Welcome to the Fire Rooster Year! Before we explore the Character of Rooster Qi, I must say something--
Astrology is not fortunetelling. Period. Full stop.
Daoist Priests and Polestar Astrologers take a vow against fortunetelling. Astrology is often used in this way, but fortunetelling is an abuse of Divination. Fortunetelling predicts the future. But no future exists, only a present in movement, so what are we predicting? What is Astrology, then? Astrology is a form of Divination, a Mantic Art, what Ming called “Wisdom Science.” Astrology studies and describes the cyclical and self-resolving movements of Qi/Time. It does nothing other than describe the qualities of this movement with the assumption that we each relate to it differently based on the timeliness of our conception, womb time, and birth. Astrology suggests that we then use this information for self-reflection.
If it is Winter, you will tend to put on a jacket. Did I predict the future? Not really. This is where we find Astrology. It is not something to “believe in.” If you say you don’t believe in Astrology, then by all means, please, walk around in the middle of a Minnesota Winter in flip-flops and a tee-shirt, and please wake up and eat breakfast at 11 pm. You are free to do this. Wisdom Science understands that of our Original Nature is pristine open freedom, and that’s the difference. I can’t predict how you will use your freedom because then it wouldn’t be freedom! But I can say that Winter is Cold and not be surprised when you put on a jacket.
We always have the freedom to choose, and we can resist the cycles of Qi/Time. We can stay up late and eat whatever we want whenever we want. However, from the Chinese Astrological point of view, resisting nature, or living in disharmony with the cycles of Time/Qi, like eating after the sun goes down, is the secondary cause of illness and death.
The primary cause of all illness and death is birth. Period. The second is inappropriate conduct in regards to Astrology/Ancestral Fate. From the Chinese Perspective, no one dies from illness/disease—we die because we were born, and we speed up this process with disharmonious conduct in relation to the seasons of the Universal Calendar (Tongshu) and the personal Calendar of our Natal Chart. The third primary cause of illness is addressed by Chinese Medicine and deals with obstruction and inhibition in the flow of Qi from internal/external climatic factors that inhibit normal Qi flow.
Because I am not a fortuneteller, this blog will not make any predictions about the Fire Rooster Year. Rather, I will discuss the Rooster, and Fire Rooster, as a symbol, a possibility, a tendency due to the influence of Qi/Time. No Astrologer worth their salt will predict what will happen with certainty. We can only say what is likely to happen given the climate of Qi, like saying you may put on a jacket in the Winter. Any good Astrologer will present several interpretations and possibilities given your freedom within the context of the Qi/Time/Weather.
I could say—in a Rooster year, people may tend to argue more. This is a huge generalization, but I’m not talking about anything different than the weather. Rooster is just a much bigger, broader, and therefore more subtilized form of “weather.” It is the pervasive weather of the Universe for the next year, relative to planet Earth. The Chinese Tradition relates everything to internal and external weather, symbols describing movement (Qi) itself.
If we spin out into Astrological details and skip over the View Teachings, the outlook describing what the Universe and Human Beings are, then Astrology becomes easy to dismiss. In this blog, and in my upcoming book, I offer you the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology, so that we don’t spin out nitpicking details/pathologies, which is a tendency in Modern TCM, and to me constitutes a form of madness.
Of course, you may be skeptical of Astrology; that’s your freedom, and I don’t blame you. I only offer this as something to consider in the following Year. Astrology must be tested against your experience, but you’ve probably received the kindergarten version of Astrology (i.e. fortunetelling), so don’t be too quick to throw it out.
On January 28th, the Qi Pattern/Weather of the Year will shift from the Fire Monkey to the Fire Rooster. As I mentioned in the last Blog, the auspice of the Year, like the Fire Monkey, depends on how we use our freedom to navigate the Fire-Metal conundrum.
The Monkey and the Rooster are a pair, for they share the Native Element of Metal. Rooster is the Yin version of Metal, and Monkey is the Yang version. Since it is also a Fire Year, the same wisdom I described in the last Blog applies here. Fire melting Metal does not imply conflict, but conflict is possible if our conduct does not align/go with the tendency of this controlling cycle.
If Fire does not melt Metal, we get rigid, hard, stuck in our ways, and as we go, you will see the possibilities of how Rooster Qi can get stuck or fixated. Fire inspires, illuminates, and shines light on the broader context of our situation, softening the rigid qualities of Metal, which turns Metal to Water, which in turn extinguishes the consuming qualities of Fire.
The Fire Rooster is the least “Roostery” Rooster, since Fire controls the Rooster’s Native Element, meaning Fire softens the tendency of the Rooster to get stuck/rigid. However, if we overdo the Fire and bring too much passion, aggression, inspiration, and so on, then the positive qualities of Yin Metal, such as rational thinking, are eclipsed, and our conduct may drift towards the opposite—irrational thinking and fanaticism, which are depleted Rooster qualities.
The simple difference between this year and last is that Yang Fire-Metal turns to Yin Fire-Metal. We can say, generally, that the outward, expansive, mobile, and active Yang qualities of the Monkey in the past year will turn inward, contract, still, and tend towards the Yin qualities of the Rooster.
The Years rotate Yin-Yang-Yin-Yang, and so on, and Yin Years tend to be more Qi conservative, less dynamic. In many ways, the Rooster turns us inward to a mental/conceptual domain, which the Monkey established with its mischief. Rooster Qi, by nature, thinks a lot, and the Monkey has given us a lot to think about. Roosters practically need pharmaceuticals to stop thinking.
Yin Metal is refined, hidden, matured, withdrawn, distilled, fermented, hardened, crystallized, designated, subtilized, sublimated, conceptualized, symbolically portrayed as ore refined from the Earth through the process of Alchemy (Yang Metal), such as silver/gold, gemstones, and so on. Metal sinks downward drawing in.
I experience Yin Metal as the moment in Time when I form an opinion, when I recognize a thought, a pattern, when I refine my experience into ordered language and logic. Yang Metal represents the active moment of things becoming “thinged,” labeled, and Yin Metal represents the subtle process of refining and drawing together all the details, and the Rooster is generally associated with “details,” corresponding to Virgo in Western Astrology.
I am happy to say that I am part Fire Rooster. I was born in a Fire Rooster Month, so everything I am about to discuss is part of my Qi Display. Again, the Month is not as potent as the Year-Hour, but it is part of me nonetheless. Hopefully, my personal experience as part Fire Rooster can shed light on the nature of this symbol.
The Rooster Symbol in China is complex and a bit confusing at times due to some conflicting images. In general, Rooster (also referred to as Phoenix) includes all birds, such as the crane, owl, and raven—anything with a beak. The Rooster of Chinese Astrology, however, refers to the cock, the male rooster, associated with fertility and aggression, but it is a decidedly Yin Symbol, hence the confusion. Originally, this Character was more associated with the owl, but over time the Chinese decided on the male rooster because of some specific symbolic qualities, which we will discuss.
In China, the Rooster, despite being male, is also a symbol of the Empress and of feminine Yin energy. Perhaps, it represents the subjugation of the Feminine, the Rooster lording over the Hens. The Dragon is a symbol of the Emperor, and together, they constitute a classical marriage pair in Chinese Synastry. Rooster/Bird/Crane all represent the grace, elegance, deportment, and dominance associated with the Empress of Chinese Royalty. The Rooster does not dominate with physical aggression; it dominates with emotion, appearance, ideology, intellect, belief—what we call “Yin Power.”
The Rooster symbol is obviously domestic, one of the barnyard signs. Remember, we’re not talking about hens; the Rooster performs very specific functions on the family farm. These functions form the primary set of symbols associated with the Rooster.
The first and most important symbolic aspect of the Rooster is the sharp beak. The beak represents precision, accuracy, the ability to peck things apart, like seeds, or ideas, to get to the essential quality within (Yin Metal). Crane style Gong Fu strikes at pressure points, hitting the opponent’s weak spots to bring them down with little effort. In the Rooster, this represents a certain capacity for analysis, and it also represents the possibility of getting fixated. Because roosters don’t have much of a memory, if you put their beak to a chalk line, they get stuck there and will peck all day at the chalk line, hypnotized, unable to break free.
The second symbolic aspect of the Rooster is the wings and the ability to “puff up.” When challenged, Roosters flap and beat their wings, taking in air, making themselves appear larger and more threatening than they are. This wing flapping often precedes the cockfight, in which Roosters dual to the death. The wings represent a certain competitive and aggressive nature that appears to be very threatening but is all hot air.
The Rooster puffs up and looks big, but it does not have much physical strength, which is another reason why it is a Yin Character. It makes a big show of wanting to fight but is weak and will not fight unless it knows it can win. When pushed, or backed into a corner, the beak and the claws are vicious, and Roosters can do some serious damage, but this is only after being abused.
Cockfighting is a cruel and abusive sport; they don’t want to fight, but when challenged they will rip each other to shreds because of competitive pride. Roosters can’t fly, so the wings are deceptive, Yin. Strange that the only bird in the Chinese Zodiac can’t fly, a capacity found only in the Dragon, who has no wings.
Crowing is the third symbolic aspect of the Rooster, the call to the Sun at dawn and dusk. Roosters are very vocal creatures. I lived with chickens and roosters in Thailand and they would crow all day, not just dawn and dusk. Crowing represents a capacity for eloquence and “Yin extroversion,” meaning Roosters have a such an intense inner experience that they need to get out, and because of the immense detail and complexity of their inner vision, the outer expression often reflects this, which can intimidate others.
For example, I don’t talk much until asked a question, after which I tend to firehose people with a wall of information they weren’t expecting. I really try to tone it down, but the volume of my inner experience is enormous. I can’t help it. People’s eyes usually get wide, as if to say…whoa, dude, slow down…and their facial expression often communicate regret or overwhelm about 15 seconds after they ask me a question.
The final symbolic aspect of the Rooster is sacrifice. Like the Goat and Ox, Roosters were often sacrificed in Daoist Ritual but for different reasons. Roosters were only sacrificed in rituals that required blood oaths. This symbolizes trust, a quality very important to Rooster Qi.
In Daoism, roosters were used to ward off poison, for roosters in the wild often eat snakes, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, and toads, what are called the Five Poisonous Creatures, which represent our different conflicting emotions. The Rooster has the capacity to digest and transform conflicting emotions into wisdom, and Amulets were often made bearing the Chinese Character for Rooster, used to ward off the Five Poisonous Creatures and their respective emotions.
To understand the Nature of each Qi Character, we must get to the root impulse represented by the Native Element. Control is the main impulse of the Rooster, symbolized by the Rooster lording over the Hens. Yin Metal can be an inward struggle, trying to hold on, control, keep things in order. Fire melts this control, which allows Metal to release and turn to Water, but as an impulse, Yin Metal holds on before death.
So, the Rooster can be wound a bit tight. Inwardly, their impulse is to subtly control, manipulate, and put their experience to order so that it does not go towards death (Water). This impulse has a lot of fear behind it, which the Rooster covers up with a world of intense conceptuality, like the Five on the Enneagram (I'm a Five, if you haven't noticed).
Rooster is the natural outcome of Monkey in the cycle of Time. The Goat attempts to put order to everything based on idealistic principals of interconnectedness; the Monkey says—that’ll never happen, and throws a wrench in the spokes, so to speak, potentially leaving behind a mess. We are now in a bit of a mess. Rooster, then, comes along and goes a bit crazy, working like mad to tidy up, organize all the shelves, label all the boxes, sweep everything under the rug, and put things back in their proper place, which the Dog then guards with its life, so the Pig can party.
Rooster Hour, from 5-7 pm, is the time of completion. In China, this time of day is associated with “coming home to roost,” the time when all the chickens and animals make their way back to the barn. It is the “crepuscular hour,” the transition from day to night. Since Rooster Qi is associated with completion, precision, competition, and confidence, this is the time to go home and take pride in what you have done, to reflect and analyze. If you were born between 5 -7 pm, then you are also part Rooster.
As we go through these Key Terms, try to understand them as potential tendencies in the atmosphere of the coming year. Since I am generalizing about the Rooster, remember the relationship of Fire and Metal, and this will help to understand the Fire Rooster more specifically.
These tendencies, which I am here discussing in terms of Natal Astrology, can display as trends in social, cultural, political, environmental, familial, and romantic relationships. We study these principals in people/human behavior because we are people. If you can observe Rooster Qi in your Dad’s obsessive need to organize the tools in the garage, then you can understand how Rooster Qi might influence the political dynamics of a country.
The first Key Terms are critical and analytical. Like the Rat, the Rooster zooms in close and uses its beak (intellect) to break everything apart. The Rat takes things apart to make them small enough to carry, but the Rooster breaks open the seed to get to the important stuff inside. In other words, Rat detail does not include analysis; Rooster Qi does. This analytic, critical nature, an aspect of Yin Metal, extends to all aspects of the Rooster Display. Inwardly this often expresses as thinking, thinking, thinking—going over and over details, analyzing, reasoning, judging. Outwardly, this analysis penetrates behavior and speech—choosing their actions very carefully, second guessing, double checking. Outwardly, they are meticulous and tidy; they love to clean, organize, and are generally concerned with the outer appearance of things.
Naturally, this analytic nature lends itself to a certain kind of intelligence that is highly valued in our culture—problem solving. Roosters make natural engineers, mathematicians, and scientists but they also make great writers and artist, anything where they get to investigate and express detail and meaning. They make wonderful decorators, designers, and architects. Art critic is perhaps the most Roostery profession I can think of.
Rooster Qi is a kind of competence that can translate into many arenas. They have a tremendous capacity to learn systems, methods, approaches, and so on. They can apply these systems very adeptly to anything they want. There is no limit to what Rooster Qi can accomplish with efficiency, precision, and exactness. I’m sure this sounds wonderful, because our culture highly values these qualities and wants everyone to have them. Roosters are productive, but they have a difficult time relaxing.
Rooster Qi is naturally a bit high-strung, tense, uptight. This intelligent and intense thinking mind can get obsessed, close-minded, even fanatical. Roosters can fixate on problems to solve, situations to manage; they can go over and over things in their mind so much that they disconnect from reality. Of all the signs, I would say that Rooster Qi, especially the Metal/Water Rooster, is the most susceptible to mental health problems. They live in their heads, and the fixation (the beak) behind their Qi can get OCD, anal retentive, a little crazy at times. They’re prone to hypochondria.
Roosters benefit greatly from cultivating stillness, openness, and relaxation; they need to get into their bodies and out of their heads, which for them is a monumental task. When they try to drop into their bodies, their awareness tends to snap back up like a yo-yo.
Rooster intelligence and capacity has profound confidence. Like the peacock or male rooster, Rooster Qi tends to be confident, a bit of a show-off, not physically per-se, but mentally for sure. They like to strut their stuff, tout their abilities, and talk a big game. This may manifest as certainty; they know they’re correct, that their argument is valid and will therefore attempt to dominate in conversation, which can lead to argument.
Confidence is a positive virtue, but it can easily lead to arrogance, rudeness, and pride. Roosters can be very proud. They tend to generate strong and rigid self-images that can’t stand being challenged. This also leads to vanity, which can be concerned with physical appearance but also with what Asian cultures call “saving face,” maintain a good public image.
Roosters are trustworthy, honest, challenging, and forthright. They tend to speak very directly and concisely. In conversation, they tend to challenge other people, for they like to debate. The Tibetan tradition of analytical debate is very Rooster. Tibetan Buddhists have a very well developed system of logic from Mahayāna Buddhism, which they use to develop wisdom.
You begin with a clear format of statement and rebuttal from a defender and questioner. You clearly define all the terms you are using. You and your opponent put forth arguments. You attempt to find the gakcha, the crux of the other person’s view and then you use logic to undermine it, pointing to the emptiness of all fixed views. This process, if done correctly, undermines our conceptual mind and shows us the structures of logic that we use to construct false views about Reality. Ultimately, it points to the non-conceptual state beyond all logic. Again, very Rooster.
The flipside of this turns harshly competitive, snobby, blunt, vulgar, and tactless. Rooster Qi can be volatile and erupt without consideration for others. They can be so sure of their view that they will argue it to the death, pecking and ripping with beak and claw. This impulse to challenge can be competitive, so much so that they will argue even if they know they’re wrong, just so they can be right, so they can win and be in control. They may put down and criticize others, making them feel stupid, and they can do this unintentionally. Roosters need to develop big open minds and include as many points of view as possible in their experience.
Rooster Qi tends be very social and spontaneous. The Rooster tends to be concerned with social dynamics in terms of hierarchy, structure, the “pecking order.” By nature, Roosters love socializing and fun; they like the dynamics of social interaction and relationships. Although they are prone to spontaneous displays of showmanship, invoking reactions from and interactions between others, they are acutely aware of social structure. They like to know where they stand with people; they feel secure knowing who is doing what and with whom. Everyone should have a job, a role, clearly defined. They like to know the reasons why people act the way they do. In the end, Roosters feel uncertain if these things are not defined, and they love being the ones to put everyone to order. This social certainty reflects the sacrifice of the Rooster, the blood oath, making a pact.
Depleted, Roosters can be aloof and closed off. If they lose face, or if their ideas about how others perceive them, about their role in life, fall apart, they may question everything and distance themselves until they can figure it out. They can be overwhelmed by the amount of detail they take in, and if it is more than they can handle, they crumble.
It can be difficult to approach them when they close off; they need to relax on their own and come to conclusions naturally so they can feel in control. If you confront them, they are likely to snap back and get more entrenched in their difficulties. Roosters are adept at justifying their feelings, and if those feelings turn to self-hate or blame, or to blaming others, they can’t be talked out of their point of view. They will, however, respond to logic if that logic is well presented and offers them structure to work with.
Rooster Qi is intense and by nature alert, inspired, and insightful. Roosters, on the farm, are guardians. They are vigilant, observant, watchful, and always alert, aware, perceptive. Rooster Qi can be luminous, awake, present. At its best, Rooster Qi is bright and inspired by life, and they are psyched to wake up and crow. Roosters have an amazing capacity to pay attention and focus. The category of meditation called Vipassanā, which means to investigate with clear or distinct seeing/observation, is very Rooster. Vipassanā is often translated as Insight Meditation, and insight is the ideal outcome of the Rooster analysis.
I would, however, not recommend Vipassanā to most Roosters, especially if they are depleted. They can be too focused, too analytical, too vigilant, and Vipassanā can make them even crazier. If clarity is not met with its sister, calm, then clarity and insight can produce agitation. Roosters can become hyper aware of how messed up everything is, and they may spin off into irritation and reactivity. Non-conceptual meditation, called Zuòwàng, sitting and forgetting, is much healthier for Roosters.
Finally, along with Rabbits, the Rooster is the most sexual of the signs. Everyone is a sexual sign. But as a symbol, we all know what is said about Rabbits and Roosters. If you have one rooster in the barn, all 60 chickens will be laying eggs. The sexual appetite of the Rooster is large. Both signs use sexuality as a form of power but in different ways. Roosters tend to dominate and Rabbits tend to submit.
Each element adds a different flavor to this general image. Wood Roosters are the most spontaneous, idealistic, and inspired and are the most likely to forgive and forget. I’ll get to the Fire Rooster last. Earth adds stability and conventionality to the fussy Rooster image, but the capacity of Earth makes them so strong that they easily go into overwhelm at the amount of complexity they imagine they can handle. Metal Roosters, the Natural Rooster, are the most meticulous, articulate, and fussy of the bunch, prone to mental instability, and often their ability to analyze is a cover for their delicate mental/emotional state. Water puts the Rooster capacity over the edge into mystical territories, so much so that they lack the focus of other Roosters and are the most susceptible to possession and madness. I have met some intense Water Roosters. However, Water Roosters are the most sensitive and are more capable of emotional intelligence and empathy than other Roosters.
The Fire Rooster, the Character of the coming Year, my Month, is the most sensual and restless of the Roosters. They are bright and luminous, able to focus like laser beams, yet they can collapse under too many difficulties. They have strong ambition and yet the Fire-Metal dynamic causes them to flip-flop between iron-clad confidence and hopelessness. Fire Roosters tend to be unapologetic, anti-social, and embarrassment is unknown to them. They probably have the most ferocious sex drive of all the Roosters.
I’m no fortuneteller, but I can speculate about what this image means for the coming Year. The climate of Fire Rooster is intense. Monkey has worked everyone into a bit of a frenzy, and now this critical, analytic, argumentative capacity will be available to everyone. Remember, if our passion turns to aggression, if our inspiration becomes excessive, then in a Year like this, people are more likely to argue, especially over definitions, ideas, beliefs, borders, boundaries, and so on. Expect fanaticism in politics and public discourse. People are more likely to get worked up over compelling rhetoric. Our logic may fail us; or we may twist logic toward selfish and closeminded ideals.
If we meet the Year with an open mind, and if we maintain our health, then the Year offers an amazing ability to focus, organize, and get shit done. This Year, we can see through fanaticism to the conceptual structures beneath and liberate our old fixed patterns. We can soften the hard edges around what we think is possible and envision beautiful and realistic possibilities.
Navigating the Fire-Metal conundrum is simple. Over the coming Year, notice when you get worked up over thoughts, stories, and ideas; notice when you get excitable or excessive in your aspiration; see yourself challenging others; recognize when you’re hard on yourself because of some future ideal of what you’re supposed to be, what’s supposed to happen—notice all this and relax; drop it. Relax and find the thread of inspiration that guides the Fire Rooster. Fire Rooster is luminosity—the Light of the Mind. It can be so powerful that it will do anything to display this Light. Relax and find that the Light naturally goes where it needs; in fact; it’s everywhere. Inspiration and insight are everywhere.
This is a great Year to self-reflect and take stock in a realistic and practical way. Pay attention to your mental health and wellbeing. Easy on the entertainment. Rooster can get drawn into the computer for hours. Relax social-media and stop throwing your opinions at everyone. Don’t believe everything you read, or think. Easy on the idealism. Look forward but don’t strain—remember there’s no future, only a present with a direction/momentum. The direction of the present is not fixed, but it tends to go where the Qi of the Year pushes it. Fire Rooster will ask us to soften our views/opinions to seek logical possibilities.
I know—Trump. With all the political rhetoric being shoved down your throat, this Rooster image may sound a little scary. But remember, the auspice of the Year is created by our Freedom, by how our Character digests the Qi buffet. Ming always likened the Year to a buffet. We go along and choose what our appetite inspires in us; some people belch, others fart, some are sleepy, and some are inspired and energized. There is no other Year available. Fire Rooster is what’s on the menu. I hope you’re prepared to digest it.
Thanks for reading about the Rooster, and stay tuned for the final installment of the 12 Characters of Destiny as I examine the Dog.
Love and Blessings in the New Year!
At long last, we make it to the Qi Character of the Year—Monkey. It has been a Monkey of a year, for sure. I feel like I don’t even need to explain the Fire Monkey, for the year has been such a great lesson. Of course, everyone experienced the buffet of the year differently based on their own Character, but the public image via the shitshow that is internet media suggests that the Year has been difficult for many.
The Fire Monkey is a bit like Heath Ledger’s Joker from Batman. It came to show us the futility of all our plans. This kind of disruption must be available in the cycle of time, or else we may think time is linear, heading towards some perfect future. Fire Monkey set fire to all that.
There is no perfect future; any peak experience progressing toward a better future can only turn into its opposite. Period. Repeat—things only get better temporarily; they only get worse temporarily. Wisdom is relaxation, riding the cyclical waves of Yin-Yang, not working productively towards a greater future (this is lunacy). Monkey reminds us of this. The more we resist natural chaos, the more dramatic our fall.
Many are bashing 2016, and I don’t want to associate all this negativity with the Monkey. The Fire Monkey offers a profound wisdom that has been poking you in the plans all year—have you noticed? I hope I can share with you the Wisdom of the Monkey and change your perspective on the last year.
As a Tiger, Monkey Qi is my opposite. Many misunderstand the diametric relationship in Chinese Astrology. On the cheesy folk level, what you find in most books on the Twelve Animals, they say—Tiger-Monkey, Pig-Snake, Dragon-Dog—oh, very bad! But this level of Astrology assumes that ordinary people have little to no capacity for self-reflection, which may be true—I don’t know.
The diametric is a mirror relationship. Spiritually, they are complementary opposites, which tend to polarize and attract, creating a fascination with each other’s differences. The relationship of opposites can be explosive and prone to volatility, but this explosive quality has tremendous potential for transformation if met with self-reflection.
I have many close Monkey friends, and I love all of them, for they mirror myself back to me. When presented with the Monkey perspective, I scratch my head and go—wow, I would not have thought of that! There is a great YouTube video of a monkey messing with tigers, jumping off the tree, pulling the tiger’s tail and then jumping out of reach—such is the Monkey-Tiger dance.
This year, too, has been a fantastic mirror—tough, one of the most difficult of my life, an internal struggle mostly, but good lord, I’ve learned a lot. As a Tiger, I have a difficult time understanding the Monkey, so hopefully this will make sense. I encourage you to study your opposite, as I have, and let it reveal to you your own Character. The opposites are—Rat-Horse, Ox-Goat, Tiger-Monkey, Rabbit-Rooster, Dragon-Dog, and Snake-Pig.
As I delve into Monkey Qi, I encourage you to reflect on your experience of this year. I will not review the events of this year considering the Monkey, so let these symbols speak to you through your own experience. The Twelve Characters are best learned in your day to day lived experience.
Every 60 years, every 60 months, every 60 days, every 60 hours, we pass through everyone we will ever meet, energetically speaking. Every day, I look at the Character of the Day and then simply feel, reflect, and observe as I go about my life. Today is a Water Dragon day, for example. What does this feel like? How does my experience reflect this Qi? Find out the Character of your friends and family and simply observe the way they interact given their Character relationships—this is the best way to learn Chinese Astrology.
Asia adores the Monkey. It is a very rich symbol in Chinese Cosmology. Monkeys are common all over Asia, particularly, the gibbon and macaque, and many cultural myths surround them. Both China and Tibet share stories of ancient Monkey Ancestors; perhaps, they had a natural understanding of “evolution.” Chinese folk religion regards monkeys as supernatural beings, and many myths about monkey spirits, monkey demons, and half-monkey/human hybrids abound throughout China’s history. In general, Monkeys are depicted much like humans, both foolish and wise. In the Chinese Zodiac, Monkey represents the fated human flaw so heavily debated throughout the history of religion—desire.
We find Monkey in the transmission of Buddhism to China, which began around the 2nd century B.C.E, most famously depicted in the 16th century Ming Dynasty novel, Journey to the West, which was later abridged by English author Arthur Waley in the widely read novel titled Monkey.
In this story, the Buddha seeks a Chinese pilgrim to journey West to India and retrieve the Buddhist Scriptures so that Chinese people could be enlightened (typical Buddhist evangelism, as if the Chinese Tradition was not rich enough). Based on the legendary Tang Dynasty Monk Xuánzàng, the main character Tripitika, volunteers, goes, and returns successful after many trials and tribulations.
Gautama Buddha and the Bodhisattva Guanyin, enlist three protectors to help him along the way, including the famous Sūn Wùkōng —the Monkey King, who was imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha for rebelling against Heaven. Sūn Wùkōng is a trickster, able to shapeshift and transform his appearance. In the journey, the Monkey King becomes a disciple of Xuánzàng and undergoes transformation from trickster rebel to enlightened sage.
Early Buddhism used many monkey similes. We have all heard of the famous “Monkey Mind.” The Samyutta Nikaya says, "Just as a monkey roaming through a forest grabs hold of one branch, lets that go and grabs another, then lets that go and grabs still another, so too that which is called 'mind' and 'mentality' and 'consciousness' arises as one thing and ceases as another by day and by night." As Monkeys helped to transmit the Buddhist Scriptures, they became allegories for the transformation of Monkey to Enlightened Mind.
The Monkey King was initially a Daoist Immortal before being worked into Buddhism. Daoism, too, tells many tales of the Monkey. Zhuangzi’s famous tales goes, “Once upon a time, there was a monkey keeper who was feeding little chestnuts to his charges. ‘I'll give you three in the morning and four in the evening,’ he told them. All the monkeys were angry. ‘All right, then,’ said the keeper, ‘I'll give you four in the morning and three in the evening.’ All the monkeys were happy with this arrangement. Without adversely affecting either the name or the reality of the amount that he fed them, the keeper acted in accordance with the feelings of the monkeys. He too recognized the mutual dependence of "this" and " that." Consequently, the sage harmonizes the right and wrong of things and rests at the center of the celestial potter's wheel.” Here the Monkey and Sage dichotomy depicts the transformation from delusion to enlightenment, implying that nothing happens other than a shift in perspective.
Liu Ming played with this famous tale in his book Dragon’s Play. Here, Ming used the image of Monkey and Sage to represent our dual nature of energy and awareness. The delicate balancing act between these two, between freedom and control, is the dance of duality that every human must integrate to follow the Way.
At its core, Monkey Qi represents this perilous balancing act, like the monkey swinging through the trees, balancing from branch to branch. Monkeys are poised between the sacred and the profane, fluctuating between materialism and austerity, selfish fantasy and visionary wisdom. Every Human has this dance inside them. Though depicted as Godlike, Monkey Qi symbolizes the weakness commonly associated with humans—desire, which keeps them dancing between the poles.
This may sound dramatic, but Monkey Qi is fundamentally playful. The Chinese never thought to demonize desire like the West. Even Buddhism could not make judgmental moralists of the Chinese (to the Chinese morality is Astrological). Monkey’s balancing act is not a battle between good and evil where order wins over chaos. Both are natural aspects of our being—Yin-Yang. We must make friends with both, and Monkey Qi forever plays with this dynamic.
Ultimately, to tell a Monkey (or anyone) to sit still and control Monkey Mind is stupid. Monkeys must play. They are the Wisdom of Playfulness and Survival. The playfulness of Monkey Qi is a sleight of hand poking fun at the seriousness of “good and evil,” revealing duality as a game, a playful situation rather than the cause of “suffering.” If you put your Monkey Mind in a cage called meditation—how will this lead to freedom?
The myth that the mind must be trained is stupid; concentration (when excessive) is madness, especially to the Monkey. Training the monkey/ox/horse, or whatever metaphor you want to use for the mind, implies that your Nature and Duality are problematic—they’re not; your Nature is perfectly free as it is. Meditation is an expression of your Nature, not an exercise in making it behave.
I lived with Monkeys on an island in Thailand for a period and learned a lot watching them. I found them to be very social creatures. They roamed about the island in packs and would march down the beach in big monkey processions. Momma monkeys carried babies on their backs, and they had groups with leaders and sidekicks.
They were unbelievably curious, and everything they did was playful. They would wrestle around, jump on everything, and investigate all they came across. A monkey once jumped on my table while I was eating breakfast, snatched the coffee mug out of my hand along with a handful of sugar packets, ran off into the trees, and then preceded to throw the sugar packets at me. They would also lunge at me bearing their teeth—perhaps they knew I was a Tiger.
We find the impulse of Monkey Qi in its Native Element—Yang Metal. Yang Metal examines, refines, distills, transforms; it is precision, ingenuity, and imagination, the active conceptual mind used for problem solving; it is our capacity for vision which internalizes, draws in, and goes towards Water, which is full blown mysticism. This active conceptual quality of Yang Metal is the so-called Monkey Mind, but the virtue of this is imagination, self-reflection, wit, and intellect, which are obviously important qualities.
Like the Five Tigers, the Five Elemental Monkeys are very different. This year has been a Fire Monkey year, and “Fire melts Metal.” This is not conflict, but it can generate conflict! The kè or controlling relationship between the elements is necessary for Qi to keep moving, and each controlling relationship is different. When Fire melts Metal, inspiration and vitality soften our rigid thinking, releasing boundaries and hardness, and turn Metal to Water. When this becomes overactive, or “insulting,” the passionate, aggressive, and consuming qualities of Fire lead to hyperactivity, erratic behavior, and excessive disordered thinking. This Year, then, offered the possibility of tremendous inspiration, to push beyond the limits of imagination, but if met with too much Fire/aggression, then the Year also offered the possibility of profound delusion and irrational behavior.
In the beginning of the Year, I told many people—anything can happen in a Fire Monkey year, depending on how we negotiate the Fire-Metal conundrum. This is the kind of year we could have ran with inspiration, softened the boarders of what was possible, and for example—elected Bernie Sanders. Or, this was the kind of year in which people’s fear and paranoia could consume them, generating aggression and eclipsing the rational mind, and for example—we could elect Donald Trump. No further comment. All of this is available in the cycles of Time based on how we negotiate these Elemental Qi Character Cycles.
The Wood Monkey is the most playful, the least serious, and the most resilient of Monkeys. The Fire Monkey we know. Earth Monkeys are more grounded but a bit at odds with being on the ground, since their Monkey impulse tells them to swing. Metal Monkeys are the most natural and at home in their Monkeyness. And Water Monkeys push the mischievous boundaries of Monkey Qi into unknown, possibly dark, mystical territories—not even Heaven can perceive what they’re up to.
The impulse of Monkey Qi, which may shed some light on the past year—the impulse of Yang Metal, tests limits and pushes boundaries, seeking the release of Water; Monkeys define life by taking risks. Life without risk—why bother? Where is the fun in that? Monkeys like to poke, play, push, and test possibilities. They seek adventure, excitement, to keep on moving. Stagnation is death to the Monkey. They seek to go as far out as they can into extreme situations, places, experiences, and so on, just so they can bounce back and say “wow, that was cool!”
Yang Metal generates what I call “scanning Qi.” Monkeys in their natural environment always scan for danger—where are the Tigers? Monkey Qi provides a broad pervasive awareness of the environment and all the details within. Monkey feels the precise movement and activity of the jungle and is at home in the chaos. Silence, stillness, serenity—this spells doom for the Monkey; what’s coming to kill me? Monkey keeps moving, staying forever on its toes/tail.
Monkeys (this category includes apes) and Human Beings share many similarities, and these similarities highlight many of the Key Terms we will discuss. Humans, arguably, became dominant because of our ability to use tools and problem solve, which is mostly due to having thumbs.
Monkey Hour is from 3-5pm. Monkey Qi is associated with planning, strategizing, projecting, adapting, and imagining, so Monkey Hour is the time to look forward to the next day or week and plan. It is the time to cease productivity and to shift into imagination. During Monkey Hour, our Qi naturally anticipates the end of the day and the transition into night. It is a time of adaptation; soon we must head home, but before we do, we must digest the experience of the day, adapt accordingly, and anticipate what may come. Since Monkey Qi is playful, this is the time to end the seriousness of work, “quitting time,” when you should joke and have fun with co-workers before heading home. If you were born between 3-5 pm, you are also part Monkey.
If the Goat teaches us about social responsibility, justice, order, harmony, fairness, and interconnection, then Monkey teaches us that none of this is serious. When Goat gets on a high horse and its rhetoric starts working people up—here come the Monkeys.
The First Key term, then, is curious. Think Curious George. Like the Monkey stealing my sugar packets, Monkey people have an intense desire to investigate, to understand, to peak behind the curtain, to get to the bottom of things, and to pull the rug out from under people. They often seek professions, lifestyles, and hobbies that express this curiosity, and they tend to be spiritual seekers who rebel against committing to a single path, for there is always another branch, another tree with more fruit. Monkeys are in danger of what Chogyam Trungpa called spiritual Materialism—getting into the spiritual path because it offers fun and exciting experiences, which Monkey is very curious about. This curiosity goes hand and hand with the Monkey’s naturally playful disposition.
On the flipside, curiosity turns to erratic and frantic behavior—yes, Monkey Mind. By nature, Monkeys have a profound capacity for distraction. When depleted their minds scatter, race, and push them into a thousand places at once. This erratic behavior can cause them to quit jobs, abandon projects, change their minds, and waffle back and forth unable to make decisions. Monkey Qi defines compulsive (rather than impulsive) behavior, and they can easily spin out into addiction and self-destructive tendencies.
Monkeys are playful, funny; they joke and like to mess with people. In their hearts, Monkeys do not take life seriously. They are not grave or morbid. They view life as a playful act. Alan Watts once said—life is musical in nature, and we are supposed to dance while the music is being played. When other people are morbid, Monkeys want to tickle them. Monkeys want to pull the rug out from under peoples plans. When confronted with hard decisions, the Monkey response is usually—play! This can confound other people who want them to commit and be responsible. Tiger, Monkey’s opposite, hates to be messed with and we can tend towards toxic moodiness, hence the Monkey pulling the Tiger’s tail.
This playfulness is also imitative in nature. Monkey see, Monkey do. Monkey, like Snake, learns by imitating. They can watch someone do something, and then do it better than them. While Snakes do this by becoming the teacher, Monkeys do so by adaptation and cleverness, which is part of the shapeshifting trickster image. If you show off in front of a Monkey, they may just make a fool of you, and they are not afraid to make fools of themselves.
Monkeys have powerful imaginations and are extremely intelligent and innovative people. The Monkey imagination is beyond visionary. Monkeys can climb high in the trees and see far out beyond the branches. This imagination, being Yang, is creative, and Monkey ranks as one of the “artistic” types. If Monkeys can sit still, they are capable of being great artists. If not, Monkey Qi expresses profound intelligence, the ability to learn and change the way things are done.
Monkey Qi scans, schemes, plans, and looks for solutions. When confronted with a problem or danger, the Monkey will look for options, ways around; they want to sneak past danger and with sleight of hand fool the Tiger. I was once sitting in traffic with my Godmother, a Wood Monkey, and we hit a traffic jam. Her immediate response was to google alternate routes and look up traffic reports. My response was to sit there; it never even occurred to me that there was another option, for the Tiger response to danger is to pounce forward like a freight train, while the Monkey is the acrobat, nimbly escaping obstacles.
Monkey Qi is resourceful. Monkeys can find, utilize, and manipulate resources to their advantage unlike any other sign. They can be amazingly productive when put to these kinds of tasks, and they demonstrate the Human capacity to create and make tools for survival. This is an immense social and professional skill that I envy, for it is completely beyond me. Monkeys are incredibly capable beings, able to learn and master many skills. They tend, however, to be Jacks of all Trades and Masters of None.
When depleted, this capacity for imagination and innovation turns to fantasy and delusion. Monkeys are masters of creating and living in fantasy worlds, what we can call “storylandia.” Their scheming can generate many versions of reality, and at their worst, Monkeys buy into them and can spin out in alternate realities, which they find fascinating, entertaining. Monkey Qi tends to indulge fantasy because it is fun. Again, this is a playful act, so Monkeys can test the limits of sanity and bounce back.
Monkeys demonstrate the fact that nothing is real or solid in the way you think it is. There is no true relative reality; everything relative is empty of inherent meaning. Insanity comes from taking the relative world too serious; when we see the transparent nature of everything, we are likely to go crazy, but Monkeys think it’s funny. Push this too far and you get Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Monkey defines adaptation, resilience, and responsiveness. Physically, they are one of the most resilient signs and can bounce back quickly from the most serious illness. They are likely to flirt with death and danger and then make fun of everyone for getting morbid. They heal fast, and respond quickly to their environment. Monkeys can perceive the energetics of an environment with incredible precision, although they are not very intuitive and tend to make lots of stories about what they perceive, which may or may not be accurate.
Monkeys can be very nervous, anxious, and paranoid. They constantly perceive themselves in a situation of danger or threat, and their tendency towards fantasy can produce panic, worry, and fear. The active nature of Monkey Qi will create danger and threat where there is none, which is an unconscious result of the Monkey playfulness. They may create stories and danger just to have something to do, something to overcome, so that they can have cool stories to tell their friends.
The Monkey resourcefulness can turn cunning, crafty, manipulative. When depleted, they may use their intelligence to mess with social situations, turn friends against each other, gossip, tell stories, make drama. Monkeys can be very deceptive, and pretend/act in mischievous ways for fun. They can use their abilities to dominate others intellectually and their wit can turn ruthless. If Monkey perceives the game of the world as cruel, then Monkey Qi can even turn criminal like the Joker.
Finally, Monkeys can be very avoidant. Rather than deal with things head on, like the Tiger, they will dance around issues for a long time and never confront the tough decisions. Of course, I’m a Tiger, so that’s my bias. Confronting things head on can be disastrous, and the Tiger impulse can leap over their actual situation. Monkey Qi responsiveness, when not avoidant, knows when to duck, when to avoid confrontation, for it senses when the danger is coming.
Monkeys often lead incredibly interesting and exciting lives. Their impulse for fun and adventure often takes them to wild places. They always have interesting stories to tell and love to regale you about that time they almost died when there were in the place doing the thing.
Because of this impulse, Monkeys often dance between this world and the next. They have powerful desires that propel them towards materialism, and at the same time, their instinct tells them the world is a game. Monkeys fluctuate between materialism and austerity. If they can reconcile this dance, they are capable of profound wisdom. They reveal the cosmic joke, the Play of Consciousness.
Reconciling the Monkey dance, again, has nothing to do with putting Monkey in a cage. Monkeys need not punish themselves with harsh discipline because they are erratic. Monkey needs only to climb high into the tallest tree and see beyond to the enormous context of Space. Our Nature is something like Space, which hosts all duality equally. Harsh order and discipline is exalting one side over the other, which only creates more Chaos, which is what Monkey comes to show us.
This year has shown us many of these qualities, demonstrated at large in our culture, politics, and environment, which the media has blown out of proportion. Sometimes it appears Monkey paranoia and delusion has gotten the better of people. This tends to happen in Fire Years, especially in the case of the Fire-Metal conundrum, which continues with the Fire Rooster.
The Wisdom of the Year has been telling us all along that our plans for a stable, happy, bright, productive future are foolish. Everything we build is a castle in the sand. We need not fear the tide.
The world seems to be going in a dark direction and that’s because it is. This darkness however is not morbid. All kinds of unnatural structures are decaying and falling apart, and the more we cling to them and make stories of how we will keep building the tower higher and higher towards perfection, the more painful it feels when Fire Monkey comes along to kick over your sandcastle and laugh at you.
Rather than get angry and thrown gasoline on the Fire Rooster, which is another delicate transition which I will explore in the next blog, try relaxing. Open to the what the Fire Monkey has shown you. The Wisdom of the Monkey is not a threat and the sky is not falling. Destruction must occur for there to be new growth.
I was hoping that we would, “feel the Bern,” for the symbol of Bernie Sanders represented so much needed pruning, healthy destruction. But such is Time; our Freedom creates the auspice of what potential is available, and Trump was available. Trump represents destruction, which while necessary, will probably be unhealthy. In my next blog, I hope to offer some insight on how to make use of the next year, so that this destruction can offer us the transformation we need.
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the Monkey, and I hope it has shed some light on the past year. Stay tuned for my New Year’s exploration of the Rooster!
The Lunar Year of 2015, the Wood Goat Year, was one of the best and most interesting times of my life. I learned a lot about the nature of the Goat in this strange adventure. Liu Ming’s advice for the Wood Goat was my guiding force throughout the year, from the last public New Year’s talk that he gave. Reflecting on it now has brought me great insight.
In the Wood Goat Year, I found myself in the great unknown; the Wood Horse Year compelled me to stomp on everything in my life, end the only loving relationship I’ve ever had, sell everything I owned, and move to the other side of the world in search of “spiritual freedom.”
I moved to Thailand to train with my teacher and to be part of an intentional spiritual permaculture community. A month after my move to Thailand, the Wood Goat shift reset everything, and the impulse and impatience of the Wood Horse flipped, reflecting to me the broad and healing lessons of the Goat. This shift put my life into a context I had never experienced before.
I found myself alone in community (a long story) and very aware of it, adrift in a foreign land, and very quickly, all my fantasies about being a great Yogi disappeared. The naïve vision of enlightenment I had perpetuated for years expanded to include so many things about life I thought I could ignore—career, finances, partnership…I assumed that if I followed the spiritual path that these things would just sort themselves out. Yeah right.
The Goat Year showed me that not only would they not sort themselves out, but that these “worldly” aspects of life were an essential part of my Path, which as it turns out is all inclusive. This shift coincided roughly with the beginning of my Saturn Return, a time for “growing up” that comes along every 27-31 years, and that is still kicking my ass.
After a lot of personal honesty, transparency, and self-reflection, I returned to the US resolved to find a Partner, establish a Career, and set myself up for the long-term, in-the-world, householder path to liberation in one lifetime. So here I am, slowly trying to establish said goals.
Astrology has been an immense help along the way, which I began studying in earnest during my travels (previously it had only been a hobby); it gave me a language to understand the cycles I found myself in. As I study, contemplate, and meditate, I realize more and more that our lives are these cycle, and that we have a lot less freedom than we think—karma is not individual; we flow along in ever widening rings of influence.
The Goat was a fantastic symbol for me during this transition, for the Goat represents many of the values that I came to value, which do not come naturally for Tigers. I hope to share these values with you in this blog.
Humans and Goats have been living happily together for a long, long time, at least 30,000 years. The Goat is very happily domesticated. The symbol of the Goat in Chinese Astrology is tied intimately to the Goat’s longstanding relationship with both nomads and agrarian humans.
The Goat is most notably a symbol of sacrifice, specifically to the Ancestors. Humans have been ritually sacrificing Goats for a long time, probably since before they were domesticated. This may sound grim for the Goats, and it probably is from their perspective, but as a symbol, this sacrifice is more about being honored than about being killed. I have seen many Goat related rituals, and believe it or not, they are very well taken care of, until their throat is slit.
There is a very important Star in Polestar Astrology called Yang Ren—the Goat Blade. In Tantric Iconography, Ḍākinīs are often depicted holding a hooked blade, used for draining a goat of blood very quickly—this is Yang Ren. It represents a place in our life where we are fated to make a big sacrifice or loss. The kind of experience you look back at and say—that was tough, but I would not be who I am today if I had not gone through that; such is the nature of the Goat.
The Goat spoken of in Chinese Astrology is the wild mountain goat, the big wooly ram, and the domesticated goat. Despite the masculine image of rams butting heads, the Goat is decidedly Yin, and represents the opposite of aggression. The Native Element of the Goat is Yin Earth, which it shares with its opposite the Ox. Four Animals share the Native Element of Earth, and each portray it in different ways.
The Goat’s relationship to Yin Earth demonstrates amazing ability of Goats to be surefooted in all terrains. If you google mountain goats, you will find some incredible images of goats scaling shear vertical cliffs. This is not a Yang skill. It must take incredible finesse and delicate balance to do this. This image portrays a central theme of Goat Qi—adaptability. Goats are masters of adapting to their environment, and they have happily adapted to wherever humans have taken them.
Yin Earth is all about balance, nourishment, support, solidity, groundedness, alliances, abundance, mothering, nurturing, and so on. The Ox represents these qualities in the continuity of Earth, for the Ox is the steadfast container and maintainer of Tradition. The Goat represents these same qualities in the refinement and reform of tradition, for the Goat is the Wisdom of Beauty, Justice, Symmetry, Order, and Harmony.
The Ox preserves and the Goat renews; it recognizes what has gotten old and stuffy and seeks to reinvigorate tradition. Unlike the Tiger, which seeks to break the boundaries of tradition and liberate people from order, the Goat seeks to refine order to higher degrees. The Goat wants tradition, but it wants tradition to serve the people, so it wants a bloodless and peaceful revolution. The Tiger, the Horse, the Dragon, the Monkey, the Dog—all will potentially shed blood, but the Goat will not. Don’t mistake the butting heads for aggression; I have lived with Goats, and this is an innocent and playful act—it’s more about being flustered.
In short, the Goat represents the virtues and difficulties of the dreaded word—politics. Goats are the idealists, the most astute and aware of social circumstances.
The Goat defines the herd animal and instinct. Having lived with Goats, watching them every day, they clearly have a hive-mind. They run, jump, eat, and play together, and as soon as one takes off in a new direction, they all bounce along after each other without hesitation. When a Goat is lost from the herd, it gets seriously distressed, but when it’s with the clan it is as happy as can be.
At a deeper level, the herd mentality of the Goat, and of Goat Qi, derives from a sense of inclusion that expresses an even deeper truth about the interconnected nature of everything. Goat Qi represents interbeing, interdependence, the intimate Web of Life, the symbiotic relationships that define Nature.
Of all the Twelve Characters, the Goat is said to be closest to this interbeing—they feel it on a deep, embodied level. Goats see the way everything, people and nature, is connected. And so, the impulse of the Goat is always for the herd, the greater good. They seek to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of others. The outer symbol of ritual sacrifice also communicates an inner one—the Goat is willing to give up its own needs so others can thrive. They are the most egalitarian of all the Signs.
Of all the Twelve Characters, the Goat is said to be the most artistic and aesthetic. The Goat feels connected to everything and wants everyone else to feel this way too. But this interconnected web is beyond words and cannot be described. So, the instinct of the Goat is to express and communicate what is beyond words—in other words, Art. Or better yet—Qi. The Goat wants to communicate the direct experience of Qi—the dynamic flowing way in which everything relates to everything else.
The Goat seeks to make the world beautiful, harmonious, balanced. Because Goats feel the deeper way in which everything is connected, they get flustered when the surface does not match the depths. They, therefore, seek order, to refine the outer expression to remind others of what lies beneath the surface.
Goat Art is aesthetic, classical. Tiger Art defies convention while the Goat defines it. They are therefore in a constant dialogue. Goat art expresses order, symmetry, tasteful arrangement, and elegance. Feng Shui, the art and auspice of placement, is a very Goat like endeavor.
The Goat is the natural outcome of the Horse. The Horse manifests, constructs, and brings the World in to being, and the Goat is sort of like the interior decorator (Feng Shui is not interior decorating, by the way). They take the raw, and sometimes messy situation of the Horse and make it orderly, expressing the harmonious relationships of Qi in space.
As we go through these key words, remember this basic impulse—to communicate and express our connection beyond words. This is the heart of Goat Qi. The Goat also represents sustainability and social welfare/responsibility—it represents the fact that we’re all responsible for each other—always have been, always will be. In Buddhism, this principal is called Sangha.
In general, Goat Qi is soft, peaceful, gentle, introverted—Yin. It is impossible not to smile when watching goats. They are freaking adorable and fundamentally goofy creatures, kind of like big puppies. Within three hours of birth, kid goats are jumping around, happily bouncing with amusing playfulness, looking for a cliff to climb, nibbling on everything.
The Goat Hour, from 1 pm to 3 pm, is basically time to “herd up,” as Ming called it. Since Goat Qi is associated with the herd, with social order, cooperation, compromising, harmony, justice, fairness, and so on, Goat Hour, then, is the time to work and be with others and cultivate friendship and teamwork. This is the time to get together and do things in groups and to refine and adjust the productivity of Horse Hour. Once we create something, we must step back and adjust our creation to accord with social context and welfare. Building a table is useless if we do not sit down to eat, and what good is eating alone if your friends are hungry? Goat Hour is also the time for art and aesthetics. It is a time to paint, write, sing, or just stare out into the landscape and contemplate your humanity. If you were born during this time of the day, you are also part Goat.
So, the first Key Terms are easy-going, sweet, gentle, agreeable. Goats have a naturally relaxed slightly silly/goofy disposition. Earth Characters by nature, especially Yin Earth, are what we refer to as “chill.” Yin Earth is stable, slow, grounded. Goat Characters don’t get worked up easily and are happy to go with the flow, follow the group. Goats tend to be ordinary nice/kind people. Everyone can be a nice person, of course, and the Goat symbolizes this quality in all of us. By respecting and acknowledging other people and their needs, by recognizing we are part of a herd, we naturally become kind, generous, nice—self-centeredness is not part of Goat Qi.
The depleted version of this, however, is intolerance and crankiness. When Goats find themselves alone, isolated, or if they’re raised in a poor community environment where their instincts are stunted, Goats tend to be fussy, cranky, moody, and even intolerant of others. At their best, the political vision of the Goat is all inclusive, and the flipside of this is well-known the world over—we tolerate our in-group and hate the rest. The possibility for political unrest is most strongly demonstrated in the Monkey/Tiger dynamic, but this begins in the Goat with the desire to create order, which in the cycle of time turns almost immediately into its opposite.
Well know comedian Louis CK, a Fire Goat, is the perfect example of Goat crankiness and tolerance. His comedy communicates the positive and negative qualities of Goat Qi very well. He is an astute social critic, and despite his crudeness, his view is very inclusive—he excepts and celebrates everyone and at the same time makes jokes about how much he hates people. Furthermore, his show, Louie, especially in its last few seasons, was extremely artistic and poignant.
So, then, the next important Key Word is aesthetic/artistic—both visual and musical. Not all goats are necessarily great artists and musicians, but this instinct to make the world beautiful and to express the ineffable must come out in some form. For some Goats, it may come out in the way they dress—always matching, trendy. In others, it may express through poetry or playing guitar. For others, it may be in their career as a graphic designer. And of course, Goats make natural painters, artists in the classical sense. Michelangelo, Mark Twain—both Goats.
The gentle demeanor of Goat Qi goes hand with another very important quality—cooperation. Goats seek cooperation and compromise on all levels and generally hate confrontation, like the Rabbit. Goats want everyone to get along; they are peacemakers who offer up solutions and treaties. They will often compromise their own needs to make others happy, which depletes them in the long run.
If they keep compromising and cooperating to make others happy, Goats will eventually turn cranky and get unbelievable stubborn, hence the butting heads. Goats will dig into their position and compromise can turn to entrenched argumentation. Goats must commit to self-care and speak up about needs. Otherwise, they will be nice, nice, nice and then explode.
The Goat, who naturally seeks communication and understanding, can turn completely flustered and uncommunicative. Normally, they are quite eloquent, but when depleted, they just start butting heads and can hardly get out coherent thoughts/sentences. They fear confrontation, and so they tend to let things build until things turn to head butting and stubbornness.
On the flipside, Goats are the masters of persuasion and charm. Goat Qi can eloquently and poetically express grand principals like harmony and justice—rhetoric, political and personal, is a Goat affair. Their natural insight into social dynamics and structure offers them a social capacity unknown to many signs. They can read a group and know how to inspire and work up a crowd by invoking universal human principles. Goats tend to be very quiet, introverted, but are prone to make dramatic speeches when provoked.
The calm, quiet, easy going nature of Goat Qi can also turn impatient. Goats tend to be fussy perfectionists. They want everything to go just right. So, they may try to engineer their life, relationships, situations. Roosters and Rats tend to fuss over what, to the rest of us, are unimportant details, but the Goat fusses over the whole situation. If a Goat throws a dinner party, they don’t mind so much about how the table is arranged, but they will be certain to sit you next to someone who will change your life. They may work very hard to create the right social environment for magic, and if it falls apart they may obsess over what went wrong, while the Rooster is still making sure the silverware is in the right place.
Goats are part of the “social trine” of the Chinese Zodiac, along with Pigs and Rabbits. The social aspect of the Goat is all about generosity, encouragement, and social support. Goats need a herd; they need friends, family; without support they wither, get depressed, and feel hopeless, anxious, fearful. Alone, they worry and fret. Around others, they thrive and are the most supportive, encouraging, and generous people. Goats don’t need a big herd per se, small family, a few close friends is fine, but they can also get along in big groups, as longs as that group represents “clan/tribe” for them. Alone, they will naturally seek to create tribe. They make naturally family people, parents, grandparents, friends, and so on. Goats easily take on social support roles, even if it only for a select few.
Goats have a deep spiritual capacity to recognize relationship and interconnectedness. All the great spiritual traditions teach that we’re all connected, that everything is everything, and so on—you’ve probably heard it all before. This realization that we’re all One is a Goat realization, so it is easier for Goat Characters to see this. Compassion and generosity, therefore, come naturally to them. This is not the case for all signs—Tigers, Snakes, Dragons all need education in this regard, for their independent nature can disregard and struggle with the need to connect with other humans.
2015, the Wood Goat Year, showed us many of these Goat themes. Political awareness and social welfare were high, and across the globe people began to speak up for the marginalized, underprivileged, minorities, and so on. This began an important trend which exploded a bit in this Monkey Year (next blog)—as a society, especially in the millennial generation, we will not stand for bigotry, intolerance, sexism, patriarchy, inequality, and oppression any more, dammit.
The Goat Year set this in motion. It brought forward all the ways in which our cultures, especially in the USA, are divided. The transition from Goat to Monkey is delicate and sort of went haywire due to the elemental nature of Wood going to Fire. I’ll say more about this in the next blog on the Monkey.
Personally, the Goat year was very healing for me in many ways. Ming’s advice for Tigers was essentially to heal, which the gentle and supportive nature of Goat Qi encourages. All these Goat qualities of relationship, social support, and service all came forward in my life. The Wood Goat was a reset button for me. I re-valued my life, and started all over again.
After my year living abroad, I found myself back in the States, somehow practicing Chinese Astrology, which I never expected. If you had told me ten years ago that I would end up being a Chinese Astrologer, I would have laughed. I also made the decision to pursue Chinese Medicine, which brought me here to Portland and started a whole new chapter in my life.
Looking back, I am very grateful for the Goat Year. As a Tiger, I admire the qualities of the Goat and the rest of the Social Trine. In the next blog, I will review the past year and explore my opposite—the Monkey! It has been a hell of a year…stay tuned.
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.