Sunday, February 7, 2016


If you have missed out on something or gotten off to a bad start for this year 2016, remember the slogan, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  Although I don’t think I’ve heard this expression since I was a kid in the Sixties, it was a popular subject for posters and bumper stickers.  I seem to recall it set in psychedelic prints, but maybe that’s just a reconstructed memory.  Since then, the computer era has brought new image associations for starting over: rebooting your day/ week/ month/ year/ life, or hitting the re-set button.

For those of the magical mindset, the calendar brings many additional opportunities for a fresh start, considering that the year is a wheel, and a wheel has no single, separate starting point, but 360 (or 365) starting points.  So, if January 1st is a big day for starting the year out on the right foot with New Year’s resolutions, January 2nd should be honored as a day of second chances for those of us who messed up, or who were too busy or forgetful to get it right and make it auspicious on January 1st.  Likewise the second day of every week and month.  As the second month of the year, February can be a particularly good month for setting a new agenda—especially as Chinese New Year most often falls around the beginning of February.  Of course, if we look at different world cultures, both past and present, we find the new year has also been celebrated at spring equinox, April 1st, Beltane (May Day), Samhain (Halloween), Yule, and on other days besides.

As it happens, this year Chinese New Year starts tomorrow, as it falls on February 8th, and is a fire monkey year.  Though not of Asian ancestry, I am looking forward to this as a second chance, because my new year got off to a really bad start, as I awoke on January 1st with a nasty cold that turned into bronchitis.  Furthermore, I am a fire monkey about to turn 60, having been born in March of 1956.  The sexagenary year is significant to the Chinese zodiac as the completion of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle, as there are 12 animals and 5 elements, so 12 x 5 = 60.

Even if you weren’t born in a monkey year, you can still use the monkey as a lucky charm for 2016, as each year’s animal icon is auspicious for that year.  Following is a little bit of my past research on monkeys and charm lore:

Monkey:  Monkeys are about having fun, going wild, and letting out the playfully curious animal within.  (Think about Curious George.)  There is some dualistic symbolism here: cynical people use the image of the ape to mock human pretensions, while for others, it celebrates our close kinship with the animal world.
When used as a charm image in Asia, the monkey can promote the qualities of vitality and enthusiasm, (especially for persons born in the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Monkey, including the years 1920, 32, 44, 56, 68, 80, 92, 2004, 2016, 28, 40, 52 …), or invoke the strength and protection of the god Hanuman, whose army of monkeys defeated the forces of evil.  In Asian folk art, a well known trio of “three wise monkeys” conveys the injunction to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.  In Japan, different monkey charms are associated with Shinto shrines and deities who grant wishes and bestow fertility, easy delivery, and a harmonious family life. Charm objects include a “wish monkey” on which people write their desires, and a “substitution monkey,” which takes on a person’s bad luck.  Because the Japanese word for monkey is very close to the word for “expel” or “drive away,” miniature monkeys are also used as charms to ward off negative influences and illness.  Japanese monkey charms are usually red for active luck, fertility, and protection.  A term popularized by Buddhism is “monkey mind,” referring to the restless mind’s tendency to jump from one thing to another.  You can use this knowledge to promote self-improvement—and when you are agitated and unfocused, you could pinch a monkey charm as a reminder to calm your thoughts.

So, if you feel your year got off to a bad start because you were monkeying around, think about how the Year of the Monkey might help you turn that into a positive.  Happy New Year!