The New Moon and the Rooster: This week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Jan 23, 2017


There are some fascinating differences between Chinese and Western astrological traditions, and since Friday’s New Moon inaugurates the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, it’s a good time to consider those differences.

Both systems are based on the rhythm of the number 12, but while the Western tradition recognizes 12 signs each year, according to constellations of the zodiac, the Chinese tradition recognizes one sign or animal for the whole year, and is not related to constellations in the sky.

The year animals in the Chinese astrology system can be divided into three categories: one for domesticated animals; one for wild animals; and one for the singular Chinese mascot, the dragon.  This year’s rooster belongs to the domesticated animals category and plays an important role in Chinese agriculture and economy.

In western astrology, horoscope signs are fixed in place in the calendar, despite the fact that the Earth’s wobble is causing a shift in our orientation to the stars. This might seem confusing, but what we do in the west is assign horoscope signs according to where the Sun is in relation to the stars, but because we are wobbling, that relationship drifts and changes.  Recently astronomers, not astrologers, have addressed this shift by reassigning the boundaries between the constellations.

But bear in mind, this shift doesn’t have as much consequence in Chinese astrology, because an individual’s sign is determined by the year they were born, not by the stars.  Still, to find the Chinese New Year you do have to know the correct date of the New Moon, and that same date only repeats every 19 years.

In my research I found out that the animal for this Chinese New Year is not just a rooster, but any barnyard fowl, so if you like, you can also consider this the year of the Chicken or the Duck.