Chinese almanac-astrology is a practice of observing the ever-revolving cycle of yin & yang, the five elemental qi-phases, and twelve zodiac animal totems that symbolize specific, dynamic qualities of qi. These “Heavenly Stems” & “Earthly Branches” combine to form a “Sexagenary Cycle” – a revolving array of 60 distinct qi-patterns that arise in myriad expressions in space & time. These shapes or patterns spontaneously arise, transform, and resolve as Heaven & Earth interact. In terms of the almanac, we can view these as 60 dimensions of time.
The Stems & Branches combine in Four Pillars based on the movements of the Sun, Moon, & Earth. The Four Pillars are the Year, Moon, Day, and 120-minute Hour – each Pillar revolves through the Sexagenary Cycle, so there are cycles of 60 years, 60 moons, 60 days, & 60 “hours”. I have completed a 60-day observation, am 13 years into a 60-year observation, and in 2020 began a 60-moon observation.
Toward the end of 2020, I began publishing Dark Moon Newsletter, a complimentary public newsletter introducing the Heavenly Stem & Earthly Branch of the new moon in accordance with classical Chinese almanac-astrology (bāzì, 八字), along with a corresponding hexagram from the 3,000-year old Zhou Yi Jing to provide additional depth and dynamism on the qi-quality of the coming moon. The system I am presenting uses the actual lunar cycle, based on the Stems & Branches and Zhou Yi Jing hexagram correspondences attributed to the neo-Confucian philosopher Shao Yong of the Song Dynasty. My monthly write-ups serve to bridge these two systems, which I think provides tremendous perspective to further the reader’s study of either system.
The qi-descriptions in my newsletters suggest a general auspice for each respective moon; however, we also need to view each moon within the more influential context of the year. The days & hours also come into play, and our capacity to digest this revolving qi is influenced by our own natal chart as well as our conduct. Not to mention other aspects of the almanac and astrology that are beyond the scope of this particular project.
We can observe the almanac in different ways. At the heart of the practice is adapting our conduct to align with the qi of the moment. Observing the almanac – and its sister practice, divining with the Zhou Yi Jing – can assist us in navigating the fluctuating auspices of time. The purpose of this practice does not center around gaining some advantage or reaching some exalted state – in our lineage, we understand that observing and adjusting and expressing appropriately each moment is itself Dao-De.
My primary almanac-astrology teacher liked to say that as the Four Pillars (year, moon, day, hour) revolve, it is like a revolving buffet of qi – the quality is not always the same, and if we want to digest the qi of the moment well, it can help to know something of its quality. But we don’t need to stuff our heads with too much information – just enough to open our eye to perceive and adjust.
I encourage you to study these monthly images to perceive a gestalt “qi-pattern” within yourself and the world around you during each respective moon. But as with everything we do here, hold it lightly and don’t push it too hard. Don’t believe or disbelieve; simply observe and watch for the qi-pattern to reveal itself.
The purpose of this observation is not necessarily understanding the auspice of each specific moon – mainly it’s using the moon cycle as a way to observe these 60 expressions of qi, to spend a full lunar cycle contemplating and becoming familiar with each sign. After five years we will have become familiar with the full “canon of qi”. We can and I think should also observe these qi-expressions in the cycles of years, days, & hours as our appetite for this practice stirs.
Let’s dive in. I will explain the system bit-by-bit in the moons ahead. Subscribe here to join me in this 60-moon project.