Ox and Sheep are two of the four earthly branches that are called vaults. Each one marks the end of a season. The Ox marks the end of winter which is the water season. The Sheep marks the end of the fire season which is summer. These facts alone reveal how different they are and yet they are similar in that they are both yin as opposed to the yang of Dragon and Dog – the other two vaults.
Ox and Sheep are both feminine or yin, but compared to each other the Ox is yin and the Sheep is yang. The interplay of yin and yang is always evident, sometimes even obvious, in any situation you can describe. All that exists for us exists in relation to something else. As much as we might sometimes like to think that we are separate, the lesson there is that we only exist in relationships.
Ox and Sheep both share the feminine qualities of being sensitive and maybe even psychic. They both have to do with fertility but not in the same way. Ox symbolizes a woman’s stages of pre fertility or post fertility. The life producing quality is still there but is distant and inaccessible. At the end of a cold and sometimes dark January (the Ox month) the wood season of spring begins. Above ground, Ox is a time of waiting for enough warmth to arrive to stimulate growth. Underground, it is the time that roots are growing and the life is stirring in the soil. The fertility and potential are there, it’s just not as obvious as it is during the fruitful Sheep month of July.
There’s a connection between the Ox and the Greek goddess Demeter. Although Demeter provides the grain and sustenance of life, she is not compliant and seems to disappear at will. She’s not afraid to go to the underworld if she has to in order to solve a problem. This is the part of women that many men fear. Demeter is a mother who sometimes appears in a form that is remote and intimidating because of the impersonal nature of her nurturing. Like Demeter, the Ox has rules that will be followed and that applies to everyone who wants to eat. In terms of time there are Ox years (like 2009), the Ox month which is January*, Ox days** and the Ox hour comes every day from 1-3 am***. That might be the time of the night that you wake up haunted by repetitive thoughts.
In contrast to the Ox, the Sheep is more like the archetype of Kore or Persephone who is a fertile young woman. Remember, the Sheep month of July which is about warmth and picnics comes right before the Monkey month of August which is about metal and reaping. The Sheep is ripe and a bit naive, more easily lured into relationships and groups than the Ox with her rules. To men the Sheep might be the younger, accepting, accommodating and non-threatening woman. In terms of time there are Sheep years (like 2015), the Sheep month which is July*, Sheep days**, and the Sheep hour comes every day from 1-3 pm***. In many cultures this is known as the siesta time; time to take a break and nap or do some wool-gathering. Afternoon delight.
The Sheep and Ox clash because they are so much alike. Being more about rules, the Ox has to do with religion or religious attitudes while the Sheep has more to do with spirituality and enlightenment. The clash has to do with conflicting beliefs and competition.
Although all women enfold the qualities of both Ox and Sheep, these clashes of belief are what we often see among women. The very things that should bring us together are also the things that divide us. It’s often a question about “Who is doing it right?”
Women divide along lines of age, whether or not abortion is acceptable, working outside of the home vs. not working outside of the home, having children or not, how to raise them, who has money or doesn’t, whose children/husband is the best/worst, who looks the best/worst, and who is the happiest/unhappiest. Still, women are known for being more cooperative and nurturing with each other than men are and I think that is generally true. It’s the same old dance of yin and yang.
*Chinese months don’t follow the same dates as the Gregorian calendar, starting and ending slightly later.
**You’ll need to use a 10,000 year calendar or a calculator to figure out the stem and branch of a day.
***When Daylight Savings Time is in effect you have to adjust the time to get the hour correct.