Welcome back to Qiūfēn, 秋分, the Season of the Autumn Equinox, and day of my birth! Qiūfēn is one of the classical Eight Gates of Chinese Astrology – the Eight times of Year that rectify the Annual Qì. This period is one of only two times a year that yīn and yáng, day and night, are in a relative state of balance. As I have said before, balance is a taut situation, nothing other than a temporary fulcrum in an otherwise imbalanced and dynamic continuum of constant movement.
The Autumn Equinox is a time of peaceful stillness preceding our full decent into the yīn of Winter. Yáng begins now to drain down and in as the environment grows cooler and drier. The nights grow longer as the world around us becomes more dreamlike, and the power of imagination begins to dominate the landscape. The Qì of this time is quiet, focused, and reflective.
In short, this temporary state of balance offers us a capacity for rest and recalibration that comes only twice a year; so, make good use of it. The rest is a kind of still clarity, like the surface of a pond becoming smooth and reflecting the sky above it. The capacity to take stock of life and to self-reflect is enhanced in the mirror of Nature. This time zeros out the scale.
As Yīn takes charge, the world changes as outward productivity and creation are reversed. To the uninitiated, the craziness of our world goes on, it seems, unchanged, but beneath the surface, the reversal of Yáng to Yīn moves the available Qì from generative to re-generative, just like every day, when we must at some point cease productivity and prepare to sleep and dream. The world is now of the same quality as 5-7 pm. In the grand scheme, the harvest should be complete, and everything begins the slow process of storing and planning. Will we survive the coming Winter?
Yīn takes the form of Princess about to become Queen. In the coming months, she reverses all the Emperor’s mandates for productivity and expansion and instead turns our focus local to the art of being human, to our personal relationships, and to the mandate of our Ancestors to keep the wheel turning.
Although modern culture allows us to be independent, for most of our history, no human being survived the Winter alone and without community. From here on out, the collective Qì, the interwoven tapestry of human relationships is brought forward into the realm of necessity. For better or worse, we in this together!
Welcome back to the season of Báilù, 白露, White Dew, an important seasonal shift that heralds the accent of Yīn. The heat of Late Summer has ended, the growing west wind is cool and carries migrating birds; the appearance of White Dew and occasional cold in the early morning reveals fresh Yīn Qì, a fragile glimpse of snow, and a signal of the coming Celestial Presence of Winter.
A time of stillness and clarity, Báilù has always deeply inspired the poets and hermits of China, for amidst the now busy time of harvest and preparation, the outer aggression of Yáng subsides, allowing for Yīn to grow unnoticed and in secret.
This gentle unnoticed Yīn is envisioned as Nymphs, playful spirits who inhabit the seas and forests, who emerge now from their hibernation in the summer months to play on flower petals and blades of grass. Their presence brings a cool and misty shimmer to the morning light and makes way for the Celestial Realm of Autumn and Winter, for the dreamlike Yīn that will blanket us following the Autumn Equinox.
This is a time of inspiration and preparation. Summer's Light remains, but the cool dry wind brings a much-needed change. Our Qì naturally turns inward, and we begin to remember the mortality and impermanence of all things. Autumn is coming, so the work of the Summer Harvest must continue – the memory of a thousand Winters reminds us of true value, of what will sustain us in the coming months.
Togetherness and cooperation are crucial. Farms and families come together to celebrate their bond and the bounty of the harvest. The annual Qì is strongest from 5-7 pm, as the nights begin to grow longer. Make room for the night, make room for the imagination, make spacious your inner space.
Nymphs are on the wind, whispering magical vision. Keep busy but stop and listen to the sound of rustling leaves, for we live on a living planet, and the myth of the city makes this easy to forget.
Behind all the drama and upheaval, the unrelenting dismantling force of the Metal Rat continues to unscrew the nuts and bolts of our foundations. It does this to make way for new foundations of lasting value, but there are no guarantees, for this vision is as fragile now as morning dew; are you gentle enough to see it?
Welcome back to the season of 雨水, Yŭ Shŭi, the time of Rain Water. As Spring awakens, Heaven and Earth renew their Immortal romance – this is the first Yīn response to the impulse of Yáng to emerge in the coming year. Moisture, rain, and nourishment seep into the Earth, where Yáng is still trapped in the form of “seeds.” If Yáng has been properly stored in the Winter, the seeds of Life burst open and now begin to take root. If Yáng has been weakened, decay, rot, and mold may occur (in every sense of the word).
The Qì of this season is mild, gentle, friendly, and receptivity is being asked of us. Can we open and receive the nourishment of nature? This is a time of renewal when rain fertilizes the dreams of Winter, and our visions begin to take root. If the following year is to be fruitful, we must water the seeds and tend carefully to the soil, which must be properly aerated.
In other words, loosen up; let Yīn and Yáng play – open to others, open to the world, open and receive the rain, the messages of life that you have been ignoring all Winter. The friendliness of this season offers us a wonderful chance to eat humble pie and graciously admit that we know nothing, that we were wrong, that we made mistakes. No matter your age, we’re all just kids on the playground right now, nothing serious.
The element of Wood is soft, supple, and pliable like a newborn, and it sucks up the rain in order to grown. Like a child, it is hungry for growth. Newness and curiosity are key, and new actions are auspicious. Take in new ideas, see new movies, read new books, talk to new people, or simply relate to the same old people in a new way. What if every time you meet is the first? You're not who you were five minutes ago!
Cultivate the strength of Spring Qì through weakness; we’re all babies right now. It’s okay for babies to be weak. Their job is simply to take in the world in wonder.
Spring is renewal, but it is caution rather than enthusiasm that encourages growth. Seeds don’t need cheerleaders; they need responsible farmers. Impulse is the pathogen of this time. Yáng is given a boost, and we can be all too eager to rip out the seeds and eat them before they have had a chance to grow. The seasonal Qì is no longer pernicious but our impulses, our inner Yáng, is immature and eager. So, avoid being “very productive,” and instead be a kid again.
Take in the rain. You can’t fill a pot with water if the lid is closed. Nor can you fill a pot without a base. Neither can you fill a pot filled with old water.
道 – Dào/View
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.
The teachings of Kŏng Fū Zĭ, or Confucius, are at the heart of Chinese Astrology. Are we isolated individuals? Or do we live as the center of interpersonal relationships? These are the fundamental questions of the Confucian Tradition. Today, we must ask these questions more than ever, for we are more isolated than ever before.
Confucius established a secular, non-theistic society in which the Dào is unknowable, and all Gods/spirits are equally unimportant in the light of our primary goal – learning to be human, 仁.
In contrast to Western notions of “basic brokenness” (Original Sin), in the Confucian Tradition, human beings and nature are intrinsically good, and there is no salvation or enlightenment required of us. Our original nature is complete and found self-existing, already within.
In the Confucian Tradition, the self is a dynamic center of Creative Transformation defined by relationship. We possess no abiding self that is separate from our relationships with nature or with our ancestors, family, community, country, world, and universe.
The starting point of the Confucian path is Self-Worth derived from education and Self-Cultivation for its own sake. The impetus and commitment to change the world must come from within. Therefore, Self-Cultivation is not done for social improvement; it is an end rather than a means to an end.
The central teaching of Confucianism is, however, Human Relatedness where community is the most necessary vehicle for human flourishing. Personal development expresses within an open-ended series of concentric circles of relatedness.
The creation of a society in which everyone is taken care of, has a place, and has the freedom to cultivate themselves and actualize their full potential is the goal of Confucian spirituality.
We should not, therefore, choose to be loners, for the dignity, autonomy, and independence of each person need not be based on individualism. Human fellowship does not undermine our individuality, but rather each human being reaches their highest potential through communication and communal participation with other human beings.
This worldliness is, then, the core Confucian value. Nature is our Home, revered for its generosity and grandeur. The fair use and distribution of our natural resources is the primary responsibility of each generation, and one that we must see to now.
Transcendence is found in Immanence – what is the unknowable Dào doing? Constantly displaying itself as all phenomena. In other words, what is apparently knowable and absolutely unknowable are not different. The ordinary world is the unknowable Dào, manifesting in and as the cycles of Time. A natural morality is therefore defined by our relationship to Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
In the Confucian Tradition, people may worship whatever god/s or spirits they choose if those beliefs do not interfere with the responsibilities of human relatedness. However, non-theism states that knowledge of an Ultimate or the existence of a one true God are not required to return to Dào. We need only to cultivate our humanity with other humans. No god/s or spirits need be supplicated.
In the Unknowable Dào, everything is 自然 “self-resolving.” Everything that goes out returns. Everything that is compound dissolves. Everything that struggles exhausts itself. Human beings, then, cannot be “perfected.”
We do not evolve toward any kind of ideal state, but rather we are cyclical, and our life is a dynamic rhythm (yīnyáng), sometimes wonderful, sometimes painful. Since we cannot be perfected, we are relieved of any permanent notion of progress or self-improvement.
Without a creator or an event of creation, without sin or salvation, without beginning or end, without any notion of perfection, we simply respond naturally to the ever changing present, the Immortal Procession, here and now.
The Confucian paradox – all human beings are inherently and inevitably a Sage, 聖人, but no human being can ever become one. Education in our humanity never ends.
This Year of the Rat will bring forward the inescapable reality that we are not isolated individuals. We are defined by our relatedness.
Gēng Zĭ 庚子
Year of the Yáng Metal Rat
Welcome back to the year of the Yáng Metal Rat, Gēng Zĭ 庚子, also known as the Rafter Rat, which begins officially on January 25th! As always, it is important to remember that Astrology is not fortunetelling! There is no auspicious year, for each time and place must be read against the unique Character and Fate of the individual. What follows are broad generalities and suggestions.
Before we continue, I encourage you to reflect, briefly, upon the major themes of the Yīn Earth Pig in both a positive and negative sense--family, rest, sleep, nourishment, sex, comfort, protection, luxury, food, the senses/sensuality, indulgence, honesty, completion, endings, tolerance, generosity, humanitarianism, compromise, care, intelligence, storytelling, luck, humor, hard-work, lethargy, will power, joy, and depression to name a few.
The first and most important aspect of this year’s transition is that we have completed and are now entering into a new 12 Year Cycle. The Earth Pig was an ending, a demonstration of everything you have cultivated over the past 12 years. It was a year of completion and (hopefully) resolution, albeit a sticky one. How did that go? Chinese Astrology teaches us that everything is self-resolving, but the idea that things resolve well is naïve!
Last year was not one to move forward or start over, but this year is! Look back over the past 12 Years – Pig Year was the fruition. Metal Rat is a new jumping off point…but wait!
The Yáng Metal Rat is a new beginning, yes, but it is a small one. Momentum has not yet arrived. However, the first step in any journey is still important. The Rat is retrospective; so is the Ox. It looks backwards, observes the details, and plans for the journey ahead.
In order to fully understand the Metal Rat Year, we must look to its symbolism, Qì dynamics, manifestation, and applications.
象 – Symbolism
A famous Chinese story describes a contest set by the Buddha, or sometimes the Jade-Emperor of Daoism—a race to determine who would be the first Animal in the Cycle of Time. At the end of the race, there was a mighty river. Ox was the only animal strong enough to cross. Rat, small yet clever, jumped on Ox’s back. Undetected by Ox, clever Rat jumped off his nose just in time to cross the finish line first. Rat won the honor to be first in the cycle, and the Character of Rat, or Rat Qì, came to represent the wisdom, virtue (Dé), and resourcefulness of all things small.
Of the 12 Zodiac animals, some are small, and some are large. The difference in size symbolize the Chinese view that strength comes in all shapes and sizes. Every perspective is valuable and has a proper place.
As a cycle of View Teachings, the 12 Qì Characters are a study in perspective and represent 12 (or really 60) ways of viewing the world. We find wisdom by learning our own perspective in contrast/relation to others. The tallest rat will never see the same world as a Horse. Which perspective is correct? The question is of course meaningless—both are valid and describe different perspectives. Rat Qì represents the perspective of little creatures, the most “zoomed in” quality of life. Most importantly, it represents the fact that all beings must make alliances to survive.
The Natural Element of the Rat is Yáng Water—the power of the weak, the yielding, the adaptable, the soft, the pliant to overcome all obstacles, like water carving the Grand Canyon. Water may be weak, but through diligent perseverance it carves canyons, and in great mass, water can devastate. This is the Yáng Water nature of Rat Qi--the paradoxical strength of weakness.
Rat represents “start,” but it starts at the end (Water). Rat Hour is from 11 pm to 1 am, a time when we are supposed to be asleep. Pig Hour 9-11 pm, is fall asleep, Yīn Water, and Yáng Water is an active time of dreaming in which we disassemble and process the previous day. Rat, therefore, represents the active imagination of “backward” dreaming. The Rat and this time of day are also associated with the element of Yáng Wood and the Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine, which is responsible for catalyzing and rectifying the movement of Qì in the body. Rat Hours, Rat Months, and Rat Years, then, catalyze and initiate change.
This Year, however, the Heavenly Stem is Yáng Metal, the mother of Water and controller of Wood, so the Qì Dynamic takes on the quality of Metal giving birth to and restraining the natural Rat elements. I will examine this dynamic in more detail later.
Rat Qì is Yáng, active, dynamic, and the power of the Rat is ambitious and unstoppable like water, so don't let the image of smallness fool you; Rat Qì is anything by “mousy.” Yáng Water also represents synthesis, sentiment, sensitivity, reflection, cooperation, persuasion, and effectiveness, among other virtues.
Of all the 12 Animals, I find people most dismayed to find out they are Rats. This is due largely to the image of the Rat as a rodent, vermin, and carrier of disease in Western culture. In Asian cultures, the Rat has a much different image that I would like to encourage.
The Rat of Chinese Cosmology was well known to farmers as the “Grain Rat.” Grain Rats would appear with the harvest. So, in Asia, the Rat has always been associated with prosperity, wealth, resources, and with the rewards of diligent hard work. In many forms of Asian lore, the Rat is the God of Wealth, and Rat Years in Asia are expected to be profitable in every sense of the word.
The symbol of wealth is important and often glossed over. People are all too quick to associate wealth with money, especially Americans. Understanding wealth, however, is essential to understanding Rat Qì. What is wealth? In short, wealth is resources—material, food, energy, land, intelligence, labor, and so on. Money is an abstract symbol measuring these tangible/demonstrable realities.
But why are resources important to the Rat? Because they are tiny.
Individually, Rats are small and weak, so they always appear in groups and work together to manage resources. Together, Rats can undermine an entire building by gnawing and nibbling away at the foundations, piece by piece. For this reason, Rat Qì represents the Confucian teaching that all humans must make alliances to flourish. Alone, we can’t do much, but together, we can accomplish anything.
In the Chinese View, individuals are redundant. It is only through alliances that we do anything. No person ever did anything great. Period. Our culture exalts heroes, saints, sports stars, and so on, but all sports stars play on a team.
So, Rat Qì is the antithesis of American Individualism and demonstrates the ideals of the Confucian Tradition, for it views social life as central to existence and represents the human virtue of community. Sociability is required to survive, and no person is special. This is a “Rat realization. Rat Qì, in a sense, stands for the little guy, the underdog, the meek, and the unacknowledged, and it abhors the abuse of the strong over the weak. The Character Piglet from Winnie the Pooh represents this Virtue of the Small, and there is a popular book on this very subject.
Rat Qiì represents a fundamental insight into the nature and value of “things,” appearances, stuff—the resources that compose the world. And in order to work with resources, Rats must take them apart. Not to analyze them (that’s Rooster), but to make them small enough to carry.
Rat Qì represents the most “zoomed in” quality to life—the Rat is very close to everything and, therefore, sees how everything works, how everything is composed, sort of like a magnifying glass or microscope. The impulse to “zoom in” in order to understand is a Rat impulse. The impulse to take apart, dismantle, and dissect are also Rat impulses, again not to analyze but simply to observe, look closely, and take in the details. Modern science is very “Rat,” and I in fact know many Rat scientists.
Rat Qì probes, inquires, and studies in order to make sense of the overwhelming amount of data we perceive through the senses. Rat power breaks everything down into bite sized manageable pieces. This ability allows for incredible “productivity” in the Western sense, and as such, Rats are very capable people.
Rats (the animals) tend to have big bulging eyes, and they make short, quick, twitchy movements. Rat Qì has a nervous quality due to its constant observation, evaluating safety, taking stock of their surroundings.
Rat Qì is the wisdom of the compound nature of things, that everything is composed of pieces ad infinitum. This wisdom communicates that everything compound is impermanent, which is the source of the Rat’s power and fear.
Rat Qì restarts the Cycle emerging from the Pig. If the last year of the Pig represented dissolution, everything falling apart, then Rat Qì this year represents everything coming back into fragments, still dissolute but active, the dust cloud settling, coming back into focus, starting over. Pig is the final blowout, the party, the big bang, and Rat is left to pick up the pieces.
氣 – Qì Dynamic
The Native Element of the Rat, as I have already mentioned, is Yáng Water, but the Heavenly Stem for this Year is Yáng Metal. Since Metal is the "mother" of Water, the elemental balance of this Year is supportive and generative, which means the positive attributes of the Rat are more available, and we are less likely to struggle against them. They are empowered and strengthened for better or worse.
Metal adds refinement, discretion, and fastidiousness to the Rat image. The Metal Rat is more withdrawn, confident, and self-reflective than other Rats. Spiritual, political, and intellectual matters are enhanced, and transcendent mysticism is more available. Since Metal precedes Water, the Metal Rat waits on the precipice of action in a penetrating state of observation.
Yáng Metal represents the process of refining ore from the Earth into precious metals. It therefore represents transformation, distillation, fermentation, maturation, and examination. All the Rat qualities are therefore sharpened, focused, and actively internalized in the following year.
This is an excess Metal Year, with dry and cold as the fundamental Qì dynamics. This Qì is sharp and subtle, a noticeable change from last year, which was murky, muddy, and sticky. This year is not so warm and fuzzy; it is clear and clean, which offers great virtue to the themes that are available.
Emotionally, we can expect to dry out a bit. Last year was juicy, albeit heavy and overbearing emotionally. This year we may feel parched, stretched thin. Our mental/emotional energy may race and run wild, but we may also be capable of greater focus and tenacity.
In Chinese Medical terms, Lung and Large Intestine Qì are in excess and the Liver and Gallbladder are damaged. Anxiety and depression are elevated, respiratory conditions – cold, coughs, asthma, flu, fatigue, and the like, may be exasperated. Hypochondriac, chest, shoulder, and back pain are on the rise, so are problems with hearing and vision. Women’s health is challenged. Skin conditions can flare.
Th first half of the Year is governed by Shăo Yīn Imperial Fire, the second half by Yáng Míng Dry Metal. The first half of the Year, then, will give rise to heat symptoms in the Upper Burner, highlighting the mental/emotional turmoil available, especially in the form of grief and sadness, so there may be more problems sleeping due to counterflow and rising Qì. This inner heat will dry out in the second half of the Year, with a second dose of Dry Metal, which in Fall will highlight the excess Metal dryness attacking the Lung and Liver symptoms described above.
This Year the Heavenly Stem creates what is called Tōng Tiān Fú, 同天符, which means that Qì has the generally tendency to become excessive, so there will be greater changes in weather, more acute diseases, and the overall tendency of the Year will be somewhat forceful and chaotic. Overall, the Qì dynamic of this Year will be a sobering jolt, a wakeup call from the sloppiness of the Earth Pig.
形 – Manifestation/Character
Before, I delve into my specific “prediction,” I will explore how the Rat Character manifests in people—what about babies born in this or any Year of the Rat? This year, these characteristics are more available to everyone, which I encourage you to observe!
Rat Qì, embodied in individuals, is first and foremost charming. As astute social observers, Rats make fantastic actors, mimics, and they love being center stage, especially when they can play at being someone else. For Rats, other people are valuable resources, so Rat charm is a kind of social power, and it is often their greatest resource in life.
Rat Qì is fundamentally social/community oriented and cooperative but more in the sense of making things happen than out of pure enjoyment. That being sad, Rats are fun loving and funny, and they often possess a rye kind of wit derived from their astute social observations.
Rat Qì is and methodical and “detail oriented.” Many of the professions we value in our culture are very “Rat.” Engineering, accounting, “I-T,” consulting, what we can call information work, anything that requires manipulating data, money, or numbers, moving around bits and pieces, filling out spread sheets and forms—all of this is Rat work, busy work, and it goes to show that our culture actually exalts and highly values Rat Intelligence. Math and the sciences—chemistry, physics, biology, and western medicine are also very Rat like, what we can call "reductionist disciplines."
Rat Qì revels in detail. And although I have mentioned science and math, Rat Qì can be wonderfully artistic. Rats can spend hours painting and penciling in detail, focusing in and fleshing out pattern, shade, and texture. A famous architect once said, “God is in the details;” this is a very Rat sentiment. Shakespeare, in theory, was born in the Year of the Rat, and he invented thousands of words by taking apart existing words and putting them back together into new formations, words like auspicious, sanctimonious, and multitudinous. Shakespeare also exemplified the poetic nature of Rat insight.
Rat Qì also exemplifies the Chinese Virtue of industry, diligence, and perseverance. Imagine you’re on a long journey and come across a mountain in your path. Some characters might go around; some might climb to the top heroically overcoming obstacles; some might wax philosophical and never go anywhere. Rat Qì would probably get a shovel and carve a path through the mountain one shovel-full at a time. You may laugh at such an approach, but Rat Qì can move mountains in this fashion.
At its best, Rat Qì is diligent and patient. Perhaps your family lost everything in a war, exiled to a foreign land with nothing. So, the family bands together and starts a small dry-cleaning business. For three generations the family perseveres and eventually builds back their fortune. This is Rat work ethic—eventually the little things pay off. Since Rats are famously discrete and frugal, they can manage resources, money, and make a little go a long way.
As you can imagine, the virtues of Rat Qì have their opposites. Rat charm and social observation can turn to nervousness and complaining, seeing endless faults and problems in themselves and others. Rat Qì can be self-conscious, worried about appearance, nitpicky, and overly critical of details.
At its core, Rat Qì is very susceptible to the fear of impermanence, deficiency, and loss, which can turn to a panic over resources. This can turn to scheming, manipulating situations, people, things, money, and so on, in order to create safety and security. This can also turn to emotional and material stinginess and selfishness, and Rats are often stereotyped as hoarders, living in clutter, developing strong attachment to material possessions.
Rat can turn cowardly, afraid to take risks. Rats can easily become overwhelmed with details and so become paralyzed, over analyzing and never acting. “But…wait!” is a very Rat like response. Rat Qì can feel small in a big scary world. Alone Rat Qì is vulnerable. Without a nest—resources, friends, partners, family, or a support system, Rats are at their weakest and can wander, felling lost and depressed.
Rat Qì at its best has an immense ability to focus, but depleted, the close-in quality of Rat Qì can turn fidgety and restless; it can turn to over-concentration and a racing mind, endlessly thinking, reevaluating, second guessing, a kind of mono-focus or tunnel vision that can be obsessive.
Because Rat Qì is fragmented, Rats can compartmentalize their experience. They can put memories, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and so on into categories and boxes and “think” their feelings. If traumatized, this compartmentalization can become detached, unemotional, and unable to connect.
The fundamental impulse of Rat Qì is to make sense of the world. Rat Qì represents active dissolution, characterized by Yáng Water, what we can call “activated impermanence,” a primal fear which can easily turn to the spiritual path, and I have met many Rats with a strong spiritual bent. Rat spiritual insight awakens through deep observation, breaking down appearances.
This observant quality of the Rat is available to all of us all through the following Year. It is also especially available during Rat Month, which is in the beginning of winter, every Rat Day, and every Rat Hour, which is between 11pm and 1am.
器 – Application and “Predictions”
Now for the fun part! So, what’s going to happen! I began this exploration of the Rat with teachings from Confucius because the first and most important theme of this year is to re-value and dismantle our society, personally and globally, for our survival and relationship to resources come to the forefront. Dismantle! Change! The media is already telling us our survival is in danger, and it just so happens that this theme will come front and center. A few politicians are already branding the perfect Rat Year slogan, “not me, us!”
Metal Rats have a strong personal sense of moral and spiritual values, and it's time to stand firm. Our social responsibilities must be examined. We can do all the self-cultivation we want, but no human being can be separated from their social context. Confucianism teaches us that we simply cannot heal and become whole human beings alone and adrift in a disordered, individualistic society of “everyone for themselves.” Inequality, poverty, lack of access to food and health care, social isolation…these will be felt like a sharp knife. Metal Rat is a fragmentary energy. Will we step up and unite to dismantle our systems of oppression? Or will fear get the better or us?
An acute awareness of our long-term situation will be felt sharply in all aspects of life. There may be a subtle air of panic this year. We all know the saying, “first rat to abandon a sinking ship.” Rats can sense when danger is coming, especially the portentous Metal Rat, and this Year we may feel said danger, even when it isn’t there.
Foresight is strong; anxious, nervous anxiety about the future is, unfortunately, more available, so watch out for the sky is falling apocalyptic doomsaying. We need to band together and speak up, but we cannot lose our cool. Pressing your face into the dashboard doesn’t get you there any faster. Dystopia isn’t part of this cosmology. For that matter, neither is utopia, so calm down.
It is an important time to act, but panic will breed chaos in a year like this. The Metal Rat offers us clear, rational decision making. The political world has been feeding off people’s gut feelings, but in order to move forward, we need to ignore our gut reactions and invoke critical thinking. Last year was a “feeling” year; this is a “thinking” one. The Metal Rat is disciplined and structured, and for the Rat, last year was sloppy and gross, frankly speaking.
It is difficult not to read this symbol considering the current political climate. Global social themes, environmentalism and climate change, universal health care, affordable housing and education, increased minimum wage – these are all perfect Rat themes because if we do not change the world, we might not survive. The real question is – do we want to? Are we supposed to? What are we saving? Pig Year should have revealed this, and without knowing true value, what are we working for?
Remember, according to Chinese Cosmology, everything we do is a natural adaptation to our situation, and right now we are committing suicide as a species. Why? In this Cosmology, no individual is important, and “leaders” are nothing other than symptoms of how we collectively adapt to Time. What kind of collective inner state are we adapting to by producing people like Trump, Putin, Bolsonaro, etc., and their opposite in people like Bernie Sanders?
Cultures all over the world are in a position to change, and there is an opportunity this year to initiate a total reformation of our social structures. Wood Goat Year (2015) set a precedent (feel the Bern?), but we have not had the momentum to initiate real change until now. So, the election this year is well timed. But I’m not predicting anything in that regard…lol
This is a time to start over, to re-fresh, to reset the dial back to zero. In doing so, it is important to look back and take stock of everything, so that we can edit. This will be a deeply reflective year. Introspection, analysis, and self-reflection will be high on everyone’s radar.
Deeply examine your life. Hold a mirror up to everything and be honest. But watch out for self-hatred and self-cherishing. American life is plagued by the view of original sin and salvation. So many of us struggle with self-worth, which is why so much of the popular self-help rhetoric out there preaches the self-affirmation that we are enough, that we are just fine/complete the way we are, because so many of us do self-work out of a deep sense of self-loathing.
We have deeply internalized the “basic brokenness” and judgment day of salvational Christianity and perpetuate it through the media. We also go to the other extreme and can demonstrate dangerous forms of selfishness in the name of self-care. Remember, the Confucian Path begins by establishing Self-Worth through education and cultivation assuming our basic goodness. You can love and accept yourself and enact constructive self-criticism at the same time (with practice).
Most importantly, examine your relatedness – are you an isolated individual? Or do you live as the center of interpersonal relationships? Keep asking this repeatedly because it is very easy to feel alone in this culture. We have become a society of floating heads. We connect wirelessly, but in reality, we connect very little. It has become easy to ruin relationships with little other than a text.
During Pig Year, our job was to forget our past grievances, to love, and to enjoy each other’s company to the best of our ability. Pig Year was not a time to complain, nit-pick, or analyze, which is why many did so ad nauseum, lol. It was time to rest and forget, to fall asleep all year in a sense. Now that we’ve fallen asleep, it is time to dream. This is a year of practical vision.
In theory, now that Time has fallen asleep, it moves forward in a kind of uninhibited, dream like state of retrospection and analysis. Usually the first dreams you have upon falling asleep in Rat Hour, from 11 pm to 1 am, the time of Yáng Water, are full of wake world reflections, taking apart the previous day. If you record these dreams on a regular basis you should find this to be the case. This is followed by deep sleep in Ox Hour and visionary dreaming in Tiger Hour.
This kind of dreaming is an editing process that allows us to let go and get to deep sleep, and often these dreams are the most honest and telling we have. They show us our fears, regrets, and desires in a way that is often brutal to admit. But these are the important reflections. What are your deepest fears and regrets?
This Year make a list of all these and do something about it. Apologize to that person; apologize to yourself; what are you really afraid of? Where are you an absolute unmovable fortress? Get all that stuff out, so you can let it go and move on. Leave behind everything that doesn’t support you. Don’t drag the garbage of the past 12 years into the next 12 years. But don’t be too eager to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Revalue – some things/people are worth saving, some relationships are worth mending, and some are not. Who shows up without you having to ask? Who loves you unconditionally despite your flaws? These are the keepers.
The Rat is a pivot point between the last 12 years and the next 12 years, a kind of rectification of Qì related in CCM to the Gallbladder. How we choose to advance determines everything; timing is everything. And the central theme is relatedness in the sense of the Confucian five relationships – to your family, partner/s, community/friends, country, and world.
What works for you? What doesn’t? Are you in the right place? Are you on the right path? With the right person? On the right team? Create a plan. Make a dream team. It’s time for the old interview question – where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? How are you going to get there? Who is your support? The Rat realization is – WE DON’T ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING ALONE! All humans must make alliances, and our alliances make or break us. So, extend some olive branches. Connect and get busy.
This is a very social year, but in a much different sense than the past two, which were much more touchy-feely. This year is practical. This year is about social structure, hierarchy, order, alliance, responsibility, and obligation. This sounds like a drag to Americans, but remember, the most successful culture in human history (ancient China, arguably) was successful because of Confucian social order, which is again based on examining our social responsibility.
Clubs, teams, and networks, at school, work, religious institutions, or in political and social arenas – these are highlighted this year. Join a cause, go to an event. Protest! March in the damn streets! Alone, rats can do very little, but together, they can gnaw away the foundations and bring down a whole building! There is power in numbers. And there are more of us.
But you may be the one who needs to get the ball rolling! Reach out and get people together. Party! Rats love social gatherings, tea parties, group events, and so on. Connect people; let’s use social media as a tool rather than an addiction.
I titled this exploration – the Virtue of the Small. This year is about the small, the weak, the meek, the poor, the unseen, the unacknowledged, the forgotten, the oppressed, the powerless, the young, the old, the marginalized, the women, the people of color, the LGTBQ community, the disabled…you see where I’m going with this. It’s time to speak up and fight with and for these people. The Metal Rat carries forward the humanitarian themes of the Pig into itinerary action.
This is a Year to zoom in and pay attention to the details. In order to survive, we must break everything down into small manageable details that we can accomplish. Rats are clever, so get clever! And get to work!
This is a year of arts and crafts, of doing small precise work with our hands. Unlike the craftiness of the Horse, Rat craft is more of an artistic meditation rather than a functional project. This a great year to learn new precision skills like making jewelry, sewing, tattooing, drawing, computer coding, and so on.
This is a fantastic Year to start new projects, to start a business, to start school, to initiate new relationships. Firm, clear goals, passions, aspirations, and ambitions will pay off. The year is all around good for work, productivity, and industry, but mostly for information work. Physical/manual labor is not particularly auspicious though, for it is a trait related more to Rat’s opposite – the Horse.
Most auspicious, perhaps, are financial matters. Metal equals money, and Rats are ruthless and calculating in matters of finance. The world economy will fluctuate widely, but overall, expect the year to be financially viable. So, invest, save, buy, sell, all financial plans/moves are fruitful, but no foolish risks! Rats are extremely cautious, careful, and frugal. Save risks for Tiger or Monkey years!
As always, do watch out for burn out, stress, and anxiety. The excess Yáng Qì of the Year may push people into manic overdrive, and our ambition may get the best of us. We may bite off more than we can chew. Remember, small bits. Rats are tiny. So, take care of yourself. The themes of rest and nourishment from Pig Year don’t stop; we always take Time with us. Metal Rats often have meticulous personal habits, so ride the wave. Metal Rats internally brood and worry over the slightest things, so please take care of your mental health and watch out for the mental health of others. Mental illness is a big theme this Year. Check up on how your “strong” friends are doing. They may be the most vulnerable.
Although this Year is great for minutia, it is not great for organizing. Rats tend to accumulate, so watch out for mess, clutter, hoarding, and the like. Extra attention to cleaning will go a long way.
This Year is most Auspicious for Dragons, Monkeys, Rats, and Oxen, especially if your Outer Element is Metal or Water. Dragons, Monkeys, and Rats make a trine of basic compatibility. And Ox is a special Confucian pair…remember the story of the Rat riding the Ox to win the race?
Rat’s opposite is the Horse. I do not, however, buy into the notion that the opposite relationships are negative. Most Chinese Astrologers will say that opposites are a bad match, but this is nonsense. This is a silly superstition based on the Chinese distaste for “passionate relationships,” which are seen to cause chaos. But this isn’t ancient China…we are a passionate culture.
The opposite relationship is mirror-like; they are complementary opposites. We tend to have trouble with our opposites because they mirror back to us the most challenging aspects of ourselves. For this reason, they can be explosive and charged. So, if they don’t like personal growth and self-reflection, then Horses will have a challenging year, for they tend to jump over small details.
What will happen in the world? I’m just not the kind of astrologer to guess. Astrology is not fortunetelling. My hope is that you take this all to heart--CHANGE THE WORLD and don’t forget to HAVE FUN doing it!
I wish you the all the best in this New Year!
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!
FATE IS NOT ACTUALLY CREATED (HAS NO BEGINNING) BUT
IS THE PREDISPOSITION TO RECREATE AND SOLIDIFY KARMIC PATTERNS.
THE EVER-PRESENT OPTION/DISPOSITION TO OPENLY EXPRESS OUR TRUE NATURE IS FREEDOM.
TOGETHER FATE AND FREEDOM CONSTITUTE THE NATURALLY DYNAMIC
DIMENSION WE ARE IN.
道 – Dào/View
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.
Many Traditional Cultures of the world understood cyclical or spiralic Time. Unlike modern people, who are frantic and plagued by the anxiety of linear time, traditional folk possess a deep calm that lives in their heart of hearts.
This deep, abiding calm is a kind of memory that comes from the continuity of Life, a confidence that comes from knowing who you are and where you come from, a relaxation that comes from knowing there is neither a perfect future nor a sullied past. It comes from the immortal cycles of Life, called birth and death, in the natural world, from generations surviving countless Winters only to witness the renewals of Spring.
It is hard to say what is remembered, so traditional folk call this memory the Ancestors…
All my life, I have been haunted by indescribable memories, too old to be from this life. These memories do not have form. A sight, a sound, a smell—the sparkle of light on morning dew, the call of ravens, the scent of wild flowers riding cool mountain air trigger something in me that is beyond the context and confines of my ordinary life.
When I see humans engaged with the land, with craft, with food, using their hands to know and shape the world around them, I remember; I weep, for I know the continuity of Life. In dreams, I have seen this continuity and know that I have been dreaming since before I was born.
This dream, this memory is the temporary, compound condition of our many lifetimes and Ancestors, inherited at birth. It appears as a “world,” and as a “self,” as our compulsion to do, make effort, reproduce, survive. This memory, this dream appears in our stories, our intelligence, our wisdom, and in our ignorance, our patterns of pain, our unfinished business.
The more I remember, the more I am deeply troubled, for the world around me seems to forget more and more each day—this technological culture is, as far as we know, unprecedented. Yet, we are human, so we continue to tell stories and speak through symbols; our media, our movies, our entertainment all continue the same legacy once shared around the communal fire.
For long have we humans gathered around fires, under open skies, in ceremony and in ritual, to share in the naked experience of our humanity; this is the call of life, the call of the Ancestors.
Traditional Cultures understood that substance is relative Time. Nothing is solid; things only appear solid in Time—mountains flow like waves, gold eventually turns to dust. Time as such is not a straight line but rather a series of spirals that appear to repeat only because they are constantly renewed. In Chinese Astrology we call this Jiĕ Qì 解氣. In this sense, humans have no history—we have memory. We’ve all been here before, yet it feels like the first time…
Jĭ Hài 己亥 –
Year of the Yīn Earth Pig
Welcome back to the Year of the Yīn Earth Pig! As we yet again approach the New Moon of Spring Begins, and the Year of the Earth Dog shakes it tail one last time, we have so much to reflect upon. The past Year brought many changes, and it will be a long time (decades) before we truly understand the value and consequences of what has passed.
Before we continue, I encourage you to reflect, briefly, upon the major themes of the Earth Dog—loyalty, trust, safety, boundaries, argument, spite, territory, love, affection, companionship, in/out groups, stubbornness, connection, trauma, anxiety, solitude, privacy, protection, justice, inquiry, fairness, and equity, to name a few. How have these manifested in your life? In the world around you?
Staring February 5th, we “officially” transition into the year of the Yīn Earth Pig, so put on your party hats! As the 12th, or “last,” Animal in the Zodiac, the Pig is the party at the end! All your Ancestors have ever wanted is for you to invite the people you love into your home, so you can cook, eat, and make babies—your enjoyment is their immortality!
As we delve into the richness of the Pig symbol, I invite you to consider the possibility that life can be remarkably simple and that the deepest meaning of everything might be right on the surface. If you ask a Pig—what is the meaning of life? If they’re honest, they will probably say, “Food! Sex! Music, Art!” So, relax. I know the sky is falling, and we all have monumental ambitions to save the world, which seems to be spinning more out of control every day, but this Year is already inviting us to calm the hell down, eat a snack, get cozy with a loved one, and take a nap—the “future” might actually depend on it.
象 – Symbolism
First, in order to understand the nature of the Earth Pig, we must examine the Chinese Character for Family, Jià, 家. The character contains the radical mián, 宀, which means roof, and the radical shĭ, 豕, which means pig/boar, so it’s a pig under a roof, and it is the Chinese word for family or blood relations. It also means household, home, and domestic, and it is also a term for a lineage, tradition, or school, such as Chánjià, 禪家, or Dàojià 道家 (Buddhist/Daoist).
The Character Jià, 家, and the symbol of the Pig, are intimately related to the Chinese principal of family, continuity, immortality, and procession, which exemplify the nature of Traditional Culture itself. The Pig is at the heart of what it means to be Chinese, for "China" was the decision of about 80 cultures to stop being nomads and to farm grain instead. That meant no more herds, and since there are no herds of pigs, the pig became their meat of choice.
There is an expression among Chinese farmers that goes, “we only dig in our Ancestors.” Meaning the family has been there so long the soil is made of their dead relatives—this is Earth Pig Qì. This Year will bring forward memories and values so ancient they can’t be named. This is a year to remember what we are trying to save and to rest so that we can do so.
Wealth in Chinese culture was often measured by the number of Pigs you owned, for Pigs were and still are a mainstay of the Chinese diet—fatty pork, rice, and cabbage. Many other ancient traditions outlawed pork, but the Chinese made a different decision, in part because Pigs don’t need to be grazed like cows and sheep. Everyone in China eats pigs, and as any vegetarian who has traveled in China can attest, it is very common to order a vegetarian meal only to find big hunks of pork in it.
Of course, this sounds strange from our perspective, but take yourself back to an early agrarian people, transitioning from a nomadic to a domestic relationship with animals. Within a few generations, the wild boar transformed from a big black hairy tusked beast to a fat pink pig that could give birth to and nurse 60 piglets in a litter—this is the very meaning of family, reproductive essence, and motherhood. The Pig is therefore the ultimate symbol of nourishment, nurturing, and generosity.
Furthermore, the Chinese were astounded to find that Pigs ate everything; they are garbage disposals and were sometimes kept under the outhouse. Yet, their flesh is white, cool, and sweet, with no toxicity, which may not have been the case with the pigs in the Middle East. Lamb, in contrast, the food of nomads, whom the Chinese were trying to distance themselves from, is very warming, and their marrow is bitter and hot and makes you want to ride into battle. The cool nature of the Pig, however, makes you want to wallow, to stay in the same place and give up fighting.
To the Chinese, the value of animals lies in their capacity to transform, and Pigs are the “great transformers,” able to digest anything! This capacity will be at the heart of the upcoming Year, for Earth is the element of nourishment, inner transformation, and digestion.
In Chinese Medicine, the Pig is associated with the Sān Jiāo, or “Triple Burner,” a mysterious and much debated Organ Network that has no physical reality as such (although many are trying to make it physical to appease materialists). While the function of the Triple Burner is manifold, we can summarize it as “metabolism,” divided into "upper, middle, and lower;" it is the unseen Qì that governs the processes of transformation, the conversion of our intake to Qì and Blood, and the harmonizing force that allows our Organ Networks to flow and work together as a whole.
The symbol of the Pig in China came from the wild mother boar, so like many Animals of the Chinese Zodiac, the Pig has a dual image—domestic yet fierce. The wild mother boar was seen as a god of forest fecundity and a protector of forest spirits, for she is the fiercest of protectors. Unlike many wild animals, she will die to protect her young. A mother boar will charge at a tiger three times her size without a second thought. Pigs, then, carry this element of ferocity despite their Yīn nature.
Together, the Pig and Dog Years share the theme of protecting that which is most valuable. The Dog follows orders and is selective, tribal, but the Pig is not; to the Pig everyone is family. As such, Pigs are considered the ultimate protectors, associated with the power and wrath of the feminine—the energy of momma bear, and originally the Pig was related to the Bear in Chinese Cosmology, associated with the Milky Way, the Big Dipper, and the House Constellation of the Northern Palace. The Pig and Bear are associated with the Daoist Ritual Dance of Thunder Magic called the Pace of Yu, which mirrors the cyclical creation and destruction of the universe.
In Chinese Astrology, the Pig is the most “domestic” of symbols, exemplifying our most cherished notions of "home." It shares this quality in a trine with the Rabbit and Goat. Pigs make family wherever they go. Of all the signs, the Pig is the most personable; they are “people” persons, and as such, they are the most humanitarian, accepting, and concerned with the welfare of others. This connection to people, to the home, to reproduction is why the Earth Pig is the most connected to the Chinese teachings on Ancestors, which will be heightened in the coming year.
氣 – Qì Dynamic
The “Native Element” of the Pig is Yīn Water—release, sleep, dissolution, death, collapse, return, resolve, completion, “the end,” which in the Chinese View are a cause for celebration, because there is no end! The nature of Water offers us the possibility of relief, of being finished, to feel accomplished and relax because the work has been done. However, the Outer Element of the Year is Earth, so the Qì dynamic will manifest the relationship patterns of Earth and Water, which we call controlling/restraining.
This is not a “big” ending like the Water Pig but rather a big procession, a party rolling out the fruits of our labor, a massive banquet of Life to appreciate and digest before renewing our inspirations in the years to come. This Year will be one of great abundance.
Many interpret the control cycle as “destructive” or “conflicting,” but this is not always the case, and each controlling dynamic manifests differently. The outcome of Earth controlling Water is fertility. Earth sucks up Water and produces new life in the form of “Wood,” which renews the cycle of Time. Earth can “dam” Water, meaning it can be shaped to control the flow of Water, which has no shape, into the form of rivers, aqueducts, canals, and so on. As such, the Earth Pig is more controlled and contained than the Water Pig. Earth harnesses the power of Water, which creates flowers, food, and new life. If Earth overacts on Water, or if Water is excess or deficient, we get “dampness,” mud, congestion, stickiness, and floods, or dryness, drought, famine, and dust, which we will discuss later.
For the Pig, Yīn Water represents a strange paradox called extreme Yīn. This paradox says that when things become extreme, they turn into their opposites. So, although the nature of the Pig is the most Yīn, the most connected to death and dissolution, they are the most “manifest,” the most embodied of all the signs. Pigs are deeply sensual; for them, the senses reveal the nature of reality through direct experience, which is found this Year in the controlling Earth phase, where everything is most apparent, most obvious.
Yīn Earth is full manifestation, and Yīn Water is full dissolution. The Earth Pig, then, is the ultimate paradox and, in a way, offers a deep celebration of life in all its forms, fully expressed on the surface for all to see. In general, Pigs don’t have a “hidden” nature; they might as well be naked. Therefore, they are the antithesis of the Snake, who is the most secretive, hidden, mysterious, and ineffable. Pigs can be very deep, spiritual people, but they’ll tell you all about it. They’ll share everything about themselves whether you ask or not.
Pig Qì itself, embodied in human individuals, is this impulse to let go, to release all conceptualization into direct experience through the senses. In one sense, Yīn Water represents emptiness, but it does so in the Buddhist sense, as in the emptiness of our concepts, not our direct experience. The experience of Pig Qì, then, is the fullness of life beyond conceptualization, seeking fullness/completion through the senses. Our senses offer us the most direct experience of life; our body is how we know manifest reality.
Pigs, then, see and experience everything material, physical, and manifest to the senses as art, as food, as the reason we come into being. If you were to ask a Pig—why are people born? They may respond—food! And this is not shallow. Perhaps the only reason the universe manifests is so you can enjoy the taste of ice cream. Losing yourself in the moment is a Pig moment.
Pig Qì sees the fullness of the manifest world as art, as food, as something to be devoured, savored, and enjoyed. Pig Qì revels in music, food, dance, clothing, painting, and the sensations they inspire. Pigs collect material items and derive great power/sustenance from them, for objects are not mere symbols but energy. Pigs, therefore, are sensuous Characters who make great chefs, artists, musicians, lovers, parents, and nurtures.
病 – Dampness – 濕
I know we’re all very concerned with problems, so what can go wrong this year? The main pathology for this Year, as I mentioned earlier, will come from imbalances of Earth and Water. Too much Water and we get dampness; not enough and we get dryness.
First, I want to say that people in Chinese Medicine are often obsessed with pathological thinking, and so any mention of dampness brings up our protestant obsession with murdering the devil, the “evil qi.” Dampness is not a pathology. Period. Soil must be damp to grow life. Our bodies, our lives need dampness and moisture—this is the principal of fertility. Life requires lubrication! We also need dryness, otherwise we get moldy!
We obviously don’t want too much or too little of either, and be warned, this may be the juiciest year in 60 years! So, what will dampness and dryness look like? In short, think mud. When Earth and Water become imbalanced, we get stickiness—things get slow, stuck, stagnant, messy, insensitive, stupid, and unresponsive. We wallow in our crap.
We want dampness and moisture to move like a cool refreshing wind. Damp Earth is rich, sensitive, and sweet. If you have ever held rich fertile soil, you know the feeling. If fluids don’t move, they build up. So, without circulation, this Year could get sticky. Watch out for lethargy, laziness, boredom, depression, tiredness, congestion, and indigestion in all forms.
You may feel physically and emotionally stuck in life, unable to move forward. But remember, this is not a year to move forward but one to get all snuggly, rest, and appreciate where you are. Imagine a happy Pig rolling around in the mud. They’re not going anywhere, but they’re having a blast getting muddy! This is the Earth Pig.
When we get too damp, we get dumb. Nothing goes in. We get clogged. Without circulation, we don’t have room for new ideas, and so we replay the same old stories. Our culture reaches for stimulants for inspiration, but this is like running on fumes. So, keep things moving, not with “progress” but with enjoyment. Stimulate and nourish your silly side! Humor is the key word for circulation this year.
Sorry for the graphic image but think constipation and diarrhea, metaphorically speaking. What would this look like in culture, relationships, or politics? Imbalances in Earth and Water lead to bad digestion and elimination. Too much, not enough, we get problems. Medically, constipation and diarrhea can be caused by either, so the key for understanding the pathology of this Year is “FOOD.” What are you taking in in terms of nourishment? And are you lubricated properly? This includes ideas, entertainment, friendships, sex, causal conversations…everything that goes in the sense doors. What you take in, and when, determines what comes out the other side!
形 – Manifestation/Character
What about those born in the Year of the Pig? The key words for the Pig Character are honesty and enjoyment. The direct experience of our senses beyond thinking is a kind of honesty. We all wish we could let ourselves enjoy without guilt, but so many of us feel guilty when we indulge. We over think, justify, and strategize when it comes to our senses. We “treat” ourselves for hard work, as if enjoyment must be earned through suffering.
Pig Qì is enjoyment without the guilt. If we’re truly honest, we all want to eat, sleep, and screw, and sometimes that’s just fine. This honesty manifests as plain-speaking, confessing to deep sensual desire, seeking simplicity. Enjoyment is human honesty.
Pigs Qì is blunt and to the point, yet it is also caring and compromising, like a grand-mother who wants to see everyone happy. This grandmother energy of the Pig is associated with the family, and Pig Qì is again the very symbol of family life. As part of the “domestic trine,” alongside the Goat and Rabbit, Pigs are often homebodies who would rather throw a barbeque and socialize than be alone and meditate. Pig Qì is gregarious; it enjoys people and relating to others, especially through enjoyment. So, Pigs are often fun loving and fun seeking.
Because Pigs want everyone to be happy and enjoy themselves, they are among the most tolerant and accepting of Characters. Pigs are often very humanitarian, unselfish, and interested in human rights and dignity. Yīn Water, the end of the cycle, has seen it all and done it all and so accepts everything in totality and just wants to have fun before we all bite the dust.
This accepting quality of the Pig is a form of generosity. Pig generosity would give you the shirt off its back. As the end of the cycle, Pig Qì represents everything being let go of, given away. If a Pig had only one bowl of soup, they would most likely divide it up and give away spoonfuls so everyone could taste it. And they really want you to taste it and enjoy it in the same way they do.
When describing themselves, Pigs may very well describe their favorite food, let’s say strawberries, and in tasting that strawberry, you taste them. Ming once described a fellow Pig he met travelling who kept a journal of all the deserts he tried in each country; for him, these tastes represented the quintessence of his experience.
However, this sensuous nature of the Pig is not stupid. Pig Qì is the height of eloquence, for they experience words, ideas, and symbols too as food and art, and they revel in finding delicious ways to express and say things in the hope of evoking deep feelings. Liu Ming was like this; he was a gifted speaker, and his talks evoked deep experiential rather than conceptual understanding, as if his wisdom came directly from unmediated experience. Liu Ming was also a natural comedian who spent most of his life giggling. Pig Qì is naturally funny, and their humor comes from their honesty. Being honest with ourselves about our selfish desires should make us laugh because laughing at ourselves is the highest wisdom.
Pig Characters are naturally spiritual, for Pig Qì and Yīn Water represent the fluidity, interconnectedness, emotion, and empathy associated with the profundity of chaos, death, and dissolution beyond reckoning. Pig Qì represents the headlong charge into letting go, giving everything away into direct experience.
Pig Characters are often unstoppable and have a unique kind of aggression. Their fierce and protective character lends to a hardworking nature that stops at nothing to get what it wants. This struggle feels heroic to the Pig because they share the rewards of their struggle with others and give everything away for the greater good. Pigs often start out aggressive and end up heroes.
Pig’s natural experience of the senses can lead to self-indulgence. The image of the Pig is often associated with overeating, and in our culture calling someone a “pig” is very specific. This revelation of the senses and the nature of Yīn Water can lead to drugs, drink, risky sex, and depletion through hedonism and self-destruction.
The artistic and sensual nature can also become an addiction to comfort and luxury as well as a kind of flamboyance, spending money thoughtlessly on material objects and finery. This comfort seeking can turn to lethargy, laziness, and aimless loafing, especially in the form of the Earth Pig, which is the most prone to stagnation. Pig Qì is well represented by the character Pig-Pen from Charlie Brown, a disheveled kind of dust cloud associated with a lack of care.
The desire for material objects can turn greedy towards a selfish secretiveness that strives to get what it wants so it can indulge.
The generous, accepting, and loving nature of the Pig can easily turn to gullibility. Pigs are the most likely to trust and can be easily duped, likely to give everything away to the first stranger with a sad story. Their honesty expects honesty, and so Pigs may believe everything you tell them. And they can be generous to a fault, giving everything away until they have nothing.
Pig tolerance can turn to long suffering abuse. Known as “great transformers,” out of all the Characters, Pigs (and Ox) can take the most abuse and are likely to stay in bad situations for a long time, especially in domestic situations, and especially because they love so deeply and want to help their abuser. Pig Qì can handle anything without trauma because Yīn Water lets everything go. The Great Transformer can turn any difficulty into enjoyment and humor, and Pigs are able to laugh at the most difficult situations.
Finally, the eloquence of the Pig can turn to what is commonly known as “Pig Headedness.” Pigs can be forceful, aggressive, argumentative, and can hold very strong opinions. Their honesty in speech can also get them into trouble, for they are likely to say anything despite the consequences.
These qualities of the Pig are available to everyone during this Pig year, and will be heightened during Pig month, on Pig days, and during Pig hour. Pig Hour is between 9-11 pm and is the time for relaxation, sex, and sleep, all very “piggy” experiences.
器 – Application and “Predictions”
Now that we understand the Pig symbol, Qì dynamic, and character manifestation, we get to the good part—what about the New Year? How will all this manifest? What will happen to me? To the world?
Well, as usual, I will reiterate that astrology is not fortune telling, we each have our own unique Character and Fate through which we experience the Qì of the calendar. There is no auspicious year; the Qì of the Year is a buffet, and you eat what your appetite demands. I have so far offered you an exploration of the Pig’s symbolism so that you can explore it for yourself in the following year.
Out of all 60 years, this one demands that you ENJOY and NOURISH yourself, so if you’re prone towards anhedonia, this one could be rough. This Year will be a mirror reflecting your relationship to pleasure, enjoyment, and satisfaction. If this relationship is troubled, you will be prompted to examine this. It could be a rude awakening.
This is not a year to “start” things, to frantically move forward, which comes next year in the form of the Metal Rat. The nature of Yīn Earth and Water is the complete return to stillness, characterized also by the Ox and the heart of Winter, by 1-3 am, when you’re supposed to be deep asleep. If you expect to go forward with great ambition, you will probably deplete yourself. In the cycles of Time, this is an “ending,” time to slow down and relax because we “start,” energetically speaking, again next year.
This is, however, a great year to learn new things—not because it’s good for you, but because you enjoy it. Learn to cook, dance, sing, whatever, but please follow the enjoyment factor. Pigs follow their fun. Don’t get caught up in whether you’re good at things. Just ask—do I enjoy myself? What is the yumminess factor? Does this nourish me? Learn “useless” things with no productive value.
Please take the time to SLOW DOWN and REST! If you want to make the best out of Pig Year, you should enjoy your breakfast. You should nap—Earth Pig = nap time. Take the time to savor your food and feel it nourish you. With each bite, ask—am I satisfied? And stop when you hit satisfaction. Let your appetite inform everything. Ask your body what it needs. Does it need a carrot, a song, a nap, some sexy time? Don’t look at your watch to tell you if you’re hungry or tired. The old Zen saying—when hungry eat, tired sleep is the perfect motto for Earth Pig Year.
Learn new recipes. Pay attention to the vegetables at the store—how they change; some get big while others small; some are scarce while others abundant. Go the Farmer’s Market and eat what’s in season. And please cultivate a “staple food” – this is basis of Chinese Medicine and the essence of the continuity of your ancestors; they worked their butts off to harvest a staple all year long and cultivate diversity along with the seasons. This is Earth and Water, the basis of your body and digestion.
Open yourself to the rich world of your senses. Indulge in the sound of bird song. Go into a strawberry. Let a hug linger. Notice how your senses generate the world around you, and notice that they’re all forms of touch—light touching the eyes, sound touching the ears, and so on. Let the meaning of life be right on the surface where sensation arises. No need to overthink reality, because there isn’t one...except for the one you make up. So, stop spinning out—again, this is a time to LET THE MIND REST. But when you do think, which you will, let your thoughts dance and play—Pigs are never seriousness! Seriousness will cause stagnation.
This is a year to kick up your heals, enjoy what you have created over the last 12 Years, and share it with others. What do you have to offer and share? If you have struggled and feel you have nothing to show then you may feel depressed. However, no one cares, so relax. You don't have to do anything with your life. You were not born to be productive. We abide nowhere and possess nothing.
This is a year to remember, to reflect, to revalue, and to reconnect with core human values. This is a year to savor and appreciate everything that we’re normally too busy to notice. Next Year, the Metal Rat, will feel much busier and more anxious, so better to take stock now before we all start scrabbling for resources.
We must eat, we must sleep, we must reproduce—this is where we find human life. The world seems to be more complex and more doomed every day, but this may be a trance created by the media, so double check yourself. If we want to change the world, we must take the cycles of time seriously, and this part of the cycle = rest. Pigs can be rather heroic, but what they work to save is not abstract ideology but universal human values.
The Qì of the Earth Pig harkens back to the core values of our Ancestors. Honor and remember where you come from, and if you don’t know, find out. And remember that you got here because your ancestors had sex; they nourished themselves and worked hard to do so. And they want grandbabies.
Eat the food your ancestors ate, which sorry to say might include gluten, lol. I know it’s the devil, but if you’re human, it nourished your Ancestors for the past 12,000+ years, so calm down . If you’re Polish and starve your Ancestors to death by eating salads all year, they’ll come for you. This is a year to back up and revalue how you nourish yourself in every sense of the word, so start with food. We’re most of us uprooted immigrants living on stolen land, eating completely out of whack with the seasons, estranged from our ancestors, so it’s understandable.
The inner and outer nature of the Year, Water and Earth, create a paradox—what is hidden becomes fully revealed. Our darkest desires to eat and sleep and screw may bubble up to the surface, and in the current culture of repression this may manifest as a lot of strangeness, or I should say more strangeness than usual, which could manifest everywhere from the media to your personal relationships. Expect a little weird, and if you’re comfortable with your weirdness, then it’s all good.
Expect hidden and repressed things to make themselves known. Expect unrelenting honesty. All the dirty secrets, all the skeletons in the closet, all the ghosts you thought were buried will rise from the Earth. This is a great year to look at your shit and laugh at it. Get naked, look in the mirror and tell yourself your darkest story. Giggle at it. It's over.
In the Dog Year, relationships were on the forefront, but they may have been tentative. Dog year was about sniffing people out, finding your tribe; it was about trust or lack thereof. It was about boundaries, intimacy, bonding, and facing the traumas around your heart. Many relationships may have ended, and many new ones may have begun. How’d that go for you?
Pig Year is a pig pile! The Earth Pig is the ultimate humanitarian sign. It invites you to open your heart and your doors to everyone. This is a year to break down that wall! Earth equals equality, harmony. In our progress to save the world, this year we MUST LOVE. We must say a serious fuck you to borders and walls, and we must be deeply concerned with nourishing everyone.
Friendship, love, community, and especially family—all kinds of relationships are on the forefront. Last year they were revalued, this year forget all that stuff and just have fun with people. Let go of all the stupid expectations that no one will ever live up to. Thomas Merton once said, “our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” Very Pig Year.
What will happen in the world? I’m just not the kind of astrologer to guess. Astrology is not fortunetelling. My hope is that you take this all to heart--PLEASE REST and HAVE FUN! But not too much! Too much will get you muddy.
Tigers, Rabbits, Goats, and Pigs are the most apt to digest this Year; Snakes are the opposite of Pigs and may struggle the most!
The happy Pig is plain speaking, caring, sensuous, compromising, eloquent, tolerant, humanitarian, reliable, unselfish, funny, hardworking, luck, and gregarious. The unhappy Pig is self-indulgent, indulgent, oversexed, luxury loving, flamboyant, secretive, long-suffering, gullible, and self-destructive. Best of luck in the New Year!
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!
FATE IS NOT ACTUALLY CREATED (HAS NO BEGINNING) BUT
IS THE PREDISPOSITION TO RECREATE AND SOLIDIFY KARMIC PATTERNS.
THE EVER-PRESENT OPTION/DISPOSITION TO OPENLY EXPRESS OUR TRUE NATURE IS FREEDOM.
TOGETHER FATE AND FREEDOM CONSTITUTE THE NATURALLY DYNAMIC
DIMENSION WE ARE IN.
As soon as we talk, it’s all contradiction. As soon as we think, it’s all confusion. – Jigme Lingpa
The Chinese term 開光, Kāiguāng, meaning to open the light, is a Daoist term for ritually consecrating sacred objects, breathing the light of Dao into practice. I have returned from pilgrimage in China to Mount Wŭdāng, and I feel the living presence of this great place has opened a light in me that I have been looking for in a time of darkness. You may ask—what light?
I have been studying Chinese Medicine in school now for two years. It has been a challenging journey, filled with great revelation and frustration. While my frustrations with the study of medicine are complicated, they boil down to a simple discord between my intuition about the nature of the medicine itself and the pedagogy of modern TCM. I believe they are at odds with one another, and the result is a systemic confusion.
In short, I believe, and (re)discovered in China, that the essence of Chinese Medicine is profoundly simple, and I would like to share this simplicity with you. However, the focus of modern TCM is remarkably complicated and perhaps overly concentrated on misleading details. It is obsessed with symptoms and defines everything in terms of pathology. CCM, unfortunately, is not much different, except that it adds an academic obsession with symbols, language, and textbooks on top of an already bloated system of diagnosis.
If you’re like most people, you probably associate medicine with pathology. In other words, medicine is something you take when you’re sick, so obviously medicine must be about understanding illness—how and why things “go wrong.” Rarely do you hear medicine defined in terms of health. Liu Ming used to ask rooms full of western doctors to define health, and none could do it. In fact, they rarely understood the question, for it seemed “philosophical,” and medicine is “science.”
Our culture is now going through a profound change, and we are seeking out “wellness.” But whether it is through herbs, acupuncture, massage, or any of the many other healing modalities found in “alternative medicine,” our training is still largely focused on seeking out and diagnosing symptoms and pathologies. We look for problems and solutions. I have been in Chinese medical school for two years now, and with a few exceptions, I have heard no consistent definition of health.
I had hoped that my school, which prides itself on being “Classical Chinese Medicine” or CCM, as opposed to TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine, a byproduct of Communist China, would offer a different path, but alas, this has not been the case. The presentation of CCM is, as far as I can tell, a convoluted mess, and my school is struggling very hard to define its identity among many differing styles and in many conflicting conversations, all exploring and asking—what does it mean to be “Classical?” And it is asking this question in an environment where TCM is the dominant paradigm that standardizes the education and determines licensure, hence limiting the conversation to a battle between spiritual idealism and legality.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m profoundly grateful and love my school. But, after two years of exploring this question at NUNM, I have so far been disappointed in the response, because it goes against everything my teachers taught me, which was the inspiration that brought me here in the first place.
My teachers taught me that medicine can be a path, and that path is founded on health and basic sanity. They taught me that medicine and astrology are one expression of the fundamental laws of nature—time and space. The laws of nature and the principles of medicine/astrology contain no problems, no pathologies, no mistakes, and no illnesses. The laws of nature are immortal and contain no birth or death, only a cyclical, self-resolving movement we call qì/prāṇa.
Furthermore, they taught me that there are no answers in books. Books are helpful, but we learn from people. Lineage is held by people, not books. Wisdom is non-conceptual, unmediated, direct. A book is like a signpost that points beyond itself. It is dangerous to mistake symbols for reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I love books and literature, but in relation to medicine, the history of books is flimsy. And as far as I can tell, in the current discussion, CCM is defined by its textbooks. Many people claim “lineage,” but as this is mostly nonsense from a traditional point of view. In other words, what makes CCM “classical,” as opposed to TCM, is that it is derived from “classical texts,” such as the Nèijīng, the Shānghánlùn, and the Yìjīng, rather than from modern texts. Either way, it’s all about the books. Textbooks and a lot of eloquent talk about “self-cultivation” and Qigong—this is what modern Chinese Medicine boils down to. I call bullshit. And I would explain why.
First, however, I ask you to contemplate the following quote by Ted Kaptchuk, a modern popularizer of TCM,
The literate medicine of China may not have been available to most Chinese people throughout history. Paul Unschuld estimates that “the history of high medicine in China was never the medicine of ninety percent of the population.” In the rural areas of China, literacy was extremely rare and health care was primarily in the hands of various magico-religious practitioners or folk herbalists. Even in the cities, during every epoch this was true.
In other words, most doctors and patients in China did not read, so how can we define the medicine of China in terms of books? Most people in human history have been illiterate, and the history of literature is the history of a small but powerful elite. For the most part, the elite were men, and they wrote books on men’s medicine. The medicine of the people was, then, carried on in oral traditions by folk healers, midwives, shamans, and family doctors.
These people learned their craft through apprenticeship and by following a living example. Lineage, in this context, which was often familial, was private, secretive, and initiatory, meaning to study required supplication, ritual initiation, and vows/commitment, which is why “lineage” today is mostly a joke. No one does this anymore.
Furthermore, every textbook has been corrupted by time. They have been copied, lost, edited, interpreted, and altered to suit the changing fashion of the times. The Chinese have argued, bickered, and disagreed for a millennium on the meaning and practices found in textbooks. They have written commentaries upon commentaries upon commentaries about commentaries. This mess has only ever been sorted out by having a living teacher and lineage, for the Chinese have never been concerned with anything “making sense” in the western sense of the word, although many Germans have really tried to make it make sense.
So, now back to China. After some delirious travels, I found myself in the misty mountain temple complex called Wŭdāng Shān. There are five sacred mountains in Daoism, each dedicated to the Five Elements. Wŭdāng is the manifestation of the Water Element, and the spirit of the Mountain is called Xuánwŭ (玄武), the Dark Warrior, the Black Tortoise of the North, also called Zhēnwŭ (真武), which happens to be a patron deity of the Liu Family. So, for me this was an important pilgrimage. My intention was to connect to the spirit of the medicine in its direct, non-conceptual form, outside the confines of textbooks, and to connect to the spirit of the Daoist tradition I profess to practice.
During the trip, I had the privilege to study with three remarkable teachers, and each of them confirmed my intuition about Chinese Medicine in different ways. Essentially, I was looking for some confirmation that the Classical Tradition was not about textbooks but rather about a state of being, which happened to be prevalent in medieval China, a view which produce medical practitioners who became immortals. According to my teachers, this state of being is defined as the “View,” and this was the essence communicated during my time in China.
So, the definition of “Classical Medicine” in my own terms, as I learned it from Liu Ming and Dharma Bodhi, has nothing to do with books. Rather, the term Classical refers to a period in which a certain “View” of reality was predominant. This View, of course, produced the books, but the books are really besides the point. To practice Classical Medicine, then, is to live in the state of being described by these view teachings. The methods of medicine become an expression of that view. The fruition of applying those methods to patients, and to yourself, affirms the view as a coherent expression of the nature of reality.
The living embodied expression of view is what is transmitted through lineage. So, although textbooks are, in a sense, dead, a lineage is something alive and unbroken. The problem with modern CCM is that many people are, to no fault of their own, trying to revive this living expression through dead books without receiving the living view, the ritual initiations, and so on, and many are trying to do so intellectually, inferring and imputing their own views from and onto classical Chinese characters. Most are doing so simply because the Communist reformation of China destroyed many of its traditions, and the books are all we have left.
Furthermore, many are adding extraneous elements from other traditions to fill in the gaps that would have been provided by a teacher. Hence, we get Chinese Medical practitioners using tuning forks, singing bowls, Tibetan mantras, and so on, while sticking crystals up their patients noses and praying to Mother Mary. Not that there is anything wrong with that, per se, but it’s simply not Chinese (except in the sense of being syncretic).
The three teachers I studied with in China each expressed a part of the View of Chinese Medicine that matches the Classical View I received from Liu Ming and Dharma Bodhi, as relating to three principals respectively, which I inferred—time, space, and light. You will probably not find this definition in the textbooks; it comes from the Siddha traditions of India, and it is my way of organizing the transmission of essential knowledge on how to practice.
The first teacher, Dr. Su Xinghua, taught us a system of numerology applied to clinical practice that essentially boiled down to the aspect of medicine called Time. In fact, he has been the first medical teacher to discuss the relationship of Time to healing in an honest and realistic way informed by Astrology. Astrology has been altogether lost in modern TCM. Many have academic knowledge of the subject, but I have yet to hear ANY teachings on Astrology in school aside from an academic description of symbols. Symbols are interesting, but how do we use them?
From what I learned, Astrology and Medicine are the same subject, approached from different perspectives. Details aside, Dr. Su began the teaching by saying that people heal when it’s time for them to heal. We can treat them and help alleviate symptoms, but in the end, healing is beyond our control. It’s up to the cycles of Time, and any notion otherwise is arrogance. The timeliness of illness and recovery, then, has two aspects, that of the calendar and that of one’s personal/natal astrology.
While he admitted that Natal Astrology is useful, Dr. Su focused on the aspect of the calendar called, 節氣, Jiéqì, or “Qì Nodes,” the 24 Seasons of the Chinese Calendar, specifically on what Liu Ming called the “8 Gates,” the 4 Solstices/Equinoxes and the respective beginning of the Four Seasons, which fall between them. These are powerful times for healing and meditation, transitions where the Qi of each Season is most accessible.
Dr Su offered several stories describing unsuccessful treatments that turned around when the Qì of the Season became available. In other words, human beings are not separate from nature; we are nature, even if we live in cities, stare at smart phones, and shop at Walmart. We are Time, and on Earth, Time expresses through the flow of the seasons. All this week, for example, as the leaves are beginning to change, I have been getting a dry, scratchy throat, a perfect expression of the dry, metal of Autumn.
If we factor in our Natal Astrology, which dictates personal cycles of Ancestral possession and resolution, then we get a much different image of medicine. Medicine, from this perspective, cannot function without a practical knowledge of seasonal Qì, of the calendar. We must know the difference between a winter pulse and a summer pulse. We must know whether an illness, like my dry throat, is perfectly natural or not. We must know when and under what conditions a person is likely to heal so that we do not over treat them. We must also let go of the notion that we in fact “do” anything and let in the possibility that we are vessels for the expression of Time.
The second teacher, Dr. Li Xin, introduced a profound and yet deceptively simple view of diagnosis that essentially boiled down to the aspect of medicine called Space, or direction. He introduced us to an idea called the 氣機, qìjí, or qì dynamic, which I have yet to hear about at school. In short, every person, every herb, every acupuncture point, and so on, has a unique Qì dynamic, and medicine is nothing other than perceiving and working with these dynamics.
Every dynamic in the universe expresses a combination of the Five Movements—Opening, Gathering, Ascending, Descending, and Stillness (or Harmonizing). This is the profound simplicity of Chinese Medicine that Dr. Li Xin discussed. We do not need to name every symptom and pathology. We do not need to complicate diagnosis with endless details. We need only to perceive the direction/dynamic of Qì, the qìjí in the patient, where and how it is functioning. On what layer or level is the patient’s qìjí in action? Where is someone stuck?
Once we perceive this dynamic, we must have a clear idea about how we want to work with it through the qì dynamics of herbs and acupuncture. Are we harmonizing and gathering in the middle burner? Are we descending the qì of the upper burner? Which herbs do this? The simpler and more direct the treatment, the more powerful. If we are moving qì in the right direction, then we are helping the patient.
Dr. Li is renowned for his capacity to diagnose a patient simply by looking at them. He showed me that Chinese Medicine can be very simple without losing its efficacy. And, he affirmed to me that the practice comes from a state of being that perceives everything in terms of direction and movement, without names, without labels, and without pathologies. In the sense, the practice becomes a non-conceptual dance of direction in space, what Taiji calls “push hands.” Out of every teacher of Chinese Medicine I have thus far encountered, I most aspire to be and practice like Dr. Li Xin.
The third teacher, Dr. Sylvie Martin, introduced us to a method of acupuncture practice that essentially boiled down to the aspect of medicine called Light. Dr. Sylvie has practiced acupuncture for thirty years without ever using needles, with fantastic results, a feat few have accomplished. How does she do this?
While I’m somewhat sworn to secrecy, I will say that she does not “do” it. Sylvie conveyed to me yet again that healers are vessels; we are not technicians. If we use our will power, we will most certainly interfere, and while we may at times help, in the long run we will only have mixed results. Healing in the truest sense of the word is not accomplished through skill.
A doctor must be skilled, knowledgeable, and well trained, but the situation we are in is enormous. The variables in every encounter are incalculable. Time and Space are too big for anyone to understand, so we pray to a third factor that I am here calling “light.” Sylvie told me that although this medicine is about Qì, she does not work with Qì. She told me that she works with Mind/Awareness and lets the Qì take care of itself.
The Nature of Awareness is luminosity, or “light.” Our experience, our perception, is clear and aware, and we call the unity of aware-clarity luminosity. The nature of our awareness is a naked knowing that illuminates our reality; it never changes, and it is un-conditioned. This light manifests the appearance of a world in Space, through movement/direction, and in Time. Everything is a symbol of light upon which we impute mental concepts.
Dr. Sylvie told me that she believed illness to be a manifestation of conceptual Mind and healing to come directly from pure awareness. She works directly with source as light, without will, beyond concepts of good/bad, healthy/sick. She told me that we can open to something beyond everything, and that that beyond will work through us, so long as we do not interfere with our will. The practice of medicine from this perspective becomes the direct perception of Essence, where our nature and that of the patient remains self-perfected, untouched by illness. If we can touch this and offer it to patients, it can help with everything from a stomach ache to cancer, and that help will always be what the person needs and receives from Essence, and we don’t get to decide what that looks like.
Coming full circle, returning to Portland and to the study of Classical Chinese Medicine, I have a renewed faith in my decision to become a “doctor.” The pilgrimage opened a light in me, connecting me to what I believe to be CCM’s original expression, a state of being connected to Time, Space, and Light, which I believe is the heart of Daoist practice. The power of Chinese Medicine lies in its simplicity, in the direct perception of movement, Qì, with a heart of humility.
While I may sound critical of CCM, because at times it gets lost in a strange obsession with textbooks, I do believe it to be overwhelmingly good. I hope that others connect to this direct expression of healing practice, and like me learn to relax the academic compulsions toward pathology.
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!
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.