“When you can tell Fire from Water, you are a Master.”
Grand Master Chan Kun Wah.
Merry Christmas Li Ka Shing.
For more than a thousand years, the town of Godalming, deep in the Surrey woods, has been saved from flood by its Lammas Land. Although it is at the base of the Wey valley, the town generally stays dry however much rain falls. From April to August, this meadow is pasture and it pretty much becomes a lake between November and March.
It’s been that way since the time of King Alfred. That’s around twelve hundred years. Sometimes on summer afternoons we leave the office, take our meal-deal from Boots down to a park bench and watch the cattle and horses fattening up on the rich grass between the Town Bridge and the Titanic Memorial. Don’t tell me I don’t have a life.
This is feng shui in action; the balance between Heaven, Earth and Human needs, what in Chinese is called tian-ti-ren, the Earth, the Wood and the Water in mutual dependence. Because the land is grazed, saplings never become bushes nor do bushes become trees. The meadow serves as a drain that keeps the buildings dry.
This year for the first time in my lifetime however, some houses were evacuated as the water rose. Half-a-dozen threatened homes is not Bangla Desh or even Tewksbury (which became a mini-Venice with buildings growing out of the flood and roads turning to water courses) but it’s a bench mark. Nor is it the Somerset levels which you’ll know maybe from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon are the lowlands surrounding Glastonbury. They used to be lake throughout the wet season. And are again this year. Something is happening.
We used to know about this stuff. Godalming’s parish church was built on higher ground around the year 811. No building of any age sits as low in the valley as the Lammas Lands. The homes in danger were not ancient but none had been vulnerable before.*
What’s this got to do with the fiery Year of the Wood Horse? Here’s one thing: a respectable method of assessing the coming year is to look at the last one that had the same pillar, the last Wood Horse. That was 1954 which set new records for flooding and coastal erosion. If you seek confirmation that this is sound methodology, 1954 also featured shenanigans in Korea as well as East-West arm-wrestling over nuclear proliferation.
Here’s another thing: when Great Heat encounters Great Cold, Great Water follows. When icebergs and glaciers melt in the heat, sea-level rises. In some ways this year of Fire promises to be a year of Water. Already there’s too much. This year that fact may become impossible to ignore. I surely hope so.
One person who has clearly been able to ignore it is the above Hong Kong mogul who now owns the local utilities. Due to the extraordinary weather, Godalming became a black spot on the National Grid over Christmas. In our house the power was cut four times. Here in the affluent South East of England – spit and you hit a banker – we’re extraordinarily fortunate. Our privileged lives are rarely interrupted by the elements. For the time being it’s the rest of the world I worry about.
It’s pretty easy to peel sprouts in shadow, and in the half-light we got to talk to each other and play board games. In the brief intervals of power supply, my daughters Jess and Hen cooked and then we overate at our leisure. Outside the winds keened and blew the garden chairs around while rain poured and poured and poured. More fell more rapidly than I can remember, sometimes sounding like power drills, sometimes like small animals rushing around on the roof.
Water will not be resisted. It cannot be compressed. This Water is coming from somewhere and it has to go somewhere. We have forgotten how to respect the Water and we have forgotten its power. My suspicion is that 1200 years of flood prevention is about to fail and power cuts will be among the least of our worries. Merry Christmas, Mr Li.
* perhaps read George Monbiot’s Guardian article on this.
The Horse’s Mouth.
“Mouth open, story jump out.” Guyanese proverb.
By the most popular calculation, February 4th 2014 opens the Year of the Wood Horse, known as the Horse in the Clouds. This suggests an image of charging into the air with vision impaired; full steam ahead with the windscreen fogged up. So a year of spontaneity and reaction rather than strategy. Horses can sometimes talk before (and often instead of) thinking. So this Horse Year may be a year of revelation when the deceitful are wrong-footed.
Horses are said to be spontaneous, passionate and outgoing. These qualities can be expected both of people born in Horse years and of the Horse year itself. One theme of the Snake year of 2013 was deception; what you saw was not what you got. In contrast the Horse can be expected to shed light. Whether the issues are global surveillance, the Lockerbie bombing, drones over Pakistan, climate change or show biz scandals, the outcome may be illumination rather than whitewash. The enquiry into the cover-up-of-the-enquiry-into-the-cover-up-of-the-enquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy may name names. Similarly, where so far only one banker has been jailed for treating the interests of client and public as subsidiary to his own, 2014 promises to reveal this as the standard procedure it may be. And it may be that the impending ecological catastrophe is finally addressed.
We are currently walking over an ecological precipice wearing headphones and Google glasses. What happens to the Earth happens on some level to each of us individually. To the extent that I am disheartened, so is the world. It may take a shock to wake us up. The Fire of the Horse year may hold that shock. The Horse is the animal of the blurted-out truth. It just can’t help itself.
Also the Horse is competitive; it likes to dance on tables. And on the average table there’s only room for one dancer. For this and other reasons it is said to suffer the so-called self clash. This means Horses don’t play nicely together.
So even relatively contained Horses like David Cameron and Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman Sachs) may find their authority challenged before year’s end. Cameron however need not beware Sheep like Ed Balls or Nick Clegg, both of whom whatever they present, are meek team players. Angela Merkel of course is another Horse and several Masters have seen her recent accident as evidence of the self-clash in action. Also evidence that dancing on tables is safer than skiing.
Markets tend to sink in Water-heavy years (like pretty much all of those since 2007) and pick up with Fire. Fire returned in 2013 and peaks with the Horse. Some see this process as literally manic-depressive. Sunshine brings optimism and bull markets, rain the reverse. This enthusiasm may peak like the power of the Sun at mid-summer. Many recommend being out of markets by July. At the extreme of Fire is burn-out but if markets are the measure, this is a boom year.
The price of commodities however continues to be distorted by market manipulation. Such deceit is a Snake type phenomenon. Expect the Horse to bring into light abuses in coffee and cocoa markets and latterly metals. Technically this is to do with a Rooster-Horse clash. Rooster is yin Metal, glamour, the superficial; the Horse represents the light of noon. So expect revelations between June and September. Precisely how that will play out is hard to assess but if you thought bankers only distorted stock and money markets, you don’t know the half of it. And whether that’s good or bad news is simply a question of view point.
Another method of prognosis consists of assessing the lo shu or so-called magic square of the year. I won’t digress into why, but take it from me that this year’s key number is 4 which represents academe, discovery, invention and sex scandals. It’s also the number of the eldest daughter. Take these implications together with the nature of the Horse and you have an interesting soup. A year to practise discretion. And forgiveness.
I don’t speculate about celebrities any more because it so easily encourages mean-spiritedness and the press does that so expertly already. However….the Rabbit’s resources are fully drawn upon this year, so Fire Rabbit Andy Murray might just win that second title. It won’t be straightforward though. And English football is always flattered by the Horse, as it was in 2002 and doubly in 1966. Remember that? So we can anticipate a respectable World Cup performance.
The lo shu:
3 8 1
2 4 6
7 9 5
Because of the 4 lo shu it’s likely to be a year of career progress for women. Men are typically suspicious of the woman in power because they expect female bosses to be like male bosses, only in skirts. We expect fruitless cleverness and no-winner competition because business seems always to have been like that. Actually there’s another way. Empowerment could replace rivalry for instance. This is a yin (that is female) quality.
Even now, although they account for fewer than 5% of CEO’s of FTSE 500 companies, women hold the reins both of the European Central Bank and the IMF and now with the appointment of Fire Dog Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve Bank. Ms Yellen looks like a very different kind of banker but as you’ll read in my Animal Fortunes the Dog has a job holding onto money this year. Low interest rates are past their sell-by date (although no one has told Wood Snake Mark Carney) but they won’t be coming down significantly any time soon. Nonetheless in a Wood Snake/Fire Dog conflict, don’t put money on the Snake.
Other rising women include Gloria da Piero MP who is a year or so short of prominence. This is a year of learning and of building support for Pigs like her. Wood Horse Angela Merkel’s career is a little further down the road but some sort of challenge looks likely whether within or without Germany.
And finally the London Stock Exchange now boasts two female directors. That’s serious progress. A trend going back several thousand years is changing along with the climate. As the regularity of the cycle of days and seasons became clear, a woman who could feel when an eclipse was coming became less valuable than a man who could calculate and record the next thousand. It’s this type of control that has taken us to the precipice.
Number Five is alive.
The number to watch out for in the Lo shu is always the tricky 5. In 2014 this star falls in the North West, the place of authority. It landed in the centre last year, so many masters predicted upset in “central” places like the Central African Republic and capital cities generally. Riots in Istanbul and Rio among many others, may have proved them right. This year it’s authority that’s at risk. This is a year in which tradition is seriously questioned. If we look at what’s North West of the UK and North West of land masses in general, civil disobedience in North America and South Western Europe look on the cards. Also the Arabian Gulf. And let’s not neglect the North West of the US where a legion of multinationals such as Irish-registered tax dodger Apple and the not-for-profit Starbucks operation make their homes.
Bull in a China shop; a note about the Ox.
The Ox has a distinctive pattern of demanding power and not knowing how to use that power, when to let go of it or when it is starting to fail. Margaret Thatcher and Napoleon come to mind. And Metal Ox Barack Obama. In the Rat year of 2008, Obama could do no wrong. By 2010 he couldn’t get the simplest legislation through congress. This year the Ox is especially favoured by a shower of auxiliary stars. But only this year. If Obama is to leave any sort of legacy, now is the time. This applies to all Oxen. Carpe diem doesn’t mean fish of the day.
Another traditional method of forecasting is to examine the Hexagrams of the Book of Changes indicated by the year. There are traditionally four. And by my (not 100% orthodox) reckoning this year’s are: Hexagram Numbers 1, 2, 45 and 36. These are Father (ie authority) Mother (the Receptive), Gathering and Brightness Obscured.
Each covers a quarter of the year. The way I read it, the year opens with strong leadership, followed by co-operation but in many spheres appears to stall in the 3rd quarter taking us into September. Gathering suggests many possibilities late in the year of which extraordinary convocations are one. Contracts will need renegotiating and predictions adjusted. This may concern Water supply and take place in the Arabian peninsula.
Gathering may well mean literal flooding too although no Chinese authority sees anything other than great heat before the end of er…..Great Heat (chu shu, the 2nd fortnight in August.) The extreme South where the Horse sits, may be hottest. Australia and Brazil and Northern Africa may illustrate the drying power of the year Horse in the South. And unless we wake up, this is only the beginning.
As I said, We are currently walking over an ecological precipice wearing headphones and Google glasses. How to wake up? During 2014 I studied with Andrew Harvey whom I have known since I was a small boy. His idea of Spiritual Activism starts with awareness of a world in which corporate greed, mass hunger and ecological apathy can not coexist. Having attended the various climate change summits, he observed that the powers-that-be are used to overpowering both activists and idealists, the one group susceptible to rough policing and the other ineffectual. Chant “Om” and hug trees with our blessing; it makes no difference anyway. The image of the year for me remains Green Euro MP Caroline Lucas reaching hopelessly for her son’s hand as he is wrenched away by police at the Balcombe fracking protest. Given this failure to change things we simply have to withdraw from blame and take responsibility. Most of the eco-destruction has taken place in my lifetime and the tipping point during the lives of my children – 2006 when oil production peaked. We did this.So if the flood defences of comfortable, affluent Surrey are tested, what about the Netherlands, the Maldives, Bangla Desh? Call me bonkers but I am used to buildings talking to me. Following Andrew’s procedures sometimes I hear the whole planet. And it’s depending on me. That’s you. There is no “we”. Only “I” and “all”.
This may be the last time
So now you know: Wood Horses occur every 60 years. So 1954 and before that 1894, foreshadow 2014. In 1894 interestingly the Harmsworth family which owns the Mail, bought their first newspaper and the city of Shanghai was substantially damaged by fire. It was also the year China and America signed a treaty limiting the numbers of foreign labourers. Notice the echoes.
The year that I see most clearly echoed in 2014 however is 1714. That year saw the accession of the Hanoverian George I – effectively withdrawing independence from Scotland forever. In the following year was the first of the great Highland Uprisings, the violent reaction of the Scots to the end of the Stuart dynasty. The hexagram Gathering may be precisely about this.
So what? We may well yet see a “yes” vote in the Scottish Referendum is what.
A little earlier in 1711, the South Sea Trading Company was incorporated, a further echo from the 18th century. Many believe the junk bonds now pinning interest rates to the floor after bankrolling two generations of investment bankers, were invented by Drexel Burnham in the 1970’s. Not so. It was the creation of the South Sea Company who spent the first decade of the 18th century, buying up the National Debt and selling it back to rich punters. Who could resist? It was guaranteed by government. It couldn’t fail. But it did. In 1720. The corresponding year is 2020. It’s gonna blow.
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