The times, they are a-changin’
With only a couple more weeks left of the Year of the Earth Dog, I have delved into the ancient Chinese astrological texts, and contemplated the Taoist and alchemical symbols in preparation for the Lunar New Year on February 5, 2019. It looks like the upcoming Year of the Earth Pig is shaping up to be a year of healing and preparing for a new cycle of growth and evolution.
If your time to you is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
— Bob Dylan
The structure of the Taoist alchemical calendar
The ancient Chinese calendar is a fusion of two different calendars, both dating back to the early Zhou Dynasty (around 1050 BCE), and possibly earlier.
The Heavenly Stems was a ritual calendar thought to have been used predominantly by the ruling elites and is based on the movement of the stars (see table below).
The Earthly Branches was the calendrical system predominantly in use by the farmers and agriculturists, and is based on the seasonal variations of the year (see table below).
It was during the syncretisation programs of early Taoist & Confucian philosophers during the early Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) that the two systems were fused to create the sexagenary calendar — that is, a calendar which measures cycles of years and days according to a cycle of 60. This is done through the combination of the 10 Heavenly Stem signs and the 12 Earthly Branch signs.
Philosophically speaking, this calendar was also remarkably different in two ways. Firstly, the emphasis was on describing the quality of time, not just measuring its passing. Secondly, the ancient Chinese saw time and history as being cyclical. Both of these presuppose a markedly different paradigm to that of the Western post-modernity.
I am the earth and she is my water.
— Humble Pie
Yīn Earth & Water
This is the 36th year in the great cycle of 60 years, and is called 己亥 Jǐhài. It is also the final year in the 12-year earth-phase of the great cycle.
己 Jǐ is yīn-earth element, and represents the phase when something has come to maturity as displaying its unique, distinguishable features. The Heavenly Stem provides the pure elemental flavour of the year. In astrological terms, the two earth stems represent Saturn.
亥 Hài is the yīn-water element, and represents the energy of latent possibilities, like the seed awaiting its growth. It traditionally was represented by the alchemical symbol of ice, hardened and dense, unlike its natural flowing, liquid state. In this form, it holds and preserves, and there is no movement or growth as such.
Together they represent a time where one’s individual uniqueness will be made manifest internally, and maybe not so outwardly apparent. These features are locked deep within one’s (hidden) true nature; they become apparent or lay in one’s unconscious mind, but will not be so outwardly expressed to the external world. It suggests a year of deep introspection and personal gnosis.
- Those born in a year of the Rabbit (1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011), Sheep (1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991), and Pig (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007) should find that this year will benefit their endeavours greatly, with the energy of yīn-water enforcing their own natural tendencies.
- Those born in a year of the Snake (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001) or Monkey (1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004) could find themselves greatly challenged, and maybe some of their achievements will be blocked or come undine all together.
- Those born in a year of the Tiger (1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010) will be subject to very auspicious energies this year, however it may be a couple of years before this will come to fruition or even be apparent. However the energy of yīn-water will have future benefits, even if they do not show up immediately over the course of this year.
- Those who have 甲 jiǎ (yàng-wood) as their Day-Master may find themselves being supported by the energy of the year. On the other hand, those who have 戊 wù (yàng-earth) as their Day-Master will be challenged.
It is important to note here that the importance of the Day-Master needs to be taken into consideration with the elements found throughout the whole chart in order to determine one’s ‘luck element’. In general, this year the yīn-earth element of the Heavenly Stem will influence ‘luck elements’ as so:
- Earth — good luck
- Metal — nourished, nurtured, will grow in time
- Water — constrained or blocked luck
- Wood — average luck
- Fire — drained, bad luck
Keep in mind that everyone’s astrological chart is unique, and a proper interpretation is required with year, month, day, and birth time details to determine the various factors that will play out in 2019. There are many websites and Chinese astrologers online for you to find this information.
I invite you to contact me directly if you would like me to put together this information for you with detailed, personal report.
Feel like a brand new person,
But you make the same old mistakes.
— Tame Impala
The monastic pig
Similar to 2018, the quality brought by the Heavenly Stem — signified by the earth element — brings a less-than-social flavour to the year. But while last year was symbolised by the lone wolf wandering the mountains on his own, this year the pig continues his introspective and reflective activities, but in the context of a community with the same intentions. This is the image of the monastery, or in Buddhist terms, the sangha.
Monks are not hermits, they are part of communities, but the emphasis is on contemplation and solitude within the confines of the community, in order to learn self-reliance and self-responsibility. This way, in the monastery everyone is supporting each other on such a journey.
People chose to spend time in monastic life in order to simplify and find some kind of spiritual meaning. Life in the monastery was not all contemplation and prayer — they continued to perform mundane tasks daily that the community required: chopping wood, fetching water, growing food, preparing meals, and general maintenance of the space. In China, many monasteries were also places where rigorous training in martial arts was as much part of spiritual practice as meditation and reading sacred texts.
Can I have some remedy?
This hexagram is particularly interesting, in that it appears that it typifies shamanic and alchemical healing. It is the understanding of the root of illness and dys-ease and how to remedy it.
The character 蠱 gǔ is itself quite interesting, it can mean ‘to poison or corrupt’, ‘to bewitch or harm through witchcraft’, or even ‘to drive to insanity’. It is also used to refer to intestinal parasites, and in ancient times referred to a legendary venomous insect or worm. In the foundational medical text, Huáng Dì Nèi Jīng Sù Wèn, 蠱 gǔ are described as demons which possess the patient and cause them to act irrationally, seeking certain hungers and desires to be constantly sated. The character represents the image of worms/insects in a shallow container like a bowl.
Everything leads to corruption
— Iggy Pop
The etymology of the name of the hexagram comes from the idea that the bowl contains food (that which nourishes and sustains us), has become spoiled by these worms, and then shows us the method of remedying this situation.
The text of the I Ching relating to this hexagram states that holding the virtues of 元 yuán (‘sublime initiative’) and 亨 hēng (‘prosperity’) is what we need to face the challenge ahead. The moment described by ䷑蠱 GǓ is inherently dangerous and treacherous; however only good can come of finding the courage to “ford a great river” and remedying the situation of corruption, degeneration, or decay. So while the meaning of the hexagram is referring to “that which corrupts”, its real meaning and teaching is about how (and when) we remedy such corruption and decay.
In the astrological calculations for this year, further information was gleaned in the annual hexagram. The 2nd (yàng) line is inherently unstable and will change into its opposite, a broken (yīn) line.
It suggests a focus on remedying that which has become slack and lax in our lives. But the approach is not to be hard on ourselves for past mistakes or laxness, but to remain gentle and forgiving, and more importantly to not go to the opposite extreme and become too hard, rigid, and firm in our ways. In fact, it would be best to embody the monastic principles of quietude, solitude, and contemplation of our mistakes. We do so surrounded by our community of like-minded individuals who will support us on our individual journey.
But when the pain cuts you deep
When the night keeps you from sleeping
Just look and you will see
That I will be your remedy
The solutions and remedies we need for our lives at this time will become clear to us in due season over the course of the year, provided we remain still and quiet enough to hear the wisdom from our true nature deep within. We will still be required to go about our normal daily routine, as this is the yàng aspect of ensure we don’t slip into old patterns of laxness; but going into whatever we do with a sense of ease and grace will serve us better throughout the year.
The combination of earth and water also suggests a slowness that has been lacking in recent years, but that many people are starting to realise has been sorely missing in their lives. We are in (or are approaching) many different phases within the alchemical calendrical cycle which are categorised as being yīn, rather than yàng. Certainly, the water element will dominate the next 3 years, with Jupiter traversing the northern quadrant of the sky called 玄武 Xuánwǔ, black tortoise, which comprises seven of the twenty-eight constellations. From next year onwards, we will be moving through a larger 12-year cycle influenced by the metal element, which will also inspire a general slowing down and inwards-focussed phase.
Another thing to consider this year (as with last year), given the dominance of the earth [Heavenly] stem is the location of the planet Saturn. This year, that planet continues to move slowly through Capricornus (Western Astrology), and this year is passing through 牛 niú, the Ox, the 9th lunar mansion (constellation) of Chinese Astrology. This also tells us that level of difficulty and challenge that the year will present to us. However, all that has been discussed thus far give us the details on how to remedy these troubles.
And I lost my head
And thought of all the stupid things I said
2019 looks like it’s going to be fairly uneventful, compared to previous years. Although underneath the surface there will be very subtle, very deep, but very profound changes occurring. It will involve some soul-searching and a general sense of peace in preparation for what is being anticipated in the coming years.
My advice for you, the individual is to firstly consider your own nature — look at your own astrological birth charts (both Western and Eastern) and see what important transits will be occurring for you specifically. Take the symbols and apply their generalisations to your own situation and engage with them in a way that makes sense to you. To do this requires taking the time to stop all the busy-ness and hustle-and-bustle that the external world is impressing upon us and listening to the truth that lies in our hearts and cores.