What did one volcano say to the other volcano?
"I lava you so much!"
In our annual survey of the astrological indications for this growling Year of the Iron Tiger, we said "beware of volcanoes." We also mentioned catastrophic events in China. Now that a volcano is wreaking havoc all across the Atlantic Ocean, and a catastrophic earthquake has wounded what the Chinese are pleased to call China, not a few people have written in to ask "how did you do that?"
As most people already understand, there are two principal systems of calculation available to Tibetan astrologers: "white" astrology, which refers to methods under Indian influence, and "black" astrology, which refers to methods under Chinese influence. The terms "white" and "black" are a way of referring to cultural preferences in the color of clothes. The Indians wore white, while the Chinese wore black, and nothing more is properly inferred.
"Black" astrology, also known as 'byung rtsis, is a system of calculation based on the interrelationship between five elements, or the common method of Chinese astrology. It is used to make yearly predictions, cast natal horoscopes, determine marriage compatibility, and make burial arrangements. This is also the method of astrology most closely associated with the practice of medicine. Usually, we refer to this simply as "Element Astrology."
In the case of our volcano, we arrived at this by examining the relationship between the earth, fire, and water indicants. The same is true for earthquakes, with the addition of factors noted in Tibetan geomancy, relating to earth spirits.
Tibetan astrology can be incredibly precise. That is the good news. The bad news is, the calculations required to achieve a high level of precision are so laborious, that I cannot think of anyone who actually does them. To give you an example: in the case of a high lama requiring surgery, the calculations for an auspicious day and hour might take six astrologers, working full-time for four or five days.
Because of this, we use a shotgun approach, rather than delve down to greater precision. Were we to do so, chances are we could arrange to see the month, the week, and quite possibly the hour of particular events.
If you want to learn more about "black" Tibetan astrology, there are any number of books about. One useful little trick I learned many years ago is to balance everything you find against Joseph Needham's studies in Chinese five element theory: he worked with primary sources, whereas the Tibetan books are actually a secondary source, albeit with magnificent commentaries. If you want to take the sublime approach, I recommend Thinley Norbu Rinpoche's book Magic Dance: The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, as a good place to begin.