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Eclipse a mixed blessing

Eclipse a mixed blessing

090723_02
The solar eclipse sweeps over Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning.

Astrologers are divided on the meaning of Wednesday's solar eclipse, but the one-day event paid rich dividends for the city's fortune-tellers.

ON Wednesday morning at 8am, the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century was fully visible in parts of India and southern Asia.

But Phnom Penh residents only got to witness 31-percent coverage, leaving astrological authorities in the capital divided over what the event meant for the Kingdom.

"Normally, it is a disaster when a solar eclipse happens to a country," said Im Borin, astrology expert and researcher for the National Committee of Khmer Customs and Horoscopes.

Because it occurred in the middle of the rainy season, Im Borin said he believed the eclipse foretold of problems with water transportation, storms and flooding.

In countries that saw the full eclipse, misfortune may await high-ranking officers who were born in July, he said, but Cambodian officers will not have serious problems.

Early Wednesday morning, locals filled a usually quiet hall at Wat Saravan to receive blessings from resident monk and astrologer Ho Komharn.

"It will be a lucky day for everyone who visits the pagoda," said Nime, a 67-year-old priest and assistant to Ho Komharn, as a crowd of believers knelt behind him to receive sprinkles of holy water from the monk.

On a typical day, only 10 or 20 people visit the pagoda to receive a blessing or have their fortune told, Nime said. On Wednesday, more than 150 packed the blessing hall between 6:30am and 8am.

Good omens
By noon, the eclipse had already brought good fortune to 65-year-old Cheang, who sells birds at Wat Saravan that buyers then release for luck.

Sitting next to two empty birdcages, he said that on a normal day he sells around 30 birds. Today, all 100 of his birds had been sold by mid-morning.

This is not the first time a celestial event has brought luck to the Kingdom, Nime noted.

He recalled a story from 19 years ago in which an eclipse darkened all of Siem Reap except the towers of Angkor Wat, on which the sun still shone. This, according to Nime, foretold of Cambodia's continued independence and peace.

Srey Pow, 29, who had visited the pagoda earlier that morning, recalled the same event, which took place when she was 10 and living in Siem Reap with her family.

Im Borin said the next eclipse visible in Cambodia would occur on January 15, 2010, from 2pm to 4pm, with 45 percent visibility.

Only time will tell whether this higher-percentage view will spell disaster or good fortune for the Kingdom.

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