Astrology and Divination in Everyday Life

In every culture, astrology and divination provide a peek into the future. In Tibet, astrology is based on the Tibetan lunar calendar, drawn from both Indian and Chinese sources. Astrologers interpret the stars and help individuals make decisions based on their charts; the right match for a marriage, an auspicious date for starting a business or the right time for taking off on a trip.

Aside from reading the stars, Tibetan society provides many forms of divination that help one make decisions. A diviner relies on the power vested in him or her by a Buddhist deity, one that he or she is close to. The person making the divination will assess a situation and recommend a course of action, including certain rituals to enhance a person's good fortune and chances to attain a certain goal.

The most common forms practiced today are divination based on the use of dice and prayer beads. There are also answers to be had from interpreting dreams and observing a butter lamp. Mirror divination, where a child (children are believed to be more open to the paranormal than adults) looks into a mirror, and lets the diviner interpret what he or she sees into clues of the future. Another popular means of divination is through an oracle, where a medium is visited by a deity who speaks through him or her. Since the speech uttered by the medium is often unintelligible, a monk or lay person endowed with special skills will interpret the sayings.

In Tibet, there was never too small a matter to refer to divination and it is still widely in use all over the Plateau. In the past, before the advent of cellphones, it was the only means of knowing when a family member or loved one would be returning from a journey. While monasteries and important institutions relied on the more lofty oracles and dice based divinations, nomads and villagers had the simple means of shoulder blade divination, performed with the bone of a sheep. This is the most ancient form of divination and in the far past was thought to be used by hunters.

Image 1: These pieces are writing surfaces for making astrological calculations. The base is the smaller piece, on which the astrologer will smear a black substance obtained from burning peat with a little oil. He will use the sharp point of the little sword shaped rod, which symbolizes the Bodhisattva Manjushri’s sword of wisdom, to trace his calculations. Once completed, he will wipe the slate clean, ready to start again when necessary. The larger, blue board is placed under so that the astrologer can rest his hand away from the sooty substance. The letters at the base of the larger board and astrological formulas.