Year of the Metal Rat–Jan. 25, 2020 to Feb. 11, 2021

Once again, we delight in posting Narrye Caldwell’s column on the upcoming year, seen through the perspective of Chinese Astrology. Narrye is a longtime practitioner and teacher of Tai Chi, as well as her other pursuits, and has published two books with Plum, “Blossoms in the Spring: A Perfect Method of Qigong” (co-authored with Ted Mancuso) and her latest from 2019, “Spirit of the Stars: Navigating Your Fate With Pole Star Astrology.”

year of the ratI almost didn’t write this year’s Chinese astrology column. In late December when it was time to buckle down and get to work, I determined that, finding our world in a state of despair and on the brink of apocalypse, there was just nothing to say that would be helpful. So, in true cowardly fashion, I retreated to my cave, dove under the covers and refused to be cajoled. Anyone brave enough to inquire about the state of my writing life risked losing a limb. Of course, it didn’t help that my winter read was a book about the plague years in the middle ages. I know, bad choice on my part. But I bet there are a few of you out there who can relate just a little bit.

Then something happened. I had a recurrence of some excruciating neck pain that I had thought was tamed long ago. That took me to my chiropractor. In the course of our check in she cheerily noted that my “doom bone” was misaligned and I must be feeling a bit gloomy and anxious. My doom bone? What? Well, apparently this particular cervical misalignment often causes people to go emotionally off the rails, feeling as if the world could end at any moment. With a few gentle expert moves, she nudged the errant bone back into place and bam, it felt like the sun had just come out. Upon returning home, I began to peek out of my cave and consider the possibility that what had looked to me like the apocalypse was actually, well, just winter. And I, who should know better, had made the crucial mistake of pushing myself too hard, when the qi of Winter insists that we retreat and rest. Lesson learned. So, with a bow to my chiropractor, let’s get on with it.

General outlook

On January 25, 2020 we welcome in the Chinese Year of the Metal Rat. The transition we can all look forward to, and must negotiate with care, is worth noting. 2019 was the Year of the Earth Pig. The Pig is the last of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. So, it’s been a year of endings, of things coming apart, the end of a 12-year cycle. From my current vantage point in the Ox month, which is the last month of the last year of a 12-year cycle, the unraveling looks complete, and the glimmer of light we all long for, that spark of yang qi that starts a new cycle, is not yet visible.

This particular Chinese New Year contains an unusual misalignment (remember that doom bone?), that requires skillful management. The Lunar New Year, which always begins on the new moon of the Tiger month (in this case January 25), comes about two weeks before the new solar year begins, which this year is February 6, the first day of a two-week period called “Spring Begins.” Without straining your patience for astrological detail, what happens is that the qi stutters a bit. There’s a false start out of the gate at the lunar new year, followed by a more sure-footed start when the solar new year comes along in February.

There are a number of ways to get tripped up by all this. There’s the usual mistake westerners make of assuming that January (which is always the last month of the old year and not the new year at all) is a great time to start new projects and get going on those new year’s resolutions. It’s not. The qi is still too yin to support such activity and your efforts are bound to fail. The next tripping point this year is the Lunar New Year on January 25. Since that is the first day of the Tiger month, you may feel a surge of power. Don’t mistake this as an invitation to pounce. Not yet. This qi is too young and has no root. It will surely fizzle out without accomplishing much. A better use of the qi here is to use this new optimism and muscularity to plan your next moves. But you should still conserve your energy. Store at least 70% of this fresh new qi. Now, when the solar year begins on Feb. 6, all of the yang qi comes into alignment and you can move forward. The qi is still young and fresh, so don’t spend it recklessly. Give things time to warm up and mature. That way you can enter the new year in full command of your resources.

Now let’s talk about the RAT.

The Chinese name for the qi influence we call “Rat” is “Zi.” “Zi” means seed, and it provides the spark of yang qi necessary to initiate a new cycle. Meaningful change is now possible. The upcoming year is about gathering data and developing detailed and scrupulously designed strategies to bring about the change we seek.

Your assignment is to dig up a copy of the animated movie “The Secret of NIMH,” and watch it. (Hint—it came out in 1982, and if you can’t find it ask a Rat friend for help.) In the movie, the heroine rat, gentle Mrs. Brisby, is given an amulet by wise elder rat, Nicodemus. Stuff happens, lives are at stake, the entire rat community is on the brink of destruction. But (spoiler alert), the rats have concocted a plan. (Remember, the ability to concoct a plan is the Rat’s superpower.) The plan is not without risk; courage and decisive action are required. Indeed, at the crucial moment when all seems lost, Mrs. Brisby must call upon every ounce of her courage. When she does, her amulet transforms into a stone of magical power and the entire rat community is saved from massive destruction at the hands of government forces. This epic tale is your talisman for the year.

The Rat is wise, analytical, strategic, resourceful, and kind. These are the qualities that bring success this year. If we work diligently, relying on intelligence and heart, paying careful attention to the details of our plan and not wavering in our courage, we will find our way through the labyrinth of danger that surrounds and threatens us. In the end, the magical stone of power will see us safely through.

Advice to the 12 Animals in a Rat year:

RAT: One aspect of your genius is the art of concealment. You’re not comfortable making your plans public until all the data is in and you’re sure of the potential for success. But this year the tribe is out of options and has its back against the wall. People will come to you for advice. Remain calm. Be like Nicodemus. Team up with a Dragon who can provide leadership, and an Ox who can carry the workload. Your intelligence and wisdom will prevail, and success is assured.

OX: This is your year to gather strength for the heroic tasks that will be required of you in 2021, the Ox year. For now, be a steadying influence during the Rat year, helping to keep us all focused and calm. Your unflappable ability to stay on course, combined with Rat’s wise counsel and resourcefulness, is just the medicine we need. Your stamina and loyalty inspire trust and hope for the future.

TIGER: Being of Wood energy, you have an affinity for beginnings. The last two years of upheaval, and the chaotic ending of a cycle, have left you frazzled and irritated. It has been impossible to get the rest you require. (Note—tigers in the wild typically sleep for about 15 hours a day. This is necessary to support their immense displays of power during relatively short periods of being awake.) But now, with the stirring of yang qi hosted by the Rat, you smell action. You are one of the zodiac members that respect Rat’s wisdom, in spite of the fact that you could easily crush Rat with one paw. This respect, and your trust in Rat’s ability to concoct a successful plan, are just the things that help soothe your rattled nerves. So, this year you can begin to yawn and stretch. It’s not time to come into full power, and you must patiently wait out the Ox year. Keep storing your qi (think about that required 15 hours of sleep), because you will need to be fully restored by 2022, the Year of the Tiger.

RABBIT: Like the Rat, your diminutive size means you must rely on something other than physical strength to keep you safe. The problem is that your superpower is sensitivity, and the Rat’s is an analytical mind. You feel; Rat thinks. Sometimes you two get conflicting information and this results in misunderstanding and disappointment. But you basically want the same thing, which is a peaceful path back home. So, take a page from the Rat’s book this year and devote yourself to gathering data in support of your long-term goals. Yes, it’s ok to use your preferred method of intuition and feelings. Just stay calm and avoid conflicts.

DRAGON: This is an important year for you. Dragons are powerful, lucky, ambitious, charismatic, and confident. But, according to Chinese philosophers, the Dragon’s talents have no value unless their power is directed to benefiting others. This year you have an opportunity to align yourself with wise advisors (Rat) and use your considerable charisma to become the leader we all need right now. You have a choice: you can be egotistical and selfish, or you can dedicate yourself to the greater good. Choose wisely.

SNAKE: Snakes are reflective, mystical, wise, and philosophical. They are also somewhat solitary and evasive. The recent Pig Year may have felt deeply offensive to you. This year will be better. You and Rat share an appreciation for concealment. To you it is a way of cultivating power. The best use of your qi now is to find a quiet place to meet regularly with a few like-minded friends, and study philosophy over endless cups of tea. Next year, the Ox will hire you to fill a major position of influence. Your intelligence and inventiveness will be valued and appreciated.

HORSE: Ok, now we have a problem. Rat signifies the seed stage of a cycle, while you signify the peak of the cycle, just before things head into decline. You can see the conflict, right? Rat’s caution, endless perseverating, and insistence on gathering all the data before moving ahead with a plan, is infuriating to you. With your awesome physical presence and brave heart, it’s just not in your nature to hold back. Your usual approach, which is to charge courageously out of the gate and run until you have a heart attack, will not work this year. Best thing to do is find some friends to frolic with, munch on the best quality alfalfa hay, graze in the sun, and get fat. Enjoy your time off.

SHEEP: Since you are probably exhausted from the endless demands placed on you during last year’s Pig party, you can enjoy a rest period this year by allowing the Rat to take over the details. You and Rat share an appreciation for thoroughness, and you sometimes mistake this common interest for compatibility. But you have different agendas. You are primarily concerned with harmony and teamwork. Rat is devoted to success. If you’re going to stay in the game this year, retire to a backseat position and implement strategies to calm your anxiety.

MONKEY: You are the third leg of the Rat/Dragon team. Rat provides data and astute planning. Dragon provides leadership. You, Monkey, are in charge of the magic. Together, the three of you are unstoppable. Your irrepressibility, resourcefulness, wit, and uncanny imagination can be put to good use this year. And, it will all be enormous fun for you. The excitement of nipping in and out of dangerous situations is actually restorative to you. And with Rat and Dragon in tow, you just can’t lose.

ROOSTER: Your superpower is the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of your long-term goals. This is likely to be a frustrating year for you, as the Rat, who is your intellectual equal, moves into a position of power. Your natural tendency to be critical (never mind that you are usually right), is not well received. Your best tactic is to bide your time this year, knowing that in the Ox year you can say “see, I told you so.”

DOG: When Dogs are depleted, as you most certainly are this year, they become anxious, worried, and controlling. Of course, your motive is always to care for and protect your tribe. Loyalty and hard work are your superpowers. But during a Rat year, these qualities are misread as annoying interference. This would be a good time to back off and go curl up in your cozy bed by the fireplace. Don’t worry, we’ve got this.

PIG: Pigs, the ultimate Taoists, accomplish everything by doing nothing. Having hosted the end-game festivities, you can now retire and write poetry about the good old days, while the rest of us create a new society. In four years, you will be called on again to assist the Rabbit in some small but elegant celebration marking the eternal cycle of life. Meanwhile, retirement is looking good.

Narrye Caldwell is a practitioner of Chinese martial and medical arts, shamanic healing, pole star astrology, and classical feng shui. She is on the faculty at Five Branches University, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and the Academy of Martial & Internal Arts. Narrye is available for private consultations in Pole Star Astrology and can be contacted through her website at: