The title suggests that I might have been throwing blocks or rocks at a temple here in Taipei, but rest assured there were no temples harmed in the making of this story.
Our visit to the Lungshan Temple was the first stop on a free walking tour covering some of the history of Taipei (more about that in another post). It was around 10:30am when we arrived to the temple and there were gobs of people milling about. They weren't actually milling about, but they were engaged in their various spiritual rituals according to custom. As I looked around, I saw people holding tiny books to their foreheads and subtly bowing toward the temple doors, people carrying lit and smoking incense sticks to the container for maximum whooshing of the smoke to the heavens, people placing offerings of various foods on long plastic tables to be blessed by the gods (junk food seemed to be a favorite), others bowing repeatedly at the foot of one deity or another and still others leaving offerings of other sorts depending on the deity they are meeting with.
The Lungshan Temple seems to be a clearing house for deities and I mean this in the best possible way. Here, one can commune with a deity for reproductive desires (offering beautiful bouquets of flowers once those wishes have been granted), seek assistance on one of the many tests required of young students (by proffering the test details to the deity), searching for whether or not one's boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is "the right one" (apparently this deity has a little red book with the proper pairings for everyone in the world) and so on. And when one isn't seeking something from a specific deity but has a question for which one needs answers, well, the temple can help with that too.
One of our guides broke from the group and grabbed some "stones/blocks" from one of the offering tables around the corner. He returned with these two kidney or half-moon shaped wood blocks that were roughly painted red on one side. One side of each rock was flat and the other curved. Apparently these blocks are regularly used as the communicators to the gods for answers to our questions. One is meant to throw the stones with the question in one's heart and mind and the position of the stones is the answer from the gods. One flat side up and one round side up means a positive answer. Two round sides up or two flat sides up requires you to ask the question a little differently or maybe rethink it all together. The gods aren't feeling what you're seeking. But the results of the first throw don't settle your question. You have to get the same positive result for three consecutive throws or best of three throws to really feel you are in the clear (one flat, one rounded side up). Apparently, there's even a contest here for the longest running string of consecutive positive answers in a row - it currently stands at 21.
I absolutely love shit like this. I mean absolutely love it. I saw many women around me throwing their blocks multiple times. Many didn't seem to be enjoying the answers or were enjoying them so much they were giggling about it. It seemed light hearted and in good fun. There were so many people making their wishes and interests known to all the deities that it was such an intoxicating scene. Women were throwing their blocks multiple times to see if they could get the answer they seek. And so when our guide asked if anyone in the group wanted to try their hand, I patiently waited to see if others would volunteer. What I really wanted was to jump up and down and yell "me, me, me" but thought that might be a little aggressive. But no one spoke. So Zac put my arm up and said "Jill will try" and I was both so excited and embarrassed at the same time.
As I stepped into the center of the circle made by my fellow tourers, I was handed the moon blocks. They had a beautiful feel to them, almost as if they were worn down by years of many people handling them. I steadied my breathing and started to wonder what I was going to ask the gods. I've never been very good at asking specific questions when it comes to things I want because I don't ever really know what those things are. Ever. But I forced myself into clarity in my mind as I rubbed the blocks together in my hand. Exhale. Now I had to throw the blocks. I tossed them out into the air and listened to them hit the ground. They skidded a bit across the pavement. The guide bent down to see the formation of the blocks. I moved in as well. Hurray! I had a positive result! My wish/desire would be true.
Well, maybe not. You see, I didn't throw any further blocks. It was just this one time. So I can't be for certain how confident the answer from the gods was. But I am just woo-woo enough to know that their positive inclination to my one and only throw, is enough to give me the confidence and positivity to know things are going to come true.
P.S. - A little research via Wikipedia sheds a bit more light on the idea of moon blocks. They are officially called Jiaobei and are made from wood or bamboo. They are generally used to answer yes/no questions and are most often used with fortune sticks when seeking answers from the gods. Wikipedia sites four possible outcomes, but I'm just not sure that two of them are different from one another. Here's the link if you are driven to know more about this practice. I did get another opportunity to throw the blocks in a different temple and was able to get a positive answer three out of five throws, so I'm feeling pretty good about my chances.