Tibetan Astrology is a different thing from what most people expect when they think about astrology. In the West, we’ve become accustomed to astrology being a tool for esoteric psychology. People look at their zodiacal sign and the arrangement of the celestial bodies within different houses as a map to the person or the personality. A Taurus sun will be stubborn, an Aries moon will have strong emotional opinions, and so on. While some astrologers will consider the interactions of elements and their modes, most will look instead at pre-determined analysis and intuited characteristics of the various signs.

The astrological turtle on a sipaho thangka on which is encoded all the knowledge of elemental astrology.

In any case, Western astrology tends to tell us who we are, and seeks to explain behaviors that we’re seeing in terms of what’s happening in the present celestial arrangement. Electional astrology is a fairly rare niche, and horary tends to be limited to themes or relies on vague esoteric babble to obscure meaning. Overall, people go to an astrologer to be told what is happening, rather than what will happen.

A lot of people ask about what their birth year (their element and animal sign) says about their personality. Habituated, as we are, to newspaper horoscopes and Chinese restaurant place-mat Chinese astrology, we want to know what our characteristics are like. We nod sagely if it’s accurate, or laugh and dismiss it if it’s inaccurate, and in the end we treat it like a minor entertainment. And newspaper horoscopes and place-mat natal astrology are exactly that! They shouldn’t be regarded as much more. But Tibetan astrology is much more.

Usually, when I talk about Tibetan astrology, I’m talking about naktsi or jungtsi and not kartsi. Jungtsi is elemental astrology, and relates to the Chinese astrological tradition. Kartsi is Indian astrology – and we’re much more familiar with this in the West as the Zodiacs are the same and with some minor variations (Indian astrology tends to use fixed houses, for example) it works the same way. Western astrology misses some nuance – we don’t tend to use lunar mansions – but it’s mostly the same. But we’re much less familiar with the elemental astrological tradition.

Tibetans aren’t interested in the details of their life as it is. We can see our current conditions obviously. There are, of course, things we can learn from someone’s birth sign and year, but Tibetans don’t want to be told about themselves. Those things belong to the realm of family planning, and aren’t practically useful after someone is born. Once we’re born, there’s a lot more we can do. It’s used to plan what we should do for the child to make sure they turn out alright, and what problems to generally avoid.

Instead, elemental astrology tends to focus on the negative. Nobody is particularly interested in whether or not they will be honest; it’s dishonesty we want to avoid, and that’s what we need to focus on. Tibetan natal astrology often sounds like someone is being roasted hard. A water cow “has a big body and is particularly stupid,” for example. This isn’t a roast, of course – the person hasn’t been born. Instead, it’s something the parents should be aware of, something to watch out for. Similarly, Tibetan astrology tends not to tell us a year will be a good year. There are no good years! But the particular ways in which it might be bad are good to know about.

I’ll be doing those calculations, called Obstacle Calculations, at KarmaFest near Baltimore this Saturday and Sunday. On the off chance someone from here stops by, mention this post for a little discount!

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