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.
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.