Archive for the ‘Standing Stones’ Category

Knowing Your Onions: feng shui and Tomatoes, part 2

May 27, 2016

Knowing your onions: the yin and yang of feng shui.

“He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Bob Dylan.

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.

Shell Shock.

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.

*The 4th Century BCE military thinker Sun Tzu, author of the Art of War, was reduced to theory rather than practice after his feet had been cut off for some now-forgotten offence. A little later, the Han historian Ssu Ma Chien was sentenced to death for begging the Emperor to show mercy to a hapless defeated general. This sentence was commuted to the greater (ie more dishonourable) one of castration because of Ssu’s value to the Emperor.

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.

You’re Fired.

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*.

*consider the Ming Emperor Hong Wu whose chief claim to the throne was that he’d slain all his male relatives.

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.

Fire Dragon Day, Fire Dragon Month, Menorca, Balearics

May 1, 2013

Feng Shui BannerFire Dragon Day, Fire Dragon Month, Menorca, Balearics.


The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with limitations and determining for himself what his duty is.”

Hexagram 60, Jie, Limitation
Book of Changes Wilhelm Edition.

Es Grau is what they call a “biosfera” that is to say a nature reserve. As well as home to abundant reptile life, it claims to be the winter resort of the Northern European coot. I’m just another one, I guess.

I’m sitting by myself at the huge kitchen table, listening to Thomas Tallis while I eat my breakfast: toast, (remarkably) Menorcan marmalade and tea made with Brooke Bond PG Tips Pyramids; very expensive, locally bought. I’m looking across the hilly heath-covered country towards Mahon, the capital. Those flat-topped hills are welcoming goy moons which are said to coincide with nothing much other than life going on. Huge gate is the usual translation; a friendly invitation. Happy, as they say, is the land with no history.

It’s often windy here which is just as well for the turbines now cartwheeling on the ridge. Last night I left my heavy curtain open to be at one with the beating of the wind. It was a wild night, the trees sighing and creaking. I’m only a couple of miles from the sea of course.

Occasional villas stud the skyline; a dozen or so to the square mile, I estimate. There’s no high rise even in Mahon, about five kilometres away, no clubs, no nightlife; paradise for the recreational hermit.

I’ve been alone in this rather splendid villa for nearly three weeks. During that time I’ve reviewed my approach to exteriors, planned my next couple of courses*, wrestled with the formulae of Qi Men Dun Jia and the ba zi theories of Jerry King, missed my wife and children and listened to a great deal of Josh Ritter. In no particular order. Maggie’s passing (as well as those of Annette Funicello and Mike Denness) came and went without any call for my attendance and a couple of atrocities the world could have done without.

I first stayed in this villa in 2003 when I’d only recently come out as a practising feng shui man. Back then my hostess, bless her, bartered us a fortnight for 12 people (12 people!) in return for a feng shui report. That was a riot; kids everywhere and the lizards running for cover.

I’ve learned a bit since then. That rococo report and map, sound though they were, missed the obvious: this is technically a 6 Fate House (built in 1973) on a North East-South West axis which puts the current Water Star (essentially about Wealth, should be at the front and free) to the rear and the Mountain Star (Health, rear, solid) at one end of the swimming pool. Sifted down, that means a downturn in financial fortunes from around 2004. I think my hostess will agree that that maps onto her experience. Not to say by the way that finance is everything. Abundance is a much wider issue than money and whether because of or despite my attentions, she has done pretty well against most of the benchmarks of a successful life, I’d say. But it’s interesting how over ten years everything gets more and more complex and then it’s simple again. And as she will learn on my return, there are things to be done about it.

In that first report I pointed out that several of us suffered ear problems, a function of the stars 1,4 and 7 which are about the orifices of the body. These Stars were overactive because they fell to the South where the pool is and there was scarcely an hour when it was not foaming with kids.

This time I noticed in the first day or so that the soles of my feet were cracking. The feet relate to the East and the Eldest Son. In this villa it’s where the sitting room is. This year the East is troublesome; stay out if you can. In 2003 we spent many evenings in that room passing the guitar and the rioja. The room is itself an eccentricity, being the lower half of a turret that juts out to the East like a snaggle tooth. There has been recent repair work to its exterior; something to be avoided in the Year of the Snake. I’m alone and I have no need of the room. So I have partitioned it off and not been back in. My feet cleared up almost right away.

I email with Jess and Hen my twin daughters. Now they’re twenty five and as independent as you like. And I text with Joey who was eight back then; eighteen’s very different. It’s World Record Store day so he’s gone to buy Record Corner, Godalming out of Manchester Orchestra. They’re not from Manchester or an orchestra btw. My other children are in occasional touch if it’s only to thrash me at Words with Friends. And I Skype and FaceTime with Sheila. I can see the familiar furniture beyond her on my laptop screen. It’s not quite the same as being there with her though. Poor poor me, all this luxury to myself in 20° Celsius.

And I’ve been reacquainting myself with the Yi or Book of Changes. I don’t think anybody ever does any more than that. I’m suspicious of anyone who calls themselves a “Master” in the sense of having fully grasped it. It’s too fundamental. Confucius wrote that he’d need another fifty years of life to begin to grapple with it and I’m with him on that one.

My hostess’ Father died some twenty years ago. I don’t know how much time if any he spent here but he hangs heavily over it as do the lighter living spirits of the many who have splashed in that pool. I can see them and hear them as I consider next year, the Year of the Wooden Horse. And atrocities, austerity, abuse and all, I’m with Josh Ritter when he sings “Don’t let me enter the year with an empty heart.”

*North Western Seaboard May – for details email

Next starter professional Feng Shui Course starts September. Tempting Early Bird offer still open. 

2012: The Water Dragon, the Year of Sudden Change.

January 13, 2012





2012: The Water Dragon, the Year of Sudden Change. 

This is a long piece; for short simple predictions scroll to the end.

For predictions for individual Animals click here

Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much…the wheel, New York, wars and so on…while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time…….the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man…for precisely the same reason.”

Douglas Adams.


5 1 3

4 6 8

9 2 7


 Legless in Basra.

My earliest upbringing was in the village of Mullion, Cornwall in the remote South West of England, as far away from London as you can travel without getting wet; next stop Newfoundland. By the time I was four my mother had five children under seven, my father was often away at sea, there were no trains and a bus once a week, she didn’t drive and we were wild. I was climbing cliffs before I went to school and indeed before I could swim. So it was that as soon as I was literate I was reading pretty much anything I felt like without censorship or supervision. I knew Howard Carter, Leonard Woolley, HP Lovecraft, Lobsang Rampa and the Book of Changes before my voice broke. And Edgar Cayce.

Cayce (1877-1945) was a visionary and light worker who made a welter of predictions, many of which turned out to be false. One, as I recall was that the UK would be submerged by now, so that’s probably just as well. Global warming will lead to many changes but not that one. I intend to be able to be more specific by this time next year. I am myself a Water Dragon and working out what the 21st century may hold is a great deal of what 2012 is about for me.

When a particularly cataclysmic prophecy proved wrong, Cayce would express relief that good will had pre-empted the visions becoming facts. Which is the quandary I find myself in every year at this time. I have to incorporate the clouds while holding out for the silver lining. We are each responsible for our reality and mine seems to include some nastiness. You know the type of thing: Darfur, Gaza, Tibet, The Human Centipede, News International, Tescos.

Every Dragon Year ushers in a phenomenon known as the Four Earths. This is perhaps the most powerful combination known to Chinese Metaphysics and it is the conjunction of Dragon, Dog, Ox and Sheep, the Earth Branches, sometimes called the Four Vaults or Tombs. Some very powerful (and conflicted) people find these in their ba zis. The Earth Animals are the connections to the Ancestors, to our heritage and they offer both opportunity and challenge. In a Dragon year of course such a conjunction is present in the Earth months of January (the Ox), July (the Sheep) and October (the Dog) especially on the days ruled by these Animals when the heavy duty opportunities emerge. Many Masters simply think of the Four Earths as misfortune but I have found them to signify moments that can make a life but which neglected, can lead to despair. They often coincide with a project that requires getting ducks into a row over a long period of time. Sometimes this takes a huge protracted effort and one duck can fall out of place. At that moment we may find illness or injury preferable.

Cayce’s view was that responsibility commits us to creating better if we know better. One of my most powerful influences, Dr. Chuck Spezzano whose model the Psychology of Vision pervades everything I do, appears to be wrestling with a vision of epidemics in just this way right now.

Among the better prospects for the future is the continued presence of the campsite in St Pauls Churchyard. I expect those kids are pretty cold at the moment, bless them. Those confronting the shameless tax dodgers of the dark canyons of the City and of Wall Street are as I have said before, predominantly drawn from the yang (that is the energetic) side of the compass: Rabbits, Dragons, Snakes, Horses, Sheep and Monkeys born between 1987 and 1992. Too young to vote on either side of the Atlantic in 2004 and 2005, they voted in 2008 and 2010 only to be deeply disappointed with the outcome. They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it. No generation since the 60’s has been as prepared to take on injustice whether it’s the Inland Revenue for exempting bankers in return for a good lunch or shameless champion tax dodger Philip Green advising the Cameron government on waste. Whatever faecal heap my generation has bequeathed, there is hope while the next is holding Vodafone, Stagecoach and Arcadia to account.

Meanwhile across the North Atlantic in the direction of Newfoundland, my friend Rory Mackenzie is as I write, around a thousand miles short of the US coast. I met Rory in 2007 shortly after his leg had been blown off in Basra. Rory’s a medic. That’s a karma-free mission. He was not there to kill anybody. Now he and his multi-plegic comrades are rowing to the USA. Today they tell us their desalinator is malfunctioning which means they risk dying of thirst but it doesn’t seem to inhibit the banter. Rory reports that he has had to do imaginative things with (or without) underwear and lubricants. Ladies: look away now.

Imagine rowing four thousand miles. Now imagine doing it with one leg. Now imagine the pressure on the upper part of the missing limb. As his ba zi showed, Rory is impossibly brave. A sports-playing Action Man, when I met him he was so disconsolate he could hardly hold his head up. I told him however hard it gets, to trust. This too shall pass. It did and now with bottomless support from his family and especially his Mum Shealagh a heroine in her own right, he’s as fit as a man gets, limbed or limbless. There are few enough men who are prepared to feel and not to despair. Follow Rory on Twitter: @Row2Recovery .

I remain ambivalent about the whole Help for Heroes thing. I don’t want to encourage any more young men to be heroic for me. I don’t even buy a poppy for fear of being as Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance wrote, “another cog in the murder machine.” Somewhere in there I would end up endorsing the carve up in Iraq that Water Snake Tony Blair wished on Rory and his contemporaries. And more wars.

Rory was in Basra because the powers that be ignored a million-plus strong protest in 2003. We don’t er…need another hero. Someone described invading Iraq as like attacking Mexico in return for Pearl Harbour. What is to suggest they will take seriously a gaggle of kids shivering in the shadow of Goldman Sachs?

Nothing at all. But we must. I choose this despite what I know.

To pile on the agony the World Wide Fund for Nature says that as things are proceeding, there will be no trees or fish by 2050. They didn’t mention dolphins. What I know is that when investors can make more money solving global warming than by selling junk bonds short, the environmental crisis will be over. Since you asked, this will not be before 2016 but not later than 2043 which of course is a bit tight.

Climate is cyclical and the Earth has been this warm before. As a feng shui man, I work from the traditional Taoist axiom that history itself runs in cycles of sixty: there are twelve Chinese Year Animals (Rat, Dragon and so on) and five Elements (Wood, Water, Fire, Earth, Metal). Twelve Animals, five Elements, that makes sixty discreet years: Metal Tiger, Water Dragon, Wood Snake and fifty seven more. The central principle is that Dragons which appear every twelve years are alike, Water Dragons which come up once in sixty are very alike. They are, as you might expect wet; the Lynmouth flood for instance was sixty years ago in August 1952. Dragons are years of mud and landslides. That year also, the last Water Dragon, saw the opening of the Korean War and it would not take supernatural powers to foresee trouble in that pocket of the World in 2012. The fact that the prevailing energy of the year travels South East-North West making both of these sectors trouble spots, just underlines it. There’s a decent chance though that the outcome in the South East of South East Asia will be good news for the one of the most deprived populations in the world.

There are other informative ways of tagging the year: the magic square or lo shu (above) for 2012 holds the 6 at its centre, the Xuang Kong kua is 6/4 which suggests the annual concerns are Father-Daughter issues and the lap yum, Long Flowing Water usually describes protracted discussions.

These, Rory and his mates in their boat, the shivering kids in EC2 and snatches of dialogue from the Lord of the Rings are what inform these views of 2012. Hold on tight.

 “Five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told.”

Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “That there’s still some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”


Better to be for things rather than against them. Exchanging Muslims for Russians or even Global Warming for Muslims doesn’t strike me as progress. The sooner none of us is against anyone else the better.

However, 2012 is a 6 year. Six is the number of Heaven and the Father, hence authority and getting things done and hence opposition. This is a year in which authority is challenged wherever it asserts itself. Also as the Rhyme of the Magpie goes, six is indeed the number of gold. A complex year but each of us – in so far as us means anything – is responsible for it. There may be a multiverse of possible realities but I’m right here.

I will be bringing the feng shui of each of my retainer clients into 2012 over the next few weeks but I can tell you now that when 6 is at the centre of the lo shu, there’s a buck to be made. And lost. My drill for 2012 outlines how to gain immediate benefit from the changed energy of the new year and will be available generally from early February but for now you might note that to profit from the Metal 6 you need to add Earth and Water. Ask me how.

Meanwhile it’s 2012 and we have a world to save. In a year when world leaders provided such an unhelpful example, what price the future? Cameron and Obama gain cheap approval points as 2011 ends with lazy postures of respectively knee-jerk opposition to the garlic eating, cheese making French peace monkeys and compliance with the insane family values of the Tea Party. But there is hope here. Obama’s one of the 1961 Metal Oxen who reassert their authority to a great extent in 2012. A re-elected Obama, free of the need to seduce voters may act as boldly as he talked in 2008. And pleasing the xenophobic wing of the Tory party is not going to gain Cameron’s uneasy coalition shelf life. I give it eighteen months, about as long as the Euro.

Because a Water Dragon is essentially Earth with added Water, wealth will be attaching to activities such as publishing, health and horticulture which can be labelled Wood and that thrive on Earth. Also favoured are Earth activities like building, property and spiritual endeavour that profit from Water, particularly towards the end of the year.

But don’t expect property values to recover. There is a whole new paradigm coming. I doubt that the notion of home as investment will survive the decade; 2012 is not the end of the world but it may be the year Marx gets proven right: when those who make the money do not pay the taxes, the majority tire of the rule of markets. If for “dolphins” we read Greece, Italy, Portugal and even France and for “humans” read Germany, it becomes clear why the Euro has such a short life expectancy. The b’ak’tun of the Mayan calendar is probably not about 2012 but 2013, focusing as it does on December 21st 2012, dung gee, the midwinter solstice which for many of us is the moment that indicates the character of the following year.

In any Dragon year change is rapid; not so great for Dragons like Philip Green who suffer the so-called self clash which means they tend not to play nicely among themselves. Nor on the face of it, is it promising for Dogs who often react poorly to the Dragon. In pole position are Pigs, Monkeys, Roosters and Rats who can expect to be at the top of their game.

But to use this information slavishly is to miss its point. Monkeys can easily fail to take advantage of the ball on the penalty spot in 2012 by simply not kicking it. Similarly the smarter Dragons will treat the probable turbulence and competition of the Year of the Water Dragon as a cue to learn, grow and change. A Water Dragon myself, I plan a very differently shaped year: I will be travelling and researching for two books and a tv series scheduled for 2013 and be very discriminating as to the surveys and new clients I take on.

Above all we need to remember that each of us is much more precious and more individual than any astrological definition. We were in any case, each born under Four Animals one for each of the month, day and hour as well as the year of our birth. As the introduction to the Animal Fortunes* page on my website clarifies each of these applies to a different sphere of our life. So if we find our year Animal (relating to heritage, family and our public persona) poorly augured we may instead like to focus on our month Animal (work, resources, immediate family, friends, peers, colleagues) or day (our truest self, relationship, spirit, psyche) or even hour (future, children, creativity, expression). Being born on an Ox day, I can anticipate an interesting and satisfying year relationship wise, something that is pretty essential if I am to push the boat out professionally. This is a rational way to employ essentially irrational material.

*If your immediate personal future is your main concern, click now and move on, I should.

Arab Sprung.

Chinese numerology is living algebra; like the other eight integers, there are literally millions of levels of meaning to the year number six. The 6 belongs in the North West and to the Dog and Pig. In classical feng shui nothing gets started if the North West is missing. Many times I have had to place something in that area of a house (generally outside of course) to compensate before I can make lasting changes. Every home needs a Father.

So by extension, we can expect a watershed year in which the trends of the 21st Century may start to become solid. If we take these trends to be towards the liberations of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt we may perhaps take comfort, if towards the score-settling in Libya or the human ducks-in-a-barrel of Syria, not so much. As more dolphin nations are bailed out and more bankers paid bigger bonuses while more libraries and public toilets close (all of which is likely) the pressure for positive change will build. In the UK, expect further riots, probably in August and probably met with disproportionate force. In 2012 peaceful demonstration will tend to be wilfully confused with insurrection. Smaller banks may fail around the same time. Like several others (April and December most probably) August will be a wet month also.

In the USA, as the Presidential Election progresses, the fault lines between the Northern and Western states and the Southern and Eastern will become more and more clear. Intellectually, morally, politically and spiritually the US is two if not three or four nations. In 2012, this becomes stark. By 2030 it will be physical.

Authority and efficiency are interesting themes for a year in which elections are to be held in so many major nations. It should for instance come as good news to Vladimir Putin in Russia where election means “election.” In the USA the way forward is simple for Barack Obama whose best approval ratings followed the assassination of a suspected but unconvicted terrorist and his family. Expect Obama to achieve re-election simply because his opponent will be selected from a short list of the deluded, intellectually challenged and criminal, a line-up so obviously lacking a statesman that even the American electorate might notice.

The Water Dragon is, as I said, the year of the landslide: literal landslides in the North West and South East as well as metaphorical ones at the ballot box. Expect trouble leading to eventual reunification in Korea in the South East of South East Asia. But it will be a rocky and potentially explosive road. Some nations like some people, are so damaged that they see a lifeline as an opportunity to pull their rescuer into the water. What can men do against such reckless hate? Iran is on that troubled NW-SE vector also and is going to be asked to blink this year. In Mexico, the 14th largest economy in the world and the largest Spanish speaking nation, one of the focus nations of the 21st century, elections will be at best troubled.

A light that never goes out.

The Chinese character for the Dragon depicts a rain cloud about to burst. Dragon energy is pent up, uncontainable, even violent. It is the moment that the nagging high pressure before the storm becomes the storm itself.  This pressure – financial, social, political – has been building in a hundred locations during the Metal Rabbit of 2011. In Lhasa as on Wall Street, it feels like something has to give. There is if you like, a war going on between love and control. You could see the positive side of this in the protest camps in Boston and Oregon as well as St Paul’s Churchyard and in the scenes of joy in Tahrir Square in Cairo. But it’s a knife edge. The South holds the tricky 2 Star and the three curses of Place, Calamity and Robbery under the Water Dragon. Arab Spring II, This time it’s Personal looks like a very inferior sequel. The prognosis in Libya is delicate: replacing one murdering tyrant with several isn’t going to change much of anything. In Tibet, to the North West of China, so many monks have set fire to themselves that the (Chinese) police now carry fire extinguishers. This Fire is spreading. It brings enlightenment along with heat but we don’t need any more human candles.

While the principle is that the events of previous Water Dragons will be reflected, those who know only Western history will be expecting parallels that can be found in the predominantly Eurocentric sources of reference. As Grand Master Raymond Lo (whose own subtly perceptive predictions can be found at bemoaned to me in Singapore earlier this year, Wikipedia is a relatively shallow source.

It does not for instance highlight the Water Dragon year 208 BCE when China was finally reunited by Qin Shi Huang Di after two decades of impossibly brutal civil war. Nor that Qin and his dynasty were gone within two years of this reunification. Nor does it point out that many Chinese did not consider the infant PRC complete until Tibet, lost since the mid-19th century, had been regained in the Water Dragon year of 1952. All of these facts suggest some sort of Chinese comeuppance over the next three to four years and this likelihood is echoed in a dozen other portents. Revolutions are started by the hungry and while the Chinese middleclass are driving Mercedes, they will continue to toe the line. Sometime between now and 2016 however, the legacy of poor domestic lending and the illiquidity of the rest of the world will burst the Chinese bubble. The following may suggest the shape of this.

Forever blowing bubbles.

“H needed to provide a mechanism for funding government debt (but) he could not (by law) establish a bank. He therefore established what, on its face, was a trading company, though its main activity was in fact the funding of government debt.

The government and the company convinced the holders of millions of pounds of short-term government debt to exchange it with a new issue of stock in the company. In exchange, the government granted the company a perpetual annuity or a perpetual loan paying 6 percent. This guaranteed the new equity owners a steady stream of earnings to this new venture. The government thought it was in a win-win situation because it would fund the interest payment by placing a tariff.

Next the company proposed a scheme by which it would buy more than half the national debt again with new shares, and a promise to the government that the debt would be converted to a lower interest rate, 5% for ten years and 4% per year thereafter. The purpose of this conversion was similar to the old one: it would allow a conversion of high-interest but difficult-to-trade debt into low-interest, readily marketable debt. The price peaked in early August and the level of selling was such that the price started to fall drastically, triggering widespread bankruptcies amongst those who had bought on credit, and increasing selling, even short selling—selling borrowed shares in the hope of buying them back at a profit if the price falls.”

This is not (though it might be) an account of how Goldman Sachs suckered the EU into admitting Greece into the Eurozone. Nor does it concern the fall of Lehman Brothers or even that of Enron in the last Dragon year of 2000 though it describes the mechanism of both. You’d think, these bucket shops of manufactured fraud being ten years apart, something might have been learned. But no and the whirlwind is still to be reaped.

The year in focus is the Metal Rabbit of 1711 when the South Sea Trading Company was founded and the events illustrates perfectly the cyclical nature of time. During the Water Dragon year of 1712 and the subsequent decade, the company issued and traded a series of financial instruments, each more preposterous than the last until in 1720 it went down along with huge numbers of investors. This may well give us a clearer view of the meaning of the b’ak’tun as it suggests the likely pattern of the years 2011 to 2020. As we move into the next Chinese Fate Period -9- which relates to Fire and is likely to be dominated by global warming, we can expect six to seven years of financial crisis, paralleling those of 300 years ago.

Ronery no more.

The East is the place of hope in 2012 but India, the world’s largest democracy is a more likely industrial giant in the 21st Century than China, the World’s biggest command economy. The South East holds the baleful 5 wu huang Star which implies avalanches and mudslides in the Spring and Autumn along the NW-SE path of the year energy: Oregon, China, Korea, Ulster. Good news for Norwich City and Moscow Dynamo but suggesting a meltdown at FIFA. Good for Poland, poor for Italy, good for Mexico not so great for Argentina. There may be East-West wrangles over intellectual property.

Richard Ashworth © 2012


Short & Simple:

Oscars: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Glenn Close, Viola Davis.

Euro 2012: England has a real chance.

Olympics: Disrupted and disappointing for England. Over policed.

Kate & William: happy announcement later in the year.

London Election: Livingstone despite surprise big guns behind Boris

Paul McCartney: dispute over intellectual property.

Iran: all down to Netanyahu.

Weather: prodigiously wet.

CERN: unexpected evidence of multiverse.

Cricket: England to beat South Africa despite intrusive political issues.

Facebook: extends reach, capital value increases massively.



Robert Mugabe slept in my bed.

December 19, 2011

Robert Mugabe slept in my bed.

1. I’ve got a gong and I’m not afraid to use it.

My friend Dawn is a self-made not-so secret millionaire. She made her fortune in the flooring business. At pretty much every modern international airport you’ll find yourself stepping on her floors. And she’s been a pioneer in introducing non-toxic solvents and in fair treatment of the workforce too. Altogether she’s a remarkable woman. And she’s bonkers about feng shui though I’m sometimes not sure she’s quite sure what she means by that.

Last time I visited her big homestead high on the Cheshire ridge, she had just placed a pond. My compass said it was in the North East.

“Why now, why there?” I ask her. I know she expects me to scold her when she does these things. Why buy a dog and do your own barking?

“I just sort of thought it would be nice,” she says innocently.

She has of course placed the pond intuitively. Intuitively. What do we mean by this? Most Chinese Masters are dismissive of students who claim to be intuitive because it’s so often an excuse for not doing the homework. As it happens, all the great ones are deeply intuitive but don’t try getting them to own up.

I do some calculation. Dawn plays new age music that keeps hinting at tunes and then stopping short. It’s poignant and atmospheric. Once or twice I zone out and listen to Bon Iver’s achingly beautiful version of Bonnie Rae’s I can’t make you love me. If she wants my attention Dawn has a big Balinese gong she can hit from time to time.

Technically I’m identifying what palaces Dawn has put the doors into by placing water. The palaces are like a clock face. There are twelve of them, ranging from birth to death via maturity. Each occupies a position on the compass depending on the source the energy is coming from. And a massive external body of water will usually be that source. In other words the pond has altered the nature of the energy entering the house.

“Well?” she asks, bringing me a cup of tea just the way I like it; English Breakfast, strong, too much milk, builder’s tea, this is the North of England, after all.

“You’ve put your front door into mo yuk.”

“What does that actually mean? You know I can’t tell a ying tong from a ping pong.”

“Mo yuk means hanky panky. You’ll have been unusually frisky.”

She colours and tells me just how right I am. And her secrets are of course safe with me. Suffice it to say that she’s a recently divorced woman who has every right to a bit of fun.

She tells me she’s concerned that money is flowing only one way right now: out.

“Will that have anything to do with the pond?”

I look out across the vales of Cheshire where the disc of Jodrell Bank is shining in the distance. Her house is high up the slope and the long drive falls away to the West.

“The West is where money is this year.”

“OMG. Did I do that?”

“You’ll have made it more extreme. Next time I’ll balance it up.”


“Height and weight. The West is best kept high and heavy long term. This year, if it’s not, it’s likely to mean money going out. You’ll need something very heavy.”

“I’ve been thinking of a stone circle,” she says and stares into the middle distance. I have seen that look before.

2. The ground beneath my feet.

On my way back from Singapore at Changi Airport, a month later I notice the particularly springy flooring and text Dawn.

“This one of yours?”


In Singapore and Malaysia I have noticed so much building, so much busyness, so much commerce that Blighty seems very tame by comparison. It’s twenty degrees cooler back home in every sense I can think of. Singapore and Malaysia. are feng shui central of course. Nothing is built without involving the legions of feng shui men. You have only to raise your eyes to the skyline. At the junction of North Bridge Street and Pickering Street I see skyscrapers with missing corners, skyscrapers with holes cut out of them and skyscrapers in a sort of static Mexican stand-off where a very tall one is topped by another slightly taller one and this by another in a constant game of architectural top-handie.

Because Singapore is eight hours ahead, I’ve found myself working almost round the clock. By day I’m looking at buildings and researching, by evening handling emails and calls from England. I do a lot of my work in Starbucks because they’re the same wherever you go and I like to work surrounded by energy without having to get too deeply involved. For those studying ba zi btw, this gives away that I was born in the Monkey month.

One afternoon, for some variety I walk to the colonial Raffles Hotel, now dwarfed by its surroundings. Nearby there’s an extreme example of feng shui one-upmanship: a restaurant complex mirrors St Andrews’ Cathedral opposite with its tall spires. The surrounding high rises echo both but they’re so much bigger. Their towers dwarf the colonial markers that once established the supremacy of the British way of life. Not any more.

And there is no recession here. Everyone’s in business. The Metro teems and there are cranes all over. Everywhere there is building, everywhere competition. A generation ago Singapore had fishing villages and open space. It’s only about the size of the Isle of Wight and yet it competes on equal terms with vast nations like China, Germany and the USA. But it’s just about run out of space.

It’s monsoon season, very hot and uncomfortably humid which makes it a relief after Raffles to enter the air conditioned malls again. Monsoon season means storms every afternoon, some of them spectacular electrical spectacles. It also means that the pavements are slick from about 4pm. In Singapore much of the pavement is shiny terracotta and I’m wearing rather natty red Converse All Stars which have virtually no grip. Cue feng shui man in the frozen lake scene from “Bambi”.

3. Strait Story

I take the bus North into Malaysia. It’s a high tech double decker which gives me a wonderful view across the Straits of Malacca. Any ship sailing East-West whether Royal Navy aircraft carrier on the way back via the Red Sea to the Mediterranean or Fuchuan warship of the fleet of Admiral Zheng He en route to Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa, has had to pass through here since navigation began. The coach eats the miles and I eat a cold curry served by the young Muslim steward.

Although Singapore and Malaysia are very different, they share this constant hum of building. Only Malaysia has more real estate. There’s no hardwood any more but there are at least real mountains to the North and open space.

Jim and Tessa’s condo in Kuala Lumpur is typical. It’s so new that the load bearing columns are too full of wires and technology to afford me an accurate take on my compass. The needle goes haywire and I have to stand back yards. I conclude it’s East-West though.

Tessa is a sweet lady with roots in half-a-dozen cultures. Malaysian is one, Welsh is another. Their last home was in the valleys outside Cardiff. This is a bit different.

Tessa is also a big fan of feng shui. For her though it is a Chinese thing with strict rules and traditions. She loves to pore over the almanacs produced by every Master in South East Asia with a following and her shelves are stacked with technical books on feng shui, ba zi and other aspects of Chinese metaphysics. She plies me with tea and sandwiches and tasty Malaysian delicacies. My being a vegetarian doesn’t faze her at all. Her ba zi suggests next year she takes her cooking skills seriously.

I show them both on the development plan how the guard house is appropriately to the North West and the external water of which there is a great deal – fountains, swimming and infinity pools – North and that there’s an alternative exit South West and a substantial shrine to the East. When Jim takes me out past the armed guards to measure up, I see that the shrine is loaded with recent offerings: fruit, joss sticks, tealights. The Buddha is as golden as a koi carp.

I explain that these positions spell a dwelling deliberately positioned in Wood chi formation. Furthermore there’s a chunk left out of the floor plan, making for a classic “hatchet” shape which is I imagine to stimulate trading of the apartments.

Tessa’s mostly concerned that the condo is safe for 2012.

“Where can I put my candles this year?” she asks, house proud and concerned about cooking smells.

I generally treat a condo as a room in a bigger building. Theirs is in the West of the development which means they are sitting both on the wealthy Water star and the healthy Mountain star. So that’s alright then.

Jim good-naturedly shows me round. They banter. Tessa pretends he’s totally useless and he pretends not to be a man who commands silly fees for repairing the IT systems of big corporations. He’s on the cusp of a decision: is the future of his business East or West? In 2012, the Year of Sudden Change, both East and West are prosperous. The long term is East though.

The kitchen is in the South East which is ideal in 2012 when the nasty wu huang 5 star will arrive. A kitchen activates so much contradictory energy – Wood in the form of food, the Fire of cooking, the Metal of cutlery, the Earth of simply eating and of course a great deal of Water – that it is the perfect place to hide poor flying stars.

Jim and Tessa have put me up in the very smart East Inn Hotel. They buy me dinner there the first night. Tessa flirts outrageously with the very French head chef who I take at first to be gay. He’s not and he’s a rather interesting man whose cv includes a two month spell as a human shield hostage in Iraq. He also makes a world class Thai red curry.

In the bar a pretty Muslim girl is fronting a covers band; voices, guitar, backing tracks. She of course knows and loves Tessa. She sings “Light Up” with great sensitivity and afterwards I congratulate her on “that Snow Patrol song”.

“Snow Patrol?” she questions. We settle for Leona Lewis.

Tessa buys an ornate water feature from the feng shui shop. I think it’s mostly to terrorise the nervous Chinese guy who owns it. She haggles without mercy. Jim and I hang back, neither of us brought up for this.

I set their condo up for 2012. There are fresh places to stimulate for wealth and safety in the Water Dragon year. And I get a first hand look at the new condo they’re buying across town. I’ve only seen it on paper before. Once again I can see that there is feng shui intelligence at work in the orientation, the way the blocks are positioned relative to the river and the two promontories have been kept West and North East relative to the buildings. It’s so clear, it’s as if I know the thinking of the Masters responsible. Which may actually be the case.

Jim takes my picture: feng shui man sweltering in front of apartment block.

Before they found their temporary accommodation, Jim and Tessa stayed at the number one hotel in KL for several months.

“Wonderful hotel, the best suite,” Tessa says with a twinkle. “You’ll never guess who had slept in my bed.”

“Try me.”

“Robert Mugabe.”

“Robert Mugabe slept in your bed,” I repeat back to her.

“Robert Mugabe slept in my bed.”

Jim is falling about laughing.

“I’m not a bit surprised,” I say.

3. Hanky, no panky.

Back in Cheshire, Dawn has ordered two trucks of huge stones.

“You’d better tell me where to put them,” she texts me.

Indeed I had.

From my Chinese calendar I choose a very special day. She meets me at the railway station in her coupe with a purple Dragon stencilled on the bonnet. It has state-of-the-art mp3 hi fi that only plays U2.

Next morning I’m up early. I’ve calculated positions for the stones that will balance the house. When you calculate where to put Mountain (that is height and weight) and Water (that is er… water) in a Xuan Kong pattern there are two main considerations: what suits the house and what suits the person. Often these contradict and usually they require compromise. Remarkably the locations are pretty much precisely those that I would have chosen if I were calculating something specially to suit her which isn’t how I arrived at them. There are huge odds against this fortunate occurrence. No such thing as coincidence.

In my faux Paul Smith coat I venture warily into the freezing morning to locate the sites in the landscape. Dawn’s excitable about the ley lines her dowsing rods have unearthed running across her garden. She’s always excitable actually. Paul Smith doesn’t keep the chill out and she lends me something more Arctic, a fetching little blue number. But still my thumbs are so cold it’s hard even to rotate the rings of my luopan.

Affable Northern workmen are already outside with anglegrinders and mallets and drills. My meticulously calculated Xuang Kong positions fall almost precisely into her ley lines. This is pretty interesting too. This woman is certainly a Master of something.

The stones arrive, huge irregular shapes of local sandstone. The guy who delivers the first consignment explains to me that the hoist on his truck can take precise volumes of weight out a certain distance from the flatbed. The hoist lifts first one stone then another into position. The low winter sun emerges dazzlingly from behind the trees above Dawn’s home. He manoeuvres the last stone into precisely the correct location. It’s bloody cold. Dawn makes tea. One of those moments of perfect poignance.

It’s been a very special day. Dawn tells me that today she has been able to dowse without her rods.

“Dowsing rods are just an excuse not to take responsibility,” I say.

“I know, I know,” she says. “Those stones look bloody good though, don’t they?”

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