Losar, Tibetan New Year’s day

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12 Feb Losar, Tibetan New Year’s day

Losar (ལོ་གསར་ lo gsar) is Tibetan New Year’s day. It literally means new (གསར་ gsar) year(ལོ་ lo). This year it’s on the 12nd of February, new moon day, and the celebrations will last for three days.

According to Tibetan astrology, we are stepping into metal (ལྕགས་ lcags) ox (གླང་ glang) year! What does it mean? Tibetan astrology is based on a wheel of twelve animals, a sort of counterpart of western zodiac. However, western zodiac signs depend on the solar calendar, that is the Sun’s position on the Earth’s elliptical orbit, where it gradually meets the zodiac constellations. Instead in Tibet, where on the contrary the lunar calendar prevails, every hour, day, month and year is symbolically represented by one of the twelve animals (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, bird, dog, pig) and by one of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water).
The animals change from year to year, while the elements alternate every two years. This happens the very first day of Losar.

According to an ancient tradition, animals and elements are bound to a specific time, for example to a well-defined part of the day or to seasons and so on, and to a specific space. For what concerns the space, they have correspondances with the microcosm, such as the human body (organs, body parts, activities ecc.) and with the macrocosm, that is the universe and its planetary motions. The macrocosm is shaped like an enormous cosmic turtle, illusory, that sustains the whole world on her belly. Here is a brief description:

Above her head there are the South, with the fire element, the snake and the horse.
On her right there are the East, the wood element, the tiger and the hare.
On her left there are the West, the metal element, the monkey and the bird.
Her tail represents the North, the water element, the mouse and the pig.
The intermediate directions correspond to the earth element, to the ox (North-East), the dragon (South-East), the goat (South-West), the dog (North-West).
Her eight claws emanate the planets.
Her twenty-eight spine vertebrae generate the twenty-eight lunar digits that form a lunar month.

Every animal and every element, such as western zodiac signs, has its peculiarities. Now we shall see what metal ox represents!

The ox (གླང་ glang) suggests stability, solidity, perseverance. He is independent and discreet, never frivolous. He expresses himself only on the basis of a solid knowledge. He is strong and calm, clever, responsible.

The metal (ལྕགས་ lcags) is associated with the evening, the West direction, the fall season. It resembles a knife, because of its coldness, brightness, lucidity, firmness and sharpness. It symbolizes integrity and justice, thanks to which people can understand and act with resolution. It has a double nature: even if it’s stiff and sharp, it is also a joyful and magnetic element, attracted to worldly pleasures.

We hope that this Losar may mark the beginning of a new year in the spirit of strength, not a stiff one, but a strength rooted in a natural calmness, that infuses brightness, lucidity, stability and gives space for wellness and pleasure.

Bibliography:
Cornu, Philippe, 2002: Tibetan Astrology, Shambhala Publications, Boston.
Erlewine, Michael, 2007: Tibetan Astrology, ebook da startypes.com, Big Rapids.
Henning, Edward, 2007: Kālacakra and the Tibetan Calendar, The American Institute of Buddhist Studies, Columbia University.
Waddell, L. Austine, 1895: The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism, W. H. Allen and Co, London.

Losar in Mongolia and Nepal>>