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Disturbing visions of fire-breathing, demonic, multi-colored, serpentine creatures come to mind when we think of the legendary, mythical dragon.   Seems like a far cry from the sweet little Rabbit of 2011, making us quiver like last year’s Rabbit, and nearly makes us want to turn back time.

So, what's in store for us as the Chinese calendar turns the page from the kinder, gentler Rabbit of 2011, and presents us with the more passionate, unpredictable Water Dragon?

Water, rope, maps, compass, first-aid kits: tools for the explorer

Many of us want astrology of any kind to answer this question.  Yet, the world was made round so that no one can see too far ahead.  If divination was science, faith would be pointless.  Astrology is a tool, not a life philosophy.

One of the tasks of preparing for a journey is to pack supplies that are appropriate for our adventure.  Our individual souls are equipped with various tools for living that are specific to our needs for this lifetime.  

How do we access our unique cache of life tools?  Pay attention.  Listen.    

Sound too easy?  Who says it's supposed to be hard?  According to Aquarian, Hugh Prather, in his inestimable work, The Quiet Answer, "The universe has nothing up its sleeve."  

The brilliant aspect of wisdom is that we don't need to know anything; we simply must be available to the forces of the universe that create the heavens and earth when the information comes to us.

Western astrology vs. Chinese astrology  

As a system for living, astrology has several branches; Western astrology and Chinese astrology are two of these branches.  

This can be likened to medicine which also has several branches, such as psychiatry, chiropractics, and Chinese medicine, which all approach the science of healing, medicine, from a different perspective.  One is not righter than another; just a different focus or orientation.

Chinese astrology is especially focused on divination, whereas Western astrology focuses on personality traits.

Chinese astrology and its system group the stars into different constellations than the Tropical Zodiac, which produced the 12 Zodiac signs as we commonly know them.  

There is no correlation between the 12 Zodiac signs of Western astrology and the 12 Animals of Chinese astrology.  

The 12 Animals of Chinese astrology are relatively new to this ancient system, and correspond not to the constellations, but to the twelve years of the Jupiter cycle (Jupiter takes approximately a dozen years to complete one orbit of the Sun).

Chinese astrology uses five elements instead of four, and these are associated with the five visible planets:  Saturn – earth; Mars – fire; Mercury – water; Venus – metal; and Jupiter – wood.

Lunar mansions: heavenly hosts of conduct  

In addition to foretelling the future, the 28 lunar mansions of Chinese astrology are designed to help individuals determine proper times to act and how to act.  Each of the mansions provides an energy pattern that dictates when and how to go about our lives.

The mansions are grouped into four categories that correspond to the four phases of the Moon.

The Horn, The Neck, The Base, The Room, The Heart, The Tail, and The Basket belong to The Green Dragon of Spring.

The Ladle, The Ox-Boy, The Maiden, The Void, The Rooftop, The House, and The Wall make up The Black Tortoise of Winter.

Astride, The Mound, The Stomach, The Pleiades, The Net, The Beak, and Orion belong to The White Tiger of Autumn.

The Red Bird of Summer includes:  The Well, Ghosts, The Willow, The Bird, The Bow, The Wings, and The Carriage.

Animals by invitation only

From the Chinese Zodiac website:

The most well-known of the Chinese zodiac legends states that Buddha invited the animals to participate in a race. The prize was a coveted position on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The first 12 animals to cross the river would appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in the order in which they completed the race.

 The first animal to make it across the finish line according to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology was the Rat (I admit to being personally pleased by this, as I am a Rat). It seems unlikely that such a small animal could win such a strenuous race, especially when one considers all the contenders.

 Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology explains that the Rat used his brain rather than his brawn. It hitched a ride on what it perceived was the mightiest swimmer. Just before the Buffalo reached the shore, the Rat jumped off the Buffalo's back and crossed the finish line before the Buffalo, putting the Rat in first place.

The Buffalo came in second and as promised in the legends and mythology, was the second animal listed on the Chinese Zodiac.

The Tiger, also being strong, came in third, followed by the Rabbit that jumped his way across and was helped during the last stretch by the Dragon.

A Snake hid in the hoof of the Horse which is how it managed to make it across the river. At the last minute the Snake jumped out and scared the Horse into seventh place.

 The Sheep, Monkey and Rooster helped one another across and earned their spots on the calendar as well.

The Dog made it too, but decided a bath was more important than the position which is why it came in eleventh.

Finally, the Pig appeared and is listed last. According to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology, the Pig feasted and rested half-way through the race, but made it across guaranteeing its position.

2012: Year of the Water Dragon  

The Chinese New Year begins on variable dates that correspond to the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice.  The Year of the Dragon begins on January 23, 2012.  Welcome, Dragon!

The symbols used in astrology represent qualities and characteristics.  In order to understand each of the symbols, we simply need to examine the spectrum and combination of these qualities and characteristics.

A Dragon is fierce, brave, unpredictable, ambitious, independent, colorful, vital, and energetic.  A Water Dragon is a calmed version of these traits as water calms fire.

If you want to know what's going to happen in 2012, stick around for it and see for yourself.

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