The Fire Rooster
2017 : the Year of the Turkey.
“Meet the New Boss, same as the old boss” – Pete Townsend, “Won’t get fooled again.”
The Fire Rooster is a capricious bird. Blessed with the charm to inspire life-long devotion, he often chooses instead to hold back, satisfied with simply dazzling. So 2017 is likely to be a year when show, publicity and packaging disguise content. It’s a year to ask difficult questions. In any case the Rooster’s yin Metal nature makes it the year both of research and subterfuge.
This quality of making an empty impression indicates the year’s underlying nature. The Dragons (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988) will tend to have something of a free ticket (good news for less balanced ones such as Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin btw). It’s possible they will use it to burst bubbles and highlight what’s worth highlighting. Snakes (1953, 1965, 1977, 1989) however like Tony Blair and Basharat al-Assad prosper beyond all reasonable expectation as do Oxen – among them Barack Obama. It’s the year of the overstayed welcome as well as of the empty posture.
The annual lo shu or “magic square” of the year has at its centre the Watery 1 of communication. So set the controls for a year of talk, negotiation and spin. The trick will be to not allow this jaw-jaw to be empty. The Rabbit has a big role here – to challenge bad faith and half-truth. You’ll win through as long as you stick to what matters. Angelina Jolie, this means you; your time is better spent calling governments on their arms-selling record than your ex on his spliff habit. In 2017 older Dogs will tend to bark less; Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Donald Trump – all born 1946 – will fade away. This is the last wag of the old guard; they are sleeping dogs, let them lie.
In our houses,the Eastern area will call for very careful treatment to forestall a plague of boils, as will the South. This makes it a year of deft manoeuvering for the 50% of us designated East Group by our birth. A saving grace is that a South East door looks handy as does (unusually) Water in the tai chi or “heart” of the house. More I’m not going to give away before December.
Internationally the likely trouble spots are unsurprising: the Far East of course but also Eastern and Southern regions; flooding is likely for instance in East Anglia and hurricanes along the Carolina coast though they’ll tend to be more destructive in the Gulf of Mexico. Eastern Ukraine, the North West frontier (that’s Eastern Afghanistan) are trouble spots, as is Moscow and the Great Barrier Reef. In Europe the turmoil moves East – from for instance Austria to Hungary and Berlin to Warsaw. Not the greatest year in Canary Wharf either. Or the White House. And let’s not forget that it is not simply because turkeys are voting for Christmas worldwide that I’m calling this the year of the turkey. This may well be the year of Turkey.
I could go on. I won’t. I’ll be talking a lot more about all of this at the Pepperpot, Godalming High Street between 10 and 5 on the 3rd December. Join us. The future starts here.
We sold out very quickly last year so please book promptly.
Your place is secured by payment to:
HSBC, Sort: 40 22 12, A/C No: 33662950
via the Paypal button halfway down the Services page of Richard’s website.
Price: £125. Early Bird £85 by 1/11/16.
Where to do what, when and why
Summary: There is one stand-out location this month but you have to be gentle with it.
South, Bright Future: Year Star: 6 Month Star: 9.
The future wealth star 9 brings improved communication. As in every sector, this month’s star brings a cameo of the underlying energies. Which are double-edged because the South also holds both the monthly and annual san sha (otherwise melodramatically known as Three Killings). What does this mean? This: if you occupy the Southern area of your space or face South, prospects and especially vision should improve. If you hold loud parties there or in a South-facing house you may invite a plague of boils. So occupy but don’t over-activate, especially do not dig or drill. South door much the same effect.
Still no Wise Monkeys:
My diary for the month of the Fire Monkey.
I’m looking over Karen’s smart Victoria flat for the second time. On the last brief visit her ba zi (or personal feng shui that travels with us, sometimes misleadingly called a Chinese Horoscope) took us into her heartbreak over her Father’s premature death. Gentle soul work and the few li xi pai tricks I put in place clearly made enough difference for her to want me back.
It’s a nasty 21st century apartment block constructed without much apparent concern for people. So much of my work is compensating for thoughtless architecture. Is every bathroom in these premises without natural light?
Because her back hurts she has to stop and lie down every now and then. She has had several operations and dreads another. I explain that this may relate to the “spine” of the building which is undermined by a shopping precinct (pretty much at the sacro-iliac) that is in eternal shadow and beneath that an underground car park. I suggest a virtual cure: a large rose quartz boulder as close as she can get it to the centre of the car park which will also approximate to the tai chi or heart of the building. Attention to the depths has effects that are profound but slow. The higher we go the more rapidly a difference will tend to show. Which is great given that she’s on the 8th floor. If you subscribe to this mumbo jumbo.
We look in every room. The main problem is that the office from which she runs a small business is not only in the North East but holds the “Flying Star” or fei sin 5 long term. This means that it will always need feng shui assistance in order to be usable but that this year anyone who has been in there much risks chronic sickness. I give her the three dates in August when it’s safe to occupy. There’s some inevitable organisation to do.
“But don’t linger,” I warn.
Karen’s sister is here to do heavy lifting. We look in the bedroom where Karen’s head is totally wrongly oriented in keeping with the ancient ba zhai theories. Positioning her correctly looks awkward, it’ll put her under a window. Which is not ideal but it’s better. There’s often a trade-off between the various strictures. Better however to risk insomnia than further injury. Her sister argues fiercely for the change, bless her. I stand back, the last thing I’m going to do is bully her in her fragile state.
Nonetheless I’ve banned Karen from her office, and she has nowhere to work, so I locate the most helpful spot. We correct a shelf that protrudes at spine level and orient her to her sheng qi or “wealth” position, making sure she has literal and metaphorical back support.
Everything is changing all the time. We’re warmer in summer than in winter and more cheerful when we’re warm. It seems to me straightforward that certain orientations will suit certain people in certain ways better than others. That’s not metaphysics, it’s common sense. Isn’t it?
Finally I ask both of them to sit comfortably and close their eyes. Karen’s ba zi tells me that there was a major shift in her life around age seven. This is the beginning of what’s called her “Big Fate” or “Luck Pillars”. Someone’s Big Fate occurs at a moment that is sometimes traumatic, always significant. We build a picture of a Mother with mental health issues and a Father who retreats into his work. Karen is effectively orphan and Mother at seven. Back-breaking. We notice that all four are cracking up and we put them back together again.
My work here is done.
Then I sit in a corner – South, the external realm of the Father – take out my ipad and try to write up my notes. The Pages app won’t do what it’s told. The cursor leaps about. The font keeps changing. It’s been a long day, I get annoyed with it and turn it off. I’ll write this up on my laptop tomorrow. A lifetime in the world of woo-woo™ and it doesn’t occur to me that there might be something else going on with my ipad. What a turkey!
Richard Ashworth © 2016
Special (almost) free bonus:
Some years ago a guy rang me and asked if I’d like to record a cd about classical feng shui. He arrived with his headphones and plugs, I ran very simply through the meaning of the Zodiac animals and where in my daughter Jessica’s words “to put stuff to get stuff.” It was clear, authentic and simple, he caught me on a very good day. He scarpered and I heard no more. Last month a new student told me she’d found me through a wonderful “podcast” which turned out to be this recording. I was never paid but you can get it from Audible for around £4.
Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/2aGaDT8
Footnote: my next ba zi Starter Course starts in September, Early Bird offers are open until 8th August. Details here:
And finally: a limited number of places are still available to study with me one to one via Skype. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Horse Month
Animal by Animal
During this Wood Horse Month,
The Rat may simply wait,
The Ox may be (way) behind the Rat,
The Tiger sees the breaks,
The smart Rabbit rises to the occasion,
The Dragon reins in,
The Snake could be overawed,
The Horse might pace herself,
The unwary Sheep is under a shadow,
The Monkey demands to be noticed,
The Rooster takes time out,
The Dog obtains a boost,
The Pig strikes back.
Know your inner beast. How Horse are you?
Birth in the Horse Hour (11am-1pm)~: performing children.
Birth on the Horse Day#: a tendency to the reckless.
Birth during the Horse Month (June)*: an extroverted vocation.
Birth in the Horse Year: spontaneity in the bloodline.
~ An hour earlier than the clock during British Summertime ie 8-10.
# You’ll need a Chinese calendar. * Caution: Chinese months start later.
Where to do what, when and why
Summary: The peak of Fire ignites the hunters of the Zodiac: Dog and Tiger (for whom it may be the best month of the year, so fill your boots) as well as the faithful Sheep. It is generally less helpful to Rat and Ox. A 7 month tends to harass some more than others of course and those with 3, 2, 6, 7 and 8 kuas are least vulnerable.
West, Intervention: Year Star: 4 Year Sun, Month Star: 9.
The visiting 9 makes for a magical 9:4 he tu combination in the West right now while the romantic power of the toe far or “plum flower” Star is still there, along with the restorative Sun.
Locate to the West of your home, face West or occupy a West-facing building; these are transformative stars.
Along with superior examination results, 9 brings future plans closer. 4 bamboo stems in 4 glasses of Water can help.
Note: If this is all er…Chinese to you, email me your birth details or more drastically, come and study with me.
Hoarse with no name.
Wood Horse month, Monkey year, the turbulence continues while the Solstice approaches. Notice the creeping yin to the foot of the Hexagram at the top of this page; the qi is already descending. As indeed it was at this time of year, three thousand and seventy four years ago.
At that time, May of 1058 BCE, as it happens a Horse year, the Zhou family rose up against the ruling Shang and wrested from them the “Mandate of Heaven,” that is to say the right to rule China. The Zhou were to hold onto the mandate for the following seven hundred years or so. What inspired rebellion against the tyrants at that exact time was the conjunction of the five visible planets in the night sky. This conjunction happens only once every five hundred and sixteen years. Michael Wood illustrates this with a computer simulation in the first episode of his excellent BBC series “The Story of China.”
As above, so below. So much of feng shui is rooted in astrology. You can for instance, find the group of Stars that are reckoned to have inspired the ideograph of the Monkey to the South West of the night sky. They’re part of the constellation shen, that is Orion. The star formation (whose name I’ve not mastered) making up the character for Horse lies to the South.
As does this month’s Hexagram, Kou. As you know, these six-line figures are themselves composed of three-line figures called Trigrams. And each Trigram apart from signifying a member of the Confucian family, a state of being, a location and a million other things, describes a phase of the Moon. Identifying the homes of the Trigrams in the night sky is known as na jia or “assigning the Wood.” Qian (Heaven) for instance with its three unbroken yang lines, stands for the Full Moon and Kun, Earth (three yin lines) for the New Moon. Sometimes these things are hard to observe because of street lights, late-night parties, cats’ eyes and headlamps.
When I was in Menorca writing and researching a couple of years ago, the night sky was almost free of light pollution. And so with feet in the pool and beers in hand, my daughters Jess and Hen and I confirmed that the Moon rose and fell precisely where the na jia indicated. It was, if you will, a sobering moment; there above us was physical evidence of the connectedness of Heaven and Earth. It was as if a huge finger had drawn lines across the Moon.
Just behind the full Moon, the 2016 Solstice falls on June 21st at 06:57, shortly after sunrise. Full Sun and full Moon, full yin and full yang, on a Dog day in a Horse month, it’s almost alight with Fire. And yet the qi is falling. In the Year of the Monkey (who generally stands cautiously clear of the Horse) this makes for quite a chaotic pattern. The Monkey is of course talkative, but this is no month for discussion. Rather it is one of action; some impetuous, some not so well thought-through. Hold tight.
In the desert you can’t remember your name
And this year as I predicted, is definitely shaping up like a Monkey; Paris barricaded, US Presidential nominations haywire, we pretty much already have the Earth Monkey of 1968. All we need is Russian tanks rolling West and British boots on the ground in the Middle East and it’s the Fire Monkey, 1956. Oh and peaking markets. “Déjà vu all over again,” in the words of John Fogerty. As above, so below. My own father’s boots were among those on the ground in the Sinai Desert in 1956.
This Horse month favours Dogs and Sheep and Tigers as ever, although they may present just a little hot-headed. Along with the Horse, they are the hunters of the Zodiac and often the life lesson of the hunter is that life is not as simple as a hunt. The Horse doesn’t much like her own company or talking things out and may fall victim to unforced errors. Let things come to you as they will. The Ox is best lying low but his intimate the Rat, may find that originality is at a rare premium; the smart Rat sticks to their guns. Caution is counselled to Dragons, Snakes will find certain days offer a boost but Rabbits are probably stretched.
As a Dragon, I’ll be tapping the ongoing but quirky support of the Monkey and remaining wary of the rampant Horse.
Richard Ashworth © 2016
Knowing your onions: the yin and yang of feng shui.
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
Yes we have no tomatoes.
Some ungenerous people say that Bob Dylan made a career out of just two songs: a slow one and a fast one. And one way to look at feng shui is that it is about only two things: the qualities of yin and yang. In a sense the feng shui Master’s task is to limit yang and encourage yin – perhaps by placing stones – or to boost yang by building a Water fountain, thence health, wealth and wisdom.
The Taoist principle is that existence starts with precisely two qualities or essences: yin which is smaller, still, quiet, dark and subtle, essentially feminine and yang which is larger, outgoing, illuminated, unsubtle and broadly masculine. All that there is, hats, hills, oceans, football, turtles, elephants, Donald Trump’s hair piece, your frying pan and the Chuckle Brothers, are made up of some combination of yin and yang.
You’ll recall that in an earlier blog I compared feng shui to salad; planting lettuce in January against a North-facing wall is not only not bright, it violates the laws of feng shui. Now I have to confess: this is not the whole story. The roots, if you will, are much deeper. Having looked at the wu xing or “Five Elements” we need now to consider yin and yang.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door.
Feng shui of course would not be a thing at all if its laws were not universal. The idea that it works in China and not elsewhere is as silly as the idea that its fundamentals are a Chinese thing. Waving Cats belong in Chinese restaurants not your front room. Laws are laws. The builders of Stonehenge, for instance – whoever they were – respected the rule that there is a Ghost Gate North East and a Heaven Gate – a Tiananmen – North West. And the Valley of the Kings straddling the Nile as its celestial counterpart straddles the Milky Way, reflects the Chinese story of the Maiden and the Ox Boy, forever separated by the river of stars between them. And so on. Wherever we travel we find theories of the management of space that map onto one another.
In England I often come across buildings that betray Masonic design. I’m no expert on Masonry but the long eccentric passageways and irregular floor plans are pretty distinctive, quite apart from the symbols over thresholds and fireplaces. Masonic architects are said to have built many of the great mediaeval cathedrals and one stage whisper across the nave at Chartres reveals mastery of acoustics that confirm their designers knew something we still don’t.
Perhaps two things actually: one, that the only constant is change; two, the physical universe is a duality, that is to say made up of two.
And as it happens, classical feng shui comes down two lines of descent; one, as discussed before, by way of early observers who noticed that the cycle of the hours of the day mirrored the cycle of the seasons which led to them giving Animal names to days, hours, months, years and indeed locations. The other branch of the family tree proceeds from the discoveries of the diviners of the Zhou Dynasty. I examined the first group or “school” (known as sam he or “Three Harmony”), in my previous article which also had nothing to with tomatoes. Or to jump the gun, turtles.
Thousands of years ago it was the practice of the Zhou diviners of Northern China to bake river-turtles. Not for nourishment or even for entertainment you understand, but for information; they grilled them if you will, and noted the patterns of cracks created by the heat. Inevitably the river turtle became extinct by the way.
The cracks seem to have fallen into two types – long and short. And the diviners appear to have taken short to mean no and long to mean yes. This probably evolved by trial and error. Before the advent of fast food, microwaves, refrigerators or even farming, if diviners could direct the community to where deer or water lay, they would probably have been well rewarded; the Chinese character for divination – xiang – is actually a picture of an elephant or perhaps a mammoth. Now there’s a square meal. In the great tradition of Chinese history, if the diviners called it wrong they probably lost limbs or disposable organs. In time they clearly got it right. A relatively short time probably.* The turtles of course were beyond caring.
At some point these discoveries map onto ideas about light and dark and become the concepts of yin and yang which are at the core of Taoism. In the beginning, goes the theory, was the mou chi or “great nothingness” and then at some point, it is said the “myriad things” come into being; that is to say, all that exists. The mou chi is not unlike Stephen Hawking’s great “singularity” that (allegedly) precedes the universe; it is followed by the simultaneous birth of two things: yin and yang. One could not logically precede the other because the existence of the “myriad things” requires contrast; we cannot have a depression without a surround, height without base or light without shade. They would not be “myriad” if they weren’t different.
And like so many Chinese ideas, yin/yang theory is an acorn that holds a variety of oaks. It implies for instance the concept of infinity (since contrast is by definition endless) and of relativity (everything is bigger than something and smaller than something else). Chinese thinkers were clear that there are no fixed points long before Newton saw it in the night sky. As Neo says in The Matrix: “there is no spoon.”
Obviously if yin and yang referred to light and shade, they related also to time and place. The night is yin, the day yang; winter yin and summer yang and so on. In time then, inevitably a yin/yang theory of time and place emerged. From this comes the Book of Changes, a work as central to Chinese culture as some combination of Shakespeare, the Bible, Immanuel Kant, Einstein and the Brothers Grimm might be to Western thinking.
What also emerges is a system that identifies the nature of each part of a building. That is to say about half of classical feng shui practice. A skilled sam yuen practitioner can tell you things about each member of the family, what their strengths and weaknesses are and their activities and so on simply by examining your floor plan.
How? Well, somewhere along the line, the diviners’ vocabulary of incisions gave rise to the idea of the Trigram (or three-line figure) and Hexagram (six) which allowed them to offer a spectrum of “maybe” answers beyond the stark yin and yang of yes and no. Perhaps this saved lives and limbs. Perhaps it cost them. Your Alan Sugars are pussycats to bearers of ambiguous counsel compared to mediaeval Chinese Emperors*.
Three unbroken lines absolute yang, clearly meant a big Yes and thus daylight, power, authority, Father and the South. Similarly three broken lines implied the opposite: night, darkness, winter and the North. As well as Woman by the by but let’s not go there. In between these extremes were the various Trigrams that mixed yin and yang. This is called today the “Early Heaven Arrangement” of Trigrams and it’s reckoned to date from the moment of creation. In time a Later Heaven Arrangement emerged which relates to the present.
Accordingly the eight possible Trigrams made up of yin (broken) and yang (unbroken) lines each came to represent not only a compass point but also a member of the Confucian family and the qualities associated. Put simply, every space consists of eight locations or “palaces” each of which represents a member of the family and a type of experience or qi. This applies equally to your bedroom your home, your street, neighbourhood, nation and planet. We can literally say that if there is something happening at say the South West, it relates to Mother, Relationship (with a capital “R”) and associated ideas. We can, as you will be surmising, do a great deal with just this information. Lillian Too built a whole career on it. And let me hasten to add, she’s a dozen sorts of genius. As is Bob Dylan btw.
You put one Trigram on top of another and you have a Hexagram. There are sixty four possible Hexagrams made up of yin and yang lines. Put the sixty four together and you have the Book of Changes,
Fast forward to the 10th Century and we have kan yu or di lin practitioners (that is proto-feng shui Masters) practising both “schools” of thought. A further thousand years and by the early 19th century the modern luo pan (or Chinese compass) is incorporating both theories.
And so today the modern practitioner belongs to both “schools”; the sam yuen theories of Flying Star and Eight House (which are centrally expressions of yin and yang) as well as the sam he or Three Harmony theory of the celestial Animals. Bingo.
Richard Ashworth © 2016.