forsee that he would be fired, by being told to “put Uranus in retrograde motion and close the door behind you”?

  5. lpetrich says

    Astrologers like to say about failed predictions, “The stars incline, but they do not compel”.

    Except that there is a major branch of mathematics dedicated to testing for influences that incline without compelling. Statistics. I’ve yet to see any evidence of statistically-significant astrological predictions.

    Here’s a picture that I once made as part of a video on the discovery of Jupiter’s moons. But it’s also a good illustration of the difference between astronomy and astrology. Galileo_vs_FrancescoSizzi.jpg (JPEG Image, 720 × 540 pixels)

    Finally, I think that “astromancy” (star divination) would be a better name for astrology.

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