I was trying to find a website explaining Tenmo (mala divination or ‘phrengbamo for Wylie fans) for a friend of mine to save me having to write up this entry. While I found many pages talking about it, they all seem to have been copying from the same errant source. I don’t mean it’s a different system and thus can’t work in a spiritual sense, I mean the source they’re copying doesn’t physically work. What does this mean? It means I’m writing this entry when I was trying not to.
So I’ve talked about malas once or twice before but I didn’t talk much on the divination side of it. I don’t use it much, I’d rather stick with my dice or my tarot, but on the other hand I always have my malas on, so if I really need an answer quickly when I’m out and about I can turn to my mala, and for that purpose knowing how to do this is a great help.
To begin the divination say the mantra of the figure you want to ask the question to for a complete japamala (108 times, a complete count on the mala). Traditionally that’s Manjushri being the Buddha of Wisdom, though any figure you work with who may be more relevant may be used. Personally I perform the permutations of the Divine Name (IAOAOIOIAAIOIOAOAI) and say a quick prayer to my Holy Guardian Angel.
Once this is done ask your question, when you see how the responses are formulated later you’ll get a sense on how to phrase the questions, but it is largely yes/no. Then hold the mala between your hands and grab two beads at random, and stretch the section without the guru or triple gem bead(s) out. There are two methods from here (and this is where other sources have messed up), you count the beads toward the centre by groups of three until you are left with one, two, or three beads. The left hand represents wisdom, so in some traditions you only count the beads by three with the left hand. Others have you alternate left, then right, repeat until you have three or less beads left. I use the left hand only method, the point is to count off three beads toward the centre until you can’t do so anymore.
One bead is called ‘The Falcon,’ two beads is ‘The Raven,’ and three is ‘The Snowlion.’ From here the answers are quite simple. When you receive the Falcon it means that the God/Protector/Spirit you called on approves of the action and give it their blessing. It also symbolizes good luck and favourable circumstances. The Raven means they don’t approve, will not help, and there will be obstructions. Raven can also be a sign of sickness and weakness. The Snowlion means you have some support, but it is more passive/neutral, results will be slower coming. To oversimplify Falcon is Yes, Raven is No, and Snowlion is Maybe…but.
You can adapt this with other number systems. For instance I use this for elemental divination. I use the same process, but instead I count by fours, leaving me with a result 1-4 and each number relates to element and that gives me the theme of my answer. This can be made more complex by combining multiple elemental readings or mixing elements and qualities, or elements and planets.
So as mentioned it’s a simple system, but it’s handy because if you wear or keep a mala with you, you can get an answer anywhere on the go. Though as mentioned it’s also something you can customize with other number/symbol systems if you want to use the idea but the Falcon/Raven/Snowlion symbolism doesn’t appeal to you.