Among the Chinese of to-day, as with the inbabitants of ancient Babylon, the days which are deemed favorable or otherwise for business transactions, farming operations, or for traveling are still determined by astrologers, and are indicated in an official almanac published annually at Pekin by the Imperial Board of Astronomers. The various tribes of the island of Madagascar also are exceedingly superstitious in regard to the luck or ill-luck attending certain days, and the lives of children born at an unlucky time are sometimes sacrificed to save them from anticipated misfortune.
Natives of the Gold Coast of West Africa, in their divisions of the year, observe a long time "consisting of nineteen lucky days, and a short time" of seven equally propitious days. The seven days intervening between these two periods are considered unlucky, and during this time they undertake no voyages nor warlike enterprises. Somewhat similar ideas prevail in Java and Sumatra, and in many of the smaller islands of the Malay Archipelago. The Cossacks of western Siberia, the natives of the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire, and the Laplanders of the far North, all adapt their lives to the black and white days of their calendar. The peasantry of West Sussex in England will not permit their children to go blackberrying on the tenth day of October, on account of a belief that the Devil goes afield on that day, and bad luck would surely befall any one rash enough to eat fruit gathered under such circumstances. The same people believe that all cats born in the month of May are hypochondriacs, and have an unpleasant habit of bringing snakes and vipers into the house.
Among the Moslems of India there are in each month seven evil days, on which no enterprise is to be undertaken on any consideration. Some of the peculiar superstitions of these people with regard to traveling on the different week-days are shown in "Zanoon-E-Islam, or the Customs of the Mussulmans of India," by Jaffur Shurreef. Thus, if any one proposes journeying on Saturday, he should eat fish before starting, in order that his plan may be successfully accomplished, but on Sunday betel-leaf is preferable for this purpose. In like manner, on Monday he should look into a mirror in order to obtain wealth. On Tuesday he should eat coriander-seed, and on Wednesday should partake of curdled milk before starting. On Thursday, if he eat raw sugar he may confidently anticipate returning with plenty of merchandise; and on Friday, if he eat dressed meat, he will bring back pearls and jewels galore.
Some idea of the beliefs current in the mother country during the last century may be obtained by a study of the advertisements of astrologers and medical charlatans in the public press of that period. For example, in the year 1773 one Sylvester Partridge, proprietor and vendor of antidotes, elixirs, washes for freckles, plumpers for rounding the cheeks, glass eyes, calves and noses, ivory jaws, and a new receipt for changing the color of the hair, offered for a consideration to furnish advice as to the proper times and seasons for letting blood, and to indicate the most favorable aspect of the moon for drawing teeth and cutting corns. He proffered counsel, moreover, as to the avoidance of unlucky days for paring the nails, and the kindest zodiacal sign for grafting, inoculation, and opening of bee-hives.
In enlightened England there are still to be found many people who believe that the relative positions of the sun, moon, and planets are prime factors in determining the proper times and seasons for undertaking terrestrial enterprises. Zadkiel's Almanac for 1898 states that natural astrology is making good progress towards becoming once more a recognized science. To quote from the preface of this publication:--
As the whole body of the ocean is not able to keep down one single particle of free air, which must assuredly force its way to the surface to unite with the atmosphere, so cannot the combined forces of the prejudice and studied contempt of all the soi-disant "really scientific men" of the end of the century prevent the truth of astrologia sana from soaring above their futile efforts to crush it down, to join the great atmosphere of natural science, to enlighten the human mind in its onward course and effort,--"to soar through Nature up to Nature's God."
One example may suffice to exhibit the character of the predictions given in this same work. Under the caption, "Voice of the Stars," August, 1898, the writer says that the stationary positions of Saturn and Uranus are likely to shake Spain (and perhaps Tuscany) physicilly and politically about the 10th or 11th insts. There will be strained diplomatic relations between the United States and Spain; for Mars in the sign Gemini, and Saturn in Sagittarius, must create friction and disturbance, in both countries.
The Jewish current beliefs in the influence of certain days and seasons appear to have been mostly derived from the Romans of old. Even nowadays among the Jews no marriages are solemnized during the interval of fifty days between the Feast of the Passover and Pentecost; and formerly the favorite wedding days were those of the new or full moon. In Siam the eighth and fifteenth days of the moon are observed as sacred, and devoted to worship and rest from ordinary labor. Sportsmen are forbidden to hunt or fish on these days. The Siamese astrologers indicate the probable character of any year by associating it with some animal, upon whose back the New Year is represented as being mounted.