Sunday, February 10, 2013

Water Snake Year

Today the Tibetan New Year or Losar begins as well as the Chinese New Year.  In both systems it is called the Water Snake year.  The two new years usually only coincide about a third of the time, for the Tibetans use some different lunar calendar calculations.  The Chinese system is easy to grasp: the second new moon after the winter solstice.  To make matters even more complicated, however, Chinese astrologers insist the actual new year begins a few days before the New Years Day celebration, this year February 4.  But most people don't seem to pay attention to that.  In Japan they get real sloppy and just consider the Western year to coincide with the Chinese year.  

The system of 12 animals and 5 elements gives a 60 year cycle before any animal/element combination is repeated.  In the Buddhist tradition, the sequence of animals is based on a legend of the order of the animals arriving to see the dying Buddha.  In Taoist tradition it is the animals showing up to meet the Jade Emperor for some reason.  The Tibetans view the last 5 or so days of the year to be full of the accumulated trouble and obstacles of that year and some kind of ritual mantra practice is done to pacify and transmute that negative energy into positive.  This is done often by practicing the Vajrakilaya ceremony, or in the Shambhala tradition, pacifying the turmoil of the mamos, wrathful female forces, using the Vajrasattva mantra. 

The "common people" often treat the Losar celebrations as a time to get pretty rowdy at times, a practice common to agricultural societies who wish to invoke the fertility of the soil and stimulate the new year's productivity and energy through their own high-jinks.  

This year being a snake year should have something to do with mysticism, reflection, and introversion, all snake characteristics.  This combined with the water element signifying travel, communication and networking.  The snake year represents a pause between the highly charged energy of the Dragon and Horse years, as it lies in between them.  It is perhaps a time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. 

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