Stem & Branch Patterns of Relationship
Watching the sky, especially the Sun and Moon and the stars has been a basis for human language, culture, and general sense-making for longer than we really know. These traditions root us in our deepest, most ancient selves. It is good to imagine and remember that we are alive today because ancestors we all share were able to use the signs and patterns of the natural world, in Heaven and on Earth, to survive and pass on their genetic and symbolic gifts.
Nowadays, the most common systems of astrology divide the year into 12, assigning value, rooted in observation of the natural cycles, to these phases. The central Asian traditions developed a complex two-wheeled cycling system which they felt elegantly explained the endless complexity of cycling time as expressed in the skies and on earth - The 10 Heavenly Stems (Yin and Yang aspects of the 5 elements) and The 12 Earthly Branches (12 zodiac characters). It is both an extremely simple and yet complex rubric with even more layers of information and so it is often simplified down to the 12 Earthly Branches, to make it digestible as horoscopes.
While this flattening of reality into a 1 dimensional plane, divided into 12, is easier to explain and understand, it also leaves us believing in a very unrealistic and compartmentalized world. We are taught to only associate ourselves with one of the twelve divisions. We collapse our human depths into a small box. As we step into the last Heavenly Stem year of Yin Water (last year was Yang Water Tiger), I wish to deepen how we engage with this material. I want you to jump in the deep end with me and swim around in the collective fluidity of our sense of self.
You are a little bit of everything on the zodiac wheel. You are everything reflected in your experience of Heaven and Earth - the 12 moons, the 4 seasons, the 24 solar terms. You may have a particular pattern that draws more from one or few of the Earthly Branches (12), but it is wise to consider even the most unconscious and least identifying aspects of ourselves. We can do deep healing within ourselves and outside ourselves by letting our hearts and minds understand every possible perspective.
With this in mind, I wish to encourage you to read each of these 12 aspects as one of your many dimensions of relating to the world. Each of these 12 provides you with a perspective of yourself at different times or at different phases of growth. You are the tenacious persisting intelligence of the Rat, the capacity to survive through the most bare season of deep Winter. You are also the inspired and talented leader, somewhere in your life, a Dragon who invites majesty in every action. You are the powerful surging insights of the Tiger, the deeply feeling Rabbit, the reliable and stubborn Ox, the piercing intelligence of the Snake, the generous outward capacity of the Horse, the aesthetic genius of the Goat, the Monkey as master of all puzzles, the precision of the Rooster, the forever friend of the Dog, and the sensual depths of the Pig. You hold within you all 12 moons, all 24 hours, all phases of life and death.
So read through each of these and find yourself spreading through the entirety of human experience and the symbols we use to navigate our moods and ideas. Let the Water Rabbit help you expand your connective tissue, your nerve-endings, your subconscious capacity for more. Consider how each aspect can inform the larger themes of the year - that of intuitive feeling, deep reflection, and renewal of relationship.
Twelve Earthly Branches in the Water Rabbit Year:
Positive aspect - The analytical nature of the Rat can bring a heightened attention to detail and efficiency to the tendencies of Water Rabbit to be imprecise and indeterminable.
Negative aspect - The nitpicking and complaining tendencies of the Rat may lead to a greater sense of stress and negativity throughout the year - this erodes the connective glue that Water Rabbit is offering.
Positive aspect - The conscientious and sincere nature of the Ox can bring a sense of dependability and stability to the year - it can align with the rapid dissemination of social cohesion if it is willing to let go of expectations carried from the past.
Negative aspect - The insensitive, dull, and ruthless tendencies of the Ox may lead to conflicts and tension throughout the year. These aspects will seem callous and uninteresting to the rich emotional experiences being offered.
Positive aspect - The daring, enthusiastic nature of the Tiger can bring a sense of excitement and adventure to the year.
Negative aspect - The impulsive and inconsiderate tendencies of the Tiger may lead to reckless decisions and conflicts throughout the year. There is a tendency to self-destruct and pull away within us all. How can we tame this so we spend more time enjoying the marketplace of life?
Positive aspect - The gentle, home-loving, and supportive nature of the Rabbit can bring a sense of peace and harmony to the year as all interaction and activity is nourished by these aspects.
Negative aspect - The gossipy, deceptive, and superficial tendencies of the Rabbit may lead to a lack of authenticity and trust throughout the year. Where do we deceive ourselves and how does this spill out into our society, our politics, our business, our outer world?
Positive aspect - The majestic and ambitious nature of the Dragon can bring a sense of power and leadership to the year. Dragon year arrives after this homely pit-stop. Dragon is the template for the idealized vision - where can Rabbit intuition and insight find grounded vision? This is Dragon.
Negative aspect - The arrogant, aloof, overconfident, and impatient tendencies of the Dragon may lead to divisive conflicts and tension throughout the year. These are wasteful expressions of power and a sign of not reaching true power and humility.
Positive aspect - The meditative, clever, and visionary qualities of the Snake can bring a sense of wisdom and insight to the year. The deep opportunities of healing can be expanded with the dynamic wisdom found in stillness and surrender.
Negative aspect - The scheming, manipulative, and suspicious tendencies of the Snake may deepen a lack of trust and conflicts throughout the year, further eroding grounded connection to reality, genuineness, and honesty.
Positive aspect - The independent, humorous, and industrious nature of the Horse can draw the playful and potentially stagnant energy of the year out into a sense of freedom and adventure.
Negative aspect - The irresponsible, thoughtless, and impulsive tendencies of the Horse may lead to reckless decisions, broken relationships, and conflicts throughout the year. Slowing down and listening are a helpful cure to these tendencies to get ahead of ourselves.
Positive aspect - The artistic, persuasive, and charming nature of the Goat can add even more creativity and inspiration to the year. There is a possibility of magic from art, music, storytelling, and poetry - the Goat is our capacity to bring this magic into life through creative playfulness.
Negative aspect - The self-pitying, anxious, worrisome indecisive tendencies of the Goat may lead to a stifling of progress and stagnation throughout our experiences this year. Get involved in something that is centered around making life more beautiful to push beyond these limitations.
Positive aspect - The innovative, capable, and resourceful dimensions of the Monkey can bring a sense of cleverness and adaptability to the year. Play with your information tools and seek advice to innovate your life.
Negative aspect - The arrogant and dishonest tendencies of the Monkey may lead to conflicts and lack of trust throughout the year. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re stuck - that’s just another puzzle you put yourself in.
Positive aspect - The observant, dignified, and articulate richness of the Rooster can draw pearls of insight from the depths of Water Rabbit. The Rooster can add punctuality and reliability to the year to avoid sinking in a storm.
Negative aspect - The argumentative, arrogant, and boastful tendencies of the Rooster draw us into conflicts, feeding a lack of humility that pulls us into deep misunderstanding of the wisdom being offered in this year.
Positive aspect - The consistent, direct and yet intuitive nature of the Dog can bring a sense of dependability and support to the year. Cut through pretense whenever and wherever for all our benefit. Anchor yourself in routine around your closest companions.
Negative aspect - The critical and narrow-minded tendencies of the Dog harden our hearts, fracturing delicate windows of opportunity.
Positive aspect - The honest, tolerant, compromising essence of the Pig can bring a sense of sincerity and emotional reliability to the year. Pig appreciates the Rabbit’s ability to seek and create a comforting warmth. Cuddle into the familiar warmth.
Negative aspect - The naive, indulgent, and obnoxious tendencies of the Pig may lead to financial difficulties, a leaking of resources, a spilling into the deep chaos. Avoid overindulging in wasteful exertion and a lack of authenticity throughout the year. Superficiality, an expression of anxiety and arrogance, feeds paranoia which can run rampant in a Rabbit year.
Going Deeper Into Fate Calculation Using Earthly Branches as Context:
In the tradition of Polestar Fate Calculation I have trained and studied in, analysis of a person's character using the Stem and Branch combinations is used to give us a context for how that person will navigate the trajectory and knots of their fate. We specifically look at the Stem-Branch combinations of their Year and Hour, which you can calculate at various sites. This basic picture of a person helps us contextualize a person's aptitude or appropriateness in meeting their fate and overcoming challenges or obstacles.
There are also entire traditions of Chinese astrology that just use the "Four Pillars" or Ba Zit determine a person's basic fate calculations. They look at the year, month, day, and hour for the paired Heavenly Stem (elements) and Earthly Branches (animal symbol) combinations. Different traditions will emphasize different aspects or give different meaning to the various pillars. This is just a small peak into the many varied traditions of Chinese fate calculation.
If you are curious about having a reading with me, or want more information to better understand how we might work together in this way, please check out the Polestar Fate Assessment page on our site.
Have a happy new year and please remember that we are still in transition out of a tumultuous and perilous year - be patient, go slow, re-set your expectations, and realign with what is truly important and valuable.