The twelve signs according to the Tibetan zodiac
Nepalese thangka depicting the symbols of Tibetan astrology

Italian version

The twelve animals of Tibetan astrology originate from Chinese astrology; unlike the Western zodiac of tropical origin, they adopt an annual subdivision spread over a twelve-year cycle. Each animal has a year associated with it. Every twelve years, the cycle repeats (the names given in the Chinese zodiac in brackets). The order of the animals is as follows:

Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare (Rabbit), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (Goat), Monkey, Bird (Rooster), Dog, Boar (Pig).

Hand trick

On your hand, there are also the twelve animals of the twelve-year cycle (the same cycle used by Chinese astrology). The animals are in correspondence with the fingers of the hand except for the thumb. The little finger and index finger are divided into four regions, two regions formed by the upper and lower phalanx and two regions near the folds of the central phalanx. We still consider two areas near the upper and lower phalanx for the middle and the ring finger. The count starts from the base of the middle finger. It continues clockwise, going up the index and continuing on the middle and ring fingers, descending the little finger and touching the base of the ring finger to return to the middle finger.

The 12 zodiac animals

Each sign of the Tibetan zodiac has its qualities and characteristics, as in our Western zodiac. In the chapter on the Elements, we have already noted the scarce importance that Byung rTsis astrology attributes to the descriptive and interpretative side, favouring the combinatorial aspect; the same goes for signs. Below, we briefly describe the twelve signs according to the Tibetan manuscripts.

  • Rat. The Rat individual is brought to tranquillity. He is not particularly friendly or outgoing but instead tends towards stability. He does not have an easy character. Even if he does good to others, others don’t notice. He appears outwardly open and relaxed, but inwardly he is endowed with strength and critical sense. He always says what he thinks. He is helpful but not generous. He overlooks significant opportunities in favour of small ones. He has an inquiring soul.
  • Ox. An Ox is a problematic person. He does not like to work, and he is not obedient. He loves to eat and sleep. He often displays wrong attitudes. It is not easy for him to change his mind, but on the other hand, he can be a pleasant person. His motto is “do not disturb!”. He is very slow and doesn’t care much about things. He tends to postpone commitments. However, he has a good character.
  • Tiger. The Tiger is dangerous, active and intelligent. The individual of this sign is protective and loyal to close relatives, although he tends to be relatively coarse. He thinks a lot. He loves to gamble and do business.
  • Hare. This individual’s motto is “I live for myself”. The Hare is independent and does not need the help of others. He believes that the most important thing is survival and that the world offers various opportunities. He tends to have deviant and indirect attitudes, if not dishonest, but he is always skilled at what he does. He is stingy even if smiling and generous at first sight. He can suffer from stomach and bladder ailments.
  • Dragon. The Dragon is neither dangerous nor active; instead, he is good, never commits evil deeds. He is not very powerful, but no one can harm him.He doesn’t try very hard, but he doesn’t put off his actions or duties aside. He gets angry quickly but carries no grudge. He is a talker, but he also loves to listen. Generally, he does not suffer from many physical ailments, but the disease can be of some severity if he gets sick.
  • Snake. The Snake does not have a good character and is always prey to an aggressive and caustic stream of thought. However, he is a kind-hearted individual and is very optimistic and future-oriented. Although others may be jealous of him, no one has the strength to stand up to him. However, he tends to self-destruct. Sometimes he has a certain narrowness of character and can be cruel. Once a decision is made, he doesn’t change it. He tends to have stomach and liver disorders.
  • Horse. The Horse is said to be endowed with miraculous powers and capable of great effort. Even when pursued by a thousand enemies, he cannot be defeated. Old age will be better than youth. He has excellent listening skills. He loves horses. He is a great walker and loves to play. He is selfless and always helps others. He doesn’t need much sleep. His life is subject to many ups and downs.
  • Sheep. The Sheep individual doesn’t talk much and isn’t too bright. He may have a coarse character. He loves to eat. He cannot harm others, but he neither sacrifices himself for others. He is generally good-natured and good-hearted. Always relaxed, he doesn’t need to run. He is not lazy, but he cannot get things done in due time. He doesn’t let anyone know what his preferences are. He is a farsighted person.
  • Monkey. The Monkey is brilliant, does not talk much and does not have a good character. Monkey individuals are lean and not very robust. They do not always denote an open mind and are not endowed with mental depth. They have no sense of responsibility, and they love to play and have fun. It is not always necessary to trust their words, and they generally speak out of turn, gossip and lie easily. They love cleanliness but eat unhealthily. Overly ambitious, they always have big plans. They love self-glory.
  • Bird. It is easy for Bird individuals to break free from possessions, bonds, obligations. They always give advice, but they rarely accept it. They are prey to strong sexual instincts and always need company. They love to be clean and tidy and don’t need much sleep. They are prone to blindness. They love fashion and clothing and smile a lot. They prefer to walk with graceful movements. They are very friendly.
  • Dog. The Dog is proud, sometimes unbearable and hateful. He can’t be nice to others, no matter how hard he tries. He is more interested in himself than in others. Thoughts haunt him. He tries to do the right thing, but the result falls short of expectations. He loves meat. He is a good walker. He has a powerful sex drive. He is a traveller. He is mentally gifted and loves hanging out with elegant people.
  • Boar. The Boar is not clever. He loves to eat anything, with no interest in the food quality. He loves to practice yoga. He is gifted with good self-discipline. He tends to possess and often tries to take advantage of others. He doesn’t help himself. He lies. He has a big stomach. He is good to good people and harmful to bad people. He rarely smiles and often makes himself unbearable. He can have a complicated character.

Strength of the signs

The importance or strength of a sign is closely related to its position with respect to the cardinal points; the sign-direction association of space is analogous to the subdivision into cardinal, fixed and changing signs of the western zodiac. The most potent signs are those placed in the main directions: Tiger (East), Boar (North), Monkey (West), Snake (South).

Signs Strength
Tiger, Monkey, Boar, Snake Best
Rat, Horse, Bird, Hare Good
Ox, Sheep, Dragon, Dog Fair