The year of the Yin Wood goat
The last few days in the UK have felt very spring like: as well as the snowdrops of Lucy’s blog there are crocuses and new leaves peeping through. The light is changing, the birds are singing more and the days are definitely feeling lighter. This is the time of the Chinese new year: the rise of Yang energy. In many ways this seems more of an apt time to focus on a new year.
The Chinese mark the passing of each year with a shift in focus from Yang to Yin, a different animal and, every two years, a change of element. I find this is a helpful reminder of the natural rhythm and pace of life. We are part of a whole and however much we might like to try to impose our desires on the environment, I find that if I can respect, learn patience and trust that” to every thing there is a season”, then I am more able to accept what life brings me.
So what is this New Year about? Tomorrow Thursday February 19th, 2015: we will move from Yang wood to Yin Wood and from Horse to Goat. This will last until 7 Feb 2016.
What does the goat/sheep mean to you and why is it sometimes known as the year of the sheep? In ancient times all cultures, not just the Chinese, regarded animals as sacred beings. In ancient China the twelve most important animals were selected to vividly represent different aspects of our being. At this time the breeds of sheep and goat were similar and so no distinction was made until much later. There was also no distinction between male or female: so some zodiacs refer to the sign as a ram. Although nowadays often these different animal signs are over simplified, I find that if each year we can listen to different aspects of our being in relationship to nature and the animal kingdom then it can still be helpful.
I have already talked a lot about the different qualities of Yin and Yang in previous blogs. Yin is about building up of energy and has a more inward or centripetal focus. Yang is more about transformation and an outward focus: day and night, sun and moon. We are still in the element of wood. The simplest way of thinking of the five elements are the four seasons: with the fifth element being earth, which holds everything together. The two seasons opposites (Yin and Yang) are summer (fire) and winter (water) while spring is wood (Yang energy increasing) and autumn is metal (yin energy increasing). Think of the elements in nature: wood is trees not dead wood, metal is rocks and crystals.
So we can see that, as we move from the Yang Wood Horse to the Yin Wood Goat, there is an energy of moving to Yin, slowing down: although we are still in Wood which is about new life and rising Yang. However, the goat is a slower moving animal than the horse, which means that there is a drawing in. We can see this year as a time of consolidation of all the galloping energy of the horse.
Sheep and goats are considered one of the Chinese lucky animals. They have the freedom to wander around the fields looking for the grass and other food. They can eat whatever captures their attention. As there is always something for them to eat, they don’t have to worry about food. Here is the idea that Goat is not very hard working but more happy go lucky. They are interested in exploring, playing around and are very affectionate and joyful. They are also very agile, sure footed and fearless: able to be at home in all different kinds of terrain: perched on a hill or even mountainside.
We tend to think of goats as having a mild personality and being friendly to humans. This is expressive of an intimate nature and someone who can be easily moved by the misfortune of others.
Though goats love to be in groups, they do not want to be the centre of attention and tend to be more on the reserved and quiet side. They like spending time in their thoughts. This means that they tend to be creative, dependable, intelligent and calm: hence their charm. They tend to be more comfortable on their own or at home.
The other side of this nature is that goats may become disorganised, lazy and careless. They may also want someone to take care of them as they may not always be so practical or hard working as they like to wander, be free and express their creative nature. Since the Goat doesn’t have to do any work and many of the farmland jobs go to the Ox, Ox is said not to like Goat.
Although their natural element is Fire, which is Yang, it is Yin Fire: the quieter stiller aspect of fire like the candle flame. As this year is Yin Wood, wood is said to feed the fire, so it is a building up of energy.
In many cultures the male goat is a symbol of virility reproduction and the female goat is considered to be nurturing. Think of the name: nanny goat. Many humans are nourished on goat’s milk. The goat’s horn represents this duality: with its point up it is a phallic symbol and with its point down a womb.
In Greek myths, the gods were nourished on goat milk. One famous goat, the doe Amalthea, allegedly provided suckle in a cave on Crete to baby Zeus, the chief deity of the Greek Pantheon. Dionysius, the god of wine, was also suckled on goat milk. Pan, the Greek deity of nature, had goat’s horns, hindquarters and legs. Pan was the god of music, sexuality and playfulness. In Greek and Roman drama and art, the satyrs represents art and creativity. Interestingly, the Greeks gave the satyrs horse’s ears and tail, but in Roman representations they are men with goat’s ears, tail, legs, and horns. We see a certain magical, creative, firey quality expressed here. Think also of Capricorn the sea goat: goat from waist up with the tail of a fish.
So perhaps this year we can focus on nourishing the quieter and expressive aspects of ourselves in a playful and compassionate way. The trick is not to get too sucked into dependency on others and stuck in the inward quality of yin. Expressing the goat energy creatively, we can tune into our heart and express our magical qualities of growth and renewal. What is it you truly want to do? And how can we support those who are less able to express their creativity and heart desires?