Monday 6 November 2023

Pagan Eye: Divination at the BM Myanmar Exhibition

This picture shows a historic divination manual at the Burma to Myanmar exhibition at the British Museum. It is one of the many wonderful objects on display showing various aspects of life for the people of Myanmar – also known as Burma - as well as the dramatic fluctuations in fortune the area itself has seen in the past 1,500 years. From superpower to colonisation, to civil war and dictatorship, no wonder people consulted celestial oracles to learn what the future might hold!

The book dates from the late 18th or early 19th century and is written in the Mon language, according to the label below it in the exhbition. Apparently this suggests it came from lower Myanmar although the imagery is more akin to Thai designs. It is a fortune-telling guide using the Chinese zodiac of 12 animals. Like many of the items on display, it shows a fluidity between cultures and ethnicities that was typical for the region.

The exhibition is fascinating and worth visiting if you are in London. I knew very little about Myanmar before I went and am glad to have learnt a bit more. Burma to Myanmar is in the Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. It runs until 11 February 2024. Tickets are £16/free for members and under 16s.

My Pagan Eye posts show photos that I find interesting - seasonal images, pagan sites, events, or just pretty pictures. If you want to send me a photo for a Pagan Eye post, please email it to Let me know what the photo shows and whether you want your name mentioned or not. For copyright reasons, the photo must be one you've taken yourself.

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