Parrotstrology is one of the popular occult practices one encounters in India, especially in the Southern States of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Parrotstrology involves two key performers: They are, one, an average, middle aged Master wearing white clothes whose forehead is smeared with vermilion. The other performer is a green feathered Parakeet. A third party is always crucial without which the Man the first and the Parakeet the second, would have to starve: The third party conglomerate is the viewers and the soothe-seekers.
The parrot which predicts the future is kept in a small cage made out of bamboo or wooden straps with an opening door. The cage is placed in front of the interpreter Master on a piece of saffron clothes. A poorly lit oil lamp is usually kept nearby because the prediction trade starting during the day may go on till late in the night.
The venue of Parrotstrology is mainly the busy street corners and roadsides leading to temples where festivals are in full swing. The fortune teller Parrot and its master are also usual sights at every crowded place in cities and towns. Other than the parrot and its cage, the paraphernalia of the astrologer include twenty seven tarot cards, each depicting pictures of gods and goddesses of Hindu deities and the Stars in the Hindu Astrological Chart. These cards would be stacked in a row, keeping one card over the other.
The Parrotstrloger does not charge anything big as a fee; in fact he seldom demands any fee: It is the prerogative of the prediction seeker to put a coin or a currency note the value of which may range anything between Rupees five to ten, on an average. As soon as the fee is placed on the clothe before the door of the parrot’s cage, the Astrologer-Interpreter opens the cage: then the parrot comes out of the cage, looks around, makes some shrieking sounds, picks up a card from the stack, drops it and retreats to the cage. The Parrotstrloger then gives the Parrot a piece of cracked nut, takes up the tarot card and starts his prediction discourse:
As prelude to the session, the Parrotstrloger asks a few questions to the Parrot: The usual questions put forth by the interpreter Master are as follows:
“Dear birdie, have you selected the right card?”
The parakeet answers with a “Yes”, by making a shriek.
“Birdie Cute, is this seeker really lucky?”
The parakeet answers again through the “Yes” by a shriek.
“Hi Birdie, will everything be good for the seeker?”
The parakeet answers, “No” by a turn of its head in a negative mode.
The Parakeet answers each and every question through “Yes” or “No” by means of the first signal system of signs and symbols. The viewers become curious and the customer fortune seeker becomes awestricken. The fortune-teller Parrotstrloger then starts his prediction by reading the tarot card chosen by the parrot: He tells,
“Oh! Gracious Seeker, you are the blessed soul. Your future is glorious; but there will be minor irritants here and there: You have to offer prayers before god Ganpathy and goddess Bhadrakali to ward off bad luck. Everything will become nice; you will achieve great things in your life.”
There, thus ends the predictions. The performance of the Parrot looks mysterious to the viewers: How the bird picks up the specific tarot card marked with the astrological star declared by the fortune-seeker; how the Parrot answers by shrieks and head-shakes, – are matters which common man cannot answer: For the onlookers, all these are spiritual powers of the almighty endowed on the blessed soul of the Parakeet.
When the phenomena are examined in the light of neuroscience, it will be clear that there is nothing mysterious or extra-sensory in the actions of the Parakeet in Parrotstrology. The principle involved is the same as that of training of lower animals for entertainments like in the case of lions in circus tents and in the case of dancing-snakes in tune with Snake Charmers’ flute.
What is happening in Parrotstrology is the working of a conditioned reflex of certain nerve connections formed in consonance with the simultaneous excitation of the motor centre and the visual centre in the parrot’s nervous system, its petit brain: The temporary nerve connection is formed by repetitive movement of the bird-trainer’s thumb just like in the case of snake charmer’s flute: [See, “Snake Dance” @http://www.myscienceblog.life-livewell.com]
Suppose the bird trainer places a piece of cracked nut on a tarot card, in front of the cage after keeping the door of the cage open and gives a minor hit with a side-push on its head in the direction where the card is kept. The parrot then makes a shriek of sound, turns its head and picks up the card to eat the piece of nut. Repetition of this process for several times creates a conditioned nerve connection (a conditioned reflex) in the bird’s brain in line with the movements of the bird trainer’s thumb. Afterwards, whenever the cage-door is opened and the thumb movement is introduced, the bird starts moving its head in the direction indicated by the thumb and picks up the tarot card. The viewers seldom notice the innocuous thumb movement of the Parrot-Master: Even if they notice it nothing could be of significance for them. And the viewers and the fortune seekers, almost always, take it as if the Parakeet was picking up the specific tarot card, making shrieks and moving its head in one direction or the other according to the divine powers vested on the Parakeet.
Parrotstrology is one of the several occult practices prevailing in the Indian sub-continent. The practice also extends to nearby Countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Sree Lanka where Hindus had migrated, since long. Parrotstrology nurtures and sustains gullibility of the people as all other occult practices do.