February 8, 2008
Here we are again at the start of a new year. Or are we? Which date you pick to celebrate the New Year depends on your cultural heritage. Our Gregorian calendar sets the start of each year on January 1, but there are other options. The Celts, for instance, mark the New Year at Samhain on November 1. The Jewish New Year falls on Rosh Hashanah, or the first day of the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. The Chinese lunar New Year falls on the first new moon after the sun enters the sign of Aquarius. This year that date is February 7, 2008, the year of the Earth Rat.
There is also a Chinese solar new year called Li Chun, or Spring Begins. This date, which is tied to the solstices and equinoxes, always falls on February 4th or 5th. This can be tricky if you are doing astrology for someone whose birthday falls between the two New Years. For instance, take someone born on Feb. 6, 2008. In the Chinese lunar system they would be a Fire Pig. But in the Chinese solar system they would be an Earth Rat. Big difference.
No matter what your personal astrology, most people want to know what the New Year holds for them. Will it be a good year or a bad year? What about starting a new business? Will I find the love of my life? Should I take a risk on that new job, or sit tight and try to maintain the status quo? The answers to these questions are highly dependent on your personal chart, and I’ve found that the ZI WEI astrology system (based on the movement of certain “stars” through your chart,) is more predictive of individual luck and timing.
However we can make some comments about the general nature of the qi based on what we call the stem and branch of each year. The stem is one of five elements associated with the year (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water), and is said to impart heavenly qi. The branch is symbolized by the animal (Rat for 2008), and infuses the year with the earthly influence. The stems and branches are a counting method that goes back 4000 years. This way of marking time, by combining 10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches in recurring cycles, describes the patterns of universal qi in such a way that humans can find their place in the grand scheme of things. It was not until much later, probably around the Tang Dynasty, that the 12 animals were associated with the 12 branches, pointing the study of astrology more in the direction of personality and away from the observation of the flow of time.
So what can we say about the upcoming Earth Rat year? Let’s start with the stem. The last two years were Fire stem years (Fire Dog and Fire Pig.) The Fire element made these years particularly intense and active. The coming Earth year should be bit more stable, (partaking of the quality of earth,), a time to consolidate the growth of the last two years, to rely more on established routines and traditional methods.
But don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. If we look at the branch we find ourselves at the beginning of a whole new cycle. (The Rat is the first in the 12-branch cycle.) The Chinese character for this branch depicts a baby in swaddling clothes. So the image is of something in the seed stage, which carries within it the template of the mature thing. Rat is associated with the Winter Solstice, when the darkest time harbors the spark of spring’s light and warmth. So with this Earth Rat we have the fresh, inquisitive, growth oriented energy of the Rat; however this quality is contained by the weightiness and more conservative energy of Earth. In astrological language, since the Rat is naturally associated with the water element, we call this earth controlling water, an inauspicious rat. Think of a dam restraining the natural flow of a river.
But understanding this relationship can give us a strategic edge. For instance, business in general should go well this year, rats are notoriously clever, ambitious, and good at making money. I dare say the sub prime mortgage crisis could not have happened in a Rat year. Though a tendency to be secretive is part of the Rat’s nature, gullibility is not, the latter is more characteristic of Pigs, last year’s branch. Rat energy would have read the fine print and considered the long view. However, because the Earth stem is checking the Rat’s natural ambition, expect new plans to go forward haltingly, with a touch of conservative caution.
On the relationship front, Rats get along well with Ox, Dragon, and Monkey. Rats benefit from ox’s endurance and stability; they revel in the political genius of Dragon, and delight in Monkey’s resourcefulness. On the other hand, Rats have a serious conflict with Horses, their opposites, and tend to argue with Sheep, hurting the Sheep’s sensitive feelings. Snakes are intriguing to a Rat, but can swallow them before the innocent Rat knows what happened. Traditional astrology books caution against a Rat-Tiger alliance. Tigers, like Dogs, place a high value on honesty. They often mistake the Rat’s natural secrecy for duplicity, and can be suspicious of the Rat’s strategic thinking, which just feels like manipulation to the Tiger. Rats do fine with Pigs, largely because Pigs get along with everyone but Snakes; and Rats actually esteem the Rooster because of the latter’s clarity and dedication to goal setting.
In general, you can look forward to a more stable year in 2008; it should be less of a wild ride, and not as alarmingly intense as the past two years. Enjoy planning, strategizing, and problem solving, the Rat’s special talents; but don’t let yourself get frustrated by what may feel like a slow start to your new plans. Unless you’re a Sheep, you will be able to make steadier progress in 2009, the Ox year. Then prepare for sudden, erratic surges of energy in 2010, the Tiger year.