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.
“Just as the lake is inexhaustible in depth, so the sage is inexhaustible in readiness to teach.” The Book of Changes.
Where to do what, when and why.
The most fortuitous times for most action that is constructive and positive are the 18th and 28th. The first favours certain Snakes (born 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 and 2001) and Tigers (1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998) and the second Oxen (1949, 1961, 1973 1985, 1997) Snakes and Dragons (1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000) but everyone gets a shake. Remember also that you are to a greater or lesser extent ruled by the Animals of your day, month and hour of birth as well as the year.
The Monkey ape-ears.
Here comes the Monkey year, just weeks away now. In the Chinese folk tale, the Monkey climbs to the Moon and steals the Akashic Record of deeds good and bad so as not to be judged for his own. Now that’s sneaky. The Monkey is a mischievous beast, the Fire variety especially so and that mischief runs through the coming Year.
Although the Monkey does not suffer the so-called self-clash – meaning that an Animal does not flourish in its own year – that puckish stuff can be overwhelming. It’s a year when it’s hard to respond proportionately. “Too much monkey business for me to get involved in,” as Chuck Berry wrote.
However the year is ruled also by the lo shu number 2, that is to say kun, the Mother; an interesting and complex tension, personally and internationally as well as domestically. In some senses – ecological and political, for instance – it’s as pivotal a year as there’s been. Do we succumb to the myopic naughtiness of the Monkey at his worst or open to the wisdom of the Mother? This applies as much to the bedroom and the office as to the outside world.
The downside of a Monkey Year is invasion and violence, risks both at home and away. But the Monkey is ingenious and the upside is the use of reason to benefit our families, acquaintance and the world. The worst of a 2 Year is the pursuit of right at all costs, the end sanctifying the method. The best is an opening to miracle and to lasting peace.
The Handy Monkey.
And there are things we can do. Chinese thinking separates the realm of tian (Heaven) from ti (Earth), a bridge being made by ren, that is Humanity. So we can recognise the sway of Heaven by being truthful about our own actions, deserts and responsibilities; mechanically we can ensure that we employ the best locations (which are broadly West, East and South East) and don’t overuse the worst (this year North East). This is ti – Earth ch’i. And we can choose intelligently and most of all benevolently.
As I’ve written before, nature doesn’t work in straight lines, so the Sheep year doesn’t close with a slap in an instant as the Monkey begins. There are between November and February, at least five possible dates (based on different traditional calculations) for the New Chinese Year. And right now we’re in the thick of that suspended time; a cusp, if you will, the worst energy spots of 2015 now relatively innocuous and the helpful ones for 2016 not yet much use.
Which makes the moment ripe for feng shui changes; around now we re-do the He Tu Journeys we have been making between locations in the house all year, we re-orient desks and bed, we quieten the Monkey’s tricky areas and we reclaim those places where the energy will once again assist. All of this information – as well as the one small spot to activate all year – is in my Tune-Up Drill which will be available soon. You can buy it do-it-yourself as a file, or alongside an hour of me by Skype or as part of a scheduled Tune-Up visit. You pays your money and you takes your choice.
As it happens the Chinese ideograph for the Monkey – shen – is actually a hand. And the Monkey is typically hands-on, practical and humorous as well as non-committal and capable of significant aggression. Kun, on the other hand represents Mother Earth, Gaia herself. She wields a power both subtler and less placable; her purpose is positive but her means may not be obviously so. Humankind may be likened to an unruly toddler who must be restrained by kun for his own good, lest (s)he hurt himself or worse. In the long run, his interests will be served but some privileges may have to be restricted.
Ox Pillars; know your Ox rating.
Birth in the Ox hour (01:00pm-03:00am): late fertility.
Birth in the Ox month (January*): consistent career path, monogamy.
Birth on the Ox day#: a kind of random stubbornness.
Birth in the Ox year: a spiritual or religious tradition.
* Caution, the Chinese month generally starts and finishes a few days after ours.
# Just ask.
Richard Ashworth ©2016
Rabbit over the Moon
Rabbit Month opens: March 6th 05:56am.
Rabbit over the Moon
Spring is springing up all around us. The days are longer, the light is brighter, new birds chirrup the day into life each morning. This energy of stirring is called Wood. As of 5.50 on the morning of the 6th March we enter the yin Wood of the Rabbit month. The Wood is gentler and in less of a hurry than the yang Wood of the Tiger month but equally insistent. Summer is just around the corner.
In Chinese culture the Rabbit is often associated with the Moon. This may be because of the folk tale of the beautiful Cheng’e – a kind of Chinese Helen of Troy – who found herself marooned on the Moon with only the Jade Rabbit for company. Or it may be due to something even older and more mysterious.
Be that as it may, in ancient China pregnant women were denied rabbit meat for fear of giving birth to a child with a hare lip. What is perhaps interesting (and ancient) about that is the term “hare” lip. How does such a disfigurement resemble either hares or rabbits so closely that the idea would develop in regions close to 10,000 miles apart? Go figure.
This particular Rabbit month is dominated by two eclipses; one total and solar on the 20th of March and a lesser lunar one on the 5th April. Generally eclipses are indicators of tricky times to come and although Chinese diviners have made a whole art of their interpretation, the traditional blanket advice is simply to stay indoors. Staring at the penumbra can of course damage the eyes in any case.
An eclipse that falls on a Wood Sheep day during a Wood Sheep year as the first of these does, is implying an outcome that will hang over the whole year. One that is accompanied by the Hexagram Well signifies issues to do with the conservation of resources. The so-called Officer of the day is Stable which implies an unchanging condition and the other indicator Neck (as in “getting it in the..”) is no more promising.
There’s more about this on the News page of my website but for now my advice is to simply stay out of its way – if only to preserve your eyesight.
Where to do what, when and why.
One of the things I have picked up visiting South East Asia is how much feng shui Masters disagree. As they say about solicitors: if you consult three, you get four different opinions.
One thing they all agree on this year though is that the North is the principal location of wealth. And this month, the yearly 8 Star– generally reckoned benevolent whenever and wherever it appears – is joined by the 9 of forward planning. The toe far Romance Star is here too. Toe far is selective however, only favouring certain Animals depending on where it falls. In the North it indicates company for Rabbit, Sheep and Pig. Wealth is not so picky though. So having at least a small bowl of Water in the North from the 21st March to the 5th April may prove shrewd. For either outcome, some authorities suggest additionally some sand, crystals or a swathe of yellow.
The Rabbit in the Rabbit Month.
In contrast to the Tiger, the Rabbit (1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011) is generally reckoned to be sensitive, home loving, a diplomat and a networker. Where the Tiger is yang Wood – thrusting towards the Sun like the tree trunks of the rainforest, the Rabbit is yin; like grass, petals, leaves. It is as the Book of Changes has it, the breeze, “gentle and thorough but ultimately adamant.” These are the qualities to expect in a Rabbit month; a low-key insistence and constant movement, in contrast perhaps to the rush of February. This soft insistence is especially effective as the Sheep of the year is a booster of the Rabbit. Diplomacy sounds like the best approach.
Since last month I referenced Victoria Beckham as an archetypical Tiger, it’s interesting note that her husband David is a Rabbit. David appears to be one of those people that arrive once in a generation, issued with some sort of free ticket; a man with whom nobody appears to have an issue. As we discussed last month, Victoria has something to do with that but David’s apparently guileless affability is typically Rabbit. This man knows how to get on with people.
The Rabbit month is the peak of the Spring, the coming-to-life of the New Year. And the Rabbit is nothing if not optimistic. He always knows there is better to come. Yin Wood, like yang Wood expands. But softly; the days are gently getting longer and the temperature rising, not long till Summer.
The Rabbit is subtle, she is the entertainer; not in the sense that he can’t keep from dancing on tables like the Horse or testing his allure like the Rooster, but that he sees that everyone at the party has a drink and is talking to someone sympathetic. She is the best hostess and the best networker. If you want to be networked upwards, ask a Rabbit. Her iPhone is priceless.
The Rabbit’s contacts will include many Sheep with whom they share a yin Wood docility and Pigs who are just as home-loving. Surprisingly perhaps many Rabbits are tight with Dogs which perhaps underlines their gift for diplomacy. The Rabbit is said to bring penury to the Dragon; perhaps that’s why the beginning of the tax year falls on April 5th, the day the Rabbit month becomes the Dragon. This year btw the Dragon calls the shots.
The shameless Rooster tends to press the average Rabbit’s buttons (but you might never know) and the Rat may not always appreciate her. In 2015 the Year of Gathering, the Rabbit advances in gentle, gradual leaps and bounds. For many this is the month of leaps and bounds; Rabbits, Pigs and Sheep at the front of the queue. Caution: Dragons and Roosters.
Rabbit Month, Animal by Animal.
During this Earth Rabbit month:
The Rat may not offer appreciation readily.
The Ox could feel isolated.
The Tiger tends to the anti-climactic.
The Rabbit hops to it.
The Dragon may throw caution to the winds. Best not to.
The Snake is past the crisis.
The Horsemay be especially inappropriate.
The Sheep is central.
The Monkey is peripheral.
The Rooster may err through restlessness.
The Dog may be tamed.
The Pig is busy.
Rabbit Pillars; know your Rabbit rating.
Birth in the Rabbit hour (05:00pm-07:00am): settled retirement.
Birth in the Rabbit month (March*): work in reception, pr, hr. Not er.
Birth on the Rabbit day#: the most considerate.
Birth in the Rabbit year: contact list to die for.
* Caution, the Chinese month generally starts and finishes a few days after ours.
# Just ask.
The Body Map Rap
I studied the Book of Changes for several years with master acupuncturist Peter Firebrace – which was a unique learning experience. He is also a songwriter and a bit of a wag, as you may discover in ‘Body Map Race’
Richard Ashworth©, late in the month of the Tiger, 2015.