Welcome the Female Earth Ox – Thriving Joyously in the Chinese New Year of 4707! (2009)
“Gung Hay Fa Choy!” as many millions of Chinese people around the world say, in many different dialects. The translation of which is: “May You Be Very Happy to Receive Lots of Money in the New Year!” A sentiment to which, in these times of economic uncertainty, we all can relate. And what advice does the noble Ox have for us to achieve these goals? Very simple: just as the strong Ox diligently and honorably tills the field, by our tenaciousness and fortitude, we eventually will reap our rewards.
So simple, but, why a Yin Earth Ox year, and how does Chinese astrology work, and can it be helpful? Chinese astrology is based on the cycles of nature and thousands of years of observation of nature’s cycles. Each year is named for one of the Twelve Animals (Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig), which combine with one of the Five Elements (fire, earth, metal, water, wood), plus the balance of yin and yang. The result is a cycle that repeats every 60 years. In twelve years it will be an Ox year, but it will be a Metal Ox year. The last Earth Ox year, like this one, was 60 years ago in 1949. At that time, following the Second World War, much of our planet was recovering from turmoil and instituting policy and programs that would form the basis of recovery. NATO and The People’s Republic of China were started in 1949. We experience a similar need at this time for such plans and programs that will create some lasting stability. The “baby-boomers” who were born in that last Earth Ox year of 1949, can hopefully enjoy the fruit of their Ox labor as they turn 60 this year.
The Chinese calendar was instigated 4707 years ago, (some say 4706), by Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor. The Rat was the first animal, followed by the Ox. The legend is that the Buddha summoned all the animals and the twelve that arrived were rewarded with the name of a year. The Ox, being devoted to service and on-task, was early and about to get there first, but the clever and crafty Rat persuaded the kind-hearted Ox for a ride, then quickly ran in front, and so the Rat is the first animal of the cycle. The animal that rules the year of your birth is said to be, “the animal that hides in your heart,” according to a Chinese saying. The relationship that your animal has with the ruler of the present year, in this case Ox, can affect your experience, so, let us learn of the ways of the Ox that we may live in harmony.
But, first, let me mention that there is something akin to a rising sign in Chinese astrology. (The complexities begin!) Each of the twelve animals has a 2-hour period in a day, beginning again with Rat (11PM-1AM). The animal, and element, of the hour of your birth constitutes a “rising” sign. And for a more complete view into your unique astrology, we can examine your year, hour, day and month, or 4 Pillars, as relating to the current year of Earth Ox. (If you are curious about your 4 Pillars, check out the 4 Pillar calculator at www.heartastrology.com.)
In general, we all certainly could use to “get right” with the energetics of our contemporary Yin Earth Ox. Maybe she should be referred to as a Buffalo or Cow, though I will stick with tradition. The Ox is a noble and honorable animal, closely connected with and highly respected by the Chinese agrarian society, as the Ox lives in service, faithfully tilling the soil so that people can eat and survive. Ox is diligent and hard-working, associated with prosperity through systematic and consistent effort. Like last year’s Rat, the Ox is associated with new beginnings, but the Ox is confidently building to last, slowly but surely. When we speak of the energetics of the Ox, we are including those of people born under the sign of the Ox, as well as the yearly tendencies, qualities and potential for all of us. The Female Earth Ox moves slowly and deliberately, most contentedly in service. New projects undertaken this year can be successful if done so in the spirit of the Earth Ox. Proceed in a cautious and resolute fashion, taking on fewer long-term projects, ones that can realistically be completed, and avoid selfish get-rich-quick schemes.
The Earth element strongly influences this year. The Ox’s native element is Earth, so we have a “double Earth” scenario. In Chinese tradition, Earth receives light, warmth and rain from Heaven, and is therefore Yin (receptive). The Earth, then gives impartially, so all life can flourish. Some characteristics of Earth are generosity, integrity, loyalty, and nurturance. When we are in balance with Earth, we nurture the Earth, as in nurturing a garden that then sustains us. Certainly in this Earth Ox year, gardening and farming are appropriate pursuits. Grow some food to share– your hard work will pay off. Other appropriate action this year would be mitigation and reversal of past man-made destruction done to the Earth, devising and implementing plans to heal the ozone layer and address global warming. With commitment, dedication, patience and strength of the Ox, anything is possible.
Truly, this Earth Ox year has come at the perfect time. The Ox believes in a natural order, in that, with a good plan and hard work, one can achieve one’s goals. Now, after years of unregulated greed that has nearly brought down our financial system, we have a ruler of the year that lives by responsible and modest work, in service. And who is freshly inaugurated to help guide us from the errors of the past, but President Obama, the Ox! Yes, indeed, Barack Obama (8/4/61) is an Ox. He campaigned tenaciously and confidently, working for the common good, calmly and sincerely, inspiring a large multitude to give him a small amount of money, plowing ahead like the Ox he is. His plans to implement New Deal-like works projects, putting millions to work and fueling our economy from the ground up, are Ox-like. The problems facing our nation at this time are severe, and affect all of our hearts, minds and pocketbooks. Recovery will not occur overnight, but the Ox (President Obama) inspires confidence by implementing programs that can be the foundation for lasting recovery.
Will President Obama glide smoothly through the fertile soil of American politics? Hardly. Being a “double-Earth” year, things may move slower than expected. Plus, the Ox has a relationship with water (the Ox month occurs in winter, cold and wet), and while a proper amount of water is necessary to enliven soil, there may be a feeling of getting “bogged down” at times.But the Ox plods confidently along. There is a very old saying about the year of Earth Ox:
In addition to applying this adage to the seasonal timing involving our own labor, perhaps we can also apply it to the financial sector, as we should see some improvement this autumn. The hard work of the Ox, in addition to producing the direct benefit of “piles of grain,” inspires confidence that fuels our economy. Confidence is needed for investment, though caution is still appropriate. Remember, the Ox is wary of risky get-rich-quick schemes, and seeks to avoid debt. As distasteful as it is for the government to dump huge amounts of money into the economy as a “jumpstart,” the policy is necessary. The “double-Earth” of this year acts like a dam to block the flow of what little water there is. Water, in the Chinese tradition, has a moving form that is associated with money. Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese Art of Placement, is translated “Wind Water,” with the wind blowing through the leaves of a tall, healthy and deep-rooted tree, and the water representing flow of money, currency, like the current of a river. With the scarcity of moving water in this year’s chart, to achieve movement of currency, our economy needs an influx of cash from the government. Such a policy can create stability in the future, even paying dividends like an investment, if planned properly. We also see a lack of fire in this year’s chart. Fire is the most active, Yang element, and it is fire that can cause volatility in the financial sector. So, in this year of Yin Earth Ox, investors are wise to be cautious, waiting out these difficult times, until the autumn grains begin to amass and confidence returns.
We, however, do well to align ourselves with the honorable Ox now, celebrating the arrival of this highly respected Ruler of the Year. Chinese New Year began with the new moon on Jan. 26, 2009, (actually Jan. 25, 11:55PM PST), and the traditional celebration continues until the full moon on Feb. 9, also a lunar eclipse. Festivities traditionally culminate with Dragon dancing and fireworks, which by virtue of their extreme Yang explosive quality, disperse inauspicious energy and clear the way for the Ox. I suggest we welcome the Ox in whatever festive manner that is correct for us. Perhaps a fire, with its purifying function, encouraging the Earth of the Ox, is appropriate. Red lanterns are another auspicious Chinese tradition. We do have a lot to celebrate: the end of the Rat year, fraught with economic turmoil, the end of the previous 12 year cycle, so governed by greed and fear, and the end of the previous regime, finally. And we have a new cycle beginning on this blessed and generous planet– spring is soon here.
As we enter, now with enthusiasm, this new Female Earth Ox year, there are some health concerns of which we can be aware. Earth is the predominating element, and, in Chinese medicine, Earth is the element of digestion, belonging to the spleen/stomach system. Just as the Earth receives warmth, light and rain from Heaven, and then nourishes all life, the stomach receives our food, and the spleen transforms and transports our nutritional energy so we can be nourished, have energy and accomplish our goals.If we are to function with the strength of an Ox, our digestive system needs to operate efficiently. Reducing our intake of alcohol, refined sugar, caffeine, excessive dairy, heavy meats and processed foods can lessen the stress on our digestion. Modern agricultural practices have separated us from the sources of our food, providing us with processed, “convenient” products that are lacking in nutrition. Our health suffers. To nurture Earth, eat local, farm fresh food, emphasizing preferably organic whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and seeds. Remember, an Ox works happily all day, eating only (a lot of) grass. I am not advocating the “grasses only” diet; don’t worry, though I suggest that you find what healthy diet works best for you so you can have the energy to achieve your intention. In order to function efficiently, processing food into nutrition and transporting it throughout the body, the Earth element of the spleen/stomach system needs warmth, or the element Fire. As there is no Fire in this year’s Yin Earth Ox chart, and, as we live in cool and damp place, I suggest that we keep our spleens warm. Eating warm foods, warm herbs, avoiding cold food and drink– these are basic practices that can be tailored to your unique situation. And of course it is the Female Ox, or Cow, who produces milk that is locally made into ice cream. If possible, try moderation with ice cream this year of the Cow, in order to avoid damp stagnation of the spleen.
In the Chinese medical tradition, the Earth element is responsible for the ability to think and remember. Chinese medicine views our body, mind and spirit as a holistic unity. Just like our spleen/stomach receives food, mulls it over, and sends nutrition and waste where it needs to go, we receive thoughts and must decide which ones are useful and which are not. In this Earth Ox year, we can derive inspiration from the example of the Ox who thoughtfully makes practical long-term plans, considering stability and security for the family. Then the Ox methodically acts on the plan, industriously accomplishing the goal. When Earth is not in balance, excessive and unbalanced thoughts can result. We know that digestive difficulties can cause unclear thinking, just as an imbalanced thought process can cause digestive discomfort. And as this new year begins, it is important that we clear out any residual thought patterns that may be lingering due to the war, fear and insanity of the previous regime. Fear damages our thought process; inhibiting proper planning that may reflect our heart’s intent, leading to worried and obsessive thought that produces no result. The Ox is confidant in her ability and is not afraid of responsibility. In choosing to act with kindness, like the Earth Ox, balanced thoughts ensue with a practical plan.
More advice from the sagely Ox: 1. Exercise. Obviously, the Ox tills the field, which may not be our lot in life. Perhaps the Ox is content and healthy due to daily cardio-vascular exercise coupled with the plowing precision of a martial artist. 2. Rest. As we emulate the noble Ox, toiling tenaciously, we need ample rest to rejuvenate and not deplete ourselves. 3. Meditate. The Earth element of the Ox is analogous to a mountain, which becomes analogous to a cave in the mountain, where a retreatant meditates in peace. Balance the reflective thought and useful planning with meditation, the antidote for our modern world.
Can we all be as the honorable Ox? Well, we each are born under an animal sign that may or may not be friendly and compatible with the Ox. For instance, the Sheep shares the pasture with the Ox, but the Sheep cares not for hard work, preferring creative and artistic pursuits and detesting a strict schedule. This year, however, the Sheep needs to put up with the Ox and get with the program, or it is said that the Ox will eat all the grass in the pasture and the Sheep may cry. Actually, the sensitive Sheep is very kind, gentle and compassionate, and this year, as we all share in the process of recovery from economic calamity, the altruistic Sheep can support the implementation of the practical plans of the Ox. The peace-loving and pacifist Sheep, however, may be conflicted as the conservative and slow-moving Ox cannot move quickly enough from the ways of war. But the Ox instills confidence, and it is even possible for the freedom-loving Horse to become a “cart-horse,” to work in the sensible and timely manner of the year Ox. The Ox works all day and rests at night. Some animals, however, may not be content with this exact arrangement every day. Go out and enjoy the nightlife occasionally if it makes you happy. Each of the 12 Chinese astrological animals express a unique perspective, and it is all a harmonious whole, like a family. In a family, there are challenges, and the Ox, at times, may seem stubborn, slow-moving, conservative, and possibly lacking in a sense of humor. But it is the fulfilling work, with eventual benefit, that keeps Ox content, and this is the time of the Ox. By learning about the tendencies and traits of our Chinese celestial family, we can certainly enrich our experience this season on Earth. I suggest that each of us delve into understanding our animal family relationships so that our human family can function in a healthy way.
Once again, Happy Chinese New Year! Chinese astrology and Chinese medicine, born of nature’s cycles, can help attune us to the Earth’s rhythms, giving us confidence of our place within those changing cycles. And, of course, an acupuncture treatment and/or Feng Shui consultation at this (or any) time of year, helps balance us internally and externally, that we may more easily handle challenges. Welcome the Earth Ox! Work hard and achieve rewards. My wish is that you thrive joyfully!
Jeffrey Haloff is a Feng Shui consultant and licensed acupuncturist who has recently moved to the Humboldt County area of California with his wife, Chelsea Colby, who also is an acupuncturist.