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Astrology Articles
Article Title: Outline of Major Tibetan Techniques
- by Michael  Erlewine
Here are several of the major calculation techniques used by the Tibetan astrologer. Space does not allow either a more general discussion or a point by point elaboration of many of these. At minimum, I will try to present enough of the bare-bone basics so that those of you interested in exploring the subject can do your own calculations.

Before we launch into the techniques that will be presented, I want to mention an area I won't be presenting here, due to space considerations: the Nakshatras or 28 lunar mansions. This technique has been taken directly from the Indian system, and I refer you to one of the many books on that subject. Since I use my own birthdate in some examples, it was July 18, 1941.

0. Cosmic Tortoise Diagram

1. The Wheel of the Twelve Signs

  • Century Birth Animal Table
  • Sign Polarity
  • Triangles (THUN-SUN)
  • Opposites (PHUNG-SUN, DUN-ZUR)
  • Brief Sign Descriptions
  • Sign Power

2. The Five Elements

  • Relationship Table
  • Good, Friends, Filial, Antagonistic

3. Major Life Factors

  • Life Force
  • Power
  • Bodily Health
  • Luck
  • Soul

4. Tibetan Yearly Calendar

  • Months of the Year
  • Days of the Month
  • Hour of the Day

5. The Eight Parkhas

  • Four Good Directions
  • Four Bad Directions
  • Month's Direction
  • Descending Parkhas
  • Birth Parkha
  • Gu-Mik (9th Spot)
  • Dur-Mik (Death Spot)

6. The Nine Mewas

  • The Magic Square
  • Birth Mewa
  • Descending Mewa
  • Daily Mewa
  • Nine Mewas Described

7. LOG-MEN (not turning back)

8. DEU

9. Day of the Week Cycles

10. Lunar Related Data

  • Lunar Day of the Month
  • Lunar Days for Travel
  • Losar




14. The Seven Obstacles

15. The Four Mewa Obstacles

Turtle's Head

Yellow South South Yellow
Earth FireRed Earth
Dragon Snake Hare Sheep
Earth WaterBlueEarth

Diagrams, like the above, are common in writings on Tibetan astrology. Often this diagram is shown drawn on the underside of what is called the Celestial Tortoise. This tortoise represents the universe of both China and Tibet. The upper shell is the dome of Heaven, while on the underside is inscribed the essential elements of the astrological mandala. The above diagram contains the wheel of animal signs, the elements, directions/colors.

The Wheel of the Twelve Signs

The wheel of the animal zodiac is ancient, arising somewhere in central Asia, and later incorporated by the Chinese. The calendar used by the Chinese is said to have entered Tibet in the year 642 AD by the Chinese Princess Kong-jo, who married the first Buddhist King of Tibet.

The Tibetan wheel of twelve animals, with its twelvefold division, reminds us of its Western counterpart, the zodiac. Unlike the West, where people's signs are determined by the solar calendar, in the East your sign is determined according to which year one is born in. The cycle of twelve animals rotates in strict succession from year to year. The order of the animals is Mouse, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Bird, Dog, and Pig. Each animal sign has its own qualities, which are well-known to the general public. Here are some examples:

Find your birth year and animal sign:

Mouse 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996
Ox 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997
Tiger 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998
Hare 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999
Dragon 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000
Snake 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001
Horse 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002
Sheep 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003
Monkey 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004
Bird 1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005
Dog 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006
Pig 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007

However, please note that these years are not measured from either your birthday or from January 1 of any year. Instead, they are measured from the beginning of the Tibetan new year, a fluctuating point that marks the New Moon that is nearest to the beginning of February. It is important to note that on occasion, the start of the Tibetan and Chinese New Years differ by an entire month!

The animal of one's birth year is central to both the Tibetan and Chinese systems of calculation, and is the most common form of counting time. The twelve-year animal cycle repeats itself from year to year. Just as we might inquire about a person's Sun sign, in the East they want to know what animal sign were you born under. There are male and female signs:

Sign Polarity

Male Animal Signs Female Animal Signs
Mouse Ox
Tiger Hare
Dragon Snake
Horse Sheep
Monkey Bird
Dog Pig

Triangles (THUN-SUN), Opposites (Phung-Sun, DUN-ZUR)

The Chinese call them the three friends, but the Tibetans call them the three destroyers. The triangles or Thun-Sun (three corners) are:

3 Friends = Pig Sheep Hare
3 Friends = Tiger Horse Dog
3 Friends = Mouse Dragon Monkey
3 Friends = Bird Ox Snake


The worst or opposites (Dun-zur: which means 7th corner or opposite) are:

Sign DUN-ZUR (Opposite Sign)
Horse Mouse
Ox Sheep
Tiger Monkey
Hare Bird
Dog Dragon
Snake Pig


Shi-Shey (enemy of the 4th one): In addition the 4th sign over from any given sign (either way) is called Shi-Shey and that is bad too. The rest of the relationships of the signs are O.K. (such as triangles).

Sign SHI-SHEY (4th Sign)
Snake Monkey, Tiger
Horse Bird, Hare
Sheep Dog, Dragon
Monkey Pig, Snake
Bird Mouse, Horse
Dog Ox, Sheep
Pig Tiger, Monkey
Mouse Hare, Bird
Ox Dragon, Dog
Tiger Snake, Pig
Hare Horse, Mouse
Dragon Sheep, Ox

Animal Signs

Each of the Tibetan signs, like our Western zodiac signs, has its own qualities. Here is a very brief description of the twelve signs as taken from some of the Tibetan manuscripts.

Mouse. The mouse is quiet. He is not friendly or outgoing and tends to be stable. He is not rough. Even though he does good to others, others don't seem to respond. On the outside, he is open and relaxed in appearance, but inside he is very strong and critical. Very open-mouthed, he says what he thinks. He is kind, but not generous. He misses the big opportunities, and takes the small ones. He is always searching.

Ox. The ox is a difficult person. He is hard to get to work, and is not obedient. He likes to sleep. He often exhibits bad behavior. While it is hard to change him, he is most often an agreeable person. However his slogan is "Don't mess with me!" He is very slow and doesn't care much if things are satisfactory or not. He postpones everything. He is good-tempered. He likes to eat and sleep like a bull.

Tiger. The tiger is brave, active and bright. Always proud and loyal to close relatives, he tends to have rough behavior and speech. He does a lot of thinking. He likes gambling and makes a good businessman.

Hare. "I am just for myself." The hare is independent, and does not need or ask others for their help. "I can survive. There is much opportunity in the world to be enjoyed. I am satisfied with that." He tends to be indirect, devious and possibly dishonest, but always skillful. He is stingy, but smiles and is generous on the surface. Possible diseases include those of the stomach and gall bladder.

Dragon. The dragon is neither brave nor active, but is good. He never does bad. "I am not very powerful, but nobody harms me." He does not make much effort, but also does not procrastinate, or put things off. When the time comes, he does his duty. He has a short temper, but is good minded. He is talkative. He listens to others talk. He has trouble containing himself. He has less disease than some of the other signs but if he gets sick, it can be serious.

Snake. The snake has a bad temper, and is always burning his own mind-stream. However, he has a good heart and is very optimistic or forward minded. Even if others are jealous of him, no one has the power to put him down. He can, however, destroy himself. He may have a somewhat rough character, and can be mean. Once his mind is made up, he won't change it. He tends to diseases of the stomach and liver.

Horse. The horse is said to have miraculous power and is capable of great effort. Even though 1000 enemies chase him, he cannot be defeated. His older life will be better than his youth. He listens to others. He likes horses. He is a fast walker and enjoys play. He has a self-sacrificing character and always helps others. He needs little sleep. His life has a lot of ups and downs.

Sheep. The sheep does not talk much and tends not to be not too bright. He can be a rough character. He likes to eat. He causes others no harm, but does not sacrifice himself for them either. He is generally good tempered and good hearted. Always relaxed, he does not rush. He is not lazy, but can't get things done on time. He does not show either like or dislike. He is a good provider.

Monkey. Monkeys are very smart, not very talkative and tend to have bad tempers. They have lightweight, weak bodies. They are not always open minded and are said to have "small" mind power. Not noted for their sense of responsibility, they like to play and enjoy themselves. Their words are not to be trusted and they talk, gossip and lie too much -- surface oriented. They look clean but tend to eat dirty things. Very ambitious, they always have great plans. They like to praise themselves.

Bird. It is easy for the bird to loose his possessions, legacy, inheritance, what-have-you? They are always advising others, but seldom take their own advice. Possessing a very strong sexual desire, they always need company. They like to be neat and clean, and don't require much sleep. They are prone to blindness. They love style, dressing up and tend to smile a lot. They enjoy walking and stylish movement. Good with friends.

Dog. The dog is proud, mean and somewhat wrathful. He can't seem to get kindness from others no matter how hard he tries. He is self-interested, does only for himself, and never for others. His mind is always filled with lots of thoughts. He tries to do things right, but they tend turn to out bad or wrong. He likes meat. He is a fast walker. Very sexual. A traveler. He is high or good minded, and elegant people tend to like him.

Pig. The pig is not bright. He likes to eat but is not concerned with what type of food. He eats everything. He likes yoga. He has good self-discipline. Can be greedy and often takes advantage of others. He does not benefit himself. He lies. He has a big stomach. He is good with the good people, and bad with he bad people. He seldom smiles and is often mean. He can be a rough character.

Power of the Signs

The signs have different power or importance as shown in the table below. By far, the most important are the first four, which are similar to what are called cardinal signs in Western astrology. These signs rule the four major directions as follows: Tiger (East), Pig (North), Monkey (West), and Snake (South).

Signs Power
Tiger, Monkey, Pig, Snake Best
Mouse, Horse, Bird, Hare Next-best
Ox, Sheep, Dragon, Dog Lowest

The Five Elements

The five elements are taken from the Chinese astrological system, for which there are a number of books and articles. Although somewhat similar to elements as used in western astrology, the five elements of Eastern astrology are much more defined and depended upon. They are a major factor in Tibetan astrology. Like the animals signs, the elements also rotate in strict sequence from year to year, but unlike the signs each element holds for two years before changing. Thus the elements and signs rotate in combination, the total cycle taking sixty years.

Wood (air) : Long-life, beauty, good or increasing energy, mental energy, changeable, not-stable.

Fire: Strong, instant, hot, warmth.

Earth: Stable, strength, ground.

Iron: Strong, cutting, direct, weapon, changing. (similar to earth)

Water: Soft, fluid, clear-seeing, flowing, smooth. Often connected to the blood and emotional concerns.

Element Color BodyFunction
Wood (Shing) Green VeinsCause to Grow
Fire (me) Red Warmth, Heat To Burn
Earth (SA) Yellow Flesh Stabilize
Iron (Chak) White Bones Hardening
Water (Chu) Blue Blood Moistening

Each year is assigned an element. These elements rotate in a particular order. Each year's element is the son of the previous year's. In other words, the previous year is considered to be the mother of the following year. Another way to say the same thing is that the element for the current year is the son of the previous year.

Relationship Table:

The table shown below is read as follows: Wood is Mother of Fire, Fire is the Son of Wood and... Water is the enemy of Fire and Fire is Water's friend.

Mother Friend Son Enemy
Wood is Mother of Fire Fire is Friend of Water Fire is Son of Wood Water is Enemy of Fire
Wood Fire Wood Fire
Fire Water Fire Water
Earth Earth Earth Earth
Iron Wood Iron Wood
Water Iron Water Iron

Element Relationship Pecking Order:

There are preferred relationships between the elements. Mother is the best because then you are the Son. Son is the next best. Friend is less important, but acceptable. Enemy is, as might be expected, not so good.

Element Togetherness:

Certain elements go (or do not go) well together. Earth and Water are good, while Wood, Iron and Fire (in combination) are not as good.

Good Relationship:

Water is the Mother of Wood
Iron is the Mother of Water
Earth is the Mother of Iron
Fire is the Mother of Earth
Wood is the Mother of Fire

Friendly or Beneficial Relationship:

Earth is the Friend of Wood
Wood is the Friend of Iron
Iron is the Friend of Fire
Water is the Friend of Earth
Fire is the Friend of Water

Neutral or Filial Relationship:

Fire is the Son of Wood
Earth is the Son of Fire
Iron is the Son of Earth
Water is the Son of Iron
Wood is the Son of Water

Antagonistic Relationship:

Iron is an Enemy of Wood
Fire is an Enemy of Iron
Water is an Enemy of Fire
Earth is an Enemy of Water
Wood is an Enemy of Earth

Major Life Factors

There are five major factors that are taken into consideration when examining the nature and qualities of a given calendar year. They are listed here in order of their importance:

Major Life Factors Tibetan Name
Life Force (holder of the life) (SOK)
Power (WANG)
Bodily Health(LÜ)
Luck (LUNG TA)
Soul (LA)

As regards these major elements, the life force is the most important of them, for both sexes. It represents the life strength or élan vital -- how you hold your life. Then comes the power element, how you overcome obstacles, and achieve goals. This is of special interest for women. The function of power is spontaneous, instantaneous -- you must have it now. Bodily health, physical health or sickness is important for all. The luck element, also called "wind horse," is special for men, while soul, which is somewhat similar to the life force but more concerned with the emotional or psychological state, is not used very much. Here is how they are determined in relation to the current year:

Life Force:

The life force is determined according to the following table. The left-hand column is the animal for the current year, while the right-hand column is the element for that year's life force:

Current Year Animal Life Force Element
Snake, Horse Fire
Hare, Tiger Wood
Mouse, Pig Water
Monkey, Bid Iron
Dragon, Sheep Earth
Ox, Dog Earth

Power Element:

The Power element will always be identical to the element determined for the current year. For example, 1991 is the year of the Iron Sheep. Therefore the power element for 1991 will be iron.

Luck Element:

The luck element is determined according to the following table. The left-hand column is the animal for the current year, while the right-hand column is the element for that year's luck: Note: there is no Earth element with luck.

Current Year Animal Luck Element
Tiger, Horse, Dog Iron
Pig, Sheep, Hare Fire
Mouse, Dragon, Monkey Wood
Ox, Snake, Bird Iron

Bodily Health:

With Bodily Health, calculation is a little more complicated. First determine the key element:

Current Year Animal Health Key Element
Mouse, Ox, Horse, Sheep Wood as Key
Tiger, Hare, Bird, Monkey Water as Key
Dog, Pig, Dragon, Snake Iron as Key

Next, using this key element, take the Power Element (as calculated above, this will always be identical to the element determined for the current year) according to the following rules:

If Power Element is Then: Bodily Health Element is
Son of Health Key Element Water
Mother of Health Key Element Wood
Enemy of Health Key Element Earth
Friend of Health Key Element Fire
Same Element Health Key Element Iron

Soul Element:

The Soul Element is always the Mother of the Life Force Element. Use table A to determine this.

Copyright: Michael Erlewine

Other articles by Michael Erlewine:

Astro*Map Hi-Res 1988   11/14/2002
Astrological Signs   11/14/2002
Burn Rate: The Retrograde Phenomenon   9/17/2001
Galaxy: Circles, Cycles, Circulation   11/14/2002
Galaxy: Higher Order Structuring   11/14/2002
Heliocentrics   11/14/2002
Interface: Planetary Nodes - Part I   11/14/2002
Interface: Planetary Nodes - Part II   11/14/2002
Local Space Astrology -- Relocation   11/14/2002
Lunar Gaps: Taking Advantage of the Lunar Cycle   11/14/2002
Our Roots in the Sun   11/14/2002
Saturn: the Sequencer   
Science and the Lunation Cycle   11/14/2002
The Astrology of Local Space   
The Counselor: Midwife of the Psyche   6/20/2001
The Galactic Nucleus   11/14/2002
The Lunation Cycle: East and West   11/14/2002
The Planets, Signs, & Houses   11/14/2002
The Tibetan Calendar: The 12 Months of the Year   11/14/2002
The Uranian Signs   11/14/2002
The Value of the Heliocentric/Geocentric Comparison   
Tibetan Astrology   11/14/2002
Tibetan Astrology: Appendix A   11/14/2002
Tidal Vector Forces: Lunar Phenoma   7/20/2001
Zodiac Cycles and Signs   11/14/2002

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