We’ve made it to number eight of twelve as Snake Qi turns to Horse. Before we move on, however, I think we need to back up and look again, briefly, at the idea of Character. For it is too easy to get simplistic studying these primary symbols.
The Character of our Year is fundamental in our Qi Display, so these twelve symbols are important to study and understand, especially at an energetic level. We want to understand the impulse that lies at the base of these patterns, and I hope that I have been able to communicate this so far. The impulse of each Character is beyond words. These impulses generate identifiable patterns. But we must ask—patterns of what?
Time. Each Qi Character communicates a felt pattern in time; in Astrology, Qi is time. Time/Qi is movement itself, rhythm, not a thing moving—just movement, and we only know movement because of duration. This duration is a spectrum we call light. Qi can be called light/energy, visible because it moves at different frequencies.
Time flows in a circle. This circle is very lopsided; the Twelve-Animal cycle of Time is like a whirlwind, a tornado. At some parts, it spins fast; at some, it spins slow; some parts are big messy gusts of wind, and in some parts, wind funnels into a point, and so.
We are a swirling together of many patterns of wind/movement; the pattern of the Year, Month, Day, and Hour are primary among many others. The Qi movement of the Year is the deepest flow of Time relative to Earth, technically related to the 12-year Jupiter cycle, the largest object in the Solar System besides the Sun, and it therefore represents the deepest part of our experience. The impression made at the time of birth, when we first breathe in the Qi/ “wind” of the universe outside the womb, imprints a deep, deep pattern on us that we become and express our entire life. That moment is an incredible shock, which is probably why we cry, and it leaves a lasting impression.
The Qi of the Year is the deepest, and the Qi of the hour is the most “up front.” The Hour imprints a surface expression, which then dances with the deeper expression of the Year. These two together are primary. The Month and Day also imprint on us, but these patterns have more of an effect on our constitution and life cycles in relation to the seasons.
We must remember that we are complex. The image of the Year is basic, simple, and profound. As I write these blogs and you consider your Character, remember that these images are fundamental and only a doorway into the complexity of your Astrological makeup. I encourage people to identify with the Year, but you have Four Pillars, and Solar/Lunar Indictors, and a Fate Chart, etc. The wisdom of the Year encourages us to find out what we have in common with others rather than on what makes us a unique snowflake.
So, we move now into the Pattern of Horse Qi, part of my own Character, and it is appropriate that the Horse is an ancient symbol of the Wind, Prana/Vayu, Qi, Lung (in Tibetan). In Tantra and East/Central Asian Shamanism, the image if the “Wind Horse,” the Lungta, is an allegory for the Human Spirit of Awakening.
The symbol of the Horse is an ancient and powerful Shamanic symbol central to the cultures of Mongolia, China, and Tibet. To understand the Symbol of the Horse, we must understand the role of the Horse in these ancient cultures as a symbol of freedom and expansion. The Horse, in many ways, shaped their history, mostly due to warfare.
The Horse spoken of in Chinese Mythology is the Mongolian rather than the Arabian Horse, which any equestrian person will tell you are very different kinds of horses. The Chinese attempted to train the Mongolian horse to work for a long time, but no amount of breeding and whipping coerced them to plow straight furrows, for they had no attention span and were wild in nature. Eventually, the Chinese would discover the ox/water-buffalo from the south, which revolutionized agriculture. But what of the horse?
Mongolians and the famous Genghis Khan would bring down the horse as an instrument of war. The Mongolian Horse and the bow and arrow allowed Genghis and his grandson Kublai to dominate Asia. When the Chinese first saw Mongolians riding horses into battle, arrows and swords flying, they discovered the true power of the horse, which had been abandoned in China as a plow animal. The first depictions of the Horse were a lot like the Dragon and many of these elements would make their way into the depiction of the Dragon, for the Horse road so fast it appeared to be flying.
They let the reigns down, put on a war saddle, and the Horse came to life. With just a little direction, rather than strict control, the Mongolian Horse became the most productive tool in the Chinese military and aided in the great expansion of the Tang Dynasty. Emperors and Generals bred them successfully for war throughout Chinese history, and they were always associated with martial arts and warriorship.
The image of the War Horse represents the Horse’s native element—Yang Fire. The Fire Horse is an explosion of force, a wild stallion, uncontrollable yet capable of immense power and control if directed with skill. Like fire, the Horse represents a powerful tool which can be either creative or destructive, depending on use.
The true impulse of the Horse is to run free, wild, explode out, which is why Horses and Tigers get along, for the Tiger represents a similar explosion of force. The Tiger, Yang Wood, is an immature, childlike impulse, while the Horse, Yang Fire, is the teenage, adolescent, angsty, rebellion, leaping over boundaries and running wild. Each elemental version of the Horse, then, represents a relationship to this impulse.
The impulse of Yang Fire is to energize, catalyze, activate, stimulate, transform, overpower/overcome, surprise, rebel, destroy, and excite. All Horse Characters have this lying in their nature. I was born on a Metal Horse Day, so this is part of my Character, albeit not as potently as the Year/Hour. Hopefully, then I will be able to share some personal insight into the nature of the Horse, which I must say is an important part of me.
The Metal Horse, of which I am in part, and of whom I know many (1990), the “Horse in the Stall,” has a fundamental difficulty with this explosive nature—Fire “melts” Metal, leading to a kind of self-conflict and doubt. The Metal Horse wrestles between freedom and control, but their Metal exteriors makes them capable of control and self-discipline in a way the Fire Horse is not.
The Fire Horse is a pure wild stallion, and traditionally in China they would have been sent with Fire Tigers to the military as cannon fodder. On the opposite end of the spectrum the Water Horse, the least “horsey” Horse, is more like a Clydesdale, or the Budweiser Horse, the explosion extinguished, happy to be trained and trot around.
The symbol of the Horse has a lot to do with the animal itself. Horses are big, physical, all muscle and tendons. The Mongolian horse has a huge ass and hind legs which makes them powerful runners and jumpers. This physicality represents a kind of embodiment, so Horse Qi is by nature very embodied—the impulse of the Horse is to feel, be, and do immediately, rather than think.
Horse’s opposite, the Rat, has the opposite impulse—Rat Qi tends to think and scheme, while the Horse represents what Ch’an Buddhism calls “no-mind.” No-mind represents embodied action without thinking and planning. Horse Qi is “doing,” but without great pre-meditation, like a Ch’an Monk sweeping the courtyard or raking stones in the garden. Horse Qi lends itself to the non-conceptual state.
Horse Qi is the Wisdom of Manifestation. If the Rat represents everything splintered into pieces, needing to be organized and put back together, the Horse represents the final manifestation of this in the cycle of Time. Everything manifesting and functioning efficiently. Horse is D.I.Y. and manufacturing—the strength to work and put things together. The Horse is all about working and doing, like the Ox, but they are the Yang version—muscle, speed, and power, and they can burn out, while Oxen can slowly plow forever.
Horse Qi is also the outcome of the Snake. If Snake represents a kind of cynical, piercing emptiness, capable of disembodied depression, the flipside of this, Big Yin turning to Yang, is a kind of straightforward, logical, no-nonsense practicality. The Snake questions whether the world even exists, and the Horse just gets to work. Emptiness roaring back to form. Why think about emptiness when there is stuff to do?
The Horse represents an “edgy” balance, part wild, part trained, and this gives the Horse a certain regal dignity; they allow us to use their strength, but if they want they can leap the fence and take off. The Horse’s strong, independent nature, when set to orderly tasks, is extraordinarily successful. For the Horse, stuff is to do things with, and they tend not to need anything unless it represents “work,” even if that work is spiritual.
Horse Hour, from 11 am to 1 pm, or High Noon, is the full height of the Sun. It is the time of day when we are at our peak and most productive. It is the time for work, labor, getting stuff done. It is Yang Fire, the bright, burning heat of Summer, when light is the most active, warming, moving, catalyzing. If you were born between 11 am and 1 pm then you should also consider yourself part Horse.
So, the first Key Word for the Horse is social, gregarious yet independent. Horses in the wild are social animals, running in packs. Having a social life, seeking social interaction and engagement, is very important to the Horse Character. Like the Goat, the herd instinct is part of the Horse, but the social nature of the Horse is much different. Despite the herd mentality, Horses seek to be independent, and so the social impulse is often somewhat competitive. Horses are showman, like Clydesdales. They want to socialize, but they also want to run free and impress everyone with their speed and strength. They tend to be gregarious, sociable, fond of parties and having fun. They can, of course, be introverted, but the direction of Yang Fire is outward moving. Horse can enjoy solitude, but their inward expression moves out.
At their best, Horses tend to be blessed with a “sunny” disposition. They can be bright, open, cheerful, optimistic. Yang Fire tends to look on the bright side of life. The Horse disposition tends toward innocence, which often attracts people to them. Their sunny optimism lends naturally towards humor. Horses are often jokesters; funny is key to the Horse mentality; such is the term “horsing around.” All the Horses I know like to play and horse around. They’re natural comedians.
On the flipside, the independence and social qualities of the Horse can turn anti-social, even criminal and violent. At their best, Horses are not loners, but the nature of Yang Fire is hot-tempered, angry, rebellious. Their anger can lead to outbursts, which are often thoughtless. The tendency to do/act without thinking can have consequences. The bucking bronco can stamp on people, situations, relationships, and so on. If their attempts at sociability don’t go their way, they can ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again.
In general, the independent, wild quality of the Horse should/can never be held in. Like the Dragon and Tiger, any attempt to box in or control a Horse will be met with disaster. If restrained, they become bitter and exhibit destructive behavior. Horses can be “tamed,” but inside, their nature is wild. Self-discipline for Horses is like harnessing a wild animal. The Horse nature is fast; they do and act quickly without hesitation.
With training and proper direction, Horse Qi can be put to work and is associated with strength and industry. Horses have an immense capacity to get shit done, to be the “work horse,” as we say. Horse Qi represents the all-American virtue of productivity—just get me back to work. For many Horses, life is about work, and without something to do, they get restless, bored, and feel useless. Horse restlessness can be profound; they need to direct themselves to tasks, projects, whether that is learning, reading, building, exercising, organizing, etc.
Horse Qi represents craft and trade work, D.I.Y, practical and functional art. Tiger or Monkey may represent abstract art, but Horse art you can sit in, or do something with, like pottery, the dying virtue of the craft-guilds. Ming used to jokingly refer to Horses being kind of like lumberjacks/carpenters/handy-men. Home Depot could be called “Horse Depot.” Horses express themselves through creating, manifesting. If they do not create, they stagnate. Of course, not all Horses are handy-men (handy-people?), but they all express some fundamental need to manifest/create.
On a deeper level, this work mentality comes from embodiment, vitality, and physicality. Horses need to move and use their bodies. They need to run, hike, workout, anything to get moving, or else they get restless. Horses by nature are also very “outdoorsy,” for this physicality cannot stay indoors too long. Horses yearn for the great outdoors and open plains and need to connect with the eternal blue sky.
On an even deeper level, this embodiment represents the Horses profound capacity to feel. Despite their strong exteriors, Horses are very emotional, but they tend to express emotion more through doing rather than saying. Ming once joked of “Horse love,” which was a Dad letting his Son use his tools. The Horse may be affectionate, but they often show rather than tell and not always through touchy-feely means. Horse Qi may not be all hugs, and if a Horse Dad makes his Son a swing-set, this is pure love, because he made it for him.
The thoughtless, active, and embodied quality of the Horse can be sort of accident-prone. Horses can have a carelessness that tends to “not notice.” Physically, this can lead to self-injury, knocking things over, spilling coffee on your lap, falling off your bike, and so on. Mentally/emotionally, Horse may have difficulty noticing and acknowledging other people’s feelings, and they may say and act carelessly, and stomp all over others.
The reverse of being accident prone is cleverness. Horse Qi represents what is now called “MacGyver” ingenuity—the ability to problem solve in a kind of practical way, throwing a bunch of stuff together into makeshift solutions. They can take something broken and find ten ways to put it back together. Or not. Horses can also be very clumsy.
This ingenuity also express the virtue of thoughtlessness, which is the ability to work efficiently through embodied skill. All the “Zen and the Art of…” books represent Horse Qi. You practice and practice and practice archery, each time getting in your own way because you keep thinking. And the thousandth time, you relax and release the arrow without effort. Watching master craftspeople, chefs, dancers, anyone who embodies a skill, is a Horse Qi ballet.
This cleverness also lends itself to a kind of eloquence and talkativeness—think Mr. Ed. "A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course." Horses make great orators and speakers, or they just love to chat. Horse Qi can put their cleverness and ingenuity to work anywhere, including speech, and they love to impress people with this clever eloquence. This eloquence comes from a kind of direct honesty. Horses are honest because they don’t overthink. And so, their rhetoric can be very profound; they just say what others feel. This often creates a kind of magnetism. Horses are attractive people. Their strength, cleverness, and ability are what most people seek yet never find, for Horse Qi is full manifestation without complication.
This capacity can lead to arrogance and stubbornness, but horses are arrogant without realizing it. Horse stubbornness is a kind of know-it-all showoff bravado, but it does not show off because it thinks it is better than people—it just loves showing off. They need to do something with all their strength.
Horses have a hard time not giving people advice, telling people how to do things—they know best. Horse stubbornness is demonstrated in the old cliché of men not wanting to stop and ask for directions or call a repairman (repair person? Geez, how gendered is our language?).
The Horse personality is consistent and simple. Like the Ox, they tend to remain constant in their thoughts, actions, lifestyle—they’re not prone to major changes in terms of personality. You may not see a Horse for ten years and no matter how much they have changed, they seem like the same old person. They may be wild, adventurous, world traveling people, but nonetheless, they seem consistent.
Some Characters, like the Snake, are a mystery. The Horse, being the outcome of Snake, is no mystery. What you see is what you get. Horse Qi is not about plumbing the depths. Which is not to say they’re not deep. The Horse Character does not play games; they do not mislead, misdirect, or manipulate; they just are and do. All that would require too much thinking.
The Horse symbol is one of power, majesty, freedom. The Lungta, the Wind Horse, symbolizes the human spirit of adventure but also aggression. The Horse is raw, dynamic power and strength, pure vitality; it rides hard and can burn out in a blaze of glory, dying with honor on the battlefield. The Horse characterizes the wild shamanic nomads of Central Asia, Mongolia, Tibet, and Northern/Western China. It is the wide-open expanse of the great plains and eternal blue sky. Freedom is the impulse of the Horse, dancing with the edge of restrain.
Horse Qi is a turning point in the Zodiac. From here, the Horse turns to Goat and the cycle begins to resolve itself. The rest of the Zodiac represents a kind of completion, a return to source. I hope you enjoyed this exposition of the Horse.
In the last Blog, I tried to communicate the ineffable nature of the Dragon, which may have been confusing, and I’m afraid the Snake may be worse. The Dragon may be ineffable due to its unlimited potential, but it is the Yang version of potential, meaning it is the result of full manifestation, EXTREME YANG, and is therefore easier for us to understand in this Yang culture. As a culture, we get “doing,” but “being,” on the other hand, is a mystery. The Snake represents this Mystery—the Yin to the Dragon’s Yang.
Yin is manifestation, the condensation of everything into apparent form, which turns into Yang, the expression of form through movement and dynamism. As Yin expresses into Yang, it opens, expands, and rises to Heaven, becoming more and more transparent, heading back towards the un-manifest. Dragon Qi symbolizes the height of this expression and movement—all of manifestation integrated, directed, and flying free, Yin going all the way to Extreme Yang.
Yin-Yang Theory teaches that Yin and Yang turn into one another and that Extreme Yang gives way and turns into Extreme Yin, which is symbolized in the Chinese Zodiac by the Snake. The Snake is EXTREME YIN, the flipside of the Dragon. In the Dragon, the entire Zodiac is manifest and expressing. In the Snake, the entire Zodiac is in seed/potential form having been expressed fully and then having disappeared, leaving behind a complete, open, and transparent vacuity. Snake is the Emptiness, Potential, and Openness that hosts all Form. Snake Qi is the empty spoke in the center of the turning Wheel.
Pig Qi, which is where we began our exploration of the Zodiac, while similar, is Snake’s opposite. Pig Qi expresses Yin Water, the dissolution of everything at the end of the cycle. Snake is not a dissolution, for dissolution is a gradual process. Snake is not gradual. Snake is the sudden and extreme flip from Yang to Yin, sort of like the popping of a bubble, or a Snake striking its prey. Dragon Qi expands until…pop! This sudden flip from everything to nothing is said to represent Yin Fire, the native element of the Snake.
Even in the appearance of complete emptiness, total vacuity, there is Yang, a spark, an ember, a warmth pulsating, undulating in the Void. For all Emptiness is pregnant with unlimited potential. Emptiness is said to contain all potential. Every possibility is inherent in Emptiness; the entire universe resides in and emerges from space. In Tantra, Space is called the Inexhaustible Treasury. Everything comes from Space, yet Space is never altered, stained, harmed, or destroyed. It is Indestructible— “Vajra,” immaculate and pristine. Of all the Twelve Animals, Snake is said to be closest to this pristine, open, spacious quality of life. Snake, Yin Fire, is the warmth, the radiant nature of Life present in the Void.
Yin Fire also represents the nature of Snake Hour, from 9 am to 11 am—the time of day after the Sun has appeared and begins to slowly warm the Earth. Snake Hour is bright and transparent; it is the gap between the great manifestation of Sunrise (the Dragon) and the productivity of Midday (the Horse). Snake Hour is said to be a time of revelation, transparency, and reflection, where we process and gather ourselves before being productive. If you were born during this time of day, then you are part Snake.
Yin Fire is the slow smoldering transformation of a simmering fire, like a crock-pot as opposed to a BBQ. It is the catalytic force of alchemy and cooking—stimulating, energizing, yet still, pulsating, warming, consuming, mesmerizing; it is internal rather than external vigor. The Snake is a symbol of the Heart, the Shen, the still, warm beating center of things, awake and alive, yet passive/yin, for the Heart beats without effort.
The symbol of the Snake is immensely old and traces itself back to China’s “Shamanic” roots. The Snake symbol is universal, and its expression is similar across cultures. Unlike some cultures, the Chinese conception of the Snake is not evil or sinister—it is Yin. It represents the unknown/unknowable world, the subterranean, the submerged, the unconscious.
There is no “evil,” in the Chinese view of Life, but Yin does have a dark side, and the Snake can be a symbol of darkness. This darkness, however, is the basis for transformation. We cannot truly transform unless we consider all our dark places; we must turn up all the rocks and look at the creepy crawlies beneath the surface. Snake is what lies beneath the surface.
In this sense, the Snake is like the Rabbit, but taken to another level. The Rabbit is submerged in the unconscious subterranean world, but the Snake is that world; it sees through it unattached, where the Rabbit innocence is potentially lost in the static of the ethers. Snake Qi sees through the nature of appearances, and so Snake Characters are said to lead lives that are uniquely self-reflective and insightful. It is in the Character of Snake to reflect, to mirror, to question, and to peak behind the curtains.
The impulse of Snake Qi, Big Yin, is sinking, gathering, descending, internalizing, seeking stillness, silence. Like Snakes in the wild, Snake Qi seeks to be hidden, unseen, to blend in with the environment. Snake people, therefore, have a natural inclination to “disappear,” to hide, to renounce, to recede from the world by blending in with the surroundings. A Snake might look like a vine on the tree, so it is there, present in the world, but it is not the vine, not what it appears to be.
Snake Qi is by nature not what it appears to be; it is unknowable and ineffable. Big Yin defies all labels and definitions. Emptiness, by “definition,” is beyond conceptual elaboration, as the Buddhists say. As I mentioned in the last Blog, the Snake represents the inner open capacity at the heart of the Zodiac to become any of the other 11 Characters without being defined by them, while the Dragon actually is all 11 Characters embodied.
This unknowable quality is said to be the source of an unmatched charm. Snakes have the capacity to become anything and anybody without being attached, for they represent all potential. They have all the Capacity of all 11 Characters available, like the Dragon, but they are not defined by nor do they take pride in what they display. They are mystery even to themselves.
Their instinct is to hide, but they can hide in a crowded room, because they are inwardly unknowable. You can “know” a Snake for years and still not know who they are. And this is not deceptive, because they aren’t anybody (no one is really), and this is their power.
Snakes are a mystery, to themselves and to other people. They cannot be known. Remember this as I get into the Key Words. We may use words to describe Snake Qi, but Snakes are not these words. The Snake symbolizes the reality that no one is what they think they are, nor are we how others perceive us. We are all a mystery. You can never really know another person—not really. We are all symbols to each other.
In China, the Snake is the Sorcerer Philosopher and symbolizes the process of Alchemy and inner transformation, for the Snake sheds its skin. It is always in the process of becoming something else. They also represent what Liu Ming called “striking force,” like Muhammad Ali (a Snake), an aspect of the Fire Element, the ability to remain perfectly still and then strike, act, seemingly out of nowhere like a snake paralyzing its prey.
Social-political pundit John Oliver, a Fire Snake, the Natural Snake, is a great example of Snake Qi. On camera, he is charming and yet venomous; his ability to see through appearances to the reality of situations and then strike with deadly force is mesmerizing. Yet, if you watch interviews with him outside of his show, he appears to be a completely different person. He claims not to be a journalist, not to have political motivations; he completely embodies his role and is unattached; he is not what he appears to be, which is not to say he is deceptive. On camera, he becomes a role and then sheds his skin. The Snake succeeds when they have fooled everybody into thinking they’re a certain way yet secretly they remain unattached and beyond everything.
Bernie Sanders, a Metal Snake, is another great example of Snake Qi with his vision, wisdom, insight, and ability to see through social structure to the heart of things. He, too, displays the striking force, delivering political statements so penetrating and direct that he inspires millions. He is fully in the world yet not “of it.” He cares deeply but is unattached, which is why I think he has maintained his unrelenting integrity for so many years without losing heart.
The Key Terms for the Snake are, again, how they appear, but not actually how they are. You may know or be a Snake and not identify with these labels, and that’s fine. No person is truly their Character; it is merely a pattern, a tendency of our Qi to display. Snake Qi is symbolic of the idea that we can all transcend our limitations through detachment.
The first Key Term, then, is deeply reflective. In many ways, it is not easy to be a Snake. Snakes are natural mystics in a non-mystic world. Snake Qi can be called penetrating insight. Without trying, Snakes have the tendency to see through things, through the nature of appearance to essential qualities. Since Snake Qi is naturally open and empty, it is natural for Snakes to reflect on life and on their situation, for their Qi display is in direct contrast with what society tells us. With training, this can lead to insight. But if Snakes are told from an early age that the world is solid, that people are real, that situations are concrete, and that they must “be somebody,” then they will fake it and pretend, while internally they may experience deep depression, resentment, and even fear.
As it turns out, Reality can be frightening to glimpse. Imagine finding out that up and down are meaningless—this is called vertigo. My teacher calls this the “round world,” as opposed to the “square world.” In the round world, i.e. in Reality, we don’t have a leg to stand on; all concepts are relative, and nothing has any inherent meaning. If you do not grasp at solidity, then this realization liberates you, and emptiness becomes the source of much giggling. If you grasp, emptiness inspires terror, nihilism, and possibly suicidal tendencies. Snakes may feel that the world is meaningless, that everyone is a fake, that everything is make believe non-sense. And they may feel crazy because they see this and no one else does.
Depleted, Snake Qi can turn to paranoia. If they are not taught to trust their insight, their vision into what lies beneath the surface, they can get into trouble. Seeing signs, hearing voices—all very Snakey, like Rabbit Qi in this sense. The truth is that there are voices—the universe is full of psychic static, and people project their thoughts and emotions all over the place with little discretion. While Rabbits tend to feel the emotional, energetic, embodied quality of this static, Snakes tend to see into the more “psychic” mental dimension of things.
Snake Qi is transparent and clear, and Snakes are probably the most distant from the rich direct experience of the senses, embodied in Snake’s opposite, the Pig. Snakes can easily be disembodied and live in a flat mental world, which can turn to nihilism. They may mistrust the display of the world. On the other hand, this transparency offers insight.
If Snakes go with their insight, they become wise. The Snake is synonymous with wisdom. On the surface, this wisdom comes from a natural observant quality, which comes from the Snakes impulse to lie still, wait, and watch. Snakes tend to observe and attend very closely to details, which lends to profound intelligence. On a deeper level, Snake wisdom is both visionary and philosophical. In Buddhism, wisdom is identical to śūnyatā, emptiness; they are synonymous. Emptiness is another blog, but at the deepest level, Snake Qi represents this side of reality.
Snakes can be too smart for their own good, capable of immense calculation and planning. Of course, everyone can be intelligent, but Snake intelligence encapsulates the concept of genius. This kind of intelligence often goes hand and hand with depression. Snakes have the opposite of “ignorance is bliss.” Rather, Snake intelligence tends to obsess about how messed up the world is and about messed up they are themselves, leading to cynicism/skepticism, and very often depression. This depression does not need a cause, for Snake Qi is by nature depressed, sinking, and dark, energetically speaking. So, Snakes can appear moody and brooding.
The Snake tendency towards depression can turn to self-loathing, however, especially if their intelligence is not put to more creative outlets. Intelligence can easily turn to hatred either at the world or at themselves. When Snakes are not successful, when they do not find an outlet for their vision, they can turn bitter and negative, criticizing everything and everyone, picking apart their own faults as well.
Because of their visionary and creative qualities, Snakes make natural artists. Snakes want to leave the world behind. They want to follow their vision to the end and lose themselves beyond the horizon. They want to disappear. Snake Qi is a vision quest, a spirit journey into the unknown, the underworld. In their imagination, Snakes see through this world to others and realms beyond. They may even have tangible visions in their waking life.
So, Snakes can be a bit weird, although others may never know, for Snakes are the best at hiding. Snakes must find a way to express this weirdness, especially through art/creativity. The challenge for the Snake is to go out into the beyond and come back. They must bring their vision back to the ordinary world and share it with others. Snakes are often inventive innovators, and Snake years often produce breakthroughs in society. Without art, the Snake has no way of communicating Reality as they experience it, whether through painting or poetry or film, Snakes communicate the dreamlike nature of reality, such as Pablo Picasso or Edgar Allen Poe (both Snakes).
Snakes tend to be solitary and reclusive. All the Snakes I know, either by year or hour, tend to seek and enjoy time alone (of course everyone can), and some even dream of being hermits. Snakes take great pleasure when no one knows where they are or what they’re up to. Furthermore, they tend to be rather evasive, which is both positive and negative. The Snake tendency towards evasiveness can be a skill, knowing when to duck, avoid, and do nothing. To others, this evasive quality can appear distant, aloof, avoidant, and secretive. You’re never quite sure about them—think Snape from Harry Potter. Snake Qi is also very discrete, which again can appear both positive and negative.
Spiritually, it is a very good idea to be discrete, humble; showing off and making a big flap about yourself can create many challenges. Snakes tend towards the opposite; they tend to be quiet, never revealing their real experience to anyone, even when that experience is profound. Being discrete is the Snake form of camouflage, hiding in plain sight.
Since Snake Qi is Big Yin, and because its impulse is to disappear towards stillness and silence, Snakes are naturally calm, patient, and slow in their display. Chill is the word. Snake Qi is the opposite of scattered, and in its depleted state it can turn to laziness and lethargy. But in general, Snakes are relaxed and calm people; they have a big open capacity to host other people’s craziness. This calm nature can be called meditative. And many Snakes I know have a natural inclination towards meditation as an expression of their Qi, which also has an immense capacity for trance.
The Yin Fire nature of the Snake is also hypnotizing and trance inducing. Think Snake charmers. Snakes have an alluring charm because of their mysteriousness. People want to figure them out, and Snakes love this, because they love avoiding and evading people’s attempts to figure them out, to pin them down.
Snakes can play with this, and so they have a certain social capacity. They make great actors and can become anyone, like method acting. They can use this capacity for social advantage, which we call “Yin Power.” Yin Power is essentially manipulation, which is not inherently bad, although it can be used that way. It can be used for good too; like many Snake qualities, manipulation evades judgment…we’re just not sure about it.
Ming once told a story of a friend who learned to speak Chinese by simply becoming the teacher, imitating his mannerisms, dress, body language, and so on. Monkeys have this capacity too. Rather than learn the language, this person just became someone who already knew it—very Snakey.
Snakes can embody a social role for years, at work for example, even if it is not who they really are. They can work for years as a salesperson, and then one day become a carpenter. This changeability may sound bad, but not for Snakes necessarily, for they are unattached. Snakes can love and be fascinated by material things, and then sell everything they own without a second thought. Snake Qi loves to shed its skin, to change appearances, to transform, to drop attachments and move on. In the Chinese Tradition, the Snake, like the Rabbit, is associated with the practice of Inner Alchemy, refining our experience backward to Source.
The ability to become anything, take on any form, when depleted, can turn helpless. Depleted, Snakes can feel empty, without inner and outer resources, unable to manifest things in the world. The tendency to not take the “real world” seriously, can appear to others as lack of ambition, but Snakes don’t really have ordinary worldly ambition; their ambitions in life tend to reflect a deeper impulse, which is most often just to understand this strange world of appearances, this ephemeral dance we’re all born into; Snakes are perplexed as to why everyone takes the life game so seriously.
I mean why bother? Why bother constructing wealth and systems of value when everything falls apart? Of course, if a Fire Snake chooses to be successful, they can outdo everyone and make us all look like fools, but they would never believe in what they’re doing.
Hopefully this does not sound too negative. But negativity must be available in the cycle of time. We must remember that in the Chinese View, there is no real negativity/evil, but there is Yin. And all Yin Characters represent the necessity of darkness in the cycle of time. Darkness, depression, destruction, and so on, must be available in Time, otherwise everything would grind to a halt. Of course, not all Snakes are depressed, but they do represent that tendency.
The Snake symbol is rich and deep. In the collective imagination, Snakes conjure up primal, primordial, shamanic images, like Ouroboros, the Serpent eating its own tail. If you want to understand Snake Qi, simply look to these images, for they all speak the wisdom of the Snake.
I hope you enjoyed and were thoroughly confused by this exposition of Snake Qi! Stay tuned as Snake turns to Horse.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
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