When a fortune leaf is not a cookie

By Jayshri Patel
In front of the Hall of a Thousand Buddhas at Angkor Wat, a fortune teller waits to tell you your fate as he sits with his book of fortunes, a neat stack of dried palm leaves each inscribed with a divine decree.
Nimol, our guide, described how the fortune teller would ask you to blindly pick a leaf from the stack of one hundred or so leaves as you sat with him in a translucent cloud of jasmine incense.  Once upon a time, people heeded the first fortune that their leaf prescribed, but nowadays if you pick a fortune that is not “good” then you can pick again, and then a third time if you would like. And if you pick three “bad” leaves, then no worries, you only have to live with it for a day for the fortune teller will simply tell you to “come back tomorrow.”
Having said this, Nimol shyly smiled; she saw how I was amused by the if-you-don’t-like-then-try-again attitude of the fortune teller.
I did not pick a leaf that day. I felt out of place. And when I related the fortune leaf to  something I am familiar with, the fortune cookie, I became out of place. To me, a fortune cookie is simply enjoyable with this sweet shell and, more often than not, sweet message. To the people who have their fortunes read in the temple, the message on their leaf is written word, it is declarative of their future.
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2 comments so far

  1. AnuFoi on

    Did you pick a fortune leaf? Interesting ….. sounds better then palm reading … a bit mysterious like how they used to read tea leaves 🙂

  2. Sam Pollak on

    Woah. That sounds pretty cool, up to the bad fortune part. I wish that I could see what a fortune leaf looks like. (I still would think a fortune cookie would taste better.)


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