What’s My Thai Horoscope? – The Importance of Divination in Eastern Culture



Illustrations with highly symbolic meanings are used to determine the fate of people born on a particular day. Phrommachāt, 19th century. / British Library, Public Domain


In traditional Thai culture, horoscopes and divination were used to establish the fate and future of people.


By Jana Igunma
Curation and Cataloguing
Thai, Lao, and Cambodian Collections
British Library


What was the purpose of horoscopes in Thai society?

In traditional Thai culture, horoscopes and divination were used to establish the fate and future of people. These were important methods to help people cope with the uncertainties of life and everyday challenges.

Divination specialists acquired knowledge that was secret to ordinary people, particularly on the perceived influences of stars, planets, numbers, plants, animals of the zodiac and divinities on the lives of humans. Certain constellations of day and time of birth with the stars, zodiac animals and guardian spirits of the birthplace, for example, could be interpreted as positive or negative influences in someone’s future life.

Before making important decisions – like choosing a partner, naming a newborn child, moving to a different place, starting a new business or choosing a profession – people would consult a divination specialist for advice.

Problems with health and wellbeing weren’t traditionally regarded as purely physical. In addition to medical treatment, people would search for the root of the problem elsewhere. A divination specialist would have been contacted to find out if there was, for example, an imbalance in someone’s social relationships or in the constellation of planets and stars, or if they had caused offence to guardian spirits of their souls or certain divinities. Divination specialists also helped people to interpret dreams and bad omens, putting people’s minds at rest.

Phrommachat horoscope manual, 19th century: Folio with illustrations of omens for interpretation by a divination specialist. The image of a prisoner wearing a cangue means the person will enjoy fortune and prosperity first, but then trouble will come. Relatives may plan evil; even children, partners and servants cannot be trusted. Ill health may be caused by angry deities. / British Library, Public Domain

What are Thai horoscope manuals?

Horoscopes were often recorded in manuscripts. These are known as Phrommachat in Thailand; ‘phromma’ referring to Brahma, the creator god in Hinduism. This is an example of Thailand’s pre-Buddhist traditions being adopted from neighbouring countries, particularly the Khmer Empire.

The British Library holds several Thai horoscope manuals, which are all in the format of paper folding books with coloured illustrations and text in Thai.

One particular horoscope manual features illustrations of the 12 animals of the Thai zodiac. Each animal is accompanied by a female or a male ‘avatar’ (representing yin and yang) and a plant that houses the guardian spirit of the soul of the person born in the year of this animal.

What are the animals of the Thai zodiac and their meanings?

Thai people adapted the animals of the Chinese zodiac according to their own purposes and ideas. The principle of the 12-year lunar cycle, with each year represented by an animal, is still followed, only the Chinese dragon was replaced by a Buddhist nāga (serpent) in the Thai tradition.

You can use this chart to identify which animal your year of birth corresponds with.

Rat Ox Tiger Hare Water serpent Snake Horse Goat Monkey Rooster Dog Pig
1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935
1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947
1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971
1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
2032 2033 2034 2035 2036 2037 2038 2039 2040 2041 2042 2043

The rat

  • Avatar: Deva (a male deity)
  • Element: Water
  • Guardian spirit habitat: coconut palms/banana plants
  • Characteristics: the sun is the mouth (talks openly to superiors), Mars is the heart (an inconstant character, not keen to learn), Jupiter is the loins (strong sensuous desires), moon and Mercury are the hands (hard-working but unskilful), Venus and Saturn are the feet (enjoys travelling).

Phrommachat horoscope manual: This page deals with the year of the rat. Depicted is a male deity (the avatar for the year of the rat), together with a banana plant, rats and water containers. / British Library, Public Domain

The ox

  • Avatar: male human
  • Element: Earth
  • Guardian spirit habitat: sugar palms
  • Characteristics: the moon is the mouth (a proud and excellent speaker), Mercury is the heart (clever and smart, seeks company of educated and noble people), Saturn is the loins (enjoys sensual pleasures), sun and Jupiter are the hands (mediocre skills), Mars and Venus are the feet (not suited for travelling).

The tiger

  • Avatar: Yakkhini (a female demon)
  • Element: Wood
  • Guardian spirit habitat: neem tree
  • Characteristics: Mars is the mouth (talkative), Jupiter is the heart (poor learning skills), sun is the loin (likes sensuous pleasures), Mercury and Venus are the hands (skilful and crafty), Saturn and moon are the feet (will travel much and be fortunate).

The hare

  • Avatar: female human
  • Element: Wood
  • Guardian spirit habitat: coconut and silk-cotton trees
  • Characteristics: Mercury is the mouth (miserable speaker), Venus is the heart (audacious character, not able to maintain self), moon is the loins (little sensuous desire), Jupiter and Saturn are the hands (skilful at craftsmanship), sun and Mars are the feet (enjoys travelling).

The nāga (water serpent)

  • Avatar: Deva (a male deity)
  • Element: Metal
  • Guardian spirit habitat: silk-cotton trees and bamboo plants
  • Characteristics: Jupiter is the mouth (speaks with knowledge of a scholar), Saturn is the heart (quick to anger, but generally good-hearted), Mars is the loins (strong sensuous desires), Venus and sun are the hands (unskilled), moon and Mercury are the feet (desires to travel).

Phrommachat horoscope manual: The year of the nāga (water serpent), showing the male deity as the avatar, as well as a blossoming silk-cotton tree and four types of nāgas with four types of metals on the left edge of the page. / British Library, Public Domain

The snake

  • Avatar: male human
  • Element: Fire
  • Guardian spirit habitat: neem trees and bamboo plants
  • Characteristics: Venus is the mouth (kindly spoken, but dishonest), sun is the heart (unreliable), Mercury is the loins (enough carnal desire), Saturn and moon are the hands (works quickly and efficiently), Mars and Jupiter are the feet (enjoys travelling).

The horse

  • Avatar: Devi (female deity)
  • Element: Fire
  • Guardian spirit habitat: banana plants and hopea trees
  • Characteristics: Saturn is the mouth (kindly spoken), moon is the heart (has high aims, desires to strive), Jupiter is the loins (constancy in sensual desires), sun and Mars are the hands (not very skilled), Mercury and Venus are the feet (not fit for much travel).

The goat

  • Avatar: Devi (female deity)
  • Element: Metal
  • Guardian spirit habitat: bamboo plants
  • Characteristics: the sun is the mouth (talks openly to superiors), Mars is the heart (inconstant character, only learns for self-satisfaction), Venus is the loins (strong carnal desires), moon and Mercury are the hands (diligent worker, but unskilful), Jupiter and Saturn are the feet (will travel much).

The monkey

  • Avatar: Yakkha (male demon)
  • Element: Metal
  • Guardian spirit habitat: jack trees
  • Characteristics: Moon is the mouth (speaks with knowledge and striving to learn), Mercury is the heart (well suited for litigation), Saturn is the loins (strongly sensuous), Mars and Jupiter are the hands (skilful, but slow), Venus and sun are the feet (not a keen traveller).

Phrommachat horoscope manual: The year of the monkey, showing the male demon as the avatar, as well as a jack tree, four types of monkeys and four types of metals on the left edge of the page. / British Library, Public Domain

The rooster

  • Avatar: Yakkha (male demon)
  • Element: Metal
  • Guardian spirit habitat: silk-cotton trees
  • Characteristics: Mars is the mouth (chatty, tells risky stories), Jupiter is the heart (not very prudent, but good-hearted and law-abiding), sun is the loins (strong carnal desires), Mercury and Venus are the hands (skilful and able craftsmanship), Saturn and moon are the feet (likes travelling).

The dog

  • Avatar: Yakkhini (a female demon)
  • Element: Earth
  • Guardian spirit habitat: royal lotus plants
  • Characteristics: Mercury is the mouth (not a pleasant speaker), Venus is the heart (brave-spirited, but handicapped by physical weakness), moon is the loins (weak sensuous desires), Jupiter and Saturn are the hands (skilful and expert in crafts), sun and Mars are the feet (no desire for travel).

The pig

  • Avatar: female human
  • Element: Water
  • Guardian spirit habitat: lotus plants
  • Characteristics: Jupiter is the mouth (knowledgeable, but not always trustworthy), Saturn is the heart (hot-tempered, but forgiving and not vengeful), Mars is the loins (liable to carnal faults), Venus and sun are the hands (gets tires easily, not keen to work), moon and Mercury are the feet (likes to travel).

Each of the years in the Thai zodiac is also associated with a certain story about Buddha’s former lives (Jatakas) and one of the Buddhist temples in Thailand which people born in a particular year should visit at least once during their lifetime. If you were facing any sort of misfortune in your life, a trip to the temple would have been strongly recommended.

How are Zodiac characteristics determined?

As well as the above characteristics of the years in the Thai zodiac, there are alterations and alternative interpretations depending on your month and day of birth.

The month

Each year is divided into quarters, each of which is associated with a particular animal of the zodiac sign. For example, the 5th, 6th and 7th months in the year of the monkey are associated with an ‘excellent monkey’. Such people have a mild disposition, may not be very helpful to others but are able to develop.

The 8th, 9th and 10th months in the year of the monkey are associated with a forest monkey. Someone born in these months is faithful and good-hearted; they will succeed.

The mangrove monkey is associated with the 11th, 12th and 1st months in the year of the monkey, and people born at that time will are aggressive and will become wealthy.

The remaining three months are associated with the wind monkey, and people born in these months in the year of the monkey are hard to teach as children, but will have a good disposition and repute in later life.

The day

Birth on a Sunday in the year of the monkey is associated with a monkey reared by a lord. Someone born on that day will be fortunate in life.

Monday is connected to a common monkey, and someone born on that day is likely to live in poverty.

Tuesday is associated with an imprisoned monkey. Born on that day in the year of the monkey, you can expect trouble and misfortunes.

Wednesday is the day of a monkey reared by a hermit. People born on that day are well informed and will live a good life.

Thursday is associated with a monkey brought up by a chief Brahmin (learned ceremonial master at the king’s court); someone born on this day is intelligent, clever and has great potential.

Friday is the day of an excellent monkey. People born on a Friday in the year of the monkey are very fortunate.

A chained monkey is associated with Saturday; people born on this day in the year of the monkey may experience suffering in their life.

Days and months together

There are even more complicated calculations by combining the numbers of months and days in order to give more detailed predictions which are shown below.

Phrommachat horoscope manual: Illustrations relating to combined number predictions for the year of the monkey. / British Library, Public Domain

Someone born in the 5th or 11th month and on day 1 or 7 in the year of the monkey – represented by the demon riding on a monkey – is violent, a bad worker and poorly off.

People born in the 6th or 12th month and on day 2 – represented by a seated noble with an umbrella-bearer – will be lucky, have dignity and live happily.

Birth in the 7th or 1st months and on day 3 – represented by two men fighting – predicts trouble and difficulty making a living.

Someone born in the 8th or 2nd months and on day 4 – represented by a couple quarrelling – will be miserable and unsettled and have a sad married life.

Birth in the 9th or 3rd months and on day 5 – represented by a mahout riding on an elephant – means the person will be exhausted trying to attain rank and not find happiness.

People born in the 10th or 4th months and on day 6 – represented by a male deity riding on a serpent – are expected to be active minded, and although harsh-speaking, will hold positions of power.

But even when prospects look unfortunate, fear not as there are ways to turn your fate around. Wat Phrathat Nakhorn Phanom in Nakhorn Phanom (northeast Thailand) is the Buddhist temple for people born in the year of the monkey, for example. Paying a visit, meditating and making offerings here would be recommended. Another good deed would be to plant, maintain and protect jack trees as these are where the guardian spirits of people born in the year of the monkey dwell.

How can you use the Thai zodiac for dream interpretation?

In addition to predictions related to the Thai zodiac, this manuscript contains explanations on how to interpret certain omens and signs that people may see in dreams. For example, dreaming about being murdered is regarded as a reverse omen and means that the person will gain wealth and defeat enemies.

If one sees a Buddha image or the sun in a dream, it is interpreted that the person will have power and authority over enemies.

Dreaming of seeing moonlight means there will be trouble with your partner, while a heart being torn out predicts the loss of a loved one.

Who should you marry?

Many aspects in Thai horoscope manuscripts deal with marital relationships and match-making. There are detailed explanations on which types of people are good or bad matches for marriage.

Phrommachat horoscope manual: Illustrations and advice about marital relationships. Shown here are two men, one in a relationship with a woman of divine character, the other in a relationship with a woman of demonic character. / British Library, Public Domain

Shown in the image above is the combination of a male human with a woman who has the virtues of a deity. Such a couple will be blessed with children, but will argue and not be able to live happily together.

The same is predicted for a marriage between a male human with a woman of a demonic character like a yakkhini. They can marry and have children, but will not be able to live happily together.

Find out more

H. G. Quaritch Wales: Divination in Thailand. The hopes and fears of a Southeast Asian people. London and Dublin, Curzon Press, 1983

Henry Ginsburg: Thai art and culture. Historic manuscripts from Western collections. London, British Library, 2000

Jana Igunma: When an angel meets a demon: Advice on love and relationships in a Thai divination manual. (7 January 2014)



Originally published by the British Library under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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