The year of the Fire Monkey is just around the corner, Feb 8th, 2016.

For those of us turning 60 this Chinese year, then the year of the Fire Monkey is a very special year indeed as you will be coming back to your yearly birth pillar, which is the Fire part AND the Monkey part (Feb 12th, 1956 through Jan 30th, 1957–Lunar Calendar). You see, there are five monkeys total that we must contend with, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water of the traditional Chinese five elements. For the rest of us who are simply born under the year of the Monkey, then what we’re looking at is a return to home base so to speak. “What makes me happy?,” “How is my health?” These are common questions during the return of the 12 year cycle that closely corresponds to the Year Star or rather Jupiter’s return for those practicing Western methods. You also get your 1st house profected year as well, which will happen sometime around your 12 year cycle. But now I’m getting off on a tangent…The point is, is that the cycle of 12 can be a place where you can easily take stock of what you’ve got in life…how far you’ve come so far. 60 is where the Jupiter return and Saturn return roughly coincide, thus highlighting its’ significance even further.

Fire Monkey–this is an intelligent and bright animal, beginning the Metal years corresponding to the West and the Metal element. But the Fire in the stem is unrooted in the Monkey making this pillar even more dynamic. Rooted means that the Fire from Heaven in the stem would find either the same element or resource element as the primary element in the animal (a.k.a. branch). This would then support the Fire from heaven. However, since the Monkey contains Yang Metal, Earth and Water, the Fire is unsupported. What you have is a contrast of elements and a more complicated system. The Fire from Heaven makes the Metal in the Monkey useful as Metal is the wealth element to Fire–this can sharpen the Monkeys talents and put them to work. As the seasons progress throughout the year, the Earth and Water components of the Monkey will vary in strength. Overall, though, the Monkey is primarily a Metal animal. In this pillar, four of the five elements are represented, all in the Yang polarity. The Wood element is left out.

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The hour pillar is a relatively maligned aspect of the four pillars system as a whole–the reality is that it’s miscalculation is a common feature, unfortunately due to more than a few factors, in many Chinese four pillars books, software, websites, etc. In fact, there seems to be two different systems of calculating the hour stem even though I have never once seen this written anywhere as all of the hour pillar calculation methods are identical across the several books that I own on the subject (the discrepancies are in the various software and online calculation options). As an example, a very nice Chinese/English version of a 10,000 year calendar that I own is consistent with the interpretation of the calculation of the hour stem across several other references, including one professional software option. However, when running more than a few charts online and on a few mobile apps, the discrepancies are there and obvious when comparing with a known good hand calculated hour pillar result. These good results are based on recalculating the charts produced in Jerry King’s and Lily Chung’s authoritative works on the four pillars.

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Having recently finished teaching a brief introductory course to the basics of Western astrology, I had to ask myself if there was anything new that I had learned while engaged throughout that process. Was there any sort of revelatory insight or extreme vision? What about something poetic or even mind blowing? Was there anything at all that fit into a category that could otherwise be described as outrageous? Surprisingly, yes–but in a way that had completely caught me off guard. And it is so simple and so powerful. It is frequently dismissed off hand, tragically as yet another social “to-do” that one must indulge in from time to time in either an accepting or giving way.

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If you were to ask me which professional level astrology software program (app) could I buy for for the Apple or Android market, then I would have to regrettably confess that there aren’t any. Yes, that’s right. In the year 2015. There really isn’t a single pro level astrology software program out there for the Apple iOS or Android worlds. But there are some that come close–in certain ways–and that is another confusing and little understood topic in and of itself–that’s why I’m writing this article. To help those, like me, who are absolutely frustrated with this situation. And, by the way, I’m talking about astrology software for tablets and phones, Apple and Android only. As far as Vedic astrology goes, there are many of those programs out there on the Android marketplace and there may be some that are really good. But this article will only focus on the typical Western astrology side of things. [Important: Please read the Updates at the end of this article!]