Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking for Opportunities in the Year of the Dragon

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Monday, January 23rd, so it’s just around the corner.  Different years are supposed to be auspicious for anyone who was born in a year ruled by the same animal sign, so 2012 should be a significant year for anyone with the sign of the dragon, (born in the years 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, and 2000). 

In my previous post, where I suggested throwing black-eyed peas as part of a New Years celebration, I mentioned the bean-throwing ritual that is part of the Japanese Setsubun festival; men with a given year’s animal sign are the preferred persons to officiate at such ceremonies.  If there are any dragons in your social circle, you might encourage them to take a focal role in whatever festivities you may be planning in 2012.  (Just as 2012 should be good for dragon people, dragon people should be good for 2012.)

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are also paired with the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water, and wood, and 2012 is a Water Dragon year.   12 signs times 5 elements = 60 different sign-element combinations, and every 60 years the cycle repeats.  This also means that when anyone reaches the age of 60, he or she might experience a landmark year, because it has come back around to both his or her sign and element.  Therefore, 2012 should be a particularly interesting year for anyone born in 1952.

Curious as to whether the Chinese zodiac year would give anyone a special advantage in a presidential race, I looked into the birth years and signs for President Obama and the Republican contenders, but none of them are dragons.  FYI, Obama is Metal Ox, while Romney is a Fire Pig, Gingrich is a Water Sheep, Paul is a Wood Pig, Huntsman is a Metal Rat, Santorum is an Earth Dog, and Perry is a Metal Tiger.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Hierophant on the Front Porch

A happy Friday the 13th to all!  For nighttime reading, I go through a great many books related to my different research projects, so it’s always interesting to come across passages in books that relate, synchronistically, to archetypal symbols that I’m exploring in unrelated projects and discussions.  Among other things, I hope eventually to write a book on the hidden magical traditions relating to different types of vernacular architecture and living spaces, which would get into ways that we can appreciate and engage the magic in ordinary houses and other types of buildings.  At the moment, I’m reflecting on the cultural uses of front porches, so, using our online library catalog, I did a keyword search for “porch,” and got the book “Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness” by Jewell Parker Rhodes, [NY: Atria, 2006].  It is through these types of keyword searches that I become aware of other books, that, though unrelated to my topic, take my curiosity off in new directions.

So, I had been thinking of porches as transitional spaces, where we mediate between our public and private worlds.  Also, because of the ways front porches project into semipublic space, they say something about how we present ourselves to the world.  However, in light of our previous discussion about the Hierophant, we can see how the grandmother who shares her wisdom—often as she sits upon the front porch telling stories--takes on a hierophantic role, and how the front porch thus becomes a hierophantic space.  That is, it becomes a place where we can demonstrate deep values through “things said, things done, and things shown.”

To illustrate how Rhodes’ grandmother was effective in transmitting her values, the author says, “Grandmother’s guidance is everlasting.  More than anyone, she taught me how to live.  She taught me how to nurture myself, and my children, with words.”  She goes on to describe the many living spaces where this teaching occurred: “Like a magician or conjure woman, she turned all spaces into womanist spaces.  The kitchen table, the garden, the porch, a child’s bedroom, the living room, even the basement with its coal furnace and damp laundry were all spaces where Grandmother taught values as effortlessly as she breathed.  Wherever Grandmother reigned, there was spiritual uplift and healing” [137].

So, this suggests a new image for the Hierophant: the elder on the front porch.  Now, I’ll have to go through my more modern-themed tarot decks to see if anyone has thought of this.  I’m also curious as to how the different fairytale decks might portray grandmothers.

By the way, “Porch Stories, though a very slim book, has a lot of other good stuff in it, including some family experiences of communicating with the dead, and pithy African-American proverbs like, “Every good-bye ain’t gone,” and “Every shut eye ain’t sleep.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Contested Values in the Year of the Hierophant – Jan. 12

 Every year has a number that corresponds, in terms of magical numerology, to a tarot card.  For 2012, 2+1+2=5, giving us the Hierophant card.  The Hierophant can denote the transmission of teachings and traditions, which also relates to the preservation of cultural values.  For Americans, this being an election year, we can expect a contest over what these values are, and who has the right to claim and “own” them.  We can also see this contest at large, as many other countries have undergone changes that have resulted in different groups asserting different values.  Bear this in mind if the Hierophant comes up in any of your readings this year.  You might think about how your personal situation, or whatever matter is in question, might relate to this larger cultural debate.

The potentially revolutionary qualities of the Hierophant have not been appreciated, as many writers see it as denoting “the Establishment,” and if they have a troubled relationship with the Establishment, they’ll interpret the Hierophant in a negative light.  However, the Hierophant is the Number Five card of the Major Arcana, and when we look at the Five cards in the Minor Arcana suits, they deal with energetic forces of change, denoting the destabilization of the previously stable conditions portrayed in the Fours.  (In numerology, the number Five has a lot to do with the circulation of elemental energies, which is why the pentagram symbol is used to store and to move energy.)  In the Swords and Wands cards, which deal with contests of ideas and causes, the struggles that are portrayed often involve conflicted relationships with larger groups.

Viewing the Hierophant as a force for change in 2012, we can think about calling upon the many different “wisdom traditions” that we have access to, because they still flow as subcurrents through our society.  (This is a different take on what Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls the “rio abajo rio,” “the river below the river.”)  A challenge for this Hierophant year is to identify and align with the kind of traditions and institutions that nurture and empower people.  Then, our next challenge is to transmit this wisdom in keeping with the teaching style of the Hierophant—which, in the ancient temple of Eleusis, was to convince through “things said, things done, and things shown.”