The 12 Houses
Polestar Astrology, like every form of Natal Astrology, calculates and charts Fate in terms of Twelve “Houses.” In Western and Indian Astrology, the Twelve Houses each comprise 30˚ of the night’s sky, making a 360˚ picture of the heavens. While Polestar Astrology clearly inherited this convention, I must again state that a Polestar Chart does not depict the sky. However, the Twelve Houses of Polestar Astrology share many similarities with their Western and Indian counterparts. They also share some stark differences.
Before we can delve into the 36 Stars, we must examine the Twelves Houses, for the meaning of any given Star is relative to its placement within a house. The Emperor in the Offspring Palace presents a very different image of Fate than the Emperor in the Pleasure Palace.
Each house is ruled by a Stem and Branch, a Zodiac Animal and Element. So, there is a Dragon Palace, Snake Palace, Horse Palace, and so on. Depending on the individual calculation, your Youth Palace, for example may be ruled by Yang Water Dragon. These elemental energies do not drastically affect the Stars but can sometimes diminish or exalt their influence. The Emperor, for example, is exalted in the Dragon and Horse Palace. I will discuss this further with each individual Star and with a Blog on Luminous Stars, Exalted Houses, and Fate Thresholds.
Unlike Western and Indian Astrology, the value system of the Twelve Houses is decidedly Confucian. Indian Astrology is remarkably complex in terms of its many layers of interpretation, and often this kind of analysis is necessary in a reading. Polestar Astrology, on the other hand, is not as concerned with that kind of detail, although there are many details available—influences from previous houses, 120/180˚ influences, borrowed Stars, Auspicious Star Formations, and so on. However, that kind of analysis often misses the forest for the trees.
Polestar Astrology is really concerned with the “Big Picture” of our Fate in terms of our relationships and participation in society. There are esoteric interpretations of each house, but the mundane interpretation is the main one. The Houses therefore have a straight forward meaning. While any given house in Indian Astrology may have hundreds of possible layers/meanings, in Polestar Astrology, the Offspring Palace is about your Fate to be a parent, period. I personally appreciate the simplicity and power of the Twelve Houses, but if you’re looking for psychology or insight into your deepest spiritual yearnings, maybe look to Jyotish.
Polestar Astrology is mostly concerned with our Fate in relationships and in the “world,” which mostly means “career” in the modern context. It does not say much about the type of career you should have, but it does say whether your Fate will be resolved through career and how/when that process is likely to happen. It offers a key to what we call “Fate Thresholds,” which is not a matter of what but where. If your primary Fate is to be a Parent, then career is simply not important, even if society tells you so.
The Twelve Houses provide a powerful yet simple map that shows where your Fate/Opportunities in life will unfold. They cover just about every aspect of human life.
The first three houses are read together for they represent our overall Ancestral Mandates
Ming Palace (命宮)
Summary of Fate and Hints of Character
The First House or “Ascendant” is called the Ming Palace. The Chinese Character 命 Mìng, again, means Life, Fate, Mandate of Heaven, Destiny, Purpose, and so on (宮 Gōng means “palace” or “court” and is the same for each house). The Ming Palace provides a concentrated image, a “Thumbnail Sketch” of a person’s dance of Fate. It gives us the big picture, a “principal” for the unraveling of Fate.
The Star/s that appear here are your “Ruling Star/s” and reveal the primary image/nature of your Fate in this lifetime. The attributes of your Ruling Star/s relate to your overall opportunities in life, and it is the only house that relates directly to your Character, or capacity (the rest of the Houses related indirectly).
The Stem/Branch of the Year and Hour you were born is the primary image of your Character, but the Ruling Star of the Ming Palace also gives us an idea of “what you’re like as a person.” My ruling Star is the Empress, but she’s afflicted, so I’m like a moody Empress.
The Star/s that appear here do not offer much insight into the events of Fate, but they indicate the “gravity” of our Fate. Liu Ming would call this “Fate Heavy or Fate Light.” Since the Stars are organized in a hierarchy, the more potent Stars suggest a more potent Fate. A heavy or potent Fate is full of predestined affinities, responsibilities, and obligations...“big karma,” which requires our time, attention, and freedom. A light Fate is characterized more by Freedom where relationships and responsibilities are less cumbersome.
It is possible for the Ming Palace to be empty, which means it is possible to be born without major Fate. An empty Ming Palace implies a life of Freedom to clear up minor details, help, and generally be of benefit to others. It can manifest as feelings of confusion, lack of purpose/direction, and so on. But it also implies an intentional birth, what Buddhists call a Bodhisattva, in which you resolved your Fate in a previous lifetime and came back to guide others. It can also imply that your Ancestors resolved Fate for you and gave you a free pass this time around.
The nature of this house reveals the certainty or likelihood that you will resolve Fate in this lifetime. If one of the Four Rulers shows up here, then resolution is almost guaranteed, provided you don’t screw it up. If the primary image of Fate is afflicted, then life is characterized by a hue of struggle. Fate can in this case still be resolved, but we must use our freedom wisely and look to the other eleven Houses as to where that resolution can take place.
The Ming Palace is where we examine the important astrological principal of Gănyìng, 感應, or reciprocity. We look at the how the overall nature of Fate will interact with a person’s Character. If, like me for example, you have a very Yin Fate (Empress) with a very Yang Character (Tiger/Dragon), then this creates a certain dynamic which may result in struggle, lol. So, it could be viewed as inauspicious. If you have a very exalted Yang Fate like the Emperor in the First House and you’re a Dragon, then this is Capacity meeting Opportunity, which would be interpreted as auspicious. The same situation would be inauspicious for a Rabbit or Snake, whose instinct is to hide/shy away from the spotlight.
The auspicious Gănyìng, 感應, or reciprocity between Character (Capacity) and Fate (Opportunity) is what the Chinese call “Destiny.” It is also simply called luck. The First House when read with the Character can tell us if a person has Destiny.
Traditionally, the Ming Palace is also said to offer an image of a person’s appearance, but I have not found this to have much/if any significance. It’s too simplistic. Although, I would say that I have an elegant and Empress like demeanor.
This House is always read first and sometimes again last to reinforce the central image or “story” of Fate.
Ancestor Palace (父母宮)
Ancestors and Parents – Elders, Ancestral Mandates, Past Lives
Technically, the Ancestor Palace is the 12th and last house, but I always read it second with clients, so I will do the same here. 父母 Fùmŭ here literally means parents, but in the Chinese Tradition our parents are a lot more than our parents. Our Father and Mother represent the connection to our Ancestral Lineage and are a symbol of our “precedent,” everything that came before.
Yang Stars represent our connection to our Patriarchal Ancestors, which can be every person on your Father’s side, including women, or it can be all the men in your family, including men from your Mother’s Side. The Yin Stars represent, then, the Matriarchy, all the women in the family or all the people on your Mother’s side, including men. It is up to you and your affinity to decided which is the case. The Stars in the Ancestor Palace represent the Yin and Yang of your heritage, your “Ancestral Qi,” or “Source Qi,” called Yuan 元氣.
Superficially, this house can represent our karmic relationship with our parents, which is perhaps the most meaningful relationship in our lives. It is easy to see family trauma and abuse here. In modern times, we “psychologize” our parental experience and spend a lot of energy examining our issues around our early nurturing. You can see that nurturing in this house as well as cues to the nature of birth itself. This house represents more than the personal matter of sorting things out with our living ancestors but of the long line of dead people who reproduced successfully to give you a body.
I read this house second because it represents our karmic affinity “behind the scenes;” it is a gate to the “spirit world,” the unseen influences that shape our lives. In the Chinese Tradition, the dead have a profound affect on the living. This house can represent seven generations of ancestral patterning, depending on the arrangements that show up here. We may be connected to what the Chinese call an “Original Ancestor,” someone far, far back in the family line. We may have a deep karmic affinity with a great, great Grandmother whom we will never meet or even see a picture of. We may also have no connection whatsoever to the family we are born into.
Like the Ming Palace, the influence of this house reveals the nature of your Fate in all the houses, for if your Ancestors bless your life, then no matter what difficulties you face, you will feel blessed. These Stars are like fairy godparents, protectors, guardian angels. They conspire to provide you with opportunities, guidance, and connections.
However, you may also be born with an afflicted Ancestral or Ghost pattern. Your life may be influenced by powerful self-destructive habits, ancestral patterns of addiction and illness that are not of your own making. You may receive a mountain of unfished business that compels you into obsessive ambitions that have nothing to do with you. For example, you may inherit a family business and be raised to take it over, which you go along with, but secretly you want to be an artist and resent the burden of all the responsibility. But you receive tremendous privilege and opportunity, so is this a blessing or a curse? That’s up to you to decided, but this House tells us about your obligations to your Ancestors that must be fulfilled one way or another.
The Daoist interpretation of Polestar Astrology looks at this house in terms of what we call “Ghost Profiling,” and they take it to be the most significant house, spiritually speaking. Buddhists read this House as a picture of your previous lifetimes/past life karma; both are acceptable interpretations.
When Ghost Stars show up here, or if they rule any House, I encourage people to study their genealogy and find out as many stories as they can about who they come from. There is often a story somewhere in the family line that has been forgotten, a person who wants to be remembered for their struggle. You may continue to repeat their struggle until this story is told.
Youth Palace (兄弟宮)
Time of Youth and Siblings – Childhood, Ancestral Mandates, School
The characters of the Second House, 兄弟, xiōngdi, are literally translated as siblings, but we translate it as the Youth Palace, for it represents the atmosphere or time of life that we call “Youth,” which is not clearly defined in our culture because we lack rights of passage. This house represents our possibility of resolving Fate in childhood through sibling relationships, early education, early life experience, and development.
All Chinese people receive three names like Mao Ze Dong 毛泽东. Dong is his personal name; Mao is his family name, and Ze is a name he shares with his siblings, and it represents the Chinese idea that we share a deep karmic connection, a “shared body of Fate,” with our siblings. So, this house can represent past life connections with siblings.
Perhaps you were soldiers on the battlefield, and you failed to complete your connection, so now as brothers, you shoot at each other with toy guns, and complete the circle. You may have been best friends in a past life and were so close that this time around you are brother and sister. It is also very possible that you have no karmic connection whatsoever to your siblings, and you grow up feeling like strangers. You may have half or step siblings with whom you share a deep bond or no connection at all.
This house also represents the notion that one child in a family may receive more Ancestral Fate/Mandates than another child. If the elder brother has a potent Star in the Youth Palace and the younger brother does not, then the elder brother may be responsible for completing the family karma. However, it was often the case that a younger sibling received this karma and would be the one to take over a family business.
It may represent the distribution of resources, inheritance, and responsibilities in terms of family life. You may have to grow up early and become a second parent, raising your younger siblings because Dad is out of the picture. Or, you may have an older sister who protects and parents you more than your parents.
Sibling karma may provide emotional support, or it may be a source of affliction, arguing, and discord, which is never resolved. Many clients have told me that they never speak to their siblings. I have yet only begun to describe a Ghost Star in this House before the client replies, “oh yeah, my brother is possessed!”
Potent Stars in this Palace can represent a strong influence of elders, mentors, aunts/uncles, and so on; it represents the presence of Ancestral Qi in our early life. Ghost Stars can represent unreliable, inappropriate adult protection or supervision in youth. An afflicted Youth Palace can represent early trauma, conflicts, and challenges that shape us for the rest of our lives, which can take place at home or school. In that sense, the influence of this house can extend far beyond youth, for so much of our lives is spent processing our childhood.
The most important theme of this House is whether Fate is resolved in Youth. I have an empty and afflicted Youth Palace, so although a lot happened to me, these events did resolve my Fate but rather created Fate that I am resolving as an adult. I often feel like a lot happened, but nothing happened. I did not exit childhood with any sense of resolution.
An exalted Youth Palace suggests that a person can complete their Fate in childhood, which I have seen many times, for these people are often at a loss about what to do with their lives and therefore consult an Astrologer. Our culture does not except the notion that a person can be complete in life before 18, but Fate wise this can be the case. It is possible to resolve your major Fate playing house with your sister, an idea that I try to communicate to clients, but I’m not sure people get.
An exalted Youth Palace indicates what the Tibetans call a “Tulku,” that is a person born with the Karmic legacy, skills, and/or maturity of an adult. What in the west we might call “old souls.” People with exalted Youth Palaces basically pick up where they left off last life and tie up loose ends before they exit grade school. These people are often precocious and show early signs of maturity, ambition, a so on. They often can’t wait to be adults and spend youth bucking authority, running away from home, and so on. They often feel like adults are idiots, or they may relate more to adults than to their peers, feeling above kid games. An exalted Youth Palace also implies that a person is free then as an adult to shape their life in whatever way they want rather than continue to pursue Ancestral patterns of Fate.
The next two Houses are read together, for they relate to our Ancestral Mandate/Fate to partner and start a family of our own.
Partners Palace (夫妻宮)
Partners and Marriage – Long Term Relationships
The characters for this house, 夫妻, fūqī, literally mean husband and wife, so we translate it as the Partners Palace. This house does not indicate other types of partnership, like business partnerships (that would be the Assistant’s Palace) but refers specifically to our Fate with long-term relationship patterns.
This House expresses the Chinese concept of 因緣 Yinyuan, which refers to a predestined relationship. The image used to describe this is of two trees who appear separate but beneath their roots are intertwined. Another term used here is “previously betrothed,” which implies a past life commitment that continues from life to life. This is somewhat similar but much less romantic than the western idea of “soulmates,” for this House also includes negative past life connections. The variety of paired Stars here today play out in a dizzying array of possibilities that stretch the traditional Chinese interpretation of this house for arranged marriage, which was its original intention.
The Stars in this House reveal the depth and importance of relationship and partners in your life. Stars here can relate to your partner’s appearance, character, or the nature of the relationship itself. They can also reveal a pattern of relating that has nothing to do with specific people but with your own desires/fantasies.
Major Stars often indicate specific Fate connections that may be resolved through marriage, or they can relate to many fated partnerships. I recently told someone struggling in marriage that they did not have Fate with one person but with many, which they knew but had been resisting due to the expectations of monogamy.
Traditionally, the Chinese placed significant importance on the marriage ceremony itself as crucial in the resolution of Fate between two people, especially if the House is exalted or contains heavily “Ancestral” Stars. Marriage to the Chinese, and to most traditional cultures, was not romantic but for joining two families. The ceremony was a ritual in which all the Ancestors of two family lines, living and deceased, met and blessed the joining of two people.
So traditionally, the ceremony is the main event in the liberation of Ancestral Fate, not the marriage itself. Ming would often insist that people with the Emperor or Empress here have a ceremony and invite as many family members as possible. Traditional Chinese and Indian marriage ceremonies include requesting permissions of the family elders, somewhat like the European tradition of the Father “giving away the bride,” a patriarchal custom, which in India is reversed; the man must ask permission of the Matriarchy.
Significant Stars in this House imply that the unraveling of our Fate comes through our relationship with another person. Perhaps your life is stuck, stagnant, then all the sudden you meet someone who whisks you up into a world of adventure that introduces you to things you later could never do without, that change your forever. Perhaps, they create opportunities in your life that influence your career, your spiritual path, your sense of purpose. Perhaps, your relationship is by all outer appearances boring, but this person becomes your anchor in life, supporting you through all the ups and downs. This kind of Fate often unravels in terms of the next House, the Offspring Palace. For many people, family life becomes the center of their Fate.
Afflicted, this House can represent many patterns of struggle. Ghosts in this House suggest Ancestors who died feeling unloved, unwanted, betrayed, abandoned, or abused by their partners, a pattern you inherit to play out while “dating.” Of course, our culture is profoundly disorganized and even sick when it comes to relationships, sex, and so on, so it may seem like everyone is playing out these kinds of patterns today, regardless of individual Fate. I am refreshed to find normal monogamous couples who get along; it seems like a rarity these days.
Depending on Character, Ghost Stars may cause people to drift from one partner to another disappointed, dissatisfied, and frustrated. They may prompt someone to repeatedly choose the wrong people, getting into or staying in abusive situations. Ghost Stars may cause quarrels, differences, and rifts between people that end in divorce. Their resolution often teaches people how to be in relationships. Perhaps, you had a challenging relationship that taught you how to be a partner, and now you are free for a healthy marriage.
Ghost Stars can also influence patterns of self-undermining—always wanting what you can’t have, impossible standards that no one can live up to, and so on, based on ghostly needs and fantasies of the “perfect person,” who of course does not exist. Ghost Stars may cause some people to give up on partnership altogether and choose to be alone, while deep down hoping to meet the right person. Or they may choose unconventional patterns of relationship that do not fit into social norms.
A classic story here is the young man who marries before going off to war. Every day he looks at the wallet photo, yearning to be home with his love. Back home, she waits patiently for him to return. He dies in battle, and his last thought is of getting back to her. In the bardo, he searches for her and finds that she remarried and forgot about him. Or, she never marries again and forever laments her long-lost love. Two generations later, you inherit the pattern of longing for your lost love from your great uncle and spend your life searching for the perfect person who is always out of reach.
It is also possible to have no significant Fate with a life partner, in which case you are free to choose and be chosen. Not everyone has a match made in heaven, and not everyone is fated to struggle. People with empty Partner’s Palaces often feel disappointed, since there won’t be a prince charming, but it may also mean that there will be fifty and you must choose. An empty Partner’s Palace means that you build Fate with the person you choose so long as you choose to remain together.
And yes, there is potential for love and happily ever-after, but it is rare. We do hear stories of people who marry their high-school sweetheart and grow old together. Often, this kind of strong Fate runs out, and if people don’t learn how to work with freedom in this regard, then it can dissipate. You may be “done” with someone, in which case separating can be natural and not negative. Divorce is not always bad and can often be a positive conclusion to a Fated relationship that is “done.”
Offspring Palace (子女宮)
Offspring – Children, Adoption, Sexual Identity, Legacy
The characters for this house, 子女, zĭnǚ, means sons and daughters, so we translate it as the Offspring Palace. This House reveals our Ancestral Mandate to create more Ancestors; it reveals our Fate with children and parenting. Traditionally, the Fate to be a parent pays back a karmic debt, eighteen+ years of taking care of someone who once took care of you. You own them big and so give them human birth, which they then owe in return and must repay through gratitude and service. Parenting, in this sense, is about completing Fated obligations and letting go of freedom.
It is important to note that this House tells us about your Fate as a Parent, not about the Fate of your children, although it can give a hint to their Character. If significant Stars show up here, it is therefore important to complete the Fate indicated to have a fulfilling life. People with significant Stars here who choose not to have children may be missing out on an important relationship that otherwise would have been crucial to their Fate.
Today, many people are choosing not to be parents, and probably for good reason, and many are having children much later in life. So, this House gets harder and harder to interpret in today’s culture. Essentially, this House represents our “Jing,” our fundamental predilection towards embodiment, towards reproducing ourselves, so although it is primarily about children, there are other interpretations we can derive from this principle.
Clearly, some people are born to be Parents. Strong Fated Stars mean that being a parent provides all the important life lessons and becomes central to your understanding of what it means to be human. A Fated past life connection with a Child brings deep joy, meaning, and fulfillment to life. The unconditional love of parenthood transforms you beyond what you could have imagined, and you can’t imagine life without your children.
From the Chinese perspective, that feeling of a past life connection can also indicate a “Returning Ancestor,” a person being reborn in the same family line. This may be a great grandmother coming back as your child. In this case, the Chinese would often name children after Ancestors. If you research your genealogy, you may find that you are a dead-ringer for one of your Ancestors, in which case you may be a returning Ancestor.
This House indicates how to be a parent. It may suggest conventional methods and/or going beyond the standard notions of parenting. Some children require a lot of attention, guidance, and advice. Others are “self-starters” who take charge of their parent’s lives.
We assume that children are innocent and helpless, but this is almost never the case. Children are not “tabula rasa,” clean slates; they each come in with their own Fate/Karma, and they need a lot less controlling than we often impose. Some kids need to be left alone to wander in the woods and skin their knees; others are very sensitive and need a lot of protection to flourish.
Stars here can indicate the nature of your child/children. Yin Stars are often interpreted as girls, and Yang Stars are often interpreted as boys, and although this is somewhat accurate, it is not always the case. Yang Stars often represent independent, precocious children who do not need much parenting, and Yin Stars often represent more “sensitive” children who require a lot of support. The nature of the different Stars indicates what kind of support that may be. If you give birth to an Oracle who sees ghosts, they may require a different kind of upbringing than a Vassal who should play team sports.
This House also brings up an important idea that we have difficulty accepting in America—that a child may resolve your Fate for you. In China this is called “a child brings honor to the parents.” This means that your children may grow to be successful and fulfil your Fate in Career/Wealth for you. You may work hard in your career, and your child may become the artist you always wanted to be.
We also believe that children are expenses. Many people say they will have kids when they get their lives in order, when they make enough money, or get the right job. But this House suggests that children might bring this Fate. Having a child may create the Fate opportunities you are seeking. You may be poor, but if you have the fate to give birth to an Empress, and she demands a castle, then her Fate may cause dad to get a promotion and raise. Liu Ming would often tell people to have children even if their lives are not perfect, for the children bring the order and resources. When I see strong unafflicted Stars here, I often emphatically say—MAKE THE BABIES!!!
When a person is childless/chooses not to have children and has major Stars in this House, then we may interpret it differently. As I said earlier, this House is about Jing, so Fate here may reveal a Fated pattern around sexuality, sexual identity, or their physical reproductive system. I have seen many instances of this being the case, although it can be a sensitive subject that clients are shy to discuss.
Ghost Stars here can indicate miscarriages, abortions, difficulty conceiving, and so on. These incomplete pregnancies can “haunt” the mother or siblings for many years. Traditional cultures often have rituals for resolving children who don’t make it to birth. These kinds of ghost can linger and produce the odd feeling that someone who is supposed to be here is absent. As an only child you may have felt like you had a sister; you may have felt her presence and poured tea for her, talked to her, and on. These usually fade in adulthood, but many people remember having “imaginary friends.”
Ghosts can also indicate conflicted relationships between parents and their children. Ghost patterns can cause discord, arguments, disagreements. Or, it can create distance, separation, the feeling that you have nothing in common. These children may leave home early, or rifts may cause you not to speak for many years. You may even loose a child to illness or accident.
In the case of people who choose not to have children or if for other reasons someone is childless, then this House can become about legacy. Someone may create a product, a business, a brand, a book, a trust-fund, and so on, that they leave behind for future generations. They may spend their lives working on a project that is like their “child.” They may gestate, birth, nurture, and release something into the world that fulfills this Fate.
This House also indicates Fate to be a step-parent, to adopt, or to raise someone else’s children. A friend of mine was adopted and has very clear karma to be a step-father, which he has fulfilled. It can also indicate working with children as a nanny, a kindergarten teacher, and so on, in which case you parent many children. I had one client who worked with inner-city youths and felt like the parent to hundreds. She never had kids of her own yet felt this aspect of life was fulfilled.
It is also possible for men to have Fate with miscarriage and abortion that comes through women, which is perhaps difficult to grok. A woman may have no Fate to be a mother, but the Father comes along, and his Ancestors take over the process.
It is very possible to have Fate with a child but not with a Partner. Some women just need a sperm donor. Dad may only be needed for a few minutes, while the Fate with the Child lasts a lifetime. Or, Dad may have the Fate and become a single father, it is rarer, but it does happen. He may also resolve Fate through being a weekend Dad. The time may be sparse, but it could be precious and resolve his Fate, being the only meaningful time in his life.
Traditionally, the influence of this house is said to fade for women during menopause. So, if a woman has significant Stars here and misses the opportunity, then the relationship will be postponed until the next lifetime, and you very well may be reborn to complete the relationship what never happened. That could even be the case this time!
The Property and Wealth Palace are read together to determine a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
Wealth Palace (財帛宮)
Wealth – Finances, Resource, Inheritance, General Fortune
The Characters for this house, 財帛, cái bò, are straight forward and literally mean wealth; cái means money, resources, valuables, and so on, and bò refers to silk, or “finery.” So, we translate it as the Wealth Palace. This House reveals a persons Fate with cash, hard currency, investments, inheritance, windfall, and prosperity. It indicates their personal ability to earn/generate income, use, and save money through industry/effort. It can also represent fated connections with wealthy people.
In principal, it represents our Fate with managing our resources, which in ancient China meant something much different than today. In this sense, it should always be read in relation to the Property Palace to understand a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
In agricultural society, wealth was considered cyclical. In cyclical time, wealth varies according to the cycles and seasons. Spring brings the wealth of “new,” Summer the wealth of “abundance,” Fall the wealth of “harvested security,” and Winter the wealth of “calm abiding.” In other words, when you live with the cycles of nature, especially if you are a hunter or farmer, you accept times of abundance and scarcity as demonstrations of Nature itself, nothing to get excited or panic about.
Our culture operates on the myth of linear time, which may be the single greatest disaster in human history. We view wealth as an endless, aggressive pursuit of acquisition; we attempt to live in eternal Summer, which cannot be done. A select few have abundance and the rest live in scarcity. We overproduce and have changed our very climate.
Obviously, the cyclical values of this tradition do not align with consumer capitalist American values. We must interpret this House, then, with the larger Fate of our culture in mind, which has most people in debt, living pay check to pay check, trying to make ends meet.
In the Chinse view, you are not poor if you have air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. Wealth is something that comes and goes in cycles in an atmosphere of nature’s generosity. This house, then, demonstrates the principal of Wealth, although we often read it in relation to money, because that is what our society dictates.
Because our society has such a crude relationship to wealth, this House is straight forward in interpretation. This Stars in this House, especially Yang Stars, indicate how our Ancestral or Past Life Fate comes to pay us back in the form of income. Most Stars are modest in interpretation. On the surface, they can indicate if you will be paid well/fairly for your efforts, or whether your finances will increase steadily throughout your life. Yang Stars often indicate that your income is direct; you work a 9-5 and earn a pay check. Yang Stars convey the American dream of “pulling yourself up by your own boots straps.”
Yin Stars, then, tend to indicate that your money comes from indirect sources. This may be in the form of family money/inheritance, a benefactor, financial loans, alimony checks, investments, side-jobs, or perhaps you are a consultant and the money you earn is only tangentially related to the money you help produce.
Yin Stars also represent a flux in income, that it comes and goes. People with Yin Fate here may at times be interested in earning and do well and at other times have no interest at all and are content with very little. Unafflicted, Yin Stars are considered a gift from your own past life generosity, or simply a privilege inherited from your ancestors.
Ghost Stars usually indicate a struggle with finances that we interpret as Ancestral patterns around scarcity. Perhaps, your great grandfather worked his ass off to get the family started in America, but he died poor, worried about his family’s future. You, then, inherit both his work ethic and insecurity, working 60 hours a week only to feel lack and wanting. This Fate may be resolved if your perseverance finally pays off; you get promoted and work less or retire and feel satisfied, freeing the Ancestral pattern. Or, it could be resolved through changing your relationship to money altogether, renouncing everything and living on a self-sustaining farm.
These ghostly patterns can come in the form of debt - medical, legal, and so on. You may be Fated to work hard only to lose everything in extensive legal battles. Or, you may get sick and be overwhelmed by medical bills. You may inherit a family fortune that is wrought with challenges you did not expect. As we say, more money more problems. Ghosts can certainly manifest as irresponsible, selfish, or careless behavior with money.
In some cases, Ghosts Stars are associated with “windfall,” meaning sudden unexpected income. This may come in the form of gambling, striking it big in Vegas, or winning the lottery. Ming would often tell people with certain patterns to test their luck in this regard. Traditionally, the windfall is viewed as ghost resolving through one last throw of the dice. However, the danger of this ghost pattern is to win big and then lose big. If this happens, take the money and run!
An exalted Wealth Palace indicates that your major Fate is resolved through engaging with resources. The real crux of Fate resolution in this House is the feeling or satisfaction, contentment, completion, and so on, feeling that you are/have enough.
An exalted Wealth Palace can indicate doing very well financially. It can indicate prosperity, but if you get rich and feel no satisfaction, then you are not resolving Fate. If you are not generous, if you do not give back, then you are not resolving Fate. You may have good Fate to earn a fortune, but if you’re greedy, then this turns ghostly very fast.
Your Fate may be a rags to riches story. You may be born into poverty, but if your Wealth Palace is exalted, doing well is not a matter of if but when. And again, it does not indicate the amount of money earned but the corresponding feeling of contentment and satisfaction that comes through having what you need, which inspires the feeling of generosity. Generosity is the natural outcome of abundance.
This House can also show us hints of career. Polestar Astrology does not indicate specific careers all that clearly, even in the Career Houses, but the Wealth Palace can indicate being paid as a consultant, artist, doctor, healer, astrologer, spirit medium, teacher, and so on. You can of course be all these things without any indication whatsoever.
Health Palace (疾厄宮)
Health – Physical Constitution, Illness, Death, Doctoring
The Characters for this House, 疾厄, Jí è, literally mean disease/sickness and distress/disaster, and traditionally it was called the Death Palace. We, however, translate it as the Health Palace, for death has become a little too morbid in our culture for us to relate to, and this House covers a lot of potential health related factors. In fact, this is one of the more difficult Houses to interpret due to the variety of experiences it can refer to.
The Stars appearing in this House can refer to a person’s physical constitution, Fate with illness and injury, capacity to heal/recover, relationships/karma with doctors/healers, and Fate with medical treatments. It also has implications concerning a person’s longevity and the potential for early death/long life. The Stars may reveal patterns around diet, exercise, and lifestyle. They may reveal Ancestral Patterns of illness, congenital conditions/predispositions, and Fate for addiction, abuse, and so on. This House can also reveal a talent and affinity for practicing medicine and the Fate to be a healer, often after a process of personal illness and recovery. We can say that the House refers to all aspects of health and wellbeing – mental, emotional, and physical.
The Polestar interpretations of the various stars have many implications that can be read in relation to Classical Chinese Medicine. Each Star has its own associations with illnesses, syndromes, and parts of the body, associated with organ networks and the five-phases. The Stars also correlate to certain seasons and can tell us if a person heals best in Winter or Spring.
To understand this House, we must understand the basics of Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine seeks a certain balance and does not have any concept of an “ideal state” that exists separate from the individual. Our sense of normal is always in flux and changes relative to our age, the season, and the environment in which we live. In other words, there is no normal or healthy anything, for what is one person’s medicine is another’s poison. Chinese Medicine is also not morbid; death may be the perfect resolution of illness/Fate, given certain situations. The hysterical preservation of life at all costs does not fit in with this tradition. It may be someone’s Fate to go through a debilitating illness and not recover, for they may in that process understand the very meaning of life—who are we to judge?
As symbolic representations of Ancestors, the Stars offer an image of inherited Ancestral Patterns of illness, and the House can be read in correlation with the Ancestor Palace as an image of a person’s inherited constitution, genetic memory, or what we now call “epigenetics.” Illnesses that do not respond to standard treatments and that do not have clear medical diagnosis are thought of as being inherited from the unsettled dead.
It is important to note that the Stars in this House CANNOT be used for diagnosis, but they can be used for prognosis. We cannot determine if someone will fall ill, but if they do, we can determine the nature of the condition in relation to Ancestral Patterns, and we can determine the likelihood of recovery. Astrology is not an alternative to medical diagnosis, but it can be used as an effective tool to aid treatment. Many factors of Character also determine a person’s elemental makeup, such as excessive Fire in a Chart, which can tell us a lot about their health issues.
As Astrologers, we must not jump to conclusions and diagnose people. I have looked at the chart of Stephan Hawking and at many charts of people with debilitating illness. I have seen many people with the same star arrangement as Stephen Hawking who have a very different expression of the same Stars, and I have seen people with the same condition who have a different Star arrangement. There is a vast range of potential possibilities in each Star, and we cannot predict how they will manifest. I have jumped to conclusions before and been very surprised by how different the client’s situation ended up expressing. So, I always give as many interpretations as I can and do my best not to spook/scare people who have potentially a challenging Health Palace. We also don’t want to avoid difficult possibilities and sugarcoat a situation.
Ghost Stars here can create a wide variety of experiences, ranging from chronic, sub-clinical, minor conditions, to allergies/food sensitivities, to mental/emotional problems, and so on. An afflicted Health Palace may manifest for one person as an unhealthy obsession with illness, such as hypochondria. Or, it may compel a person to constantly seek medical attention—they may go an acupuncturist one day, a chiropractor the next, a shamanic healer on the weekend, followed by a fast, a cleanse, and then an obsessive fixation of the next fad diet.
Ghosts can cause mistreatment, overtreatment, improper/incorrect diagnosis due to constantly changing symptoms. Or, an afflicted Health Palace can manifest as accidents, injuries, accident-prone behavior, and even suicidal tendencies, risk taking, and addictions that push the bodies limits.
Yang Stars traditionally relate to our Patriarchal Ancestors and Yin Stars to the Matriarchy. We can therefore determine where an Ancestral Pattern may originate from. Again, Patriarchal Stars can indicate anyone from your Father’s side, or all men in the family, and Matriarchal Stars can be your Mother’s side or all women, regardless of side. We receive our body from our parents, literally, and our strengths and weakness express the continuity of our heritage.
Yang Stars typically represent strength, endurance, and a straight forward experience of illness and recovery. People with Yang constitutions are more likely to be injured rather than ill. When they get sick, it usually goes away on its own, and if they see a doctor, they get treated and recover, simple as that. The danger with strong or exalted Yang Stars here is being too strong for your own good. These people tend to overwork, overextend, and then burn out due to exhaustion. Think of the marathon runner who drops dead after running 26 miles. These people tend to ignore signs and symptoms and push through pain; they have difficulty resting, saying no, shutting down the productivity. They are restless, compulsive, active, and do well with routine and habit change. Yang constitutions usually have high metabolism and pay less attention to diet. They tend to be less sensitive to environmental factors and mental issues.
Yin Stars typically represent sensitivity, receptivity, openness, susceptibility, and vulnerability. People with Yin constitutions do not have a straight forward experience of health. Their health comes from weakness rather than strength. They are sensitive to many influencing factors—environmental, emotional, and so on.
Some Yin Stars make a person susceptible to what the Chinese call “possession,” which implies that we are invaded by some kind of “outside” force due to poor boundaries, immunity, and defenses. People with Yin constitutions tend to be more lethargic, less active; they need to rest more, and they must pay very close attention to their health, which is changing all the time due to many complex factors. They may get stressed out and then catch a cold. They may hear about a friend’s illness and then start to get the symptoms. Yin Stars, in general, are much more difficult to interpret.
An exalted Health Palace can indicate that a person’s Fate revolves around a personal path of illness, healing, and recovery. Illness may be a spiritual experience, a call to wake up. These people are shamans. They are brought to death’s door, so they can return to heal others. Or, an exalted Health Palace may simply indicate a long life of health with little to no illness/injury; they may be blessed with no Ancestral Patterns of illness and the strength to overcome all minor conditions. They may inherit “good genes” and never experience health challenges, dying peacefully in old age. Some people become healers because they were healed and want to repay. Others become healers because they understand that their own health is a privilege and they want to use it to be of benefit.
Certain Stars indicate the potential for the study and practice of medicine. Others indicate the potential to excel at athletics and physical culture. A person’s Character has a huge influence on how this turns out. A Horse or a Tiger will tend towards athletic expressions of physicality, while a Rabbit or a Goat may seek the intuitive art of medicine. Other Stars turn this House into the spiritual path and inspire people to practice yoga, meditation, and so on, using the body as the means to liberation.
The next three houses are read together to understand a person’s Fate in the world through work/career and travel.
Career/Travel Palace (遷移宮)
Career and Travel – Immigration, Journeys
The Characters for this House, 遷移, Qīan Yí, literally mean to immigrate, migrate, or move, but we translate it as the Career/Travel Palace. This House lies directly across from the Ming Palace and provides an image of your Fate “in the world;” it represents your life’s journey outside your family and place of birth. It is read in conjunction with the Assistants and Superiors Palace to give the overall shape of our work/life in the world.
For those born in modern industrial countries, this House may describe a professional career or the journey of discovery to find a suitable career through education, job hunting, experimentation, climbing the corporate ladder, or travel. It tells us how important/significant “working” will be in your life. The nature of that work is then refined in the following two houses and may be indicated elsewhere in the chart, such as the Wealth (ex: investor, banker), Health (ex: doctor, athlete), or Property (ex: real-estate, architect).
First and foremost, this House tells us if you were born in the right place. Certain Stars can indicate if you “missed the mark,” in terms of birthplace, and if you must travel to resolve your Fate. Ming used to joke that you may have died, been in the bardo and were circling the globe looking for Mongolia, but you crash-landed in Minnesota. You, then, grow up feeling like home is somewhere else and you go on a journey must find it. This House describes the potential success of that journey.
If you possess and exalted Seventh House, you may travel extensively, resolving past life connections in different countries, states, cities, searching for home, meaning, career. You may successfully immigrate. There may be a whole new life/Fate waiting for you in a foreign land. The first time you arrive in Spain, you start speaking Spanish and never leave. Ming referred to this as a “Fate Threshold,” a doorway in the Chart to a new life.
Significant Stars here offer a journey of discovery through travel. I have the Emperor here and have traveled in over twenty countries and lived abroad (it’s afflicted, so I’m back, lol, and still looking). I personally feel that traveling is the best education you can receive. To step outside of your comfort zone and experience other cultures, languages, and environments is extremely transformative. You may unravel your Fate here and discover yourself as a wayfarer, expat, or pilgrim. You may return to the place of your Blood Ancestors, take pilgrimage to India, or maybe you travel to Bhutan and discover a strong karmic affinity with Buddhism.
An afflicted House may suggest you have Fate for an unsuccessful immigration, like me, as if you just needed to complete some obligations, perhaps a spell abroad followed by a pilgrimage home. It may also suggest a kind of wandering, moving from place to place, never feeling at home. Or, you may journey abroad only to be met with disaster, illness, accidents, theft, and so on, and this may be a perfect resolution of Fate.
If interpreted as the Career House, then significant Stars here can mean that your Fate unravels in the workplace. You may have no/minimal Fate for marriage/children and an exalted Career Palace. This does not mean that you won’t/can’t have kids, but it does suggest that your job will be an exciting, fulfilling place of interest and that your home life may be uneventful. You love your kids, but at work you come alive, expressing your purpose/calling.
If the Superiors Palace is exalted, then, if read in conjunction, this House can indicate a “rise to success.” You start as the janitor and work your way up to CEO. Or, you start a business in your garage and sell it to Microsoft for millions of dollars. This house can indicate whether hard work, perseverance, and persistence ultimately pay off.
It can also be modest and suggest a life of mediocrity, “quiet desperation,” which is the case for many people. Remember, Fate is not about big or important but about the feeling of “completion.” You may never have an exciting career, but if you die feeling satisfied with having tried your best, then this can be a resolution. If, you die feeling incomplete, full of regret for never having “made it,” then this may kick start your Fate next lifetime.
Afflicted, you may wander from job to job, unfulfilled and bored. You may collect many skills and become a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Ghost Stars may manifest as obstructions—you get fired/laid off, passed over for promotions. Your startup fails, and you must start again with nothing. For many people work is drudgery; they tough it out and work their fingers to the bone for little reward. But, perhaps you have an exalted Offspring palace, so work sucks, but you come home to your kids who fill your life with joy. Everyone’s chart balances out in some way.
Yang Stars indicate that work tends toward skill building, that success comes through getting good at something through discipline. Yang Fate in this house can manifest more “superficially,” meaning your career may not be glamorous, spiritual, flashy; you may rise to be the manager of a Home Depot. But for a Horse with the Emperor here, that may be a perfect fit.
Yang Stars also imply that your work life is very active, dynamic, eventful, even stressful. Yang can also mean physical; perhaps you become a carpenter, electrician, hair stylist; you become skillful in the use of your body. Modest Yang Stars can be manual labor, retail, and so on. The Assistant’s Palace tends to indicate service work, but that can also show up here.
Yin Stars indicate that success comes through intuition rather than skill. Getting ahead, being promoted, landing the job has more to do with feeling, being, more to do with your deportment, even your appearance, rather than your resume or skill set. You may have an extensive skill set, but if your Fate here is Yin then it is the appropriate application of that skill at the right time through intuition that opens doors.
Yang Stars tend to be more about showing up and doing repetitive work. Yin Stars may be much more relaxed. Yin Stars can manifest as work that is indirect, discreet, abstract, or intellectual. You may sit at a desk all day moving numbers around on a screen and have no idea what you are doing, but you get a paycheck. Or, you may work behind the scenes, like all the people listed in movie credits. You never see them, but they make everything possible. Yin Stars may mean that you get paid for your appearance (ex: model/actor), intelligence (ex: teacher), or presence (ex: counselor, therapist, chaplain). You never “produce” anything tangible, but you help, inspire, and support others to do so.
Yang Stars indicate that you are “fresh,” compelled by Fate to create and manifest your interests, sparked by Ancestral or Past life prompting. Yin Stars indicate that you may have done something for many lifetimes and that you need to “remember,” which may manifest as a natural talent for something you have never trained for.
Yin people are “naturals” and pick things up immediately, while Yang people must work really hard and may struggle to attain mastery (Yin Fate is hard work too, jut a different kind). You may be a natural at playing Piano but can’t understand math to save your life. Or, you may be a science wiz and practice guitar for ten years only to be mediocre. Everyone has past life affinity somewhere.
Assistants Palace (交友宮)
Service – Friendship, Subordinates, Servants, Staff
The Characters for this House, 交友, Jiāo Yŏu, literally mean to make friends, so we translate it as the Friendship Palace and/or the Assistant’s Palace. This House refers to a wide range of Fate possibilities and relationships, so it can be difficult to interpret. Overall, the House profiles our predestined connections with the help or harm that comes from non-family people and/or our Fate to help or harm others. It is important to note that this House (and the Superior’s Palace) is bi-directional—it can refer to your role in life as an Assistant or the influence of others Assisting you.
This House represents the deeply held Chinese belief that we do nothing alone. Everything we do that is important is done through joint effort. Our primary support is family, but for many people, family is rough, and they find their deepest connections in life through friendship. In the Confucian Tradition, love is the primary characteristic of friendship rather than marriage. In work/career, our success often comes through our connections, teamwork, associations, and opportunities that come through others.
We read this House in two ways. First, as a relationship House, it indicates your Fate with friends, co-workers/colleagues, schoolmates, people you consider peers. It also indicates your karma with receiving help, with people who “assist” you in the resolution of your Fate.
Some people have little Fate with their birth family; they may have siblings, but they are distant or difficult to connect with. Often these people develop sibling type bonds with friends. Perhaps, you work in the same office for twenty years, and your co-workers become your family. Ming used the term a “circle of returners.” In other words, you share deep past life connections with friends, and they become instrumental in the resolution of your Fate. Perhaps, you were all in a platoon in the last life.
An exalted Assistant’s Palace can imply many important social connections, an avid social life, or several significant life events that happen socially. You may have an abundance of people who are there for you, who show up when needed, a strong and well-knit network of social support. You may be the life of the party and feel at home in social gatherings. Character makes a significant difference in this regard; a Dragon may have a hundred important friends, and a Rabbit may only have three. You may also constantly find yourself helping your friends; yours is the shoulder to cry on. Many American sit-coms portray exalted Assistant’s Palaces; think Cheers—a bar where everyone knows your name.
Or, if afflicted, you may experience discord, betrayal, or a life changing “falling out” with someone. You may try to connect with people, but they reject you. You may find connecting with others difficult or bewildering, every attempt going wrong. You go to parties (if you even get invited) and stand in the corner feeling awkward. You may drift from one circle of friends to another, meeting many people, but failing to form deep bonds or support. You may feel alone, like people aren’t there for you, despite being in a crowd. Or, you may give up and do everything alone, never asking for help or relying on others. Again, Character makes all the difference here. A Snake may be fine with being self-reliant, but for a Pig this could be a nightmare.
If we interpret this as a Career House, then Stars here can literally indicate an assistant at work. Perhaps, you are the boss or charismatic leader, but you cannot manage your appointments to save your life, so you have a stellar assistant who makes your career possible. Or, you may be constantly promoted and helped due to the support, admiration, and recommendation of others. You may meet someone at a conference who changes your life, offering you a new and exciting career. Or, you may be credited success without having done any of the real work.
If afflicted, you may experience scandal, confrontation, slander/gossip, and undermining in the work place. You may experience competition with others that always gets the better of you. Others may make mistakes for which you get blamed. Or, you may follow others or be part of a team that loses or fails, leaving you without a job. You may hire an assistant who embezzles money from you and ruins you company. There are many ways this House can go wrong, and many ways it can go right. A prized assistant may also make you a millionaire.
If this House has significant Fate, it can indicate a life or a career of service. This can be completely menial. You may be Fated to be career waitress/waiter (wait person?) or receptionist. My favorite restaurant back home has been staffed by the same people for over twenty years. I have literally been going there since I was a kid, and I every time I return it has the same wait staff and same chefs behind the counter. I imagine they all have exalted Assistant’s Palaces.
We can interpret many service-oriented careers from this House, from social work, to teaching, consulting, housekeeping, and so on. Many people dream big, but most end up “doing small;” not everyone becomes an astronaut. This House exemplifies those content to do simple, humble, or unrecognized work. Think “Jeeves” the butler.
You may feel at home subordinating, following orders, working with the chain of command or be fated to always rebel against it. You may excel in teamwork, networking, schmoozing, or hobnobbing with the rich. You may be a bodyguard, samurai, bouncer, and so on. Perhaps, you are a professional athlete who makes a living because of a team.
I often use the phrase, “behind the scenes” to describe this house and sometimes give the example of Bernie Sanders. He has the Emperor in the Superior’s Palace and so has Fate to be a leader, but his assistant whom you never heard of, who does all the work behind the scenes and without whom he could not function, may have the Emperor in the Assistant’s Palace. From this House, you may wield power from second place, from “behind the throne.”
It is often the case that people have Fate in both the Superiors and Assistant’s Palace, in which case, you may indeed become very well know, but you remain humble and use your position or voice to exalt and help others. You may have times in the spotlight but also do a lot of work behind the scenes which goes unnoticed.
Or, an exalted Assistant’s Palace can propel you on a spiritual path of service and devotion. You may become a monk, join an ashram, and spend your life serving a community or teacher. You may give up a distinguished career to feed the homeless. Or, you may dedicate yourself to starting intentional communities, bringing people together, performing rituals. You may find your tribe in a Sanga, Kula, or Witch Coven. If afflicted, you may be at risk in following others; you may join a cult and end up “drinking the cool-aid.”
If this House has significant Fate, it suggests that you Ancestors manifest and work to bless you in Career by creating opportunities and connections. They may work as protectors/guardian angels in the world, preventing you from disaster. It may also be the case that a family business or family wealth is the key to all your success socially, politically, offering you connections to career, for example through a fraternity.
If this House is Empty, then you have no Fated requirement for service. Rather, you may be a leader. This may also mean that you have little help, few friends, and must work hard to make connections with people. It may also mean you must go at it alone. Often this house is a “mixed bag,” and I find it to be one of the more difficult ones to describe to clients.
Superiors Palace (官祿宮)
Officials – Leadership, Teachers, Mentors, Bosses
The Characters for this House, 官祿, guān lù, literally refer to the position of a Chinese government official, and we translate it as the Superiors Palace. Sometimes it is translated as the Career Palace, or Official’s Palace, for it gives the image of a person’s “advancement and development” Fate. It offers an image of how our Fate and achievement relates to “authority.”
Like the Assistant’s Palace, it is bi-directional. It can refer to figures of authority in our life and/or our role in that regard. It also can be read as a relationship and/or career House. It is not always either/or and can offer a wide range of interpretations. It is important to note that this House refers to Fated relationships outside the family.
As the final or “highest” career House, it relates to success, achievement, ambition, and innovation, to being well known, recognized, rewarded, or influential. An exalted Assistant’s Palace may mean that you become a doctor, but an exalted Superior’s Palace could mean that your methods change the practice of medicine. This house can be the difference between being a mere salesman or pioneering an innovative marketing tactic that changes our culture. It can also be the difference between simply moving abroad (7th House) or going down in history for introducing smallpox to the Aztecs.
If we interpret this as a relationship House, then Stars that show up here indicate the help or harm that comes to us by elders, teachers, mentors, bosses, employers, gurus, leaders, and so on. The Fate here connects us with people more experienced, advanced, or influential than us. These can simply be authority figures in the workplace, whom you may or may not respect. Or, they can be great teachers whom you respect/admire/revere.
Because of the potential trust we place in our superiors, the relationships here have the potential for great cause and effect. We can be greatly influenced for better or worse by those with power, and as we all know, power is easily corrupted and so often abused. So, an afflicted Ninth House can manifest as abuse that comes from the throne, strange relationships with teachers, or you yourself harming others.
Stars in this House often imply a journey of apprenticeship. You meet a mentor, study with them, and follow in their footsteps, which has been the ideal model in most craft guilds. Perhaps, you meet someone already practicing your dream job, so you work for them and learn the tricks of the trade. They may retire, leaving you the position, or you may do your own thing having them as a model.
This House can indicate becoming a boss, manager, and/or decision maker. It denotes responsibility and leadership. You may be Fated to rise in the ranks to become the boss and make important decisions that influence people’s lives. Traditionally, it refers to the role of government officials in China, which were the most prestigious jobs in the nation. Government Official were highly educated and respected members of the community who commanded as “parents to the nation.” This House indicates if someone will become an official or simply meet officials, which is further inferred from other Houses.
Spiritually, this House can indicate a Fated relationship with a teacher or “guru,” and traditionally, this House indicates connections to “lineage,” a much-misunderstood term in modern times. The Ancestor Palace can indicate this as well, but this House tells us of what Ming called your “Wisdom Ancestors,” inexplicable karmic connections to people in traditions that are not connected to your culture, heritage, or country.
You may become a disciple, study with a master, and inherit a lineage, taking on students yourself. An exalted Superior’s Palace can indicate that the major Fate of your life unravels by following this teacher, like Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid. Completing this Fate is considered complicated business in many traditions, especially in Tantra where people vow to follow a teacher/lineage for as many lifetimes as it takes to become enlightened.
Again, ghosts here can indicate abuse or betrayal from a teacher. It can indicate joining a cult and/or becoming a cult leader yourself. There are so many examples of fallen gurus in the modern spiritual scene that I don’t even know where to start; it may in fact be all of them.
An afflicted 9th House may simply indicate a strong mistrust of authority, a rebel without a cause. You may rebel against your parents, teachers, cops, priests, and so on, throughout your life, with or without cause. You may become an activist and work to dismantle oppression and patriarchy, which may have positive results, but could leave you bitter, frustrated, and disillusioned. You may spend a lifetime fighting the man only to burn out. But, of course, you may change people’s lives all along the way; such is the nature of ghost resolution.
Gone wrong, this House can make you a gang leader, drug lord, or dictator. It can lead to corruption, despotism, and jingoism of the worst order. All the worst acts in human history can be related to this House (and possibly the 8th House), for it represents the power to influence people on a larger scale. We see here the importance of Character and Fate. You may have the character, or capacity, to be a great leader, like an Earth Dragon, but if this House is afflicted, you may become a gang leader in prison, when in a different context you may have become a general and been rewarded for aggression.
If we further interpret this as a Career House, then it relates to the notion of success and achievement, contributing to your field. You may have an exalted 7th House, in which case Career is important, but if your 9th House is empty, afflicted, or debilitated, then you may work hard and not achieve success. You may never be recognized for your accomplishments. If they are both positive, the you will most likely do very well. You may even innovate. You may invent the next giz-widget, doohickey, or phone thingy.
This House is exemplified by inventors, contributors, creative people who change the game. I like to think of Steve Jobs. It is also exemplified by great political leaders, or by people who change the world with an act of defiance, like Rosa Parks.
It can also relate to fame and have nothing to do with talent. As we all know, many of the most talented people you will ever meet will never be famous, and many famous people are hacks. From an Astrological point of view, this is all Fated. Hard work and talent do not always pay off. When they do, when Character and Fate match and someone rises to excellence, this again is called “Destiny.”
Yang Stars here tend to relate more towards career and success. A strong Yang star here can create ambition, the drive to succeed, as well as the karmic connections to make it happen, especially if combined with an ambitious character. A Dragon with an exalted Superior’s Palace is certainly auspicious, because they will try to rule the world anyways. A Rabbit, who may shy away from the spotlight, may feel tremendous anxiety if their Superior’s Palace pushes them towards leadership.
Yang Stars indicate a “rise” to power based on perseverance and indicate that a great deal of Fate is resolved through career. They also suggest that a person will be lead from an obvious or primary position, like an Emperor.
Yin Stars, like the Empress, suggest that power is wielded from a hidden, unusual, or secondary position, from behind the scenes. Ming introduced many people to the idea of “Yin Power,” which is fundamentally difficult for Americans to understand. Yin Power is essentially passive, and for many it appears manipulative. Yin Power is wielded through seduction, suggestion, body language, through “psychological” tactics. Our culture looks down on this kind of power, although we use it extensively on each other and throughout the world, because Yin Power works. Marketing is based on Yin Power. A “damsel in distress” may achieve everything in life without ever lifting a finger.
Yin stars suggest that your rise to success happens because of unseen factors which can appear lucky—being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, and/or being gifted/given opportunities that you did not appear to earn. To people with Yang Fate here who work their ass off to get ahead, Yin Fate appears unfair, for it looks effortless. Yin Fate can often manifest as privilege, family power, and influence; you may be promoted because your boss knows your father, or you may use family money to swing an election.
When read together with the previous two Houses, the Superior’s Palace offers us a complete image of someone’s participation in society through “work,” which can be refined through other Houses. For example, an Exalted Superior’s Palace in conjunct with an exalted Property Palace means that one can exert their influence through real-estate and material wealth.
The Property and Wealth Palace are read together to determine a person’s overall Fate with prosperity.
Property Palace (田宅宮)
Ownership – Home, Inheritance, Real Estate, Collections, Immigration, Feng Shui
The Characters for this House, 田宅, tián zhái, literally mean farmland/field and residence/home, and we translate it as the Property Palace. This House has two distinct meanings. Primarily, the Stars here describe a person’s relationship to material goods, real estate, and Fate with “ownership” of real property, whether through purchase or inheritance. Combined with the Wealth Palace, it is what Ming called a person’s “stuff and home” Fate.
Secondarily, or perhaps on a deeper level, this House represents our Fate with the Chinese principal of Feng Shui, or the auspice of Placement. Like the 7th House, it may tell us if we have strong Fate with “place.” Energetically, it represents “home,” so it can manifest as the Fate to create that through owning land, a home, or through creating security via the possession of goods. Or, it can imply that creating or looking for home is a big deal for you. Is there a natural geographic/geomantic home for you? Perhaps, you must find it, so this House can indicate immigration.
As the Feng Shui House, certain Stars can indicate if Feng Shui is a major influence on you. You may be greatly affected by or connected to the land, nature, or objects in space. Perhaps, you become ill, and nothing is working. You change the direction of your bed or the color of your sheets, and all the sudden you get better. You may be struggling in a new town. You move and all the sudden everything clicks into place. You may be disoriented by disorganized arrangements and patterns and have an instinct for design, in which case this House can indicate career architects, interior designers, and Feng Shui consultants.
In the Chinese value system, ownership is not about the accumulation of stuff or “toys,” trying to “get yours” and die with the biggest pile. Fate with ownership of material goods or real estate is an opportunity to be generous. Real wealth is something that can be measured. Land can produce food; a home can provide shelter—to share this with others is the greatest opportunity to be generous. Money is abstract, especially today, a play of numbers on screens. You may have a debilitated Wealth Palace and have no money but an exalted Property Palace and live on a farm with everything nature provides.
Often, this House is straightforward and has to do with our Fate to buy, own, and sell property. It can represent the Fate for inheritance and family money. Or, it can represent a career as a real estate broker, buying and selling properties at a profit. You may own several properties and rent out the rooms or have an “Air B&B.” You may become a landlord, manage an apartment building, and collect passive income.
Major Fate in this House can indicate that many things in life revolve around your Home. You may work from home. You may spend a fortune fixing up a piece of property, only to have it lead to all sorts of adventures, like in the movie the Money Pit. You may buy or move into a house only to have a series of complex situations happen with neighbors, roommates, city planning committees, and so on.
Fate here can impel you on a mission to find home, wandering from place to place in search of belonging. You may never feel at home anywhere or even feel like home is haunted. Ancestral Ghosts here can come from histories of war, exile, and migration.
Ming told a remarkable story of a woman who bought and sold properties but never felt at home, especially in the kitchen. She never cooked, and as soon as she fixed up a house she would sell it. Later, she uncovered a family story—during World War II, the whole family was sitting to dinner when the sirens went off. Her grandfather told them they were staying, and the whole family died at the dinner table in an air raid. So, of course, she inherits in inexplicable fear of being in the kitchen.
This House can manifest as a gypsy or nomad spirit. You may spend your entire adult life wandering; you may even feel claustrophobic, trapped after staying in one place for too long. You may be uprooted due to causes and conditions beyond your control, or you may move for work after being promoted to run the head office in Chicago. Or, you may have deep karmic connections to your hometown and never leave.
Many people throughout history were born and died in the same bed. And, countless people have been exiled due to war. The Stars here indicate something of your Ancestral Patterns around exile and migration. A Chinese saying goes, “we only dig in our ancestors,” meaning they have lived on the same land for so long that the soil is made of the dead. You may inherit a family farm that has been there for generations; it could be a curse or a blessing.
This House may also indicate other kinds of possessions. You may buy, fix, and sell cars. You may own and operate a clothing company. You may produce artisan soaps and sell them at the farmer’s market. Your life may be intimately connected to the material, the sensual, the manifest. You may cultivate the Earth and feel connected to the cycles and seasons. You may weave baskets or make goat cheese or derive great power from a spiritual connection to objects. You may be a collector, your Fate tied to art, tea pots, ritual bells, and so on. In Confucian culture, you are not considered a gentleperson until you have a collection. Art dealer is a perfect manifestation of this house.
Yang Stars tend to manifest as more worldly Fate Patterns. Yang Fate is to own, operate, and invest. Yang Stars can be indicative of careers in real estate, architecture, design, and so on. They may be connected to production—you may build your own house. As per usual, Yang Fate implies dynamism, that working actively with challenges unravels Fate. In terms of inheritance, Yang Stars imply the patriarchal line, such as our current fake “president” who has exalted Patriarchal Fate for inheritance.
Yin Stars often turn this House into a much more passive situation. You may inherit property or wealth and have everything taken care of for you, never having to work. Or, you may work with real estate, real goods, but the situations all manifest mysteriously, beyond your control. You may be constantly gifted things and return that fortune through generosity.
Yin Stars more easily manifest as generosity, spreading the wealth through charity, philanthropy, and leaving behind a legacy/creating a foundation. Yin Stars are often more associated with luxury, finery, comfort, refinement. They also heighten the affect of Feng Shui on a person as well as the identity with regional, geographic, ethic, or familial ties. Yin Stars indicate inheritance from the Matriarchal line.
Pleasure Palace (福德宮)
Pleasures – Luck, Hobbies, Interests, Enjoyment/Satisfaction
The Characters for this House, 福德, fú dé, literally means happiness and virtue, sometimes “blessed virtue,” and we translate it as the Pleasure Palace. I always read this House last, for in many ways it is the most important, for it tells us about our Fate to enjoy our life. It reveals Fated patterns of “inner experience” that manifest in our pursuit of satisfaction. We may have grand, exalted Fate, but if we don’t have fun, if are not satisfied when our Fate is complete, then what’s the point?
Without satisfaction, we may very well create more Fate, which from a Buddhist perspective keeps us spinning in the wheel of Samsara, for the relative world is by nature unsatisfactory, temporary, and when we try to find lasting/permanent satisfaction, we experience discomfort. This tradition accepts the Buddhist principal of Samsara but also shares a more Daoist belief that life alternates – sometimes it is an awful place, sometimes it is a wonderful place. Happiness is possible but never permanent. This House reveals our capacity for temporary satisfaction as it comes and goes.
Some, after the sea of obligations have been fulfilled, after all the Fated work has been done, are left with fond memories of joy and love. Others only remember the struggle, the battles fought – but here is the key – some are Fated to be grumpy! We must let grumpy people be grumpy. If we tell pessimists to stop being negative, we turn them into hypocrites, and they spend their lives being a “nice person” and then shoot up a school. This goes hand and hand with understanding Character; a Tiger with grumpy Fate (such as myself) needs a lot of acceptance.
This House suggests that we may not be free to enjoy ourselves, which was a huge revelation to me. I’ve always wondered why some people are blessed with a sunny disposition and have such an easy time having fun, while others find it so difficult. From this tradition’s point of view, we may inherit patterns of ghostly inhibition or unbridled gregariousness from our Ancestors.
At its core, this House reveals our Fate around “satisfaction,” but it manifests in patterns of enjoyment, pleasure, fun, hobbies, interests, entertainment, socializing, and so on. It tells us a very important thing—does fun provide you with Qi, or does it drain you of it?
Some people are at risk with they pursue pleasure. The first time they take a drink they’re an addict, and two years later their life has gone down the toilet. Others may actually be Fated to “follow their fun.” Liu Ming was a Fire Pig and had the Emperor in the Pleasure Palace, so, according to him, his Fate unraveled when he followed his sense of enjoyment. So, for him, doing drugs was a much different Fate scenario than for others. This may be auspicious for some Characters, like Pigs, who will follow their fun anyways, and bewildering for others, like Snakes, who distrust the display of the senses.
Is fun a battery for storing Qi? Are you a flirt who goes home glowing from flattery, or are you exhausted by promiscuity? When you listen to an amazing musician do you feel joy, or does it cause you to reflect on being a failed musician and feel bitter? When you work hard for something and achieve it, do you feel satisfied, accomplished, or are you already on to the next task, the next goal to accomplish? We often discuss these patterns as extrovert/introvert and type A/B people, but they may also be viewed as Fated Patterns.
When exalted, this House becomes difficult to interpret and often puts it into a “spiritual” dimension. It means that a person’s life revolves around a deeply personal sense of pleasure; they literally can’t avoid it. It is easy to assume that these people are party animals, but when this House is exalted, we cannot say anything about how it is supposed to manifest. A person may be completely boring by our standards, but inside this may be the perfect manifestation of their enjoyment. They may receive infinite pleasure from the fit of a good pair of shoes and not think highly of the experience. They may appear miserable from our perspective, but they may deeply love their struggle and turn it into amazing art. Who are we to judge?
If this House is unafflicted, then a person can “trust” their sense of pleasure; it may even become a mandate. They can go to the party, the festival, do the drugs, buy the toys, and follow this to their heart’s content. Doing so will catalyze their Fate and propel them in life. If strongly Fated, they may not be able to stop themselves. These people need to know that this is okay, even if society calls them irresponsible. Often, these people turn their passion, interests, hobbies, etc., into their career. Their interests are so strong that they can’t live life any other way. So, these people become artists, musicians, humanitarians, and dharma bums.
If the House is afflicted, then a person cannot trust their pleasure principal. Ghosts here imply that we inherit patterns of dissatisfaction, even addiction, and these can manifest as a wide range of harmful behaviors. This House can go very dark, but we must never jump to conclusions. My Mother had a very afflicted 11th House and died of addiction. Yet, I have seen others with the same arrangement with very different stories. However, the potential is always there, so we must read carefully. The darkest stories of addiction and abuse can certainly manifest here.
Ghosts in this House represent Ancestors who could have died having fun (overdose), died from abuse, or who never had a day of fun in their life. You may inherit a pattern of all work and no play and become very critical of pleasure. You may be Ebenezer Scrooge and think happy people are stupid. You may criticize people who go to clubs, but secretly yearn to be a maniac on the dance floor.
Some Characters, like Horses or Oxs, tend to turn everything into an assignment or job, so afflicted may turn out well or compound the already gloomy part of our Character. You may work at work, work at play, work in the gym, work on your spiritual path, and so on. You may be addicted to “busy,” which is an epidemic in our culture. You may be unable to rest and do nothing, repeating the life pattern of your great grandfather who worked in a factory and never got a day off. You may only have fun at school or at the gym, addicted to self-improvement.
Conversely, your grandparents may have worked every day of their life, and now you are free to have a life of leisure. You inherit money, privilege, and opportunities and do not give a fig about bettering yourself. You may feel guilty because of the advantages you’ve receive, but if it is Fated, then you should not. You have an Ancestral Mandate to enjoy your life. The difficult comes when this turns to entitlement. Inherent in this Fate is gratitude and generosity. Let your heart overflow with gratitude and give back. Positive can also flow into positive. Your grandmother may be jolly, and so you are too.
You may have had a great aunt who was poor. One day, she gets invited to a rich friend’s house and tries Belgian Chocolate for the first time. She leaves and never gets to taste it again. Now, three generations later, you can’t stop eating sugar. Or, perhaps like me, you had a relative who had a heart attack on the dance floor and now literally feel like dancing is life threatening (don’t worry, I’ve worked through this sort of).
Patterns here can create creativity and spontaneity or routines and ruts. You may find yourself on wild adventures, meeting and connecting with amazing people. Or, you may do the same thing day in, day out, and hang out at the same bar with the same friends. You may be bursting with possibilities or have no idea what to do with yourself. But, this can be made positive. If you tend to get stuck in a rut, then it means that you can enjoy discipline, which for some Characters is a nightmare. But for others it can help them excel at activities that require rigorous practice.
Fate here may create deep affinities for art, music, sex, literature, history, performance, movies, and so on. You may have Fate to become a master calligrapher or ballerina. You may become the world’s leading expert in ants. You may spend your life pursuing an unfulfilling career, while in your private life you’re obsessed with playing chess. You may retire or quit your day job and travel the world playing chess and become a grandmaster.
Yang Stars here tend to manifest as more ordinary, socially acceptable pleasures. Yang Stars make people active pleasure followers. They may love socializing, parties, sports, travel, competition, and so on. Yang Stars may find it easy to accept trendy or popular enjoyments. Yang Fate makes for “divas,” those who demand entertainment; if it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing. Yang stars are more “hedonic” and likely to revel in food, sex, and song.
Yin Stars tend to manifest as a wide rainbow of “other possibilities.” Yin Stars may create a deep affinity for the occult, for astrology, tarot, ancient wisdom, and the like. Yin Stars are much more fluid in their expression—they compel people towards deep, hidden dimensions, which express as an intuitive sense of enjoyment.
These people may be shy, weary of enjoyment, because it may be weird, strange, taboo. They may appear normal but have a pleasure dungeon in their basement, or on weekends dress up as a Klingon and attend sci-fi conventions. Yang Fate can express this way too but would do so for the socializing and dressing up, while Yin Fate may feel a deep connection to the principals of Star Trek, which they can recite in Klingon.
Yin Pleasure Fate here tends to find people, while Yang Fate tends to pursue it. If you have major Fate here then, the rest of your life may manifest through this House. You may meet your Partner at a sci-fi convention and start a business teaching Klingon to fellow Trekies.
Empty Court (空宮)
The Characters, 空, kōng gōng, literally mean empty court, and it refers to a House that contains no ruling Stars. The message of an Empty Court is simple—no Fate. It means that freedom and choice are the main situation and so become very important. You must choose and create your Fate here if you want it. And, there may be few options or choices. It implies that you completed this karma in a past life, or that your Ancestors have freed you of it.
Some people have a few Empty Courts (I have 4), and some people may have none. There is a tradition of “borrowing stars” from the opposite House, which are like a “Fate echo” and can tell a story of an Empty House. But I find that freedom is a much more important message. In a way, choice can activate the borrowed stars, making them come alive; they represent potential, but are otherwise not important.
Body Palace (身宮)
The Character 身, shēn, means body, so we translate the secret 13th house as the Body Palace. Due to certain Polestar calculations, one of the Twelve Houses becomes a secret 13th House that we call the Body Palace. It can be any one of the 12 Houses. Mine is the Wealth Palace. Which ever House it is, that House becomes connected to and expressed in some way through your body. This is open to interpretation. It may indicate a path of career, health/wellness, or situations surrounding your embodiment, such as being a doctor or athlete, or it may relate to an illness or recovery. I have seen many health care practitioners with this in the Wealth or one of the Career Palaces.
The Three Motives of the Mantic Arts—an introduction to the practice and system of Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù 紫微斗數 (Polestar Astrology)
This will be the first blog in a series exploring the system of Fate Calculation in Chinese Polestar Astrology, a task I have been avoiding due to the sheer magnitude of information I have learned on the subject but have yet to organize. In my previous blogs, I spent a considerable amount of time introducing the basic teachings of Chinese Astrology—ancestors, yin-yang, the five phases of Qi, and the 12 Qi Characters of Destiny/ “Animals,” making sure to cover each of the 12 Zodiac Animals in detail.
Polestar Astrology teaches that life is a dance, a reciprocity, 感應, between three factors—Character, Nature, and Fate. The purpose of the 12-part series on the Zodiac Animals was to introduce/explore the idea of Qi Character, or Xing 性, the notion that Time (Qi) itself is characterized and that we can use symbols to describe that Character, and therefore, ourselves, for we are living embodied expressions of Time. The purpose of this series is to introduce the idea of Ming, 命, or Fate. I will conclude with a series on Nature, 道德, which is perhaps the most important and yet most difficult to discuss.
Everything I have discussed thus far has been general Chinese Astrology, and it is now (finally!) time to delve into the ACTUAL system of Natal Astrology/Fate Calculation, which is what I do with clients. This system is widely unknown, for like Daoism, the authentic lineages of this tradition have been lost but continue to exist in fragmented/watered down forms. It has survived in China as a kind of folky “fortunetelling,” which it absolutely is NOT.
The true tradition of Chinese Mantic Arts is a complete spiritual path that synthesizes many Chinese traditions, which I have been trying to piece together for many years in the footsteps of Liu Ming, who received lineage transmission and texts on the subject through his Daoist teacher. The tradition includes Feng Shui and can also be called “Astro-Geomancy,” for the subjects are two sides of the same coin. Ming also taught Feng Shui at the Golden Gate Academy for many years, but I have yet to delve into the subject.
The information Liu Ming taught on Polestar Astrology cannot be found in any books. Some of it was oral transmission, some was translated from ancient texts, and a lot of it he figured out in the 800, or so, astrology readings he did over several decades. I have done about 170 since I started doing readings three years ago, so I’m catching up. My knowledge on the subject, however, is by no means complete. I do, however, feel somewhat capable of doing the subject justice, and I will flesh this out over the rest of my life.
There are no “how to” books on this subject, because there is an unspoken agreement that no one would ever write one, an agreement based on the assumption that the tradition would survive this “dark age.” Maybe they have survived in China; I wouldn’t really know, because I haven’t been there, but as far as I can tell this tradition may die out. Or, at the very least, it will fail to be transplanted here.
Across the world, “secret” (or better private) traditions are being published widely in the hope that they survive modernity. Yes, there are general books out there about Polestar Astrology, but they are, for the most part, useless in terms of interpretation. Kwok Man-Ho’s book, for example, is 700 pages and contains almost no information. It is for this reason that I write this series. In the United States, the only people I know who offer authentic Polestar Astrology readings are Ming’s students, who are few and far between. Ming himself had the intention of writing a book on the subject, but he never did, despite teaching many classes and producing copious notes, many of which I will draw from in the following blogs. It is possible for his students to “edit” his notes into a book, but I would rather just write the book, giving full credit to Ming as the source and inspiration.
Much of the “living transmission” on the subject I received from my teacher Dharma Bodhi, who studied with and lived next to Ming for many years. I have hunted down old students and put together many notes that may have otherwise been lost.
Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù, also called Polestar or Purple Star Astrology, teaches us how to understand, navigate, and ultimately unravel something the Chinese call 命 Ming, which we translate as Fate, the Mandate of Heaven, and sometimes Destiny (which is really a different idea altogether). The following series of blogs, then, will attempt to unravel this bewildering concept in terms of the 12-Houses and “Stars” of the Polestar System, which are poetical symbols describing the nature of Fate.
I will preface this by saying that I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT FATE IS. I have been wrestling with the concept for many years, and the more I understand it, the less I know. I will do my best to explore it in terms of my experience, but I do so from a place of humility and open ended curiosity. I have no answers, for there are no answers in Astrology—only more questions. Whatever Fate is, it is enormous, and like Karma (a similar idea from India), only a Buddha can understand it.
Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù 紫微斗數
So, what is Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù? In short—divination. But otherwise, it is not entirely clear, for its origins are shrouded in mystery. It appeared in China in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and was further developed in the Song Dynasty (960-1280 CE) as a response to the influx of Indian Astrology brought by Buddhist monks. Prior to this period, China had no well-developed form of Natal Astrology, despite the many thousands of years of Astrological calculation that preceded Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù.
It never occurred to the Chinese that any individual was significant, not even the Emperor, so they never bothered with Natal Astrology. But, with the influx of Indian Medicine, Astrology, religion, and so on, it became popular to get Natal readings, because Indians brought to China the idea of a “self” with a story. So, the Chinese decided to create their own version of Natal Astrology that expressed Chinese values. The values of this system are a synthesis of Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism, and I will draw upon all three for my understanding in an attempt to connect them to modern life.
The tradition has a largely Daoist pedigree, and the main teachers credited with its creation are Lu Chun Yang, 呂純陽, during the Tang Dynasty, Chen Xi Yi, 陳希夷, during the Song Dynasty, and Luo Hong Xian, 羅洪先, during the Ming Dynasty. There is also an oral tradition that attributes it to the Daoist Immortal Chen Tuan, 陳摶, who is the progenitor of Yun Gong, 雲功, or Dream (literally cloud) Yoga in the Liu Family Tradition, which will be the subject of another future blog series.
The system is named after Zĭ Wēi, the Polestar/NorthStar, the only star in the sky which does not move, which every culture on Earth has used since time immemorial to guide themselves home. It is the pivot of Chinese Astrological/Astronomical calculations. The Polestar changes every few thousand years due to the movement of the Earth, and in this age, the Polestar is Polaris, which the Ladle of the Big Dipper points to year-round.
The Chinese observed that everything in the heavens moves except for this one star, which was to them quite significant. The Chinese called it the Emperor, and Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù teaches that all Fate is recorded and distributed from this pivot (not literally of course).
The Daoist tradition of Polestar Astrology talks of Nine Heavenly Realms that we transverse on our way back to Source upon completion of our Human Fate, 大圓. The Polestar is a symbolic representation of the Yang Light emanating from the Ninth Heaven that facilitates the celestial currents of Ancestral Fate resolution throughout our world-system. These currents are sometimes called the Empyrean Matrix.
The term Zĭ Wēi literally refers to a kind of flower, which some believe to be the Purple Myrtle flower. Zi, 紫, means purple, and Wei, 微, in this case, means something delicate, fragile, subtle, and profound—a flower, a metaphor for Fate. Dŏu refers to the Big Dipper, and Shù here means calculation.
The system is also called Purple Star or Flying Star Astrology, and it is associated with a transmission from Shang Qing 上清 Daoism, associated with teachings that manifest from realms of Purple Light. The tradition was said to have been downloaded to Earth through trance mediums/shamans 巫 from beings called the Jade Ladies, 玉女, (there are also Golden Lads 金童) from the “Purple Library,” an Immortal Realm that serves as an intermediary between Heaven and Earth. All the teachings from this time are called the Purple Teachings. Earlier transmissions in China were called the Yellow Teachings, associated with the Yellow Emperor.
Jade Ladies are like Dākinīs in Tantra, or Angles in the West, enlightened feminine beings who hold and transmit Dharma teachings. Chogyam Trungpa called them inspiration beings and said that inspiration is the body of the Dākinī. When you feel alive, inspired, and wisdom/insight pours through you, the Jade Ladies are said to be giggling around you.
Jade Ladies are depicted as teenage girls made of purple light who appear in dreams/visions. Wherever they gather, amethyst crystal is said to form. 西王母 Xi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the West, the Daoist Female Immortal who presides over this tradition with Zhen Wu, 真武, is said to fly around the world touching those who will become Immortal. Jade Ladies gather around whomever she touches and transmit teachings from the Purple Library. There are many poems from the Shang Qing period that describe the Jade Ladies as muses, who come and go, often creating despair in their absence. Shang Qing Daoism is a highly detailed and complex spiritual path that views the Stars of the Polestar System as Deities. It is like Tantra, which developed around the same time, also from Deities through trance mediumship.
This series of blogs will systematically explore 36 “Stars” from the Polestar System. Polestar Astrology does not reference the Planets of our solar system like Western and Indian Astrology, but rather it refers to the nature of Stars in significant constellations like the Big Dipper. Some systems use up to 108 Stars, but we will focus on what are considered the most important 36, with an emphasis of the “Royal Court,” the Twelve Ruling Stars of Fate.
The Stars symbolically describe the Nature of Fate. Since the system was developed for and by/in the Chinese Imperial Court, each Star is a character in the Chinese Imperial Court, ruled by the Emperor and Empress. The Stars, and therefore Fate, fall into two categories Yang and Yin—the Northern and Southern Array, led by the Emperor and Empress respectively.
However, it is very important to understand that Chinese Astrology is NOT “Astronomical” but mathematical. Polestar Astrology has astronomy in its distant past, but a Polestar Chart does not depict the night sky. There is no illusion that this is an accurate depiction of where these constellations were at the time of your birth. The system is said to have been “revealed” by patterns observed in the sky, but these patterns are mathematical and said to be an “independent influence” that forms/shapes the causes and conditions of Fate. Polestar Charts are calculated by numerical equations/numerology, depicting sequences of Time beyond the physical reality of Stars in the sky. It is better referred to as Chronology rather than Astrology.
Many of these constellations/stars have today disappeared, which to the Chinese mind makes them more potent, for they have gone to the realm of the Ancestors. So, although some of the Stars do have the names of currently known astronomical bodies, what we call “Stars” in this system are better understood as poetical representations of Fate, mathematical patterns found in Nature, an endless spin of celestial Qi.
The Stars of the Celestial Court and their various arrangements when interpreted become a form of Divination or Mantic Art. But who and what is being divined? The standard Chinese answer is the dead – our Ancestors, our life before birth. The Stars form an image of the precedent/cause of our birth and can be interpreted as a both a symbolic and literal picture of our Ancestors, which I will explain in more detail as we go through each Star. In short, the dead run the living.
The Yang Stars represent Patriarchal Fate associated with “action/doing,” and the Yin Stars represent Matriarchal Fate associated with “receptivity/being.” In this tradition, we are intimately connected with the dead, and we must play out the patterns of unfinished business we inherit at birth before we can experience the Freedom of our Original Nature.
Ming might say that we are the warm wiggling end of thousands of dead people, responsible for at least seven generations of beings. When we get a human body, we inherit the unfinished business, gifts, talents, and so on, from all the bodies that preceded our body – it’s the tax we pay for birth. Fate is said to be a “Mandate” that comes from our Ancestors to complete what they could not. The Twelve Ruling Stars represent our accomplished Ancestors; the rest are what the Chinese refer to as Gui, 鬼, or Ghosts, “unfinished business,” which I will cover in detail.
The Buddhist interpretation suggests that the Stars represent our past life Karma, which is the cause of our re-birth, and that we are here to finish our own unfinished Karma from past lives. Both are possible interpretations.
Traditionally, you would receive a Qi Transmission of each Star in ceremony. You would hear a description and then be shown an image and receive a Mantra for each Star, which were often thought of as Deities. Since I never got to have that experience, I can’t comment on it, although I have gotten some of this through dreams.
Here is a list of the 36 Stars that represent every conceivable pattern of Fate that we will explore in the following blogs:
The Four Rulers
紫微 Zi Wei – The Emperor
天府 Tian Fu – The Empress
天相 Tian Xiang – The Tutor
天機 Tian Ji – The Oracle
The Four Honorables
太陽 Tai Yang – The Sun/Prince
武曲 Wu Qu – The General
太陰 Tai Yin – The Moon Lady/Princess
巨門 Ju Men – The Great Gate
The Four High Ranking
天同 Tian Tong – The Vassal
天梁 Tian Liang – The Roof Beam
文昌 Wen Chang – The Magistrate
文曲 Wen Qu – The Priest
The Four Major Ghosts
廉貞 Lian Zhen – The Concubine
七殺 Qi Sha – The Seven Killings/Executioner
貪狼 Tan Lang – The Greedy Wolf
破軍 Po Jun – The Rebel/Breaking Rank
The Four Minor Ghosts
火星 Huo Xing – The Fire Star
鈴星 Ling Xing – The Water/Ringing Star
擎羊/羊刃 Qing Yang/Yang Ren – the Goat Blade/Sacrifice Star
陀羅 Tuo Luo – The Humpback/Rejection Star
The Four Incidentals
右弼 You Bi – The Right Assistant
左輔 Zou Fu – The Left Assistant
祿存 Lu Cun – The Storehouse
天姚 Tian Yao – The Beauty Star
The Orphan Spirits
天魁 Tian Kui – The Leader
天喜 Tian Xi – The Happiness Star
天鉞 Tian Yue – The Halberd Star
地劫 Di Jie – The Loss Star
地空 Di Kong – The Void/Empty Earth Star
天刑 Tian Xing – The Punishment Star
天馬 Tian Ma – The Travel/Heavenly Horse Star
紅鸞 Hong Luan – The Red Bird
The Four Transformers
化祿 Hau Lu – The Salary/Prosperity Star
化權 Hua Quan – The Authority Star
化科 Hua Ke – The Examination Star
化忌 Hau Ji – The Jealousy/Scandal Star
Again, I will cover each of these stars in blogs to come.
The Three Motives of the Mantic Arts
This tradition is a “Mantic” Art, a form of “Divination.” Humans have always had a deep curiosity and/or a fundamental instinct for survival; we’ve been divining the ways of Heaven and Earth for as long as we’ve been around. Divination (related to Shamanism) is the “old religion” and, in a way, lies behind all the world’s religions, and, in the broadest sense, lies behind all human culture.
Divination is the curiosity about and attempt to shape the direction of Time and experience. You may have philosophies, teachings, stories, and so on, but as soon as you try to make these practical, apply them to experience, you are attempting to shape the future, you are Divining, and your teachings or “view” will determine the fruition of your methods.
The future is unformed, empty, but the “present moment” has momentum (called the past), expectations, and direction, which can be read and shaped. Every spiritual tradition is trying to do this in one way or another. Every culture has systems of divination, such as Tarot, Astrology, the Yi-Jing, Bird Song, Tortoise Shells, and on. This tradition takes this premise and turns it into a deliberate path called “Resolving Fate,” which is the purpose and fruition of Zĭ Wēi Dŏu Shù.
So, what is the view of the Mantic Arts? Traditionally there are three views or motivations for practicing divination—fear, advantage, and wisdom. Before we get started, it is important to examine which of these motivates you. These motives can apply to anything you do in life. It is important to be honest. This tradition emphasizes wisdom as the path, but we may unconsciously be operating from all three.
Simply put, humans are freaked out about the future and want to feel better; we want to feel in control. Divination is most often used to “predict” calamity and provide safety out of a fear of the unknown. This is fine. Used in this way, Divination provides knowledge of possible futures so that we can avoid “punishment” for our misdeeds, bad karma, ancestral ghosts, and so on. Divination from the motivation of Fear often seeks “answers” as to why life is so difficult—why does this keep happening to me? Fear is not bad, for it often gets us started on the path. However, it is limited, emotionally painful, and will only take us so far.
The second motive is advantage. We learn and practice Astrology to get one-up on the Universe. Although fear is often still the underlying motive, Astrology used for advantage is usually a lot more fun. We use Astrology to become better people, to learn more about our patterns so that we can do better in life. This kind of Astrology is often about timing, knowing when to advance and retreat. It can be used to predict the stock market, when to invest, when to start a business, when to get married, whom to marry, when to buy a house, when to have children, and so on. This motive is also fine, but it often stays superficial, and we end up creating more and more Fate in the process of trying to control our Fate, rather than being free of it altogether. The clear majority of Astrology I see out there is done with this motive. It often looks spiritual, but beneath the surface, many use Astrology as a tool to gain advantage over a scary world. I have tried to use Astrology for personal advantage, but I’m not very good at it, lol.
Wisdom – Cultivating the Way
The situation we find ourselves in is a cosmic soup in which all Time and Space are an Irresolvable Chaos, called Huntun 餛飩. When we look closely at our situation, we find no particular time, place, or self but the patterned appearance of these factors bewilders us for lifetimes. Reality appears to be ordered/patterned, but analysis brings no certainty, and the illusion of knowledge is big trouble.
Analysis brings with it an irresolvable confusion that humans have debated about since time immemorial, called Religion/Science. Modern Science/Scientism tells us that we are close to figuring it all out, but I’m not too sure. When we look closely, chaos appears to be the source of all things, and this is the Paradox that lies at the heart of our experience—qi strands of Time and Space weave together to form an unreadable astro-geomantic pattern the Chinese call Dao.
What is the unknowable Dao doing? Constantly displaying itself as dualistic, ephemeral, impermanent, dream like phenomena called a self/world. What appears to be knowable and that which is unknowable are in fact not different, for the dual world is a continuous expression of the non-dual. The microcosm of our personal Fate mirrors the macrocosm of the nameless Dao. Through relaxed observation this becomes apparent.
The spiritual path of the Mantic Arts, and the true purpose of this tradition, comes through embracing the irresolvable. Relaxing our need to know/understand becomes the direct path to wisdom. The dual-world we are divining, called an Astrology Chart, which appears to be comprehensible, reveals Pattern within Chaos and Pattern as Chaos. Astrology becomes a mirror that reflects our Original Nature which is beyond concepts (the meaning of Chaos).
Our practice is to investigate the weave or matrix of patterns that make up our experience through the symbols of the Polestar System. Without any compulsion to predict, fix, or improve, any particular part, our false notions of an abiding self and world unravel. Chaos is never vanquished; Samsara is never fixed/improved. It is reveal as Dao.
The Mantic Arts are a non-dual revelation of things as they are. Life is revealed as an ever-flowing phantasm of light that cannot be named/known, and we agree to be swept up in whatever has been “pre-ordained” by our Ancestors. Polestar Astrology simple points the way.
The fruition of this tradition, then, is called 大圓 Da Yuan, the Great Completion, similar to what Tibetans call Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Ming named his school after this teaching. The Resolution of Fate comes through the realization of the perfect completion of things as they already are. Everything that has ever happened/will ever happen is a perfect demonstration of your Original Nature, no matter how you feel about it. You have always been light having an experience of light. Like Ming’s teacher, those who realize the Great Completion do not leave behind a corpse but rather demonstrate their completion in a Body of Light. When we discuss the teachings on Inner Nature, we will examine our experience as a rainbow of five colored lights.
Fate, Freedom, and Reciprocity
Unlike the West, China has never argued about fatalism and free will. It has long been understood that one cannot exist without the other; they alternate, blend, and define each other. Freedom, or open space, is the main experience we are in. Therefore, our Astrology Chart is defined by our choices, by how we use our Freedom in response to our Fate, and as I covered in the 12-Animal series, how we use our Freedom to cultivate our Character.
There is no auspicious chart. The auspice of any chart is made by what the Chinese call Ganying, 感應, or reciprocity—the relationship between Character, Freedom, and Fate is a reciprocity determined by choice. We find our life in the play/dance of these factors, and Astrology is found in the dialogue between them.
The next blog of the Fate series will cover the 12 Houses of a Natal Chart. Given my life/schedule, it will be a slow journey, but I look forward to it nonetheless. Stay tuned!
VIEW—FREEDOM and FATE
Astrology, 星命家, and Geomancy, 風水, are two premier subjects of the Chinese Traditional Mantic Arts. Their development in China over the last 2,500 years continues a tradition whose history is incalculable.
According to Chinese Astrology, human beings are a compound of Character, 性, Nature, 道德, and Fate, 命. Nature, the world, and human beings are a single interconnected, on-going cyclical pattern of self-arising and self-resolving movement called “Time.” Due to Time’s cyclical and repetitive nature (like the changing of day to night / night to day and the alternation of the 4 seasons), it becomes possible to name and characterize. In Chinese Astrology, the patterned movement of Time is called Qì, 氣.
We characterize Qì, or Time, by yīn-yáng, the 5 phases, and the 12 animals of the zodiac, a metaphoric language describing the facets and flavors of change itself. The real nature of our experience is a constantly unfolding, non-solidified, un-abiding movement of Qì. The profundity of Chinese Astrology is found in the direct experience that everything is compound and in a constant process of change, 易.
In human beings, these qualities compound during birth to create what we call “Qì Character.” In each moment, the universe exudes a certain pattern, and when you are born, you emerge as a living, embodied expression of that pattern. The pattern of the universe, patterns you. Our Qì Character does not dissolve until death and therefore constitutes our basic “capacity” to resolve Fate in this lifetime.
Fate is the predispositions we inherit from our many past lives and Ancestors, 宗, to re-create and solidify karmic patterns. As Liu Ming once said, “Fate’s most bitter edge is the apparently ‘un-learnable’ lesson – repeated inauspicious conduct. We have all probably said: ‘I can’t believe I did that again!’ Freedom’s worthless edge is sloth. Squandering freedom is common. Most of us spend most of our time in the vagaries in between.”
Because we are a compound of patterns in flux, we have no permanent or abiding self, for a permanent self could not interact with an impermanent flux. Our Original Nature is neither fixed nor unchanging. Our nature is Freedom, the freedom of light to move within space unimpeded, creating the appearance of solidity. Our Nature is Pristine Awareness, fundamentally empty, 空, and therefore free to manifest or project an apparent "world."
This freedom, what Buddhists call Emptiness, Śūnyatā, 舜若多, does not manifest chaotically. To the conceptual mind, freedom is chaos, húntun 餛飩, but because it is chaos, it manifests order, for chaos without order would be meaningless. It does so through rhythms of time, space, and light. The movement quality of time, space, and light create the “appearance” of an abiding “world” and “self,” subject and object, but upon investigation these appearances are empty projections. Their appearance is nothing other than movement, a dream, a vision, a film, a mirage, a phantasm of light that plays out in open space.
Fate and freedom interact and alternate. The way we use our freedom can untangle our fate or harden it into tighter knots. According to Chinese Astrology, this untangling process is immanent. All knots are predisposed to untangle. This is the Dào of Wúwéi, 無為. The story we imagine to be a “self” is Nature’s predisposition to manifest in limits that resolve back into Nature without a trace. In this way all animate beings are unborn. Human beings are not IN Nature. They are Nature. This is the principle of Dàodé, 道德.
Everything that goes out returns. Everything that is compound dissolves. Everything that struggles exhausts itself.
Follow what is compound back to its Simplicity. Trace what is Moving to its constant Unmoving.
Following and tracing I find No Two. No Two rises to Luminosity and descends to Always-so-of-itself.
Always-so-of-itself, what is it? The mirror’s capacity… We call it Dao. – Liu Ming
Welcome to the Year of the Yang Earth Dog, Wù Xū 戊 戌, also known as the Mountain Dog. Be warned—we each have a unique Qì Character and Fate. Therefore, we digest the year differently. There is no “auspicious year.” The following is a rough approximation.
Yang Earth is the Dog’s Native Element, so this is a double Earth year. For the Dog, Yang Earth represents territory. The impulse of Dog Qi surveys and guards the Earth and can traverse territory quickly through explosive movement. The Dog’s keen senses cover the land and go for miles. Yang Earth represents the virtue of support, stability, solidity, and alliance.
The intensity of the past two Fire-Metal Monkey/Rooster years, characterized by passion and delusion—enlightenment and clarity, the very heart of alchemical transformation, will stabilize, harmonize, settle, and every insight garnered has the chance to gain maturity and fruition in the grounded and stable image of the Earth Dog. In the cycle of Time, the Dog manifests the Vision of the Rooster and then guards what has been created with great devotion, for better or worse, so in the Pig year we can relax and enjoy the fruition of the 12-year cycle.
The intense scrutiny of the Fire Rooster has brought us great clarity, insight, and certainty of belief. The Rooster has crowed—the Dog will now follow orders. If you have been waiting for change, action, to move forward—Earth Dog is the Time. This year presents a capacity for action, manifestation, and fruition that has not been present for quite some time. So, look deeply into the past year and ask—what have I learned about the nature of Life? What do I want from life? And most importantly—whom do I care about?
Fire and Wood are “un-manifest,” invisible, so the past four years have provided little Qi for outer or worldly accomplishment. To have accomplished “worldly” goals would have proved both exhausting and frustrating. While the past four years have lacked manifestation, they have provided a tremendous inner intensity, a journey of self-discovery and transformation, and now is the Time to bring forward that intensity in the form of our most noble aspirations and insights, all that we demand of life, not for ourselves alone, but for those we care about.
Bring forward these aspirations with caution—the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and if we do not take care, whatever certainty the Rooster has created, the Dog Year will manifest, for better or worse—war, violence, territoriality—all possible in a Dog Year! Bring forward your aspiration with the question—how can I support and empower others? In the Dog Year, power is wielded not through leadership but from behind the scenes. This year is about the cheerleading squad, not the quarterback…follow the leader, but without leaders.
The Qi Character of the Earth Dog year will bring a powerful sense of social and family value in the form of the wolf-pack. We will be prompted to nourish our sense of loyalty and re-value all our relationships. Rooster year offered great reflection in terms of the “pecking order,” social hierarchies, power structures, sexual/gender/personal identity—who are we in relation to others? The movement to dismantle oppressive power structures and condemn sexual predation have been very characteristic of a Fire Rooster year; so has been the tendency of those in power to further entrench their beliefs.
Earth Dog year will provide a wonderful opportunity for the social and political change we are seeking, not through huge public demonstrations (that was Goat year), but through the strength of personal alliance—friendship, family, partnership—small, personal, local, grassroot demonstrations of conduct—how are we to change the world if we cannot change our ourselves, our family, our neighborhood?
Overall, this is a year of fairness and equality—all controversial issues will be given their due, revolutions may be successful, politics - liberal, and political oppression - opposed. Integrity and honesty can flourish under the Dog’s just influence, that is, if we use our freedom well.
Our culture is obsessed with dogs, so Dog Qi may be the easiest for us to understand. The greatest virtues of the Dog are subordination, service, and loyalty—think Samurai. Yin behavior when faithful and devoted; Yang behavior when a fierce guardian. If you want to make the best of Dog year, work to strengthen, heal, and solidify your alliances, and do so with altruism, kindness, and inclusivity—welcome everyone into the pack—some sniffing and growling is okay; I know we are all a little guarded after the chaos of the past two years. Do as the bumper sticker says—wag more, bark less.
Dog Qi functions based on a deep and simple principal of trust. When we meet a dog (the animals) we encounter a defensive territorial stance, so we put out our hand, they sniff; we pet them, offer treats. If their human shows acceptance and lets you into their home, dogs can quickly switch from defensive to slobbering love machines. The Dog’s instinct is to protect no matter what, so it perceives everything as a potential threat to those in its territory. But at its core, Dog Qi is overwhelmingly loving. Dogs alternate from growling to rolling over and showing you their belly. They go from “I can kill you,” to “do me!”
Show up for people like your dog shows up for you. You’ve had a rough day; you walk in the door and are met with waging tails and puppy licks—how much does this brighten your day? Imagine friends like this. Who shows up for you? Who is there without you having to ask? Who values you despite your flaws and shortcomings? To whom to will you offer these virtues?
Make time for people, for family, for dinner dates and quality time, for small gestures of love and loyalty. Ease up on the judgment. Stop double-checking to see if everyone is worthy of loyalty; value yourself and all others as perfectly lovable humans as you/they are. If they turn out to be jerks, who cares; shake it off like a wet dog. You can be friendly and warm without sacrificing your boundaries. Boundaries are healthy; walls are not.
Remember a time when someone supported you without reserve—keep this feeling in your heart throughout the year and approach each situation with an open heart. Also, please make time for yourself—every Dog has in them a touch of the lone wolf. Dogs are characteristically private and enjoy solitude. Enjoy yourself, but don’t hesitate to reach out; join the pack, or you may be forced to go at it alone.
Classical Chinese Medicine associates the Dog with the Pericardium, 心包, which represents social bonding, our capacity to love and be loved. Like the Xīnbāo, the function of the Dog is to protect what is most valuable—our precious Human Heart, 仁心. The Dog exemplifies "trauma informed care."
The past two Years have been about Mental Health, taking care of our “inner landscape.” We have been called to honor, understand, and destigmatize mental illness, to open the conversation around anxiety, depression, and the social construct called “mental illness.”
This year is about social welfare, equity, and equality. The Dog calls us to acknowledge the fact that humans are not meant to go through the world isolated or alone. The Dog loves everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, or legal documentation. In our culture, work, and social lives, we will be called to befriend, protect, and advocate for all those without support. So, speak up! Bark at injustice! Make the change, implement the policy, and stand firm at the lines that will not be crossed! In our personal lives, we will be called to nourish, heal, and process the deep traumas around our Heart, the ones that keep us from experiencing the true connection we desire. We will be called to let down our walls and let in love.
The New Year is, traditionally, a time for repentance and forgiveness, so wipe the slate clean; forgive those who’ve wronged you and let go of any judgmental Rooster Qi you’ve been holding onto—happy Dogs don’t hold grudges. The Dog’s ears and keen senses intuit and feel; they listen carefully and closely with the spirit of—how can I help?
The happy Dog is faithful, loving, loyal, caring, protective, helpful, intuitive, insightful, private, just, expansive, congenial, quiet, and calm under fire. The pathological Dog is territorial, stubborn, argumentative, spiteful, vain, rigid, stingy, critical, and frozen with anxiety.
Dog Qi most exemplifies the Buddhist Bodhisattva Ideal, so be like Guānyīn, the one who hears the cries of suffering throughout the six-realms, whose compassion is limitless.
I wish you the all the best in this New Year and hope you find true loyalty and devotion in your Heart.
Every harmful action I have done
With my body, speech, and mind
Overwhelmed by attachment, anger and confusion,
All these I openly lay bare before you.
While circling through all states of existence,
May I become an endless treasure of good qualities--
Gathering limitless pristine wisdom and positive potential.
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May all beings remain in boundless equanimity, free from attachment and aversion!
 Liu Ming. Paraphrased from New Year's teachings, Wood Horse, 2014.
sIf you have stuck with me through these 12 Blogs, thank you. I was not sure I had enough to say about the 12 Animals to write this series, but apparently, I do. These 12 Symbols are basic but very important. Remember, from the Chinese perspective, the lunar year you were born determines the most fundamental aspect of your Qi Character. And we arrive, finally, to the Dog.
Traditionally, the Dog is 11th in the series, but as you will recall, I started with Pig, at the “end,” in honor of Liu Ming, who was a Fire Pig. Since the Stem and Branch Cycle circles, there is no beginning or end, so it doesn’t matter where we begin/end. In many ways, I think the Dog is a good place to end.
I’ll admit it, I’m a cat person. I grew up with cats. I have always loved dogs, but I never lived with them until now. Since I moved to Portland, I have been living with two adorably lovable dogs, and I now understand why people are “dog people,” and this is because of the primary characteristic of Dog Qi—loyalty. Those goobers are just always excited to see me no matter who I am or what I do.
Humans have a had a long relationship with dogs, which, strangely enough, began in China. People everywhere have been with wolves for a very long time; human hunters lived near and followed wolves and learned from them how to hunt. But for most of this time, we were separate and respected the independent nature of the wolf pack. At some point, to help us with the hunt, we captured wolf puppies and kept them close, turning them slowly over time to our side (cats, on the other hand, domesticated themselves).
According to legend, the Chinese were the first people to domesticate the wolf, and so the first breed of dog was the Chinese Chow. All dogs come from wolves, which is hard to believe when you look at a chihuahua next to a mastiff. This shape-shifting quality also gives us a fundamental insight in to Dog Qi that we can call subordination or adaptability.
The first dogs were bred for hunting and war. Soldiers trained dog companions to follow them into the heat of battle. They trained them to attack on command and defend to the death. When a soldier died, their dog remained and guarded the body, another insight about the Dog we can call faithful.
Dogs were also bred in Daoist families to guard temples. The Daoist legend of tiāngǒu, a great deity in the form of a Black Dog the size of a meteor, said to eat the sun or moon during an eclipse, is revered as a great protector, who guards children and chases away harmful spirits and demons.
From the Daoist point of view, the Dog represents strong Yin and Yang qualities, Yin when faithful and devoted and Yang when acting as the fierce guardian. As we get into the Key Terms of Dog Qi, this Yin-Yang quality will become apparent, although we must say the Dog is a pure Yang Character.
Because our culture is obsessed with dogs, Dog Qi may be the easiest for us to understand. Tigers, too, for Tigers are basically house cats. The modern domesticated dog tells us everything we need to know. And we can say generally, that people born in the Dog Year have dog like characteristics. Energetically, Dog Qi is complex but quite simple, which is why dogs were chosen as symbols of this pattern of time. Remember, each of the Twelve Animals is a symbol describing a pattern of Time in a sequence.
In the sequence, Monkey turns to Rooster turns to Dog, which is where we are now. Next year will be the Year of the Earth Dog, so we can learn something of this sequence now. In other words, Monkey breaks up the stuffy Goat, offering fun, excitement, adventure, and a bit of chaos. Monkey makes a bit of a mess, and Rooster, our current Year, puts everything back in order, offering precision, logic, reasoning, and hierarchy.
We are all right now running around trying to figure out what the hell is going on and what the hell to do about everything, but we remain in a yin conceptual domain and are taking little action; we're mostly just arguing. So, Rooster needs Dog to help. Once Rooster sets everything to order, the Dog comes to take orders, protect, serve, guard, and love whatever the sequence of Time has created. Dog Qi does not care what has been produced—it follows orders and guards with its life no matter what.
Dog Hour, from 7 – 9 pm, is the time of day when everything is complete but still active. We are supposed to be home and secure. Imagine the family guard dog, vigilant at their post, while the family relaxes after a long day. The dog does not rest until everyone is safe, secure, at ease. Dog Hour should be spent with family, friends, those close to you, enjoying the company of those with whom you share the virtue of loyalty. My best friends Dad is a Wood Dog, and he always stays up late and will only go to sleep after everyone and everything is secure. If you were born between 7 and 9pm, then you are half Dog.
The Native Element of the Dog is Yang Earth, which it shares with the Dragon, its opposite. For the Dragon, Yang Earth represents flight, breaking away from the ground through explosive, upward movement. For the Dog, Yang Earth represents territory. The impulse of Dog Qi surveys and guards the Earth and can traverse territory quickly through explosive movement. The Dog’s keen senses cover the land and go for miles. Yang Earth for the Dog also represents the virtues of support, stability, groundedness, solidity, and alliances.
Although they share the same Native Element, Dragon and Dog are opposites. The Dragon is the ultimate leader and represents the Emperor in Chinese Cosmology. The Dog, on the other hand, is the ultimate follower, supporter, assistant, subordinate—they find their Qi through subordination. Samurai Bushido philosophy exemplifies the virtues of the Dog, to die on the battlefield protecting one’s Master.
In general, Dogs should not be in charge and are out of place in positions of leadership. Strangely enough, our current “president,” the Dumpster, is a Fire Dog, potentially the most territorial and aggressive of Dogs, and so is George W. Bush. Both exemplify the disaster that happens when Dogs are put in charge, and both are stunning examples of Dog Qi out of balance and misplaced. Fire Dogs (all Fire characters) need great discipline and without it they dig up the garden, pee on the carpet, and bark at everyone. But let’s stay away from politics.
Despite being followers, Dogs are often complex and unique individuals. I am amazed at how many Dogs are famous artists and/or musicians. Elvis, John Waters, David Bowie, Cher, Leonard Cohen, and Prince to name a few. Prince is a fitting example of Dog Qi. He was an amazingly complex individual, very private, a revolutionary artist, and yet a staunch and devoted Jehovah’s Witness who devoted his life to serving and subordinating to evangelism. In this culture, Dogs often devote themselves to principals or symbols if they cannot find family or friends to protect.
To understand the Dog, we must look at territoriality and loyalty. Like the Tiger, the Dog has an alternating quality that is related to “territory,” which is why they are in a trine. Dog Qi functions based on a deep and simple principal of trust. When we meet a dog (the animals) we encounter a defensive territorial stance, so we put out our hand, they sniff; we pet them, offer treats. If their human shows acceptance and lets you into their home, dogs can quickly switch from defensive to slobbering love machines. The Dog’s instinct is to protect no matter what, so it perceives everything as a potential threat to those in its territory. But at its core, Dog Qi is overwhelmingly loving. So, Dogs alternate from growling to rolling over and showing you their belly. They go from “I can kill you,” to “do me!”
Dogs can be incredibly threatening and dangerous animals, but if well trained, we can feel comfortable with a giant mastiff guarding a newborn baby. This tells us what we need to know about Dog Qi. Dogs thrive and get their power from having something to protect, from taking orders, from following. They are the great exemplars of the virtue of Loyalty.
Loyalty is greatly misunderstood in our culture. We think that people need to earn our loyalty and trust by being “worthy.” But your dog does not give a shit if you’re worthy. You can be a total jerk, and they will still love you. Of course, you need to feed them, take them for walks, throw the ball. But your worthiness as a person is meaningless to them. They love unconditionally and purely.
Your dog is having an awesome time being loyal, and this is true loyalty. Once you choose to dedicate yourself to something or someone, you protect and defend no matter what. This is the Samurai code. It doesn’t matter if your Master is corrupt; you die for them. There is wisdom in this, believe it or not. Many people change sides, defect, or drop loyalty at the first sign of corruption. We hold others to standards of perfection and then freak out and run away when they falter, mostly to protect ourselves, which can be useful at times. Of course, in today’s world, so many leaders, teachers, and people in positions of power have proven themselves “unworthy.” But the Loyalty of Dog Qi is not about who you serve or even why; it is about the transformative qualities of love, surrender, devotion, and service, not for others but for yourself. This is called Guru Yoga in Tantra.
You can open your heart to anything, and it will transform you, if you do so from a deep place of self-love and acceptance without the need for trust. Without self-possession, devotion and surrender invite abuse. When trust gets involved, we get hurt or betrayed. And dogs can be betrayed, but their instinct is to open their heart without reservation, to give completely. We can all learn something from this.
Liu Ming used to say that trust is basically stupid. Everything will let you down because everything is impermanent, unstable, and everyone has their own complex karma to work out. If we put too much trust in others not to hurt us, we will be let down. Laozi said to trust the untrustworthy, which means give up the notion that trust is something valuable. This does not mean that you should mistrust people. On the contrary, it means accepting all people as valuable and worthy of your loyalty because they’re human. What would it be like to accept and love those who betray you unconditionally without creating resentment? This is the virtue of Dog Qi.
Those born in the Year of the Dog have all these virtues as instinct. The impulse of Dog Qi is to protect, guard, follow, serve, and love without giving up their individuality. Dogs are complete people but find their power through subordination.
So, again, the first key term for the Dog is Loyalty. Dogs are fantastic friends, partners, and family members. They often have close select circles, people they have let in to their world. When it comes to family, Dogs are loyal to the end. When it comes to friends, Dogs often have a process of choosing, sniffing out if you will, but once they accept you they are great companions and bond very deeply in relationship.
If relationships or friendships end, Dogs tend to carry the bond with them forever and may feel hurt for a long time. They can recognize “old friends” instantly and are sometimes too eager to jump into things. People can be overwhelmed with how quickly a Dog seems to know and accept you. Or, they can be put off by a Dog’s standoffishness or guard dog stance.
This loyalty is by nature protective. Dogs protect. They serve. This may take the form of protecting a younger sibling, a child, a boss, a teacher, a partner. Or, Dogs can protect ideas, teachings, or principles. Dogs very naturally express the Bodhisattva Ideal so cherished in Mahayana Buddhism. The great Tibetan teacher Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was a Metal Dog, and if you watch footage of him, you will see that he served the Dharma and thousands of students but never put on shows about being a great master. He bowed to and honor everyone who came to him, and his love was vast and open.
Dogs naturally want to follow something or someone. Without this, their lives have no direction, no meaning. They often jump into devotion without forethought. Because of this, Dogs can stay in tough and even abusive situations for a long time out of misplaced loyalty; Pigs do this too, and so do Ox. Once they are devoted, that’s it. And it is hard for a Dog to break their bonds. They fear relationships, jobs, and community situations ending, for they may not know who they are outside these contexts. Dogs must cultivate strong boundaries and a sense of self, otherwise their loyalty can put them into danger.
Another flipside of this loyalty and protectiveness is territoriality, a kind of rigid quality. If Dogs have trauma or wounds they have not integrated, if their loyalty was not nurtured early on, they can tend to growl. Dogs can put up enormous walls and feel very rigid to others. Of course, behind this rigidness, Dogs are gushing with love. But, like attack dogs, their loyalty can be selective; they guard their territory. This territory can be people, ideas, beliefs, and so on. They can lash out and hurt others in defense of someone or something if they think they’re right or justified. Sometimes, this is necessary; sometimes people need protection and someone must be able to fight. Violence is available in the Dog. Dogs must, then, cultivate how to use their Yang aggressive qualities in appropriate ways—when is strong action necessary and when is it paranoid?
Dog Qi cares very deeply. Whatever they do, in whomever they invest, in wherever they choose to direct their Qi, Dogs give everything. The give too much. This caring quality can be unconditional in its true form. Of course, few people can actualize unconditional love and care, but Dogs are apt to accept people wholly. I am amazed when I look into the eyes of dogs (the animals) and see nothing but pure love, and Dog Qi has this abundance available.
Despite this quality of caring devotion, Dogs are by nature very private individuals. Every Dog has in them a touch of the lone wolf, which may be accentuated or understated depending on the individual. Dogs tend to have powerful private lives and love to be alone, which then alternates with their fierce companionship. When expressing their wolf side, Dogs feel at home in solitude. The flipside of this private individuality can be excessive vanity and concern with cultivating a unique self/appearance to give themselves power.
They tend to be very congenial and quiet, respectful of others. They keep to themselves. For this reason, they fit in very well into situations where there is a chain of command, like the military. It is natural for them to slide into a role, take orders, guard their platoon. They thrive in service oriented professions and make great waiters, social workers, police officers, assistants, anything where they put their energy into subordinating to a greater cause. Dogs are naturally very just and like righting wrongs.
Dogs tend to be very direct, blunt, and honest. This comes from a natural responsiveness which reacts very directly to the present situation. Often, these reactions can be sudden and taken without consideration, like a dog barking at the mailman.
When depleted, these qualities can become stubborn, stingy, and spiteful. Dogs can be excessively critical of others based on quick feelings and judgments. This blunt straight forward attitude can appear to others as egotistical and argumentative. Dogs can get into barking matches if they think they need to defend themselves or a situation they are invested in protecting.
The ears and the snout are an important part of the Dog symbol. The keen senses of the dog represent a kind of intuition and expansiveness. Dog Qi is very sensitive and picks up on even the slightest changes in the atmosphere. We have all noticed a dog laying on the ground, then all the sudden her ears twitch and she is up and barking before the humans realize anything has happened. This intuition feels the nature of situations, people, and environments in a sensory, embodied way. However, Dogs don’t often know what to do with their intuition and look to others for guidance and direction. But a Dog can smell danger coming a mile away.
Their observant quality produces great insight, and Dogs often have a lot to offer in terms of seeing things from multiple angles and through multiple dimensions. When everyone is stuck, they can offer a new way to “smell” rather than just see. Often their energetic sensory insights are right on without overthinking. Someone may appear a certain way, but if they don’t smell right, the Dog knows something is off.
The warrior nature of the Dog is always ready to jump into battle. They feel at home in danger and chaos and act as sturdy pillars of calm. They are cool under fire. When everything goes to shit, Dogs are usually relaxed and ready to jump in and do what is necessary to help. Their senses and intuition come alive in high intensity situations, which is great for sports and high stress jobs.
When depleted, or without training, Dogs can become rigid and frozen with anxiety, especially when emotions are on high. Dogs take in the energy of the environment, and if it is too much, they tremble, quake, and shiver with fear, unable to move, like a deer in the headlights. For this reason, Dogs need training and benefit greatly from the disciplined cultivation of sports, martial arts, debate, and so on, so that when they get into the heat of battle, their instincts can take over so they don’t get frozen with fear. This frozen nature may translate into an inability to make life decisions or have tough conversations. When balance, however, Dogs make quick decisions from the gut and don’t second guess things.
Dog Qi at its core has many virtues, and we go into this next year, which is why the Dog is a suitable place to end this series. Next Year will be an Earth Dog Year, which is the natural Dog. The auspice of the Dog year hinges on what we make of this one. Whatever plan the Fire Rooster comes up with, the Earth Dog will carry out the orders. Let’s hope it’s a good plan.
Considering the Five Dogs—Wood Dog is Puppy Qi, youthful, responsive, but naughty, may tear up the sofa, i.e. drain or ruin its good karma/resources. The Fire Dog can be trouble; forceful, vigorous, no fear of confrontation; without disciple, they will hurt others; with it—they make fierce and loyal guardians. The Earth Dog is stable, sturdy, dependable but likely to get stuck in patterns of stagnation. Metal Dogs possess the keenest senses, intellects, and intuitions, but are prone towards being too sensitive and potentially fixed in their loyalties. Water Dogs are the most emotional, generous, and kind but tend towards devotion driven by sentiment and will devote themselves to hopeless causes.
I hope you have enjoyed this exposition of Dog Qi, which completes our study of the Twelve Characters of Destiny. I encourage you to study your Year and Hour and also to remember that we can all express all Twelve Characters; these symbols are meant to cover the whole range of human behavior through time and have no rigid boundaries.
I hope you have found my take on the Animal Symbols helpful. Remember, Astrology is a tool for self-reflection that should make us gentle people. It should help us accept ourselves and others. Astrology is not a tool to escape or buffer from reality or exalt ourselves over others. May whatever insight this blog has produced be used for personal growth and spiritual realization for the benefit of all beings!
Due to the demand of school, I may not write for a while. Next, I hope to explore the 36 stars of the Polestar System and dive deeper into Tantrik and Daoist practice and cosmology—how do we integrate Astrology into the Dharma?
Thank you very much!
Welcome to the Fire Rooster Year! Before we explore the Character of Rooster Qi, I must say something--
Astrology is not fortunetelling. Period. Full stop.
Daoist Priests and Polestar Astrologers take a vow against fortunetelling. Astrology is often used in this way, but fortunetelling is an abuse of Divination. Fortunetelling predicts the future. But no future exists, only a present in movement, so what are we predicting? What is Astrology, then? Astrology is a form of Divination, a Mantic Art, what Ming called “Wisdom Science.” Astrology studies and describes the cyclical and self-resolving movements of Qi/Time. It does nothing other than describe the qualities of this movement with the assumption that we each relate to it differently based on the timeliness of our conception, womb time, and birth. Astrology suggests that we then use this information for self-reflection.
If it is Winter, you will tend to put on a jacket. Did I predict the future? Not really. This is where we find Astrology. It is not something to “believe in.” If you say you don’t believe in Astrology, then by all means, please, walk around in the middle of a Minnesota Winter in flip-flops and a tee-shirt, and please wake up and eat breakfast at 11 pm. You are free to do this. Wisdom Science understands that of our Original Nature is pristine open freedom, and that’s the difference. I can’t predict how you will use your freedom because then it wouldn’t be freedom! But I can say that Winter is Cold and not be surprised when you put on a jacket.
We always have the freedom to choose, and we can resist the cycles of Qi/Time. We can stay up late and eat whatever we want whenever we want. However, from the Chinese Astrological point of view, resisting nature, or living in disharmony with the cycles of Time/Qi, like eating after the sun goes down, is the secondary cause of illness and death.
The primary cause of all illness and death is birth. Period. The second is inappropriate conduct in regards to Astrology/Ancestral Fate. From the Chinese Perspective, no one dies from illness/disease—we die because we were born, and we speed up this process with disharmonious conduct in relation to the seasons of the Universal Calendar (Tongshu) and the personal Calendar of our Natal Chart. The third primary cause of illness is addressed by Chinese Medicine and deals with obstruction and inhibition in the flow of Qi from internal/external climatic factors that inhibit normal Qi flow.
Because I am not a fortuneteller, this blog will not make any predictions about the Fire Rooster Year. Rather, I will discuss the Rooster, and Fire Rooster, as a symbol, a possibility, a tendency due to the influence of Qi/Time. No Astrologer worth their salt will predict what will happen with certainty. We can only say what is likely to happen given the climate of Qi, like saying you may put on a jacket in the Winter. Any good Astrologer will present several interpretations and possibilities given your freedom within the context of the Qi/Time/Weather.
I could say—in a Rooster year, people may tend to argue more. This is a huge generalization, but I’m not talking about anything different than the weather. Rooster is just a much bigger, broader, and therefore more subtilized form of “weather.” It is the pervasive weather of the Universe for the next year, relative to planet Earth. The Chinese Tradition relates everything to internal and external weather, symbols describing movement (Qi) itself.
If we spin out into Astrological details and skip over the View Teachings, the outlook describing what the Universe and Human Beings are, then Astrology becomes easy to dismiss. In this blog, and in my upcoming book, I offer you the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology, so that we don’t spin out nitpicking details/pathologies, which is a tendency in Modern TCM, and to me constitutes a form of madness.
Of course, you may be skeptical of Astrology; that’s your freedom, and I don’t blame you. I only offer this as something to consider in the following Year. Astrology must be tested against your experience, but you’ve probably received the kindergarten version of Astrology (i.e. fortunetelling), so don’t be too quick to throw it out.
On January 28th, the Qi Pattern/Weather of the Year will shift from the Fire Monkey to the Fire Rooster. As I mentioned in the last Blog, the auspice of the Year, like the Fire Monkey, depends on how we use our freedom to navigate the Fire-Metal conundrum.
The Monkey and the Rooster are a pair, for they share the Native Element of Metal. Rooster is the Yin version of Metal, and Monkey is the Yang version. Since it is also a Fire Year, the same wisdom I described in the last Blog applies here. Fire melting Metal does not imply conflict, but conflict is possible if our conduct does not align/go with the tendency of this controlling cycle.
If Fire does not melt Metal, we get rigid, hard, stuck in our ways, and as we go, you will see the possibilities of how Rooster Qi can get stuck or fixated. Fire inspires, illuminates, and shines light on the broader context of our situation, softening the rigid qualities of Metal, which turns Metal to Water, which in turn extinguishes the consuming qualities of Fire.
The Fire Rooster is the least “Roostery” Rooster, since Fire controls the Rooster’s Native Element, meaning Fire softens the tendency of the Rooster to get stuck/rigid. However, if we overdo the Fire and bring too much passion, aggression, inspiration, and so on, then the positive qualities of Yin Metal, such as rational thinking, are eclipsed, and our conduct may drift towards the opposite—irrational thinking and fanaticism, which are depleted Rooster qualities.
The simple difference between this year and last is that Yang Fire-Metal turns to Yin Fire-Metal. We can say, generally, that the outward, expansive, mobile, and active Yang qualities of the Monkey in the past year will turn inward, contract, still, and tend towards the Yin qualities of the Rooster.
The Years rotate Yin-Yang-Yin-Yang, and so on, and Yin Years tend to be more Qi conservative, less dynamic. In many ways, the Rooster turns us inward to a mental/conceptual domain, which the Monkey established with its mischief. Rooster Qi, by nature, thinks a lot, and the Monkey has given us a lot to think about. Roosters practically need pharmaceuticals to stop thinking.
Yin Metal is refined, hidden, matured, withdrawn, distilled, fermented, hardened, crystallized, designated, subtilized, sublimated, conceptualized, symbolically portrayed as ore refined from the Earth through the process of Alchemy (Yang Metal), such as silver/gold, gemstones, and so on. Metal sinks downward drawing in.
I experience Yin Metal as the moment in Time when I form an opinion, when I recognize a thought, a pattern, when I refine my experience into ordered language and logic. Yang Metal represents the active moment of things becoming “thinged,” labeled, and Yin Metal represents the subtle process of refining and drawing together all the details, and the Rooster is generally associated with “details,” corresponding to Virgo in Western Astrology.
I am happy to say that I am part Fire Rooster. I was born in a Fire Rooster Month, so everything I am about to discuss is part of my Qi Display. Again, the Month is not as potent as the Year-Hour, but it is part of me nonetheless. Hopefully, my personal experience as part Fire Rooster can shed light on the nature of this symbol.
The Rooster Symbol in China is complex and a bit confusing at times due to some conflicting images. In general, Rooster (also referred to as Phoenix) includes all birds, such as the crane, owl, and raven—anything with a beak. The Rooster of Chinese Astrology, however, refers to the cock, the male rooster, associated with fertility and aggression, but it is a decidedly Yin Symbol, hence the confusion. Originally, this Character was more associated with the owl, but over time the Chinese decided on the male rooster because of some specific symbolic qualities, which we will discuss.
In China, the Rooster, despite being male, is also a symbol of the Empress and of feminine Yin energy. Perhaps, it represents the subjugation of the Feminine, the Rooster lording over the Hens. The Dragon is a symbol of the Emperor, and together, they constitute a classical marriage pair in Chinese Synastry. Rooster/Bird/Crane all represent the grace, elegance, deportment, and dominance associated with the Empress of Chinese Royalty. The Rooster does not dominate with physical aggression; it dominates with emotion, appearance, ideology, intellect, belief—what we call “Yin Power.”
The Rooster symbol is obviously domestic, one of the barnyard signs. Remember, we’re not talking about hens; the Rooster performs very specific functions on the family farm. These functions form the primary set of symbols associated with the Rooster.
The first and most important symbolic aspect of the Rooster is the sharp beak. The beak represents precision, accuracy, the ability to peck things apart, like seeds, or ideas, to get to the essential quality within (Yin Metal). Crane style Gong Fu strikes at pressure points, hitting the opponent’s weak spots to bring them down with little effort. In the Rooster, this represents a certain capacity for analysis, and it also represents the possibility of getting fixated. Because roosters don’t have much of a memory, if you put their beak to a chalk line, they get stuck there and will peck all day at the chalk line, hypnotized, unable to break free.
The second symbolic aspect of the Rooster is the wings and the ability to “puff up.” When challenged, Roosters flap and beat their wings, taking in air, making themselves appear larger and more threatening than they are. This wing flapping often precedes the cockfight, in which Roosters dual to the death. The wings represent a certain competitive and aggressive nature that appears to be very threatening but is all hot air.
The Rooster puffs up and looks big, but it does not have much physical strength, which is another reason why it is a Yin Character. It makes a big show of wanting to fight but is weak and will not fight unless it knows it can win. When pushed, or backed into a corner, the beak and the claws are vicious, and Roosters can do some serious damage, but this is only after being abused.
Cockfighting is a cruel and abusive sport; they don’t want to fight, but when challenged they will rip each other to shreds because of competitive pride. Roosters can’t fly, so the wings are deceptive, Yin. Strange that the only bird in the Chinese Zodiac can’t fly, a capacity found only in the Dragon, who has no wings.
Crowing is the third symbolic aspect of the Rooster, the call to the Sun at dawn and dusk. Roosters are very vocal creatures. I lived with chickens and roosters in Thailand and they would crow all day, not just dawn and dusk. Crowing represents a capacity for eloquence and “Yin extroversion,” meaning Roosters have a such an intense inner experience that they need to get out, and because of the immense detail and complexity of their inner vision, the outer expression often reflects this, which can intimidate others.
For example, I don’t talk much until asked a question, after which I tend to firehose people with a wall of information they weren’t expecting. I really try to tone it down, but the volume of my inner experience is enormous. I can’t help it. People’s eyes usually get wide, as if to say…whoa, dude, slow down…and their facial expression often communicate regret or overwhelm about 15 seconds after they ask me a question.
The final symbolic aspect of the Rooster is sacrifice. Like the Goat and Ox, Roosters were often sacrificed in Daoist Ritual but for different reasons. Roosters were only sacrificed in rituals that required blood oaths. This symbolizes trust, a quality very important to Rooster Qi.
In Daoism, roosters were used to ward off poison, for roosters in the wild often eat snakes, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, and toads, what are called the Five Poisonous Creatures, which represent our different conflicting emotions. The Rooster has the capacity to digest and transform conflicting emotions into wisdom, and Amulets were often made bearing the Chinese Character for Rooster, used to ward off the Five Poisonous Creatures and their respective emotions.
To understand the Nature of each Qi Character, we must get to the root impulse represented by the Native Element. Control is the main impulse of the Rooster, symbolized by the Rooster lording over the Hens. Yin Metal can be an inward struggle, trying to hold on, control, keep things in order. Fire melts this control, which allows Metal to release and turn to Water, but as an impulse, Yin Metal holds on before death.
So, the Rooster can be wound a bit tight. Inwardly, their impulse is to subtly control, manipulate, and put their experience to order so that it does not go towards death (Water). This impulse has a lot of fear behind it, which the Rooster covers up with a world of intense conceptuality, like the Five on the Enneagram (I'm a Five, if you haven't noticed).
Rooster is the natural outcome of Monkey in the cycle of Time. The Goat attempts to put order to everything based on idealistic principals of interconnectedness; the Monkey says—that’ll never happen, and throws a wrench in the spokes, so to speak, potentially leaving behind a mess. We are now in a bit of a mess. Rooster, then, comes along and goes a bit crazy, working like mad to tidy up, organize all the shelves, label all the boxes, sweep everything under the rug, and put things back in their proper place, which the Dog then guards with its life, so the Pig can party.
Rooster Hour, from 5-7 pm, is the time of completion. In China, this time of day is associated with “coming home to roost,” the time when all the chickens and animals make their way back to the barn. It is the “crepuscular hour,” the transition from day to night. Since Rooster Qi is associated with completion, precision, competition, and confidence, this is the time to go home and take pride in what you have done, to reflect and analyze. If you were born between 5 -7 pm, then you are also part Rooster.
As we go through these Key Terms, try to understand them as potential tendencies in the atmosphere of the coming year. Since I am generalizing about the Rooster, remember the relationship of Fire and Metal, and this will help to understand the Fire Rooster more specifically.
These tendencies, which I am here discussing in terms of Natal Astrology, can display as trends in social, cultural, political, environmental, familial, and romantic relationships. We study these principals in people/human behavior because we are people. If you can observe Rooster Qi in your Dad’s obsessive need to organize the tools in the garage, then you can understand how Rooster Qi might influence the political dynamics of a country.
The first Key Terms are critical and analytical. Like the Rat, the Rooster zooms in close and uses its beak (intellect) to break everything apart. The Rat takes things apart to make them small enough to carry, but the Rooster breaks open the seed to get to the important stuff inside. In other words, Rat detail does not include analysis; Rooster Qi does. This analytic, critical nature, an aspect of Yin Metal, extends to all aspects of the Rooster Display. Inwardly this often expresses as thinking, thinking, thinking—going over and over details, analyzing, reasoning, judging. Outwardly, this analysis penetrates behavior and speech—choosing their actions very carefully, second guessing, double checking. Outwardly, they are meticulous and tidy; they love to clean, organize, and are generally concerned with the outer appearance of things.
Naturally, this analytic nature lends itself to a certain kind of intelligence that is highly valued in our culture—problem solving. Roosters make natural engineers, mathematicians, and scientists but they also make great writers and artist, anything where they get to investigate and express detail and meaning. They make wonderful decorators, designers, and architects. Art critic is perhaps the most Roostery profession I can think of.
Rooster Qi is a kind of competence that can translate into many arenas. They have a tremendous capacity to learn systems, methods, approaches, and so on. They can apply these systems very adeptly to anything they want. There is no limit to what Rooster Qi can accomplish with efficiency, precision, and exactness. I’m sure this sounds wonderful, because our culture highly values these qualities and wants everyone to have them. Roosters are productive, but they have a difficult time relaxing.
Rooster Qi is naturally a bit high-strung, tense, uptight. This intelligent and intense thinking mind can get obsessed, close-minded, even fanatical. Roosters can fixate on problems to solve, situations to manage; they can go over and over things in their mind so much that they disconnect from reality. Of all the signs, I would say that Rooster Qi, especially the Metal/Water Rooster, is the most susceptible to mental health problems. They live in their heads, and the fixation (the beak) behind their Qi can get OCD, anal retentive, a little crazy at times. They’re prone to hypochondria.
Roosters benefit greatly from cultivating stillness, openness, and relaxation; they need to get into their bodies and out of their heads, which for them is a monumental task. When they try to drop into their bodies, their awareness tends to snap back up like a yo-yo.
Rooster intelligence and capacity has profound confidence. Like the peacock or male rooster, Rooster Qi tends to be confident, a bit of a show-off, not physically per-se, but mentally for sure. They like to strut their stuff, tout their abilities, and talk a big game. This may manifest as certainty; they know they’re correct, that their argument is valid and will therefore attempt to dominate in conversation, which can lead to argument.
Confidence is a positive virtue, but it can easily lead to arrogance, rudeness, and pride. Roosters can be very proud. They tend to generate strong and rigid self-images that can’t stand being challenged. This also leads to vanity, which can be concerned with physical appearance but also with what Asian cultures call “saving face,” maintain a good public image.
Roosters are trustworthy, honest, challenging, and forthright. They tend to speak very directly and concisely. In conversation, they tend to challenge other people, for they like to debate. The Tibetan tradition of analytical debate is very Rooster. Tibetan Buddhists have a very well developed system of logic from Mahayāna Buddhism, which they use to develop wisdom.
You begin with a clear format of statement and rebuttal from a defender and questioner. You clearly define all the terms you are using. You and your opponent put forth arguments. You attempt to find the gakcha, the crux of the other person’s view and then you use logic to undermine it, pointing to the emptiness of all fixed views. This process, if done correctly, undermines our conceptual mind and shows us the structures of logic that we use to construct false views about Reality. Ultimately, it points to the non-conceptual state beyond all logic. Again, very Rooster.
The flipside of this turns harshly competitive, snobby, blunt, vulgar, and tactless. Rooster Qi can be volatile and erupt without consideration for others. They can be so sure of their view that they will argue it to the death, pecking and ripping with beak and claw. This impulse to challenge can be competitive, so much so that they will argue even if they know they’re wrong, just so they can be right, so they can win and be in control. They may put down and criticize others, making them feel stupid, and they can do this unintentionally. Roosters need to develop big open minds and include as many points of view as possible in their experience.
Rooster Qi tends be very social and spontaneous. The Rooster tends to be concerned with social dynamics in terms of hierarchy, structure, the “pecking order.” By nature, Roosters love socializing and fun; they like the dynamics of social interaction and relationships. Although they are prone to spontaneous displays of showmanship, invoking reactions from and interactions between others, they are acutely aware of social structure. They like to know where they stand with people; they feel secure knowing who is doing what and with whom. Everyone should have a job, a role, clearly defined. They like to know the reasons why people act the way they do. In the end, Roosters feel uncertain if these things are not defined, and they love being the ones to put everyone to order. This social certainty reflects the sacrifice of the Rooster, the blood oath, making a pact.
Depleted, Roosters can be aloof and closed off. If they lose face, or if their ideas about how others perceive them, about their role in life, fall apart, they may question everything and distance themselves until they can figure it out. They can be overwhelmed by the amount of detail they take in, and if it is more than they can handle, they crumble.
It can be difficult to approach them when they close off; they need to relax on their own and come to conclusions naturally so they can feel in control. If you confront them, they are likely to snap back and get more entrenched in their difficulties. Roosters are adept at justifying their feelings, and if those feelings turn to self-hate or blame, or to blaming others, they can’t be talked out of their point of view. They will, however, respond to logic if that logic is well presented and offers them structure to work with.
Rooster Qi is intense and by nature alert, inspired, and insightful. Roosters, on the farm, are guardians. They are vigilant, observant, watchful, and always alert, aware, perceptive. Rooster Qi can be luminous, awake, present. At its best, Rooster Qi is bright and inspired by life, and they are psyched to wake up and crow. Roosters have an amazing capacity to pay attention and focus. The category of meditation called Vipassanā, which means to investigate with clear or distinct seeing/observation, is very Rooster. Vipassanā is often translated as Insight Meditation, and insight is the ideal outcome of the Rooster analysis.
I would, however, not recommend Vipassanā to most Roosters, especially if they are depleted. They can be too focused, too analytical, too vigilant, and Vipassanā can make them even crazier. If clarity is not met with its sister, calm, then clarity and insight can produce agitation. Roosters can become hyper aware of how messed up everything is, and they may spin off into irritation and reactivity. Non-conceptual meditation, called Zuòwàng, sitting and forgetting, is much healthier for Roosters.
Finally, along with Rabbits, the Rooster is the most sexual of the signs. Everyone is a sexual sign. But as a symbol, we all know what is said about Rabbits and Roosters. If you have one rooster in the barn, all 60 chickens will be laying eggs. The sexual appetite of the Rooster is large. Both signs use sexuality as a form of power but in different ways. Roosters tend to dominate and Rabbits tend to submit.
Each element adds a different flavor to this general image. Wood Roosters are the most spontaneous, idealistic, and inspired and are the most likely to forgive and forget. I’ll get to the Fire Rooster last. Earth adds stability and conventionality to the fussy Rooster image, but the capacity of Earth makes them so strong that they easily go into overwhelm at the amount of complexity they imagine they can handle. Metal Roosters, the Natural Rooster, are the most meticulous, articulate, and fussy of the bunch, prone to mental instability, and often their ability to analyze is a cover for their delicate mental/emotional state. Water puts the Rooster capacity over the edge into mystical territories, so much so that they lack the focus of other Roosters and are the most susceptible to possession and madness. I have met some intense Water Roosters. However, Water Roosters are the most sensitive and are more capable of emotional intelligence and empathy than other Roosters.
The Fire Rooster, the Character of the coming Year, my Month, is the most sensual and restless of the Roosters. They are bright and luminous, able to focus like laser beams, yet they can collapse under too many difficulties. They have strong ambition and yet the Fire-Metal dynamic causes them to flip-flop between iron-clad confidence and hopelessness. Fire Roosters tend to be unapologetic, anti-social, and embarrassment is unknown to them. They probably have the most ferocious sex drive of all the Roosters.
I’m no fortuneteller, but I can speculate about what this image means for the coming Year. The climate of Fire Rooster is intense. Monkey has worked everyone into a bit of a frenzy, and now this critical, analytic, argumentative capacity will be available to everyone. Remember, if our passion turns to aggression, if our inspiration becomes excessive, then in a Year like this, people are more likely to argue, especially over definitions, ideas, beliefs, borders, boundaries, and so on. Expect fanaticism in politics and public discourse. People are more likely to get worked up over compelling rhetoric. Our logic may fail us; or we may twist logic toward selfish and closeminded ideals.
If we meet the Year with an open mind, and if we maintain our health, then the Year offers an amazing ability to focus, organize, and get shit done. This Year, we can see through fanaticism to the conceptual structures beneath and liberate our old fixed patterns. We can soften the hard edges around what we think is possible and envision beautiful and realistic possibilities.
Navigating the Fire-Metal conundrum is simple. Over the coming Year, notice when you get worked up over thoughts, stories, and ideas; notice when you get excitable or excessive in your aspiration; see yourself challenging others; recognize when you’re hard on yourself because of some future ideal of what you’re supposed to be, what’s supposed to happen—notice all this and relax; drop it. Relax and find the thread of inspiration that guides the Fire Rooster. Fire Rooster is luminosity—the Light of the Mind. It can be so powerful that it will do anything to display this Light. Relax and find that the Light naturally goes where it needs; in fact; it’s everywhere. Inspiration and insight are everywhere.
This is a great Year to self-reflect and take stock in a realistic and practical way. Pay attention to your mental health and wellbeing. Easy on the entertainment. Rooster can get drawn into the computer for hours. Relax social-media and stop throwing your opinions at everyone. Don’t believe everything you read, or think. Easy on the idealism. Look forward but don’t strain—remember there’s no future, only a present with a direction/momentum. The direction of the present is not fixed, but it tends to go where the Qi of the Year pushes it. Fire Rooster will ask us to soften our views/opinions to seek logical possibilities.
I know—Trump. With all the political rhetoric being shoved down your throat, this Rooster image may sound a little scary. But remember, the auspice of the Year is created by our Freedom, by how our Character digests the Qi buffet. Ming always likened the Year to a buffet. We go along and choose what our appetite inspires in us; some people belch, others fart, some are sleepy, and some are inspired and energized. There is no other Year available. Fire Rooster is what’s on the menu. I hope you’re prepared to digest it.
Thanks for reading about the Rooster, and stay tuned for the final installment of the 12 Characters of Destiny as I examine the Dog.
Love and Blessings in the New Year!
At long last, we make it to the Qi Character of the Year—Monkey. It has been a Monkey of a year, for sure. I feel like I don’t even need to explain the Fire Monkey, for the year has been such a great lesson. Of course, everyone experienced the buffet of the year differently based on their own Character, but the public image via the shitshow that is internet media suggests that the Year has been difficult for many.
The Fire Monkey is a bit like Heath Ledger’s Joker from Batman. It came to show us the futility of all our plans. This kind of disruption must be available in the cycle of time, or else we may think time is linear, heading towards some perfect future. Fire Monkey set fire to all that.
There is no perfect future; any peak experience progressing toward a better future can only turn into its opposite. Period. Repeat—things only get better temporarily; they only get worse temporarily. Wisdom is relaxation, riding the cyclical waves of Yin-Yang, not working productively towards a greater future (this is lunacy). Monkey reminds us of this. The more we resist natural chaos, the more dramatic our fall.
Many are bashing 2016, and I don’t want to associate all this negativity with the Monkey. The Fire Monkey offers a profound wisdom that has been poking you in the plans all year—have you noticed? I hope I can share with you the Wisdom of the Monkey and change your perspective on the last year.
As a Tiger, Monkey Qi is my opposite. Many misunderstand the diametric relationship in Chinese Astrology. On the cheesy folk level, what you find in most books on the Twelve Animals, they say—Tiger-Monkey, Pig-Snake, Dragon-Dog—oh, very bad! But this level of Astrology assumes that ordinary people have little to no capacity for self-reflection, which may be true—I don’t know.
The diametric is a mirror relationship. Spiritually, they are complementary opposites, which tend to polarize and attract, creating a fascination with each other’s differences. The relationship of opposites can be explosive and prone to volatility, but this explosive quality has tremendous potential for transformation if met with self-reflection.
I have many close Monkey friends, and I love all of them, for they mirror myself back to me. When presented with the Monkey perspective, I scratch my head and go—wow, I would not have thought of that! There is a great YouTube video of a monkey messing with tigers, jumping off the tree, pulling the tiger’s tail and then jumping out of reach—such is the Monkey-Tiger dance.
This year, too, has been a fantastic mirror—tough, one of the most difficult of my life, an internal struggle mostly, but good lord, I’ve learned a lot. As a Tiger, I have a difficult time understanding the Monkey, so hopefully this will make sense. I encourage you to study your opposite, as I have, and let it reveal to you your own Character. The opposites are—Rat-Horse, Ox-Goat, Tiger-Monkey, Rabbit-Rooster, Dragon-Dog, and Snake-Pig.
As I delve into Monkey Qi, I encourage you to reflect on your experience of this year. I will not review the events of this year considering the Monkey, so let these symbols speak to you through your own experience. The Twelve Characters are best learned in your day to day lived experience.
Every 60 years, every 60 months, every 60 days, every 60 hours, we pass through everyone we will ever meet, energetically speaking. Every day, I look at the Character of the Day and then simply feel, reflect, and observe as I go about my life. Today is a Water Dragon day, for example. What does this feel like? How does my experience reflect this Qi? Find out the Character of your friends and family and simply observe the way they interact given their Character relationships—this is the best way to learn Chinese Astrology.
Asia adores the Monkey. It is a very rich symbol in Chinese Cosmology. Monkeys are common all over Asia, particularly, the gibbon and macaque, and many cultural myths surround them. Both China and Tibet share stories of ancient Monkey Ancestors; perhaps, they had a natural understanding of “evolution.” Chinese folk religion regards monkeys as supernatural beings, and many myths about monkey spirits, monkey demons, and half-monkey/human hybrids abound throughout China’s history. In general, Monkeys are depicted much like humans, both foolish and wise. In the Chinese Zodiac, Monkey represents the fated human flaw so heavily debated throughout the history of religion—desire.
We find Monkey in the transmission of Buddhism to China, which began around the 2nd century B.C.E, most famously depicted in the 16th century Ming Dynasty novel, Journey to the West, which was later abridged by English author Arthur Waley in the widely read novel titled Monkey.
In this story, the Buddha seeks a Chinese pilgrim to journey West to India and retrieve the Buddhist Scriptures so that Chinese people could be enlightened (typical Buddhist evangelism, as if the Chinese Tradition was not rich enough). Based on the legendary Tang Dynasty Monk Xuánzàng, the main character Tripitika, volunteers, goes, and returns successful after many trials and tribulations.
Gautama Buddha and the Bodhisattva Guanyin, enlist three protectors to help him along the way, including the famous Sūn Wùkōng —the Monkey King, who was imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha for rebelling against Heaven. Sūn Wùkōng is a trickster, able to shapeshift and transform his appearance. In the journey, the Monkey King becomes a disciple of Xuánzàng and undergoes transformation from trickster rebel to enlightened sage.
Early Buddhism used many monkey similes. We have all heard of the famous “Monkey Mind.” The Samyutta Nikaya says, "Just as a monkey roaming through a forest grabs hold of one branch, lets that go and grabs another, then lets that go and grabs still another, so too that which is called 'mind' and 'mentality' and 'consciousness' arises as one thing and ceases as another by day and by night." As Monkeys helped to transmit the Buddhist Scriptures, they became allegories for the transformation of Monkey to Enlightened Mind.
The Monkey King was initially a Daoist Immortal before being worked into Buddhism. Daoism, too, tells many tales of the Monkey. Zhuangzi’s famous tales goes, “Once upon a time, there was a monkey keeper who was feeding little chestnuts to his charges. ‘I'll give you three in the morning and four in the evening,’ he told them. All the monkeys were angry. ‘All right, then,’ said the keeper, ‘I'll give you four in the morning and three in the evening.’ All the monkeys were happy with this arrangement. Without adversely affecting either the name or the reality of the amount that he fed them, the keeper acted in accordance with the feelings of the monkeys. He too recognized the mutual dependence of "this" and " that." Consequently, the sage harmonizes the right and wrong of things and rests at the center of the celestial potter's wheel.” Here the Monkey and Sage dichotomy depicts the transformation from delusion to enlightenment, implying that nothing happens other than a shift in perspective.
Liu Ming played with this famous tale in his book Dragon’s Play. Here, Ming used the image of Monkey and Sage to represent our dual nature of energy and awareness. The delicate balancing act between these two, between freedom and control, is the dance of duality that every human must integrate to follow the Way.
At its core, Monkey Qi represents this perilous balancing act, like the monkey swinging through the trees, balancing from branch to branch. Monkeys are poised between the sacred and the profane, fluctuating between materialism and austerity, selfish fantasy and visionary wisdom. Every Human has this dance inside them. Though depicted as Godlike, Monkey Qi symbolizes the weakness commonly associated with humans—desire, which keeps them dancing between the poles.
This may sound dramatic, but Monkey Qi is fundamentally playful. The Chinese never thought to demonize desire like the West. Even Buddhism could not make judgmental moralists of the Chinese (to the Chinese morality is Astrological). Monkey’s balancing act is not a battle between good and evil where order wins over chaos. Both are natural aspects of our being—Yin-Yang. We must make friends with both, and Monkey Qi forever plays with this dynamic.
Ultimately, to tell a Monkey (or anyone) to sit still and control Monkey Mind is stupid. Monkeys must play. They are the Wisdom of Playfulness and Survival. The playfulness of Monkey Qi is a sleight of hand poking fun at the seriousness of “good and evil,” revealing duality as a game, a playful situation rather than the cause of “suffering.” If you put your Monkey Mind in a cage called meditation—how will this lead to freedom?
The myth that the mind must be trained is stupid; concentration (when excessive) is madness, especially to the Monkey. Training the monkey/ox/horse, or whatever metaphor you want to use for the mind, implies that your Nature and Duality are problematic—they’re not; your Nature is perfectly free as it is. Meditation is an expression of your Nature, not an exercise in making it behave.
I lived with Monkeys on an island in Thailand for a period and learned a lot watching them. I found them to be very social creatures. They roamed about the island in packs and would march down the beach in big monkey processions. Momma monkeys carried babies on their backs, and they had groups with leaders and sidekicks.
They were unbelievably curious, and everything they did was playful. They would wrestle around, jump on everything, and investigate all they came across. A monkey once jumped on my table while I was eating breakfast, snatched the coffee mug out of my hand along with a handful of sugar packets, ran off into the trees, and then preceded to throw the sugar packets at me. They would also lunge at me bearing their teeth—perhaps they knew I was a Tiger.
We find the impulse of Monkey Qi in its Native Element—Yang Metal. Yang Metal examines, refines, distills, transforms; it is precision, ingenuity, and imagination, the active conceptual mind used for problem solving; it is our capacity for vision which internalizes, draws in, and goes towards Water, which is full blown mysticism. This active conceptual quality of Yang Metal is the so-called Monkey Mind, but the virtue of this is imagination, self-reflection, wit, and intellect, which are obviously important qualities.
Like the Five Tigers, the Five Elemental Monkeys are very different. This year has been a Fire Monkey year, and “Fire melts Metal.” This is not conflict, but it can generate conflict! The kè or controlling relationship between the elements is necessary for Qi to keep moving, and each controlling relationship is different. When Fire melts Metal, inspiration and vitality soften our rigid thinking, releasing boundaries and hardness, and turn Metal to Water. When this becomes overactive, or “insulting,” the passionate, aggressive, and consuming qualities of Fire lead to hyperactivity, erratic behavior, and excessive disordered thinking. This Year, then, offered the possibility of tremendous inspiration, to push beyond the limits of imagination, but if met with too much Fire/aggression, then the Year also offered the possibility of profound delusion and irrational behavior.
In the beginning of the Year, I told many people—anything can happen in a Fire Monkey year, depending on how we negotiate the Fire-Metal conundrum. This is the kind of year we could have ran with inspiration, softened the boarders of what was possible, and for example—elected Bernie Sanders. Or, this was the kind of year in which people’s fear and paranoia could consume them, generating aggression and eclipsing the rational mind, and for example—we could elect Donald Trump. No further comment. All of this is available in the cycles of Time based on how we negotiate these Elemental Qi Character Cycles.
The Wood Monkey is the most playful, the least serious, and the most resilient of Monkeys. The Fire Monkey we know. Earth Monkeys are more grounded but a bit at odds with being on the ground, since their Monkey impulse tells them to swing. Metal Monkeys are the most natural and at home in their Monkeyness. And Water Monkeys push the mischievous boundaries of Monkey Qi into unknown, possibly dark, mystical territories—not even Heaven can perceive what they’re up to.
The impulse of Monkey Qi, which may shed some light on the past year—the impulse of Yang Metal, tests limits and pushes boundaries, seeking the release of Water; Monkeys define life by taking risks. Life without risk—why bother? Where is the fun in that? Monkeys like to poke, play, push, and test possibilities. They seek adventure, excitement, to keep on moving. Stagnation is death to the Monkey. They seek to go as far out as they can into extreme situations, places, experiences, and so on, just so they can bounce back and say “wow, that was cool!”
Yang Metal generates what I call “scanning Qi.” Monkeys in their natural environment always scan for danger—where are the Tigers? Monkey Qi provides a broad pervasive awareness of the environment and all the details within. Monkey feels the precise movement and activity of the jungle and is at home in the chaos. Silence, stillness, serenity—this spells doom for the Monkey; what’s coming to kill me? Monkey keeps moving, staying forever on its toes/tail.
Monkeys (this category includes apes) and Human Beings share many similarities, and these similarities highlight many of the Key Terms we will discuss. Humans, arguably, became dominant because of our ability to use tools and problem solve, which is mostly due to having thumbs.
Monkey Hour is from 3-5pm. Monkey Qi is associated with planning, strategizing, projecting, adapting, and imagining, so Monkey Hour is the time to look forward to the next day or week and plan. It is the time to cease productivity and to shift into imagination. During Monkey Hour, our Qi naturally anticipates the end of the day and the transition into night. It is a time of adaptation; soon we must head home, but before we do, we must digest the experience of the day, adapt accordingly, and anticipate what may come. Since Monkey Qi is playful, this is the time to end the seriousness of work, “quitting time,” when you should joke and have fun with co-workers before heading home. If you were born between 3-5 pm, you are also part Monkey.
If the Goat teaches us about social responsibility, justice, order, harmony, fairness, and interconnection, then Monkey teaches us that none of this is serious. When Goat gets on a high horse and its rhetoric starts working people up—here come the Monkeys.
The First Key term, then, is curious. Think Curious George. Like the Monkey stealing my sugar packets, Monkey people have an intense desire to investigate, to understand, to peak behind the curtain, to get to the bottom of things, and to pull the rug out from under people. They often seek professions, lifestyles, and hobbies that express this curiosity, and they tend to be spiritual seekers who rebel against committing to a single path, for there is always another branch, another tree with more fruit. Monkeys are in danger of what Chogyam Trungpa called spiritual Materialism—getting into the spiritual path because it offers fun and exciting experiences, which Monkey is very curious about. This curiosity goes hand and hand with the Monkey’s naturally playful disposition.
On the flipside, curiosity turns to erratic and frantic behavior—yes, Monkey Mind. By nature, Monkeys have a profound capacity for distraction. When depleted their minds scatter, race, and push them into a thousand places at once. This erratic behavior can cause them to quit jobs, abandon projects, change their minds, and waffle back and forth unable to make decisions. Monkey Qi defines compulsive (rather than impulsive) behavior, and they can easily spin out into addiction and self-destructive tendencies.
Monkeys are playful, funny; they joke and like to mess with people. In their hearts, Monkeys do not take life seriously. They are not grave or morbid. They view life as a playful act. Alan Watts once said—life is musical in nature, and we are supposed to dance while the music is being played. When other people are morbid, Monkeys want to tickle them. Monkeys want to pull the rug out from under peoples plans. When confronted with hard decisions, the Monkey response is usually—play! This can confound other people who want them to commit and be responsible. Tiger, Monkey’s opposite, hates to be messed with and we can tend towards toxic moodiness, hence the Monkey pulling the Tiger’s tail.
This playfulness is also imitative in nature. Monkey see, Monkey do. Monkey, like Snake, learns by imitating. They can watch someone do something, and then do it better than them. While Snakes do this by becoming the teacher, Monkeys do so by adaptation and cleverness, which is part of the shapeshifting trickster image. If you show off in front of a Monkey, they may just make a fool of you, and they are not afraid to make fools of themselves.
Monkeys have powerful imaginations and are extremely intelligent and innovative people. The Monkey imagination is beyond visionary. Monkeys can climb high in the trees and see far out beyond the branches. This imagination, being Yang, is creative, and Monkey ranks as one of the “artistic” types. If Monkeys can sit still, they are capable of being great artists. If not, Monkey Qi expresses profound intelligence, the ability to learn and change the way things are done.
Monkey Qi scans, schemes, plans, and looks for solutions. When confronted with a problem or danger, the Monkey will look for options, ways around; they want to sneak past danger and with sleight of hand fool the Tiger. I was once sitting in traffic with my Godmother, a Wood Monkey, and we hit a traffic jam. Her immediate response was to google alternate routes and look up traffic reports. My response was to sit there; it never even occurred to me that there was another option, for the Tiger response to danger is to pounce forward like a freight train, while the Monkey is the acrobat, nimbly escaping obstacles.
Monkey Qi is resourceful. Monkeys can find, utilize, and manipulate resources to their advantage unlike any other sign. They can be amazingly productive when put to these kinds of tasks, and they demonstrate the Human capacity to create and make tools for survival. This is an immense social and professional skill that I envy, for it is completely beyond me. Monkeys are incredibly capable beings, able to learn and master many skills. They tend, however, to be Jacks of all Trades and Masters of None.
When depleted, this capacity for imagination and innovation turns to fantasy and delusion. Monkeys are masters of creating and living in fantasy worlds, what we can call “storylandia.” Their scheming can generate many versions of reality, and at their worst, Monkeys buy into them and can spin out in alternate realities, which they find fascinating, entertaining. Monkey Qi tends to indulge fantasy because it is fun. Again, this is a playful act, so Monkeys can test the limits of sanity and bounce back.
Monkeys demonstrate the fact that nothing is real or solid in the way you think it is. There is no true relative reality; everything relative is empty of inherent meaning. Insanity comes from taking the relative world too serious; when we see the transparent nature of everything, we are likely to go crazy, but Monkeys think it’s funny. Push this too far and you get Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Monkey defines adaptation, resilience, and responsiveness. Physically, they are one of the most resilient signs and can bounce back quickly from the most serious illness. They are likely to flirt with death and danger and then make fun of everyone for getting morbid. They heal fast, and respond quickly to their environment. Monkeys can perceive the energetics of an environment with incredible precision, although they are not very intuitive and tend to make lots of stories about what they perceive, which may or may not be accurate.
Monkeys can be very nervous, anxious, and paranoid. They constantly perceive themselves in a situation of danger or threat, and their tendency towards fantasy can produce panic, worry, and fear. The active nature of Monkey Qi will create danger and threat where there is none, which is an unconscious result of the Monkey playfulness. They may create stories and danger just to have something to do, something to overcome, so that they can have cool stories to tell their friends.
The Monkey resourcefulness can turn cunning, crafty, manipulative. When depleted, they may use their intelligence to mess with social situations, turn friends against each other, gossip, tell stories, make drama. Monkeys can be very deceptive, and pretend/act in mischievous ways for fun. They can use their abilities to dominate others intellectually and their wit can turn ruthless. If Monkey perceives the game of the world as cruel, then Monkey Qi can even turn criminal like the Joker.
Finally, Monkeys can be very avoidant. Rather than deal with things head on, like the Tiger, they will dance around issues for a long time and never confront the tough decisions. Of course, I’m a Tiger, so that’s my bias. Confronting things head on can be disastrous, and the Tiger impulse can leap over their actual situation. Monkey Qi responsiveness, when not avoidant, knows when to duck, when to avoid confrontation, for it senses when the danger is coming.
Monkeys often lead incredibly interesting and exciting lives. Their impulse for fun and adventure often takes them to wild places. They always have interesting stories to tell and love to regale you about that time they almost died when there were in the place doing the thing.
Because of this impulse, Monkeys often dance between this world and the next. They have powerful desires that propel them towards materialism, and at the same time, their instinct tells them the world is a game. Monkeys fluctuate between materialism and austerity. If they can reconcile this dance, they are capable of profound wisdom. They reveal the cosmic joke, the Play of Consciousness.
Reconciling the Monkey dance, again, has nothing to do with putting Monkey in a cage. Monkeys need not punish themselves with harsh discipline because they are erratic. Monkey needs only to climb high into the tallest tree and see beyond to the enormous context of Space. Our Nature is something like Space, which hosts all duality equally. Harsh order and discipline is exalting one side over the other, which only creates more Chaos, which is what Monkey comes to show us.
This year has shown us many of these qualities, demonstrated at large in our culture, politics, and environment, which the media has blown out of proportion. Sometimes it appears Monkey paranoia and delusion has gotten the better of people. This tends to happen in Fire Years, especially in the case of the Fire-Metal conundrum, which continues with the Fire Rooster.
The Wisdom of the Year has been telling us all along that our plans for a stable, happy, bright, productive future are foolish. Everything we build is a castle in the sand. We need not fear the tide.
The world seems to be going in a dark direction and that’s because it is. This darkness however is not morbid. All kinds of unnatural structures are decaying and falling apart, and the more we cling to them and make stories of how we will keep building the tower higher and higher towards perfection, the more painful it feels when Fire Monkey comes along to kick over your sandcastle and laugh at you.
Rather than get angry and thrown gasoline on the Fire Rooster, which is another delicate transition which I will explore in the next blog, try relaxing. Open to the what the Fire Monkey has shown you. The Wisdom of the Monkey is not a threat and the sky is not falling. Destruction must occur for there to be new growth.
I was hoping that we would, “feel the Bern,” for the symbol of Bernie Sanders represented so much needed pruning, healthy destruction. But such is Time; our Freedom creates the auspice of what potential is available, and Trump was available. Trump represents destruction, which while necessary, will probably be unhealthy. In my next blog, I hope to offer some insight on how to make use of the next year, so that this destruction can offer us the transformation we need.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the Monkey, and I hope it has shed some light on the past year. Stay tuned for my New Year’s exploration of the Rooster!
The Lunar Year of 2015, the Wood Goat Year, was one of the best and most interesting times of my life. I learned a lot about the nature of the Goat in this strange adventure. Liu Ming’s advice for the Wood Goat was my guiding force throughout the year, from the last public New Year’s talk that he gave. Reflecting on it now has brought me great insight.
In the Wood Goat Year, I found myself in the great unknown; the Wood Horse Year compelled me to stomp on everything in my life, end the only loving relationship I’ve ever had, sell everything I owned, and move to the other side of the world in search of “spiritual freedom.”
I moved to Thailand to train with my teacher and to be part of an intentional spiritual permaculture community. A month after my move to Thailand, the Wood Goat shift reset everything, and the impulse and impatience of the Wood Horse flipped, reflecting to me the broad and healing lessons of the Goat. This shift put my life into a context I had never experienced before.
I found myself alone in community (a long story) and very aware of it, adrift in a foreign land, and very quickly, all my fantasies about being a great Yogi disappeared. The naïve vision of enlightenment I had perpetuated for years expanded to include so many things about life I thought I could ignore—career, finances, partnership…I assumed that if I followed the spiritual path that these things would just sort themselves out. Yeah right.
The Goat Year showed me that not only would they not sort themselves out, but that these “worldly” aspects of life were an essential part of my Path, which as it turns out is all inclusive. This shift coincided roughly with the beginning of my Saturn Return, a time for “growing up” that comes along every 27-31 years, and that is still kicking my ass.
After a lot of personal honesty, transparency, and self-reflection, I returned to the US resolved to find a Partner, establish a Career, and set myself up for the long-term, in-the-world, householder path to liberation in one lifetime. So here I am, slowly trying to establish said goals.
Astrology has been an immense help along the way, which I began studying in earnest during my travels (previously it had only been a hobby); it gave me a language to understand the cycles I found myself in. As I study, contemplate, and meditate, I realize more and more that our lives are these cycle, and that we have a lot less freedom than we think—karma is not individual; we flow along in ever widening rings of influence.
The Goat was a fantastic symbol for me during this transition, for the Goat represents many of the values that I came to value, which do not come naturally for Tigers. I hope to share these values with you in this blog.
Humans and Goats have been living happily together for a long, long time, at least 30,000 years. The Goat is very happily domesticated. The symbol of the Goat in Chinese Astrology is tied intimately to the Goat’s longstanding relationship with both nomads and agrarian humans.
The Goat is most notably a symbol of sacrifice, specifically to the Ancestors. Humans have been ritually sacrificing Goats for a long time, probably since before they were domesticated. This may sound grim for the Goats, and it probably is from their perspective, but as a symbol, this sacrifice is more about being honored than about being killed. I have seen many Goat related rituals, and believe it or not, they are very well taken care of, until their throat is slit.
There is a very important Star in Polestar Astrology called Yang Ren—the Goat Blade. In Tantric Iconography, Ḍākinīs are often depicted holding a hooked blade, used for draining a goat of blood very quickly—this is Yang Ren. It represents a place in our life where we are fated to make a big sacrifice or loss. The kind of experience you look back at and say—that was tough, but I would not be who I am today if I had not gone through that; such is the nature of the Goat.
The Goat spoken of in Chinese Astrology is the wild mountain goat, the big wooly ram, and the domesticated goat. Despite the masculine image of rams butting heads, the Goat is decidedly Yin, and represents the opposite of aggression. The Native Element of the Goat is Yin Earth, which it shares with its opposite the Ox. Four Animals share the Native Element of Earth, and each portray it in different ways.
The Goat’s relationship to Yin Earth demonstrates amazing ability of Goats to be surefooted in all terrains. If you google mountain goats, you will find some incredible images of goats scaling shear vertical cliffs. This is not a Yang skill. It must take incredible finesse and delicate balance to do this. This image portrays a central theme of Goat Qi—adaptability. Goats are masters of adapting to their environment, and they have happily adapted to wherever humans have taken them.
Yin Earth is all about balance, nourishment, support, solidity, groundedness, alliances, abundance, mothering, nurturing, and so on. The Ox represents these qualities in the continuity of Earth, for the Ox is the steadfast container and maintainer of Tradition. The Goat represents these same qualities in the refinement and reform of tradition, for the Goat is the Wisdom of Beauty, Justice, Symmetry, Order, and Harmony.
The Ox preserves and the Goat renews; it recognizes what has gotten old and stuffy and seeks to reinvigorate tradition. Unlike the Tiger, which seeks to break the boundaries of tradition and liberate people from order, the Goat seeks to refine order to higher degrees. The Goat wants tradition, but it wants tradition to serve the people, so it wants a bloodless and peaceful revolution. The Tiger, the Horse, the Dragon, the Monkey, the Dog—all will potentially shed blood, but the Goat will not. Don’t mistake the butting heads for aggression; I have lived with Goats, and this is an innocent and playful act—it’s more about being flustered.
In short, the Goat represents the virtues and difficulties of the dreaded word—politics. Goats are the idealists, the most astute and aware of social circumstances.
The Goat defines the herd animal and instinct. Having lived with Goats, watching them every day, they clearly have a hive-mind. They run, jump, eat, and play together, and as soon as one takes off in a new direction, they all bounce along after each other without hesitation. When a Goat is lost from the herd, it gets seriously distressed, but when it’s with the clan it is as happy as can be.
At a deeper level, the herd mentality of the Goat, and of Goat Qi, derives from a sense of inclusion that expresses an even deeper truth about the interconnected nature of everything. Goat Qi represents interbeing, interdependence, the intimate Web of Life, the symbiotic relationships that define Nature.
Of all the Twelve Characters, the Goat is said to be closest to this interbeing—they feel it on a deep, embodied level. Goats see the way everything, people and nature, is connected. And so, the impulse of the Goat is always for the herd, the greater good. They seek to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others. The outer symbol of ritual sacrifice also communicates an inner one—the Goat is willing to give up its own needs so others can thrive. They are the most egalitarian of all the Signs.
Of all the Twelve Characters, the Goat is said to be the most artistic and aesthetic. The Goat feels connected to everything and wants everyone else to feel this way too. But this interconnected web is beyond words and cannot be described. So, the instinct of the Goat is to express and communicate what is beyond words—in other words, Art. Or better yet—Qi. The Goat wants to communicate the direct experience of Qi—the dynamic flowing way in which everything relates to everything else.
The Goat seeks to make the world beautiful, harmonious, balanced. Because Goats feel the deeper way in which everything is connected, they get flustered when the surface does not match the depths. They, therefore, seek order, to refine the outer expression to remind others of what lies beneath the surface.
Goat Art is aesthetic, classical. Tiger Art defies convention while the Goat defines it. They are therefore in a constant dialogue. Goat art expresses order, symmetry, tasteful arrangement, and elegance. Feng Shui, the art and auspice of placement, is a very Goat like endeavor.
The Goat is the natural outcome of the Horse. The Horse manifests, constructs, and brings the World in to being, and the Goat is sort of like the interior decorator (Feng Shui is not interior decorating, by the way). They take the raw, and sometimes messy situation of the Horse and make it orderly, expressing the harmonious relationships of Qi in space.
As we go through these key words, remember this basic impulse—to communicate and express our connection beyond words. This is the heart of Goat Qi. The Goat also represents sustainability and social welfare/responsibility—it represents the fact that we’re all responsible for each other—always have been, always will be. In Buddhism, this principal is called Sangha.
In general, Goat Qi is soft, peaceful, gentle, introverted—Yin. It is impossible not to smile when watching goats. They are freaking adorable and fundamentally goofy creatures, kind of like big puppies. Within three hours of birth, kid goats are jumping around, happily bouncing with amusing playfulness, looking for a cliff to climb, nibbling on everything.
The Goat Hour, from 1 pm to 3 pm, is basically time to “herd up,” as Ming called it. Since Goat Qi is associated with the herd, with social order, cooperation, compromising, harmony, justice, fairness, and so on, Goat Hour, then, is the time to work and be with others and cultivate friendship and teamwork. This is the time to get together and do things in groups and to refine and adjust the productivity of Horse Hour. Once we create something, we must step back and adjust our creation to accord with social context and welfare. Building a table is useless if we do not sit down to eat, and what good is eating alone if your friends are hungry? Goat Hour is also the time for art and aesthetics. It is a time to paint, write, sing, or just stare out into the landscape and contemplate your humanity. If you were born during this time of the day, you are also part Goat.
So, the first Key Terms are easy-going, sweet, gentle, agreeable. Goats have a naturally relaxed slightly silly/goofy disposition. Earth Characters by nature, especially Yin Earth, are what we refer to as “chill.” Yin Earth is stable, slow, grounded. Goat Characters don’t get worked up easily and are happy to go with the flow, follow the group. Goats tend to be ordinary nice/kind people. Everyone can be a nice person, of course, and the Goat symbolizes this quality in all of us. By respecting and acknowledging other people and their needs, by recognizing we are part of a herd, we naturally become kind, generous, nice—self-centeredness is not part of Goat Qi.
The depleted version of this, however, is intolerance and crankiness. When Goats find themselves alone, isolated, or if they’re raised in a poor community environment where their instincts are stunted, Goats tend to be fussy, cranky, moody, and even intolerant of others. At their best, the political vision of the Goat is all inclusive, and the flipside of this is well-known the world over—we tolerate our in-group and hate the rest. The possibility for political unrest is most strongly demonstrated in the Monkey/Tiger dynamic, but this begins in the Goat with the desire to create order, which in the cycle of time turns almost immediately into its opposite.
Well know comedian Louis CK, a Fire Goat, is the perfect example of Goat crankiness and tolerance. His comedy communicates the positive and negative qualities of Goat Qi very well. He is an astute social critic, and despite his crudeness, his view is very inclusive—he excepts and celebrates everyone and at the same time makes jokes about how much he hates people. Furthermore, his show, Louie, especially in its last few seasons, was extremely artistic and poignant.
So, then, the next important Key Word is aesthetic/artistic—both visual and musical. Not all goats are necessarily great artists and musicians, but this instinct to make the world beautiful and to express the ineffable must come out in some form. For some Goats, it may come out in the way they dress—always matching, trendy. In others, it may express through poetry or playing guitar. For others, it may be in their career as a graphic designer. And of course, Goats make natural painters, artists in the classical sense. Michelangelo, Mark Twain—both Goats.
The gentle demeanor of Goat Qi goes hand with another very important quality—cooperation. Goats seek cooperation and compromise on all levels and generally hate confrontation, like the Rabbit. Goats want everyone to get along; they are peacemakers who offer up solutions and treaties. They will often compromise their own needs to make others happy, which depletes them in the long run.
If they keep compromising and cooperating to make others happy, Goats will eventually turn cranky and get unbelievable stubborn, hence the butting heads. Goats will dig into their position and compromise can turn to entrenched argumentation. Goats must commit to self-care and speak up about needs. Otherwise, they will be nice, nice, nice and then explode.
The Goat, who naturally seeks communication and understanding, can turn completely flustered and uncommunicative. Normally, they are quite eloquent, but when depleted, they just start butting heads and can hardly get out coherent thoughts/sentences. They fear confrontation, and so they tend to let things build until things turn to head butting and stubbornness.
On the flipside, Goats are the masters of persuasion and charm. Goat Qi can eloquently and poetically express grand principals like harmony and justice—rhetoric, political and personal, is a Goat affair. Their natural insight into social dynamics and structure offers them a social capacity unknown to many signs. They can read a group and know how to inspire and work up a crowd by invoking universal human principles. Goats tend to be very quiet, introverted, but are prone to make dramatic speeches when provoked.
The calm, quiet, easy going nature of Goat Qi can also turn impatient. Goats tend to be fussy perfectionists. They want everything to go just right. So, they may try to engineer their life, relationships, situations. Roosters and Rats tend to fuss over what, to the rest of us, are unimportant details, but the Goat fusses over the whole situation. If a Goat throws a dinner party, they don’t mind so much about how the table is arranged, but they will be certain to sit you next to someone who will change your life. They may work very hard to create the right social environment for magic, and if it falls apart they may obsess over what went wrong, while the Rooster is still making sure the silverware is in the right place.
Goats are part of the “social trine” of the Chinese Zodiac, along with Pigs and Rabbits. The social aspect of the Goat is all about generosity, encouragement, and social support. Goats need a herd; they need friends, family; without support they wither, get depressed, and feel hopeless, anxious, fearful. Alone, they worry and fret. Around others, they thrive and are the most supportive, encouraging, and generous people. Goats don’t need a big herd per se, small family, a few close friends is fine, but they can also get along in big groups, as longs as that group represents “clan/tribe” for them. Alone, they will naturally seek to create tribe. They make naturally family people, parents, grandparents, friends, and so on. Goats easily take on social support roles, even if it only for a select few.
Goats have a deep spiritual capacity to recognize relationship and interconnectedness. All the great spiritual traditions teach that we’re all connected, that everything is everything, and so on—you’ve probably heard it all before. This realization that we’re all One is a Goat realization, so it is easier for Goat Characters to see this. Compassion and generosity, therefore, come naturally to them. This is not the case for all signs—Tigers, Snakes, Dragons all need education in this regard, for their independent nature can disregard and struggle with the need to connect with other humans.
2015, the Wood Goat Year, showed us many of these Goat themes. Political awareness and social welfare were high, and across the globe people began to speak up for the marginalized, underprivileged, minorities, and so on. This began an important trend which exploded a bit in this Monkey Year (next blog)—as a society, especially in the millennial generation, we will not stand for bigotry, intolerance, sexism, patriarchy, inequality, and oppression any more, dammit.
The Goat Year set this in motion. It brought forward all the ways in which our cultures, especially in the USA, are divided. The transition from Goat to Monkey is delicate and sort of went haywire due to the elemental nature of Wood going to Fire. I’ll say more about this in the next blog on the Monkey.
Personally, the Goat year was very healing for me in many ways. Ming’s advice for Tigers was essentially to heal, which the gentle and supportive nature of Goat Qi encourages. All these Goat qualities of relationship, social support, and service all came forward in my life. The Wood Goat was a reset button for me. I re-valued my life, and started all over again.
After my year living abroad, I found myself back in the States, somehow practicing Chinese Astrology, which I never expected. If you had told me ten years ago that I would end up being a Chinese Astrologer, I would have laughed. I also made the decision to pursue Chinese Medicine, which brought me here to Portland and started a whole new chapter in my life.
Looking back, I am very grateful for the Goat Year. As a Tiger, I admire the qualities of the Goat and the rest of the Social Trine. In the next blog, I will review the past year and explore my opposite—the Monkey! It has been a hell of a year…stay tuned.
We’ve made it to number eight of twelve as Snake Qi turns to Horse. Before we move on, however, I think we need to back up and look again, briefly, at the idea of Character. For it is too easy to get simplistic studying these primary symbols.
The Character of our Year is fundamental in our Qi Display, so these twelve symbols are important to study and understand, especially at an energetic level. We want to understand the impulse that lies at the base of these patterns, and I hope that I have been able to communicate this so far. The impulse of each Character is beyond words. These impulses generate identifiable patterns. But we must ask—patterns of what?
Time. Each Qi Character communicates a felt pattern in time; in Astrology, Qi is time. Time/Qi is movement itself, rhythm, not a thing moving—just movement, and we only know movement because of duration. This duration is a spectrum we call light. Qi can be called light/energy, visible because it moves at different frequencies.
Time flows in a circle. This circle is very lopsided; the Twelve-Animal cycle of Time is like a whirlwind, a tornado. At some parts, it spins fast; at some, it spins slow; some parts are big messy gusts of wind, and in some parts, wind funnels into a point, and so.
We are a swirling together of many patterns of wind/movement; the pattern of the Year, Month, Day, and Hour are primary among many others. The Qi movement of the Year is the deepest flow of Time relative to Earth, technically related to the 12-year Jupiter cycle, the largest object in the Solar System besides the Sun, and it therefore represents the deepest part of our experience. The impression made at the time of birth, when we first breathe in the Qi/ “wind” of the universe outside the womb, imprints a deep, deep pattern on us that we become and express our entire life. That moment is an incredible shock, which is probably why we cry, and it leaves a lasting impression.
The Qi of the Year is the deepest, and the Qi of the hour is the most “up front.” The Hour imprints a surface expression, which then dances with the deeper expression of the Year. These two together are primary. The Month and Day also imprint on us, but these patterns have more of an effect on our constitution and life cycles in relation to the seasons.
We must remember that we are complex. The image of the Year is basic, simple, and profound. As I write these blogs and you consider your Character, remember that these images are fundamental and only a doorway into the complexity of your Astrological makeup. I encourage people to identify with the Year, but you have Four Pillars, and Solar/Lunar Indictors, and a Fate Chart, etc. The wisdom of the Year encourages us to find out what we have in common with others rather than on what makes us a unique snowflake.
So, we move now into the Pattern of Horse Qi, part of my own Character, and it is appropriate that the Horse is an ancient symbol of the Wind, Prana/Vayu, Qi, Lung (in Tibetan). In Tantra and East/Central Asian Shamanism, the image if the “Wind Horse,” the Lungta, is an allegory for the Human Spirit of Awakening.
The symbol of the Horse is an ancient and powerful Shamanic symbol central to the cultures of Mongolia, China, and Tibet. To understand the Symbol of the Horse, we must understand the role of the Horse in these ancient cultures as a symbol of freedom and expansion. The Horse, in many ways, shaped their history, mostly due to warfare.
The Horse spoken of in Chinese Mythology is the Mongolian rather than the Arabian Horse, which any equestrian person will tell you are very different kinds of horses. The Chinese attempted to train the Mongolian horse to work for a long time, but no amount of breeding and whipping coerced them to plow straight furrows, for they had no attention span and were wild in nature. Eventually, the Chinese would discover the ox/water-buffalo from the south, which revolutionized agriculture. But what of the horse?
Mongolians and the famous Genghis Khan would bring down the horse as an instrument of war. The Mongolian Horse and the bow and arrow allowed Genghis and his grandson Kublai to dominate Asia. When the Chinese first saw Mongolians riding horses into battle, arrows and swords flying, they discovered the true power of the horse, which had been abandoned in China as a plow animal. The first depictions of the Horse were a lot like the Dragon and many of these elements would make their way into the depiction of the Dragon, for the Horse road so fast it appeared to be flying.
They let the reigns down, put on a war saddle, and the Horse came to life. With just a little direction, rather than strict control, the Mongolian Horse became the most productive tool in the Chinese military and aided in the great expansion of the Tang Dynasty. Emperors and Generals bred them successfully for war throughout Chinese history, and they were always associated with martial arts and warriorship.
The image of the War Horse represents the Horse’s native element—Yang Fire. The Fire Horse is an explosion of force, a wild stallion, uncontrollable yet capable of immense power and control if directed with skill. Like fire, the Horse represents a powerful tool which can be either creative or destructive, depending on use.
The true impulse of the Horse is to run free, wild, explode out, which is why Horses and Tigers get along, for the Tiger represents a similar explosion of force. The Tiger, Yang Wood, is an immature, childlike impulse, while the Horse, Yang Fire, is the teenage, adolescent, angsty, rebellion, leaping over boundaries and running wild. Each elemental version of the Horse, then, represents a relationship to this impulse.
The impulse of Yang Fire is to energize, catalyze, activate, stimulate, transform, overpower/overcome, surprise, rebel, destroy, and excite. All Horse Characters have this lying in their nature. I was born on a Metal Horse Day, so this is part of my Character, albeit not as potently as the Year/Hour. Hopefully, then I will be able to share some personal insight into the nature of the Horse, which I must say is an important part of me.
The Metal Horse, of which I am in part, and of whom I know many (1990), the “Horse in the Stall,” has a fundamental difficulty with this explosive nature—Fire “melts” Metal, leading to a kind of self-conflict and doubt. The Metal Horse wrestles between freedom and control, but their Metal exteriors makes them capable of control and self-discipline in a way the Fire Horse is not.
The Fire Horse is a pure wild stallion, and traditionally in China they would have been sent with Fire Tigers to the military as cannon fodder. On the opposite end of the spectrum the Water Horse, the least “horsey” Horse, is more like a Clydesdale, or the Budweiser Horse, the explosion extinguished, happy to be trained and trot around.
The symbol of the Horse has a lot to do with the animal itself. Horses are big, physical, all muscle and tendons. The Mongolian horse has a huge ass and hind legs which makes them powerful runners and jumpers. This physicality represents a kind of embodiment, so Horse Qi is by nature very embodied—the impulse of the Horse is to feel, be, and do immediately, rather than think.
Horse’s opposite, the Rat, has the opposite impulse—Rat Qi tends to think and scheme, while the Horse represents what Ch’an Buddhism calls “no-mind.” No-mind represents embodied action without thinking and planning. Horse Qi is “doing,” but without great pre-meditation, like a Ch’an Monk sweeping the courtyard or raking stones in the garden. Horse Qi lends itself to the non-conceptual state.
Horse Qi is the Wisdom of Manifestation. If the Rat represents everything splintered into pieces, needing to be organized and put back together, the Horse represents the final manifestation of this in the cycle of Time. Everything manifesting and functioning efficiently. Horse is D.I.Y. and manufacturing—the strength to work and put things together. The Horse is all about working and doing, like the Ox, but they are the Yang version—muscle, speed, and power, and they can burn out, while Oxen can slowly plow forever.
Horse Qi is also the outcome of the Snake. If Snake represents a kind of cynical, piercing emptiness, capable of disembodied depression, the flipside of this, Big Yin turning to Yang, is a kind of straightforward, logical, no-nonsense practicality. The Snake questions whether the world even exists, and the Horse just gets to work. Emptiness roaring back to form. Why think about emptiness when there is stuff to do?
The Horse represents an “edgy” balance, part wild, part trained, and this gives the Horse a certain regal dignity; they allow us to use their strength, but if they want they can leap the fence and take off. The Horse’s strong, independent nature, when set to orderly tasks, is extraordinarily successful. For the Horse, stuff is to do things with, and they tend not to need anything unless it represents “work,” even if that work is spiritual.
Horse Hour, from 11 am to 1 pm, or High Noon, is the full height of the Sun. It is the time of day when we are at our peak and most productive. It is the time for work, labor, getting stuff done. It is Yang Fire, the bright, burning heat of Summer, when light is the most active, warming, moving, catalyzing. If you were born between 11 am and 1 pm then you should also consider yourself part Horse.
So, the first Key Word for the Horse is social, gregarious yet independent. Horses in the wild are social animals, running in packs. Having a social life, seeking social interaction and engagement, is very important to the Horse Character. Like the Goat, the herd instinct is part of the Horse, but the social nature of the Horse is much different. Despite the herd mentality, Horses seek to be independent, and so the social impulse is often somewhat competitive. Horses are showman, like Clydesdales. They want to socialize, but they also want to run free and impress everyone with their speed and strength. They tend to be gregarious, sociable, fond of parties and having fun. They can, of course, be introverted, but the direction of Yang Fire is outward moving. Horse can enjoy solitude, but their inward expression moves out.
At their best, Horses tend to be blessed with a “sunny” disposition. They can be bright, open, cheerful, optimistic. Yang Fire tends to look on the bright side of life. The Horse disposition tends toward innocence, which often attracts people to them. Their sunny optimism lends naturally towards humor. Horses are often jokesters; funny is key to the Horse mentality; such is the term “horsing around.” All the Horses I know like to play and horse around. They’re natural comedians.
On the flipside, the independence and social qualities of the Horse can turn anti-social, even criminal and violent. At their best, Horses are not loners, but the nature of Yang Fire is hot-tempered, angry, rebellious. Their anger can lead to outbursts, which are often thoughtless. The tendency to do/act without thinking can have consequences. The bucking bronco can stamp on people, situations, relationships, and so on. If their attempts at sociability don’t go their way, they can ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
In general, the independent, wild quality of the Horse should/can never be held in. Like the Dragon and Tiger, any attempt to box in or control a Horse will be met with disaster. If restrained, they become bitter and exhibit destructive behavior. Horses can be “tamed,” but inside, their nature is wild. Self-discipline for Horses is like harnessing a wild animal. The Horse nature is fast; they do and act quickly without hesitation.
With training and proper direction, Horse Qi can be put to work and is associated with strength and industry. Horses have an immense capacity to get shit done, to be the “work horse,” as we say. Horse Qi represents the all-American virtue of productivity—just get me back to work. For many Horses, life is about work, and without something to do, they get restless, bored, and feel useless. Horse restlessness can be profound; they need to direct themselves to tasks, projects, whether that is learning, reading, building, exercising, organizing, etc.
Horse Qi represents craft and trade work, D.I.Y, practical and functional art. Tiger or Monkey may represent abstract art, but Horse art you can sit in, or do something with, like pottery, the dying virtue of the craft-guilds. Ming used to jokingly refer to Horses being kind of like lumberjacks/carpenters/handy-men. Home Depot could be called “Horse Depot.” Horses express themselves through creating, manifesting. If they do not create, they stagnate. Of course, not all Horses are handy-men (handy-people?), but they all express some fundamental need to manifest/create.
On a deeper level, this work mentality comes from embodiment, vitality, and physicality. Horses need to move and use their bodies. They need to run, hike, workout, anything to get moving, or else they get restless. Horses by nature are also very “outdoorsy,” for this physicality cannot stay indoors too long. Horses yearn for the great outdoors and open plains and need to connect with the eternal blue sky.
On an even deeper level, this embodiment represents the Horses profound capacity to feel. Despite their strong exteriors, Horses are very emotional, but they tend to express emotion more through doing rather than saying. Ming once joked of “Horse love,” which was a Dad letting his Son use his tools. The Horse may be affectionate, but they often show rather than tell and not always through touchy-feely means. Horse Qi may not be all hugs, and if a Horse Dad makes his Son a swing-set, this is pure love, because he made it for him.
The thoughtless, active, and embodied quality of the Horse can be sort of accident-prone. Horses can have a carelessness that tends to “not notice.” Physically, this can lead to self-injury, knocking things over, spilling coffee on your lap, falling off your bike, and so on. Mentally/emotionally, Horse may have difficulty noticing and acknowledging other people’s feelings, and they may say and act carelessly, and stomp all over others.
The reverse of being accident prone is cleverness. Horse Qi represents what is now called “MacGyver” ingenuity—the ability to problem solve in a kind of practical way, throwing a bunch of stuff together into makeshift solutions. They can take something broken and find ten ways to put it back together. Or not. Horses can also be very clumsy.
This ingenuity also express the virtue of thoughtlessness, which is the ability to work efficiently through embodied skill. All the “Zen and the Art of…” books represent Horse Qi. You practice and practice and practice archery, each time getting in your own way because you keep thinking. And the thousandth time, you relax and release the arrow without effort. Watching master craftspeople, chefs, dancers, anyone who embodies a skill, is a Horse Qi ballet.
This cleverness also lends itself to a kind of eloquence and talkativeness—think Mr. Ed. "A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course." Horses make great orators and speakers, or they just love to chat. Horse Qi can put their cleverness and ingenuity to work anywhere, including speech, and they love to impress people with this clever eloquence. This eloquence comes from a kind of direct honesty. Horses are honest because they don’t overthink. And so, their rhetoric can be very profound; they just say what others feel. This often creates a kind of magnetism. Horses are attractive people. Their strength, cleverness, and ability are what most people seek yet never find, for Horse Qi is full manifestation without complication.
This capacity can lead to arrogance and stubbornness, but horses are arrogant without realizing it. Horse stubbornness is a kind of know-it-all showoff bravado, but it does not show off because it thinks it is better than people—it just loves showing off. They need to do something with all their strength.
Horses have a hard time not giving people advice, telling people how to do things—they know best. Horse stubbornness is demonstrated in the old cliché of men not wanting to stop and ask for directions or call a repairman (repair person? Geez, how gendered is our language?).
The Horse personality is consistent and simple. Like the Ox, they tend to remain constant in their thoughts, actions, lifestyle—they’re not prone to major changes in terms of personality. You may not see a Horse for ten years and no matter how much they have changed, they seem like the same old person. They may be wild, adventurous, world traveling people, but nonetheless, they seem consistent.
Some Characters, like the Snake, are a mystery. The Horse, being the outcome of Snake, is no mystery. What you see is what you get. Horse Qi is not about plumbing the depths. Which is not to say they’re not deep. The Horse Character does not play games; they do not mislead, misdirect, or manipulate; they just are and do. All that would require too much thinking.
The Horse symbol is one of power, majesty, freedom. The Lungta, the Wind Horse, symbolizes the human spirit of adventure but also aggression. The Horse is raw, dynamic power and strength, pure vitality; it rides hard and can burn out in a blaze of glory, dying with honor on the battlefield. The Horse characterizes the wild shamanic nomads of Central Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, and Northern/Western China. It is the wide-open expanse of the great plains and eternal blue sky. Freedom is the impulse of the Horse, dancing with the edge of restrain.
Horse Qi is a turning point in the Zodiac. From here, the Horse turns to Goat and the cycle begins to resolve itself. The rest of the Zodiac represents a kind of completion, a return to source. I hope you enjoyed this exposition of the Horse.
In the last Blog, I tried to communicate the ineffable nature of the Dragon, which may have been confusing, and I’m afraid the Snake may be worse. The Dragon may be ineffable due to its unlimited potential, but it is the Yang version of potential, meaning it is the result of full manifestation, EXTREME YANG, and is therefore easier for us to understand in this Yang culture. As a culture, we get “doing,” but “being,” on the other hand, is a mystery. The Snake represents this Mystery—the Yin to the Dragon’s Yang.
Yin is manifestation, the condensation of everything into apparent form, which turns into Yang, the expression of form through movement and dynamism. As Yin expresses into Yang, it opens, expands, and rises to Heaven, becoming more and more transparent, heading back towards the un-manifest. Dragon Qi symbolizes the height of this expression and movement—all of manifestation integrated, directed, and flying free, Yin going all the way to Extreme Yang.
Yin-Yang Theory teaches that Yin and Yang turn into one another and that Extreme Yang gives way and turns into Extreme Yin, which is symbolized in the Chinese Zodiac by the Snake. The Snake is EXTREME YIN, the flipside of the Dragon. In the Dragon, the entire Zodiac is manifest and expressing. In the Snake, the entire Zodiac is in seed/potential form having been expressed fully and then having disappeared, leaving behind a complete, open, and transparent vacuity. Snake is the Emptiness, Potential, and Openness that hosts all Form. Snake Qi is the empty spoke in the center of the turning Wheel.
Pig Qi, which is where we began our exploration of the Zodiac, while similar, is Snake’s opposite. Pig Qi expresses Yin Water, the dissolution of everything at the end of the cycle. Snake is not a dissolution, for dissolution is a gradual process. Snake is not gradual. Snake is the sudden and extreme flip from Yang to Yin, sort of like the popping of a bubble, or a Snake striking its prey. Dragon Qi expands until…pop! This sudden flip from everything to nothing is said to represent Yin Fire, the native element of the Snake.
Even in the appearance of complete emptiness, total vacuity, there is Yang, a spark, an ember, a warmth pulsating, undulating in the Void. For all Emptiness is pregnant with unlimited potential. Emptiness is said to contain all potential. Every possibility is inherent in Emptiness; the entire universe resides in and emerges from space. In Tantra, Space is called the Inexhaustible Treasury. Everything comes from Space, yet Space is never altered, stained, harmed, or destroyed. It is Indestructible— “Vajra,” immaculate and pristine. Of all the Twelve Animals, Snake is said to be closest to this pristine, open, spacious quality of life. Snake, Yin Fire, is the warmth, the radiant nature of Life present in the Void.
Yin Fire also represents the nature of Snake Hour, from 9 am to 11 am—the time of day after the Sun has appeared and begins to slowly warm the Earth. Snake Hour is bright and transparent; it is the gap between the great manifestation of Sunrise (the Dragon) and the productivity of Midday (the Horse). Snake Hour is said to be a time of revelation, transparency, and reflection, where we process and gather ourselves before being productive. If you were born during this time of day, then you are part Snake.
Yin Fire is the slow smoldering transformation of a simmering fire, like a crock-pot as opposed to a BBQ. It is the catalytic force of alchemy and cooking—stimulating, energizing, yet still, pulsating, warming, consuming, mesmerizing; it is internal rather than external vigor. The Snake is a symbol of the Heart, the Shen, the still, warm beating center of things, awake and alive, yet passive/yin, for the Heart beats without effort.
The symbol of the Snake is immensely old and traces itself back to China’s “Shamanic” roots. The Snake symbol is universal, and its expression is similar across cultures. Unlike some cultures, the Chinese conception of the Snake is not evil or sinister—it is Yin. It represents the unknown/unknowable world, the subterranean, the submerged, the unconscious.
There is no “evil,” in the Chinese view of Life, but Yin does have a dark side, and the Snake can be a symbol of darkness. This darkness, however, is the basis for transformation. We cannot truly transform unless we consider all our dark places; we must turn up all the rocks and look at the creepy crawlies beneath the surface. Snake is what lies beneath the surface.
In this sense, the Snake is like the Rabbit, but taken to another level. The Rabbit is submerged in the unconscious subterranean world, but the Snake is that world; it sees through it unattached, where the Rabbit innocence is potentially lost in the static of the ethers. Snake Qi sees through the nature of appearances, and so Snake Characters are said to lead lives that are uniquely self-reflective and insightful. It is in the Character of Snake to reflect, to mirror, to question, and to peak behind the curtains.
The impulse of Snake Qi, Big Yin, is sinking, gathering, descending, internalizing, seeking stillness, silence. Like Snakes in the wild, Snake Qi seeks to be hidden, unseen, to blend in with the environment. Snake people, therefore, have a natural inclination to “disappear,” to hide, to renounce, to recede from the world by blending in with the surroundings. A Snake might look like a vine on the tree, so it is there, present in the world, but it is not the vine, not what it appears to be.
Snake Qi is by nature not what it appears to be; it is unknowable and ineffable. Big Yin defies all labels and definitions. Emptiness, by “definition,” is beyond conceptual elaboration, as the Buddhists say. As I mentioned in the last Blog, the Snake represents the inner open capacity at the heart of the Zodiac to become any of the other 11 Characters without being defined by them, while the Dragon actually is all 11 Characters embodied.
This unknowable quality is said to be the source of an unmatched charm. Snakes have the capacity to become anything and anybody without being attached, for they represent all potential. They have all the Capacity of all 11 Characters available, like the Dragon, but they are not defined by nor do they take pride in what they display. They are mystery even to themselves.
Their instinct is to hide, but they can hide in a crowded room, because they are inwardly unknowable. You can “know” a Snake for years and still not know who they are. And this is not deceptive, because they aren’t anybody (no one is really), and this is their power.
Snakes are a mystery, to themselves and to other people. They cannot be known. Remember this as I get into the Key Words. We may use words to describe Snake Qi, but Snakes are not these words. The Snake symbolizes the reality that no one is what they think they are, nor are we how others perceive us. We are all a mystery. You can never really know another person—not really. We are all symbols to each other.
In China, the Snake is the Sorcerer Philosopher and symbolizes the process of Alchemy and inner transformation, for the Snake sheds its skin. It is always in the process of becoming something else. They also represent what Liu Ming called “striking force,” like Muhammad Ali (a Snake), an aspect of the Fire Element, the ability to remain perfectly still and then strike, act, seemingly out of nowhere like a snake paralyzing its prey.
Social-political pundit John Oliver, a Fire Snake, the Natural Snake, is a great example of Snake Qi. On camera, he is charming and yet venomous; his ability to see through appearances to the reality of situations and then strike with deadly force is mesmerizing. Yet, if you watch interviews with him outside of his show, he appears to be a completely different person. He claims not to be a journalist, not to have political motivations; he completely embodies his role and is unattached; he is not what he appears to be, which is not to say he is deceptive. On camera, he becomes a role and then sheds his skin. The Snake succeeds when they have fooled everybody into thinking they’re a certain way yet secretly they remain unattached and beyond everything.
Bernie Sanders, a Metal Snake, is another great example of Snake Qi with his vision, wisdom, insight, and ability to see through social structure to the heart of things. He, too, displays the striking force, delivering political statements so penetrating and direct that he inspires millions. He is fully in the world yet not “of it.” He cares deeply but is unattached, which is why I think he has maintained his unrelenting integrity for so many years without losing heart.
The Key Terms for the Snake are, again, how they appear, but not actually how they are. You may know or be a Snake and not identify with these labels, and that’s fine. No person is truly their Character; it is merely a pattern, a tendency of our Qi to display. Snake Qi is symbolic of the idea that we can all transcend our limitations through detachment.
The first Key Term, then, is deeply reflective. In many ways, it is not easy to be a Snake. Snakes are natural mystics in a non-mystic world. Snake Qi can be called penetrating insight. Without trying, Snakes have the tendency to see through things, through the nature of appearance to essential qualities. Since Snake Qi is naturally open and empty, it is natural for Snakes to reflect on life and on their situation, for their Qi display is in direct contrast with what society tells us. With training, this can lead to insight. But if Snakes are told from an early age that the world is solid, that people are real, that situations are concrete, and that they must “be somebody,” then they will fake it and pretend, while internally they may experience deep depression, resentment, and even fear.
As it turns out, Reality can be frightening to glimpse. Imagine finding out that up and down are meaningless—this is called vertigo. My teacher calls this the “round world,” as opposed to the “square world.” In the round world, i.e. in Reality, we don’t have a leg to stand on; all concepts are relative, and nothing has any inherent meaning. If you do not grasp at solidity, then this realization liberates you, and emptiness becomes the source of much giggling. If you grasp, emptiness inspires terror, nihilism, and possibly suicidal tendencies. Snakes may feel that the world is meaningless, that everyone is a fake, that everything is make believe non-sense. And they may feel crazy because they see this and no one else does.
Depleted, Snake Qi can turn to paranoia. If they are not taught to trust their insight, their vision into what lies beneath the surface, they can get into trouble. Seeing signs, hearing voices—all very Snakey, like Rabbit Qi in this sense. The truth is that there are voices—the universe is full of psychic static, and people project their thoughts and emotions all over the place with little discretion. While Rabbits tend to feel the emotional, energetic, embodied quality of this static, Snakes tend to see into the more “psychic” mental dimension of things.
Snake Qi is transparent and clear, and Snakes are probably the most distant from the rich direct experience of the senses, embodied in Snake’s opposite, the Pig. Snakes can easily be disembodied and live in a flat mental world, which can turn to nihilism. They may mistrust the display of the world. On the other hand, this transparency offers insight.
If Snakes go with their insight, they become wise. The Snake is synonymous with wisdom. On the surface, this wisdom comes from a natural observant quality, which comes from the Snakes impulse to lie still, wait, and watch. Snakes tend to observe and attend very closely to details, which lends to profound intelligence. On a deeper level, Snake wisdom is both visionary and philosophical. In Buddhism, wisdom is identical to śūnyatā, emptiness; they are synonymous. Emptiness is another blog, but at the deepest level, Snake Qi represents this side of reality.
Snakes can be too smart for their own good, capable of immense calculation and planning. Of course, everyone can be intelligent, but Snake intelligence encapsulates the concept of genius. This kind of intelligence often goes hand and hand with depression. Snakes have the opposite of “ignorance is bliss.” Rather, Snake intelligence tends to obsess about how messed up the world is and about messed up they are themselves, leading to cynicism/skepticism, and very often depression. This depression does not need a cause, for Snake Qi is by nature depressed, sinking, and dark, energetically speaking. So, Snakes can appear moody and brooding.
The Snake tendency towards depression can turn to self-loathing, however, especially if their intelligence is not put to more creative outlets. Intelligence can easily turn to hatred either at the world or at themselves. When Snakes are not successful, when they do not find an outlet for their vision, they can turn bitter and negative, criticizing everything and everyone, picking apart their own faults as well.
Because of their visionary and creative qualities, Snakes make natural artists. Snakes want to leave the world behind. They want to follow their vision to the end and lose themselves beyond the horizon. They want to disappear. Snake Qi is a vision quest, a spirit journey into the unknown, the underworld. In their imagination, Snakes see through this world to others and realms beyond. They may even have tangible visions in their waking life.
So, Snakes can be a bit weird, although others may never know, for Snakes are the best at hiding. Snakes must find a way to express this weirdness, especially through art/creativity. The challenge for the Snake is to go out into the beyond and come back. They must bring their vision back to the ordinary world and share it with others. Snakes are often inventive innovators, and Snake years often produce breakthroughs in society. Without art, the Snake has no way of communicating Reality as they experience it, whether through painting or poetry or film, Snakes communicate the dreamlike nature of reality, such as Pablo Picasso or Edgar Allen Poe (both Snakes).
Snakes tend to be solitary and reclusive. All the Snakes I know, either by year or hour, tend to seek and enjoy time alone (of course everyone can), and some even dream of being hermits. Snakes take great pleasure when no one knows where they are or what they’re up to. Furthermore, they tend to be rather evasive, which is both positive and negative. The Snake tendency towards evasiveness can be a skill, knowing when to duck, avoid, and do nothing. To others, this evasive quality can appear distant, aloof, avoidant, and secretive. You’re never quite sure about them—think Snape from Harry Potter. Snake Qi is also very discrete, which again can appear both positive and negative.
Spiritually, it is a very good idea to be discrete, humble; showing off and making a big flap about yourself can create many challenges. Snakes tend towards the opposite; they tend to be quiet, never revealing their real experience to anyone, even when that experience is profound. Being discrete is the Snake form of camouflage, hiding in plain sight.
Since Snake Qi is Big Yin, and because its impulse is to disappear towards stillness and silence, Snakes are naturally calm, patient, and slow in their display. Chill is the word. Snake Qi is the opposite of scattered, and in its depleted state it can turn to laziness and lethargy. But in general, Snakes are relaxed and calm people; they have a big open capacity to host other people’s craziness. This calm nature can be called meditative. And many Snakes I know have a natural inclination towards meditation as an expression of their Qi, which also has an immense capacity for trance.
The Yin Fire nature of the Snake is also hypnotizing and trance inducing. Think Snake charmers. Snakes have an alluring charm because of their mysteriousness. People want to figure them out, and Snakes love this, because they love avoiding and evading people’s attempts to figure them out, to pin them down.
Snakes can play with this, and so they have a certain social capacity. They make great actors and can become anyone, like method acting. They can use this capacity for social advantage, which we call “Yin Power.” Yin Power is essentially manipulation, which is not inherently bad, although it can be used that way. It can be used for good too; like many Snake qualities, manipulation evades judgment…we’re just not sure about it.
Ming once told a story of a friend who learned to speak Chinese by simply becoming the teacher, imitating his mannerisms, dress, body language, and so on. Monkeys have this capacity too. Rather than learn the language, this person just became someone who already knew it—very Snakey.
Snakes can embody a social role for years, at work for example, even if it is not who they really are. They can work for years as a salesperson, and then one day become a carpenter. This changeability may sound bad, but not for Snakes necessarily, for they are unattached. Snakes can love and be fascinated by material things, and then sell everything they own without a second thought. Snake Qi loves to shed its skin, to change appearances, to transform, to drop attachments and move on. In the Chinese Tradition, the Snake, like the Rabbit, is associated with the practice of Inner Alchemy, refining our experience backward to Source.
The ability to become anything, take on any form, when depleted, can turn helpless. Depleted, Snakes can feel empty, without inner and outer resources, unable to manifest things in the world. The tendency to not take the “real world” seriously, can appear to others as lack of ambition, but Snakes don’t really have ordinary worldly ambition; their ambitions in life tend to reflect a deeper impulse, which is most often just to understand this strange world of appearances, this ephemeral dance we’re all born into; Snakes are perplexed as to why everyone takes the life game so seriously.
I mean why bother? Why bother constructing wealth and systems of value when everything falls apart? Of course, if a Fire Snake chooses to be successful, they can outdo everyone and make us all look like fools, but they would never believe in what they’re doing.
Hopefully this does not sound too negative. But negativity must be available in the cycle of time. We must remember that in the Chinese View, there is no real negativity/evil, but there is Yin. And all Yin Characters represent the necessity of darkness in the cycle of time. Darkness, depression, destruction, and so on, must be available in Time, otherwise everything would grind to a halt. Of course, not all Snakes are depressed, but they do represent that tendency.
The Snake symbol is rich and deep. In the collective imagination, Snakes conjure up primal, primordial, shamanic images, like Ouroboros, the Serpent eating its own tail. If you want to understand Snake Qi, simply look to these images, for they all speak the wisdom of the Snake.
I hope you enjoyed and were thoroughly confused by this exposition of Snake Qi! Stay tuned as Snake turns to Horse.
Chinese Astrology and culture has a long-standing love affair with the Dragon, the mystical culmination of the Celestial Zodiac. During Dragon years, everyone in China tries to get pregnant. In the Chinese mind, the promise of a male Dragon son represents a potential for greatness unmatched in the other signs. For the Dragon has always been a symbol of the Emperor and the power of Heaven.
(To the Western mind, the Chinese preference for male children is, of course, problematic. A Fire Dragon daughter born in a small fishing village would have been considered too much trouble and would have most likely been “given back to the ancestors,” i.e. thrown down a well, and many Chinese families today still choose to abort Horse, Dragon, and Tiger daughters, especially the rebellious Fire types, for they are considered disruptions to society.)
I have been looking forward to and dreading my exploration of Dragon Qi. I was born in a Metal Dragon hour, so I am half Dragon, for the year and the hour form the primary image of someone’s Qi Character/Signature. Therefore, I am excited to explore and share with you part of my own Character. Like the Tiger, studying the Dragon has been a great source of personal revelation, and I hope I can offer some of the insight gained from my self-reflection.
When I first began studying this tradition, I did not account for Daylight Savings (a bane of Astrologers) and thought I was born in Snake Hour. Eventually, it occurred to me that some weird rule made up by Germans during WWI about setting the clocks back an hour was probably irrelevant to the Immortal Currents of Fate, so I shifted my chart back an hour and had to reassess my Character and Fate. An argument can be made that whatever the government writes down is your fate, which is a very Chinese idea. But, I have now done many readings in which the chart adjusted for Daylight Savings is clearly more accurate, including my own, so I stick with the adjustment.
I had convinced myself that I was half Snake, and it took a lot of self-reflection to accept the Dragon. I have always been quiet, introverted, and gentle. The powerful dynamic image of the Metal Dragon did not seem to fit, especially with my primary Character, the Tiger, which is a potentially catastrophic combination, sort of like strapping a rocket (Dragon) into a slingshot (Tiger) like Wile E. Coyote. But after a thorough study of the Dragon, I have come to accept this side of myself and embrace it as part of my potential, and I will share my expression of Dragon Qi as we go. Although I may be reserved/reluctant in my expression, I am not in my energy, and that was the difference—I was confusing nature with nurture.
Since a young age, I have learned to repress/suppress my energy in many ways, and I misidentified my Qi because of this. I now work to unleash my Dragon nature, within reason, for I have a ridiculous Qi capacity that, quite frankly, scares me. The only famous person I have encounter so far with a similar combination is Che Guevara, an Earth Dragon born in Fire Dragon Month on a Wood Tiger Day in a Fire Tiger Hour, which is a bit scary. I have an Earth Dragon friend born in Tiger hour, and he and I are basically the same dude. Fearing my own nature, I have worked very hard since I was young to manage it, because I recognized right away that it was potentially destructive, but like Che Guevara, it is also revolutionary. When I am at my best, the Dragon comes out, and I love this side of myself and, in many ways, prefer it to the Tiger.
I dread discussing the Dragon because it cannot be defined. Whenever I do readings for Dragons or Snakes, I throw my hands up and say “?!” As the mystical Yin-Yang culmination at the center of the Zodiac, the Dragon and Snake are defined by being ineffable, characterized by their unknowable quality, but in different ways. The Snake is Big Yin, emptiness, and the Dragon is Big Yang, fullness. The Snake represents the inner open capacity to become any of the other 11 without being them, but the Dragon actually is all 11 Characters embodied.
The symbol of the Dragon, then, is a synthesis. If you look at depictions of the Chinese Dragon you will see that it is a composite of every animal. According to tradition, it is said to have the whiskers of the Rat, the face and horns of the Ox, the claws and teeth of the Tiger, the belly of the Rabbit, the body of the Snake, the legs of the Horse, the goatee of the Goat, the wit (or brain) of the Monkey, the crest of the Rooster, the ears of the Dog, and the snout of the Pig.
The Dragon is the only animal of the 12 capable of flight, an important part of the symbol, and yet it is rarely depicted with wings, for its ability to fly is super natural. It is the only supernatural animal in the group, and people question its existence.
But the Chinese never questioned the existence of Dragons because everyone knew they were controlling the weather and water. Dragons were thought to be behind the clouds, causing storms, floods, and rain. If you could ride to the source of a great storm or flood, then maybe you could see one and earn the title “Dragon.”
The synthesis of all 11 into the supernatural Dragon represents infinite potential, which is the first and most important thing we can say about Dragons. Dragon Qi is said to have the qualities, capacities, and skills of all 11 and the power to express all or none of them if they choose, sort of like the 9 on the enneagram. The Dragon can choose to deny its potential, which is why Dragons need a path. Their infinite potential is meaningless to the Chinese unless it is turned away from selfishness and towards self-reflection, dedicated to the benefit of others.
Ming used to say that each Character is like a tool box with a specific set of tools/skills, but the Dragon tool box just has a Dragon in it. In other words, we don’t know what Dragons are for. They are a paradox outside the paradigm, and often they are an enigma to their friends and family. The Snake is an enigma even to themselves, but Dragons, while mysterious, are often very self-confident and assured, which is part of what baffles people about them.
Historically, the Dragon is a symbol of the Emperor and the Rising Sun to the East, the ruling power of Heaven from an unknown mystical origin. Because of their potential, Dragons were considered great leaders, capable of the biggest most inclusive view with the most compassion. So, it is easy to understand why the Chinese revere the Dragon and the Emperor.
There is a mountain of lore around the Dragon symbol, but let’s get into the Character. I will do my best to make this specific, but again, Dragons may be all or none of this, and the uncultivated Dragon may be a mess of everything all at once, unable to make sense of themselves.
The Dragon’s native element is Yang Earth, which is also shared by Dragon’s opposite, the Dog. They each express the virtues of Yang Earth in different ways. For the Dragon, Yang Earth represents flight—the ability to break away from the Earth, symbolizing the Dragon’s capacity to see and travel beyond. The Dog represents territory and the ability to intuit, cover, and protect the terrain.
Yang Earth represents manifestation, confidence, alliance, leadership, wealth, abundance, balance, caring, and power—yang expressions as opposed to the Yin aspects of Earth (nourishing, mothering, stabilizing, supporting, etc.) By nature, the Dragon has these capacities, but often has difficulty expressing them without training. And of course, each Elemental Dragon has their own challenges.
Dragons can have a difficult time expressing their greatness in a mature and grounded way because of the expansive nature of Dragon Qi. If there is one thing we can say about Dragon Qi—it is big, sometimes too big. Dragon Qi is pervasive and expansive. It is Big Yang exploding out into heaven, into the sky, seeking to fly beyond and above all boundaries. In myself, I feel this as an outward expanding “bigness,” hard to put into words. This bigness, in my view, is what tends to give Dragons characteristics we can talk about, which they otherwise transcend.
The transcendent quality of the Dragon makes them natural mystics, and often people with Dragon Qi are interested in spiritual occult traditions, especially those with extraordinary cosmologies. The way Dragons experience themselves and the universe is just too big for ordinary views. To me, Bruce Lee was the quintessential Dragon (Metal Dragon born in Earth Dragon Hour), and his life was a demonstration of the mystical power of Dragon Qi.
Dragons see through and beyond ordinary appearances like the Snake, but unlike the Snake, their powerful expansive Qi pushes them towards action. Dragons want to go beyond and actualize their potential, and they can go further than any other sign. If a Dragon chooses to leave the world, they will never be seen again; if they choose to embrace the world, they go into it deeply and lose themselves in the service of greatness.
So now we get into key words. And like last time, I am going to discuss the key words in charged/depleted pairs. Remember, each positive virtue of a Character has a flipside when we become depleted.
The first is strong or powerful. The Yang Earth Character of the Dragon has a strength unmatched by any of the other 11 Characters. Dragon strength is different than say Ox or Horse strength. Ox strength represents the capacity to carry, maintain, and endure, and horse strength represents the power to manifest, work, and accomplish, but Dragon strength is not related to any specific capacity and is better represented by the power of a great storm, the strength of nature unleashed. We marvel at the strength of nature, and we respect and fear its destructive side. The power of water, when harvested by a dam, can generate immense energy, yet uncontrolled, a tidal wave can demolish a town. We do not consider tidal waves evil, yet we mourn and fear nature’s destruction. In the same way, Dragon strength is immense, raw, wild and can be destructive, but like the dam it can be harnessed for good.
This strength, the explosive Yang, can turn to profound compulsiveness. Dragon Qi can be overwhelming, and Dragons can be a handful, bundles of energy that need channels in which to flow lest they flow everywhere. Like Tiger Qi, Dragon Qi has an explosive outward moving quality, symbolized by flight, that can propel Dragons toward uncontrolled action and reaction. This compulsive strength can be physical, mental, or emotional and can manifest as patterns of unruly behavior or speech, speaking freely and challenging everyone and every idea as a demonstration of power, especially Fire Dragons. In general, Dragons need an outlet where they can demonstrate their strength otherwise they will destroy themselves.
The strength of the Dragon feels very natural and becomes a kind of confidence, not necessarily social confidence but self-assuredness and confidence in view. Dragons know they’re right. Other Characters have this too, Roosters for example, but the Rooster arrives at confidence through analysis. The Dragon does no analysis; we’re born assured and cannot be convinced otherwise. I may whine and complain, but I know why I was born and the world just doesn’t fit into my plan; since I was born I have had a big grandiose vision. The problem is that nothing can live up to the Dragon’s vision, so it is hard for us to come back down to Earth. Dragons feel like they’re the rulers of the universe, masters of destiny, the most capable, the smartest, the best, and so on.
With training, we can be, but often, this self-assured confidence is over-confident and all talk, what we call “delusions of grandeur.” So, Dragons are often very selfish and “egotistical” in the ordinary sense. Dragons often feel like royalty, like everything should be given to them, like they’re already awesome and should be rewarded justly. We may even have low self-esteem, but that’s because people just don’t get how awesome we are, so it’s their fault not ours, or so we think. We can be attention hungry and expect others to acknowledge us regardless of what we do.
The Dragon can be so confident in their abilities that they never actually work to do anything. Often, we need big reality checks, to “eat humble pie,” and we need to put in the time and effort to master something. And when we do, this natural confidence in our abilities can be actualized and taken to great heights like Bruce Lee.
Dragons, therefore, possess a natural charisma. Something about their power, confidence, and ineffability becomes enigmatic and impressive to others. To me, Patrick Steward, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a Metal Dragon and fantastic Shakespearean actor, is a great example of the Dragon charisma. He exudes a natural confidence.
Dragons are a mystery to others and defy labels. At their best, Dragons love showmanship and can be flamboyant and outgoing. I have never been outgoing in an extroverted sense, but when I am “unleashed,” put into a situation where I can demonstrate my abilities, I can be very charismatic and authoritative. Dragons often have big personalities, even if that personality is introverted.
The outgoing nature of the Dragon is based on a kind of ambition and adventurous spirit. Grand is the only scale Dragons work with. We have a big, broad, expansive, and inclusive vision, the capacity to see a panoramic picture. Philosophically, the Dragon has a view/insight no other Character is capable of and can fly out beyond the clouds. Dragons seek grand Peter Pan style adventure. Small goals and narrow ideas seem insignificant, unimportant—why bother?
Dragons have a tremendous capacity for fantasy and envision themselves to be great magnanimous beings; we take the whole “I want to grow up to be an astronaut” to ridiculous proportions. We may live in a fantasy world in which we are invincible and infallible. I have only ever been interested in big lofty spiritual goals and, sorry, nothing in this world can live up to my aspiration to be liberated for the benefit of all beings. A personal vision may not necessarily be defined, but Dragons feel destined for greatness. Living in the clouds, fantasizing of greatness, Dragons can appear aloof and distant, difficult for others to connect with.
On the flipside, we are unrealistic. Nothing can live up to the Dragon’s scale. It is hard for Dragons to sweat the small stuff, to pay attention to details. Dragons are a telescope looking out to the stars, not a microscope. We can be unrealistic with everything—our own abilities, our plans, our expectations of others.
Dragons are also dramatic. We can make a big deal out of small things because big is how we roll. When things don’t go our way, and when things fall short of expectations, Dragons are sarcastic drama queens. The feeling of bigness, too, can lead to being insensitive, blunt, and unconcerned with people’s feelings, except for our own, of which we “make mountains of mole hills.”
The power and self-assuredness of the Dragon can be assertive, willful, confident, dedicated, and demanding. Dragons demand the best from themselves and from others and tend to assert and insist upon their opinion, which is both a virtue and a challenge. To be a leader, one must be assertive and able to make decisions, and the Dragon is the most skillful leader and should not be put in subordinate positions. They thrive in leadership roles, but without feet on the ground, they can fly over the little guy. Once the Dragon has developed their heart, their assertive willfulness can accomplish greatness for better or worse, like Che Guevara.
If turned toward the spiritual path, this capacity to assert will power, to connect to the Yang expression of Heaven, can be unparalleled. A great example of this is the late teacher and Earth Dragon Swami Rudrananda, otherwise known as Rudi. His book, Spiritual Cannibalism, is a fantastic exposition of Dragon Qi applied to the spiritual path. Rudi had titanic willpower and dedication, and he taught people to essentially “eat” and be nourished by everything as energy, to become what Tantra calls a viśvaboghi, a digester of the universe. Unfortunately, not many people possess Rudi’s willpower and fall short of his example (this includes most of his students teaching today). Not everyone can live up to the Dragon’s vision, but he was inspiring nonetheless.
The final positive virtue I will offer of the Dragon is generosity. It may sound like Dragons have a lot of potentially challenging qualities, but we must remember that they have unlimited potential. The Dragon can display all virtues to the grandest scale. Dragon Qi is big and overflows all boundaries, which naturally turns to generosity. The flipside we discussed is selfishness, but the Dragon can give and demonstrate tremendous sacrifice for others. Of any sign, the Dragon is the most likely to die for others or for a cause.
I must reiterate again that Dragon Qi is a paradox that cannot be defined other than to say it is unlimited Yang creative potential. The qualities I have discussed are merely an attempt to discuss what happens when Dragon Qi is confined in human Character. Dragons can be anything or nothing if they choose, and they represent a culmination of the Zodiac, everything rolled into one, exploding out.
My Mantic Arts teacher, Liu Ming, wrote a book on the stages of human spiritual development called Dragon’s Play. In the book, the Dragon represents the twelfth and final stage of human life, the greatest expression of Yang Qi and human potential—the Rainbow Light Body, Ja lü in Tibetan, Prakāśakāya/Tejokāya in Sanskrit, and Hóngshēn in Chinese. In Daoist and Tantric cultivation, a practitioner of the Way is said to draw all of creation into their heart or navel creating a “cosmic egg/immortal fetus,” an expression of ultimate Yin, the return to Source. The result of Ultimate Yin turns to Ultimate Yang, which is the Dragon, ultimate freedom bursting from the Egg, light flowing freely and consciously into all dimensions, consciously becoming the Universe, which other people witness as a display of Light. The Dragon is the primordial gesture of the Dao itself, the demonstration of Source Qi’s power to become everything, which all humans are destined for.
This may sound fantastic, but of course, everyone, every Character has this potential too; it is not limited to Dragons. Dragons are just a symbol of our unlimited potential. Dragon Characters need a path otherwise this potential is meaningless. Above all, Dragons need training; we need a path, but we must never be controlled. Dragons must be left alone to follow their own way, or they will eat you.
Dragons, like Rabbits, exemplify the relationship between Character and Fate. An Earth Dragon born in the ghetto with no opportunity to demonstrate their leadership capacity might become a gang leader, go to prison, and be king inmate. A Dragon born without major obstacles and challenges will most like destroy themselves; their strength demands "big" Fate.
The Five Dragons each demonstrate a different flavor of Dragon Qi, the Wood Dragon (Laughing Dragon) being the most creative and light hearted, the Fire Dragon (Sky Dragon) the most challenging and explosive, the Earth Dragon (Yielding Dragon) the most grounded and regal, the Metal Dragon (Angry Dragon) the most powerful and articulate, and the Water Dragon (Rain Dragon) the most nurturing and mystical.
I hope you enjoyed this exposition of Dragon Qi. Stay tuned as I attempt to discuss the other ineffable Character, the mystical Snake, Big Yin, the sorcerer philosopher.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
This page is your source for short, pithy articles on the view teachings of Chinese Astrology. Here, I will share everything I have learned about how to follow Astrology as a spiritual path.