Chinese astrology, or Sheng Xiao (生肖), is an ancient astrological practice that can be traced back to the Han Dynasty. This kind of astrology is founded on the concepts of yin and yang, with significant elemental, natural, and lunar influences.
Similar to Western astrology, Chinese astrology has 12 zodiac signs—which are represented by animals. However, in Chinese astrology, the zodiac sign seasons last all year long—as opposed to Western astrology’s four-week seasons.
In order, the Chinese zodiac signs are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Similar to Western astrology, each zodiac sign animal is defined by certain characteristics. For example, Snake energy is known to be sensual and intelligent while Horse energy is easygoing and honest.
In Chinese astrology, each year is defined by two ongoing cycles: 1) the elemental cycle: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water (called “ten heavenly stems”), and 2) the 12 zodiac signs in their respective yin or yang influences. For example, the year 2021’s elemental cycle is Yin Metal. In the zodiac cycle, it is the year of the Ox. So, 2021 is: Yin Metal Ox.
Another difference between Western and Chinese astrology is that the zodiac sign cycle is founded on Chinese New Year—which begins its calendar based on the moon’s cycles. So, the start of the Chinese calendar year varies; it ranges from late January to early February.
For that reason, it’s possible for someone who was born before Chinese New Year to associate themselves with the zodiac symbol of the year prior. If you were born in January or early February, it’s possible you may have identified with the wrong zodiac sign.
The history of Vedic astrology.
The Sanskrit word for Vedic astrology, or Hindu astrology, is jyotiṣa, loosely translating to “light/heavenly body,” and the modality seems to have first appeared in the Rigveda, an ancient Indian text (though some assert it’s been around since 10,000 B.C.).
“Vedic astrology contains within it the rich spiritual traditions and myths of ancient Indian culture,” explains founder of Moondance Vedic Astrology and author of Vedic Astrology for Beginners, Pamela McDonough. “Even today, throughout much of India, Jyotish is an accepted science and, for many, is part of their lifestyle.”
In its earliest days, Vedic astrology was used to determine important dates for sacrifices and rituals. Over time it became increasingly personalized; people started studying its planetary movements in an effort to understand their own destiny.
It’s related to other ancient Indian practices including yoga and ayurveda, and similar to Western astrology, it “offers us a guide or road map to a better understanding of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and even monetary experiences,” McDonough says.
The 12 Vedic signs.
Just like in Western astrology, there are 12 signs in the Vedic zodiac. And interestingly, the characteristics of the signs are pretty much the same, too. The difference lies in the dates. So, if you swear by the identity prescribed by your Western sun sign, prepare to have your boat rocked a little. The Vedic sign dates are as follows and here’s how to calculate your Vedic chart:
Aries: Mesha (April 13–May 14)
Taurus: Vrishaba (May 15–June 14)
Gemini: Mithuna (June 15–July 14)
Cancer: Karkata (July 15–August 14)
Leo: Simha (August 15–September 15)
Virgo: Kanya (September 16–October 15)
Libra: Tula (October 16–November 14)
Scorpio: Vrishchika (November 15–December 14)
Sagittarius: Dhanus (December 15–January 13)
Capricorn: Makara (January 14–February 11)
Aquarius: Kumbha (February 12–March 12)
Pisces: Meena (March 13–April 12)
As McDonough explains, Western astrology bases charts on the “tropical calendar” (which most of the world uses) and the four seasons, while Vedic astrology charts are calculated using something called the sidereal system, which looks at the changing, observable constellations. (Western astrology does not change in the same way and works with the planets’ fixed positions.)
Another interesting distinction is that modern Western astrology has become more psychologically oriented, where Vedic astrology is based upon one’s individual Karma, according to McDonough. “Karma is a very significant element of Jyotish,” she says, “and practicing Jyotish in the United States may take a more cross-cultural approach and a less deterministic viewpoint, to chart interpretation and predication than a traditional Indian astrologer might.”
The two modalities also have a different take on what a retrograde planet actually means and what some of the planetary aspects represent. “All planets in Western astrology share the same type of aspect, such as a square, trine, sextile, or opposition,” McDonough notes. “Vedic astrology utilizes special aspects—each planet has a specific aspect or set of aspects, along with different strengths that are applied to that specific aspect.” Not to mention, Vedic astrology views your rising sign as more important than your sun sign.
“Jyotish will provide insight to one’s dharma, or life path, and reveal our innate gifts and challenges,” McDonough says. “It can help us better understand our relationships with our family, friends, and life partners. Having this fundamental understanding really helps to ease and relieve stress and our emotional ups and downs.”
Like a clock, the zodiac is divided into 12 segments, or houses, each one ruled by a different sign. The zodiac begins with the first house, and goes counterclockwise around.
Each house is associated with a set of traits, beginning from the self, and expanding outward into society and beyond. At the moment you were born, the planets were all in specific signs and houses. When an astrologer interprets your chart, she blends the meaning of each planet, the house it’s in, and the sign it’s in, to map the obstacles or gifts you’ll face in this lifetime.
When planets visit a house, they light up that part of your chart, and energize that house’s traits. Astrologers use the houses to predict which parts of your life will come into focus, and where you can take the best possible action. To learn more about a house, read about the sign that’s associated with it.
The first six houses are known as the “personal houses,” while the last six houses are known as the “interpersonal houses.”
The first house begins the zodiac, and covers the all “firsts”: first impressions, the self and appearance, leadership, new initiatives, fresh starts and beginnings. The sign on the cusp, or starting edge, of this house, is referred to as your rising sign or ascendant. (Ruled by Aries)
The second house covers all matters related to your immediate material and physical environment—taste, smells, sound, touch, sights. The second house also rules income, money, and self-esteem. (Ruled by Taurus)
The third house rules all forms of communication—talking, thinking, gadgets and devices (cell phones, pagers, Instant Messenger, etc.). The third house also covers siblings, neighborhoods, local travel, libraries, schools, teachers and community affairs. (Ruled by Gemini)
The Cancer-ruled fourth house sits at the very bottom of the zodiac wheel, and thus, rules the “foundation” of all things. This includes your home, privacy, your basic security, your parents (particularly your mother), children, your own mothering abilities, nurturing, and TLC. (Ruled by Cancer)
The fifth house is ruled by dramatic Leo, and it governs self-expression, drama, creativity, color, attention, romance, fun and play. (Ruled by Leo)
The sixth house is the domain of health and service. It rules schedules, organization, routines, fitness, diet and exercise, natural and healthy living, helpfulness and being of service to others. (Ruled by Virgo)
The seventh house is the sector of relationships and other people. It governs all partnerships, both business and personal, and relationship-associated matters, like contracts, marriage, and business deals. (Ruled by Libra)
The eighth house is a mysterious sector that rules birth, death, sex, transformation, mysteries, merged energies, and bonding at the deepest level. The eighth house also rules other people’s property and money (real estate, inheritances, investments, et. al. (Ruled by Scorpio)
The ninth house covers the higher mind, expansion, international and long-distance travel, foreign languages, inspiration, optimism, publishing, broadcasting, universities and higher education, luck, risk, adventure, gambling, religion, philosophy, morals and ethics. (Ruled by Sagittarius)
The tenth house is at the very top and most public part of the chart. The tenth house governs structures, corporations, tradition, public image, fame, honors, achievements, awards, boundaries, rules, discipline, authority, fathers and fatherhood. The cusp, or border, of the tenth house is also called the midheaven, and it clues astrologers into your career path. (Ruled by Capricorn)
The eleventh house rules teams, friendships, groups, society, technology, video and electronic media, networking, social justice, rebellion, and humanitarian causes. It also rules originality, eccentricity, sudden events, surprises, invention, astronomy, science fiction and all things futuristic. (Ruled by Aquarius)
The zodiac completes with the twelfth and final house, which rules endings. This house covers the final stages of a project, tying up loose ends, completions, the afterlife, old age, and surrender. It’s also associated with separation from society, institutions, hospitals, jails, hidden agendas, and secret enemies. And it rules the imagination, creativity, arts, film, dance, poetry, journals, and the subconscious mind. (Ruled by Pisces)
The mutable modality is attached to the signs Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces. The mutable houses are the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth. If a horoscope shows a preponderance of planets in these houses, its energy is weighted toward mutability.
Mutable signs know how to go with the flow. They are adaptable and flexible and can change their form of expression to whatever a situation requires. Standing their ground is of little import to mutable folks. These people would much rather conform to the norm, so long as their doing so will help the greater good. Luckily, mutable individuals are versatile and find it quite easy to change. Consider them the chameleons of the zodiac, since they can take on varied personae.
Mutable people are blessed with a tremendous resourcefulness. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! They know how to squeeze that last drop of juice and make things better in the process. Those influenced by a mutable modality in their horoscope also enjoy learning, play fair and are diplomatic and well-liked by others. To their further credit, they are sharp, sympathetic and can see (via a sixth sense?) the essential elements of a situation. At times, however, their desire to please everyone can get them into hot water. They may come across as wishy-washy, inconsistent and downright duplicitous. All this in the name of aiming to please!
The beauty of mutability is that those possessing it are flexible, versatile and highly resourceful. These folks are quick to help others and are selfless in the process. While they may occasionally stretch themselves to the breaking point, they know how to bounce back.
The fixed modality is attached to the signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. The fixed houses are the second, fifth, eighth, and eleventh. If an astrological chart shows a preponderance of planets in these houses, its energy is weighted toward fixity.
Fixed signs understand that steadiness is the key. Those influenced by this modality are happy to forge ahead with their projects, calmly working away until they have achieved their objectives. This is no struggle for fixed folks, rather it’s what makes them tick. These individuals are stable, determined and resolute. They want to get to the finish line and have the persistence and ability to concentrate, characteristics that will get them there.
There is no lack of confidence in fixed individuals. Self-reliance could be a fixed person’s middle name. Those possessed of a fixed nature are powerful, yet purposeful. There are no wasted motions here: Fixed folks move patiently and steadily toward their goals. They are also steady and reliable and always remember those who helped them out. Conversely, those born under a fixed sign can at times be stubborn, my-way-or-the-highway folks. They may have a tendency to get stuck in their ways and to believe that they are always right.
Those influenced by a fixed modality are determined, reliable and persistent. They have great strength, and strength of purpose, and love to get the job done. So what if they refuse to budge? They get results.
A cardinal modality is attached to the signs Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The cardinal houses are the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth; if an astrological chart shows a preponderance of planets in these houses, its energy is weighted toward cardinality.
Cardinal signs are the initiators of the zodiac. They are also found at key jumping-off points on the chart wheel, specifically the ascendant, medium coeli (M.C. or Midheaven), descendant, and imum coeli (I.C.). Individuals possessing a cardinal modality like to get things going. They are active, quick, and ambitious. Many projects get started, thanks to the cardinal initiative, although a good deal of them are never finished. That’s because Cardinal folks are much fonder of starting things than finishing them.
You won’t find a cardinal person slacking off. These people are full of vim and vigor and possess a drive and ambition that is unmistakable.
Enthusiasm and a zest for life fill the cardinal individual. Some might perceive this rampant energy as domineering, and, at times, it can be. Cardinal people can easily forget about the rest of the pack when they are busily focusing on their own endeavors. Even so, their energetic spirit often wins the day.
Cardinal folks are clever and want to win. They love to start things, and whether they finish them or not, there’s always a lot going on.
The element of water is associated with the signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, and it also rules the fourth, eighth, and twelfth Houses. Watery descriptions are well suited to this element: fluid, flowing, wavering. These terms can easily apply to an individual’s emotions — the realm where Water most powerfully exerts its influence.
Water signs are intuitive and sensitive, and they feel more intensely than the rest. They are emotional and nurturing, and like a river, they run deep. How things feel is what matters to these folks, and they base their actions on sense, rather than on logic or intellect. Water is also about compassion and understanding, since the receptive talents of these individuals are remarkably high. Water sign people can take in the feelings of others, process them, and put forth a plan or solution that will be conscientious to all.
Those graced by water love to take their sense of the world and translate it into the artistic. They desire aesthetic beauty—and for everyone to be happy as a result of that beauty. Much like still water can become stagnant, however, an inactive water sign person is not at their best. Water signs feel most fulfilled when they are helping others, and they do so in an enchanting, considerate, and even romantic way.
The flip side of this dreamy Water world is the tendency of these individuals to brood. Water signs are susceptible to mood swings, and at their worst, they could become self-indulgent, controlling, and hostage to a fantasy world. This also brings up the ability of these folks to see things more clearly than others. Call it psychic, if you will.
Water signs are emotional, empathetic, receptive, and feel things deeply. Alternately calm like the sea or possessing the force of torrential rain, the emotions brought forth by this element are plentiful, indeed.