On Mar 2, I will observe Losar, or Tibetan New Year. It is a 3- to 15-day festival that begins with cleansing and purification rites and continues with various activities that celebrate many different layers of Tibetan history and culture. While I'm kind of a party girl who likes to celebrate ALL THE NEW YEARS from Samhain to Day 1 of Aries, this one is special to me, and represents what is coincidentally also an historically-annual personal re-centering period for me.
Although I am not ethnically Tibetan, I am a Tibetan-rights activist, historian and preservationist. My intent in learning and writing about Tibetan history and culture, apart from my deep calling to the spirituality of Tibet, is to keep the people, their plight, and their culture alive in my own little corner of the Pagan consciousness. I feel so strongly that the Tibetan people should not be forgotten nor their culture of compassion lost in the tide of greed that now appears to hold sway over their land. There is so much we can learn about community, sustainability and spirituality from their example, innovation, and indigenous technologies. I also see, in their struggle, familiar shades of the struggles of so many other displaced peoples worldwide with whom I share outrage and grief.
In my own experience as a practitioner of the Pagan Dharma, with my roots in Tibetan Vajrayana, I also benefit from my study of the culture that informs my spiritual path. So I follow along, observe some of the more welcoming rites and customs, and stand aside from any that do not feel appropriate for a non-Tibetan. When you spend time attending events, ceremonies, and socializing with Tibetans, the subtle but important boundaries of where one is welcome and where one is not, as an outsider, become very clear if you pay attention. Because the general zeitgeist of Tibetan culture is one of graciousness and hospitality to strangers, it is important to be sensitive and not overstep the already-welcoming boundaries that are there.
Some of the things that I will do to observe Tibetan New Year this weekend, that you can do along at home if you like, include:
-I fill my entire home with incense, particularly cedar and juniper, and sing songs, chants and mantras- first for release of negativity and cleansing, then in honor of all the deities in my personal pantheon. I also typically add a witchy sweep of my magic broom to the cleansing part, stirring up the household energies and then appeasing them with food offerings and prayers.
-I consult an oracle for the year ahead. I traditionally perform a Mongolian bone divination called shagai, and I will likely do that again this year. Drawing a tarot spread or runes would also be perfectly appropriate, however.
-It's also a time for spiritual discourse and intellectual pursuits. Have you ever wanted to read The Tibetan Book of the Dead, but felt intimated by it? Why not give it a look, even just a few pages, and see if it sparks anything for you? Maybe attend a class or research something about Tibetan culture. The traditions associated with New Year would be a good place to start :) I typically have several dharma books going at once, and do right now, so I will likely spend some time with one of the existing titles on my reading list. An absolutely terrific entry-level book for a budding student of the Tibetan dharma is Enlightened Courage by Dilgo Khyenste Rinpoche.
-This is a time to offer thanks to one's teachers. Whether you have a dharma teacher or a Wiccan High Priestess or another spiritual mentor of significance, or even someone who just put your head and heart right after a tough time...take the time to say "thank you. you helped me. i'm grateful." start the year with gratitude for those who have helped you out of suffering or ignorance and illuminated your path.
-There are many things to cook and eat for dharma kitchen witches: handmade noodles, barley tea/wine/bread/flour, butter sculptures, dumplings with goodies hidden inside, butter tea. research online yields some excellent recipes.
-At very least, hang a fresh set of prayer flags to carry one's prayers on the wind.
This coming Tibetan year is 2141, the year of the male wood horse. Think sudden, quick movement. Think thundering herd. Think lone cowboy. Think wilderness. Think police horses and carriage horses in the city. Think building, making, shaping. Think material growth. Think spirit of adventure, occasionally with abandon. There is unpredictability here of an unsettling nature, but also potential for wonderful sudden breakthroughs and collective stampede toward ideals.
May all beings be happy. May all be beings be safe. May all beings be well. May all beings be peaceful. May all our works benefit all beings in all spaces and times, excepting none. So mote it be.
Are you a Dharma Pagan? Would you like to connect with others who blend Tibetan Buddhism with Paganism? You might be interested in joining the Tea & Chanting Sangha I host monthly, online and/or in-person at The Sacred Well in Oakland, CA. Drop me a line here for more info or to be added to the mailing list to receive alerts about meetings, videos of chanting and ceremony, and occasional notices of teachings and initiations.