As is usual at this time of year, I provide you with my meditations on the energy of new Lunar Year. 2018 is the year of the Yang Earth Dog.
The major themes of this year are integration and Presence.
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 Daoist & 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.
This year is the 35th in the greater 60-year cycle, and is called Wù Xū.
Wù is the yang-earth element, and represents a developing phase which is prosperous and abundant.
Xū is the yang-earth element, and is a retreating energy, similar to metal energy of the previous two years. This energy is the transitional phase between the withdrawing energy of metal, and the internalised resting of water.
Together they represented the time when the harvest has been gathered and being stored and preserved for the coming winter. It suggests — as all the earth years do — a time to be bringing together the various parts and elements in your life to integrate them in a way that will allow you to prosper.
- Tigers (1962, 1974, 1986, 1998) and Horses (1966, 1978, 1990) have a mutually enforcing relationship with Dog (1958, 1970, 1982, 1994), so if you are one of these signs, this should be a particularly good year in terms of the ease with which the energies will have an effect in your life.
- Oxen (1961, 1973, 1985, 1997) and Sheep (1967, 1979, 1991) are both imbalanced by the Dog energies, and so those born with those signs must be cautious. This is not about predicting ‘bad luck’, but because the imbalanced relationship is so pronounced, this tests and challenges you to step up to the level of Presence and Awareness that is being called for this year.
- Roosters (1969, 1981, 1993) are antagonised by the Dog energies, meaning what the Dog brings will not be conducive necessarily to their growth and development. Again, what people with these signs require is a high-level of Presence and Awareness.
- On the other hand, Rabbits (1963, 1975, 1987, 1999) have a harmonious relationship with what Dog brings, so while they may not completely experience all the gifts that the year’s resonance will bring, what comes will complement what’s happening in their world.
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 2018. There are many websites and Chinese astrologers online for you to find this information. I invite you to contact me if you are seeking more detailed information.
The significance of the eclipses
The blood moon eclipse occurred on the final hour of the final day of the 60-day cycles (Guǐ Hài — yin water-water), introducing the new (daily) cycle on completion.
In Astrology and Alchemy, eclipses are considered important portals in time, heralds of change. From the perspective of Western Astrology, one would look to see where in the birth chart the eclipse was occurring to understand the potential effects on your personal life. Check to see which house it was transiting, and what aspects it holds with any important points in your birth chart.
Even more interesting is the fact that there will be a partial solar eclipse on the day of the Lunar New Year (February 16, 2018). This is because a solar eclipse occurs on a new moon (whereas a lunar eclipse occurs on a full moon).
This is particularly auspicious in shamanic-alchemical practices, as the combination of lunar/solar eclipses creates a powerful energetic time for change and transformation. In this framework, the earth element in the Earthly Branches represent the phase of shifting between seasons, which is why there are 4 earth signs, placed between fire, metal, water, and wood (see table above).
Therefore can expect this year to be a potent time of change, in particular a kind of ‘tying up of loose ends’ of the previous two metal years.
The Mountain Wolf
Each of the 60 element/sign combinations have an alchemical symbol associated with it, based on the combination of stem/branch.
Yang Earth’s symbol is a mountain, the representation of an imposing, immovable earth that is strong and firm. The image of the mountain is one of the archetypal energies from the I Ching, being one of the 8 primary gua (trigrams) which form the symbols of the changes.
A mountain cannot move; its strength and power come from its permanency, itself a form of ‘movement’, the shift from activity to rest.
The symbol of the Earth Dog is that of the wild dog or wolf that dwells in the wilderness of the mountains. He is a solitary creature when he hunts, however is loyal to his pack, and more importantly, to his mate. So while it implies a degree of loyalty, it also represents the need for stillness, rest, and serenity that comes from heading off into the wilderness to hunt.
The alchemical energy of the year suggests that spending some time resting and integrating will be conducive to being able to gather the appropriate resources that we will need to further our lives, careers, and relationships with others. How this plays out for the individual will depend on their unique relationship to the Earth Dog.
The deep ravine
In Taoist Alchemy, there is always an association with the symbols contained in the I Ching, as it formulates the basis of the original calendars.
At first, my initial consideration was that the obvious hexagram to represent the energy of the year would be 52/Gen (the Mountain, Keeping Still) — the image of double Earth.
However, after applying the usual astrological considerations, what I found was that instead the Yang Earth Dog year was signified in the I Ching by 29/Kan.
The image of this hexagram is of a deep ravine between mountains which holds a wild, rushing river.
This is the dangerous yang nature of water, the abyss which can swallow one up if one is not cautious.
The usual advice given when Kan is part of the symbol is to remain alert and present, and maintain a cautious confidence. Hesitation can get you drowned.
At the same time, water also represents flow and movement — in this case, the flow that occurs between the spaces of stillness that the Mountains create.
While the double yang-earth energy of the year suggests integration and rest, too much of this creates stagnation. The primary foundation of Taoist Alchemy is that change, movement, and transformation are constant. The goal is to keep flow; and in the year of the Yang Earth Dog, we remain in flow by remaining Present, mindful of different ways of moving and changing, considering always the possibilities that exist in every moment.
Given the stillness of yang earth can show up as a reduction of Qi (life force), we need to pause just enough to feel and sense life. Without feeling the life-force, what little energy of flow is there will come to stillness (stagnation, stuckness).
Intellect cannot itself create feeling, it can only be alert/aware to what feeling is there; this awareness is where our attention is most useful. By slowing down or pausing just enough to sense this feeling, we can then continue on through life, navigating more by the internal felt-sense. In shamanic work, this is the medicine of the wolf, who intuits everything in her world.
Last year’s Fire Rooster saw communities come together, light shone into the darkest corners to reveal the shadows, and marginalised voices all begin to speak up. This year will prove difficult following on from that, as we struggle collectively to come to grips with the near-infinite voices that are beginning to speak up. The noise of the crowing Rooster have quite literally become deafening. So how do we deal with that noise?
The mountain wolf retreats into the wilderness to hunt for nourishment for what she needs to keep her pack alive and thriving. The last few years have been dynamic in terms of growth, development, and evolution both personally and collectively. The time is now to integrateall of that.
Now that the voices are all speaking, shutting them will not be conducive to further growth. The box has been opened, and what has emerged will not be put back simply by shutting the lid again. It is time for the individual to find the deep, clear stillness of their true nature to be able to discern what is limiting to one’s growth, and what is beneficial.
The challenge is stagnation. Those who meet the challenge of the deep ravine and maintain their Presence will remain in flow, and adapt to the changes in their lives.
A new time is approaching in the next few years, and these qualities nurtured now will yield fantastic results in the years to come.