I m a g e s
The huge numbers of pictures is caused by the huge number of rituals in which Zanpars are needed. The numerous pictures of animals are probably meant to express certain specific powers which - according to some experts - are used for healing sick domestic animals [like substitute procedures of humans].
All the figures carved in the panels and their functions can only be understood by attentive reading of the ritual and by added oral explanations which - as mentioned above - are nearly nonexistent today. And so in many cases just speculations as to meaning and usage remain.
The human figures with the animal heads are abundant in Bardo Thödröl, also in Bardo Thödol [Tibetan book of death]. The Bardo Thödol is a Buddhist writing from the 8th century, discovered in the 14th century in a cavern and is referred to the founder of the Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava.
There you will find this frightening demons and ghosts that encounter the deceased person in this interim period after death and before being reborn. Probably Zanpar prints of these Bardo pictures are made during this 48 day-rituals to ease the passage through this interim period for the diseased. They serve as a kind of guide through this passage. Moreover, the Bardo Thödrol is also an instruction how the diseased can recognize the light of salvation with the help texts read aloud and can leave the cycle of rebirth.
In this interim condition between death and rebirth the spirit of the diseased sees himself confronted with dreadful visions filling him with fear and terror and leading him astray. Therefor it is important to have read the Bardo Trödol to know how to oppose these visions. The spectacle of these various demons gives a vivid impression of the terrible tortures that the soul of the diseased has got to bear in the hereafter.
But there are also pictures of deities and animals and symbols that proclaim something good. But they are a minority, giving protection against enemies and diseases.
Endless Knot, Two Fish, Wheel of Dharma, Conch Shell
Fish & Frog
Tibetan Inscription: 'sde brgyad' [eight classes of daemons]
Deities & Daemons
Deities & Daemons
Trigramms & animal-headed bardo deities