Cover Photo: A colorful illustration of a monk encircled by items necessary to help the deceased travel through their bardo: a horse, skulls, jade, a bird, a hat, a dress, and a bowl.
Illustration by Lyli Feng for Catapult

Tibetan Death Horoscopes, Mothers and Daughters, and Legacy-Breaking

In my grief over my grandmother’s death, I derived solace from the idea that something could still be done to benefit her, that she hadn’t left us but was just in a different place.

In the Tibetan custom, horoscopes are cast at birth and death. When my grandmother passed away in Darjeeling on November 30, 2004, the tsipa astrologer lama was summoned to the house. A grizzled man in horn-rimmed glasses and maroon robes, he worked out my grandmother’s death horoscope according to her birth year, sign, and time of death.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead


It was my karma to lose that jobIt was my karma that my house burned downIt was my karma to not get along with my daughter

A longtime resident of Tokyo, Ann Tashi Slater teaches at a Japanese university. Her work has been published by The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Tin House, AGNI, Granta, and the Huffington Post, among others.