Chinese New Year introduces water snakeWe survived the Mayan calendar ending on Dec. 21, 2012, and made it through the Times Square crystal ball drop on Dec. 31. We sang “Auld Lang Syne” as 2013 closed out 2012. And we listened wistfully to Peggy Lee singing “Is This All There Is?”
By: Sharon Cox, The Jamestown Sun
We survived the Mayan calendar ending on Dec. 21, 2012, and made it through the Times Square crystal ball drop on Dec. 31. We sang “Auld Lang Syne” as 2013 closed out 2012. And we listened wistfully to Peggy Lee singing “Is This All There Is?”
Goodness, there was a lot to 2012 that was memorable as well as beautiful. For humans, we remember the year through televised accounts of the year’s events. And ending the year for most of us was accompanied by a crystal-filled ball in New York’s Times Square. The ball dropping means a new year’s coming to us, but not to people from Asian countries.
If you’ve been to urban cities where specialized foods are sold in a China Town or Little Tokyo, you may have experienced the animal visuals designating that year’s symbol.
Within the Chinese moon calendar there are 12 animals and five elements. The animals rotate in order under one element for 12 years and then start the next animal rotation under the next element until 60 years have passed.
A 60-year-old person reaches his or her maturity and is elevated to maximum respect at 60, when they’ve reached their birth animal in their birth element. Since it takes 60 years for that to happen, every year beyond 60 is considered a cause to celebrate.
Americans, accustomed to our Gregorian sun calendar, have different images associated with our birth years. We see symbols of a scale for Libra, or two fishes for the Gemini twins, a planetary image for the sun or moon and various mythical creatures instead of easily recognizable animals of the moon calendar.
All are ruled by planetary orbs and bring with them their own characteristics associated with astrological beliefs. And the New Year starts with the Roman god Janus, who looks both backwards and forwards with both faces.
These creatures run the gamut in mythological history. Gorgons and strange birds are featured in Mayan myths, where Gorgons and snake-haired Medusa and ladies with wings punctuate Greek mythologies.
All images show up on pages of illustrated histories and describe how the earth began according to that belief.
It is a fascinating study, even if not taken seriously. For those interested in art research, it is visual fantasy and delight. Mythological images are the basis of today’s sci-fi movies, games and comics. Stories associated with them are as well. That many are associated with early religious beliefs is also fascinating for theologians.
With all the brouhaha connected to the Mayan doomsday myth of Dec. 21, 2012, we were inundated with instantly recognized disks showing the carved faces and creatures of that culture. Had there not been an end-of-the-world prediction connected to that round calendar, it’s unlikely the doomsday predictions would have been embraced.
I’ve been getting items from China, Korea and Japan for a class at Jamestown College. Almost without exception, the images shown on paper goods and cultural wares include dragons and snakes.
It’s obvious to anyone aware of the animal change taking place next month that the animal for 2013 must be a snake.
The dragon is perpetual but also represents 2012. The snake is periodic. It shows up in prominent events and focus once every 12 years and it is the one coming up in February.
Unlike western traditions where demonic attributes are attached to serpents, eastern culture credits the snake with positive characteristics. Like the dragon, the snake carries with it beneficial as well as some unpleasant attributes for the person born under that sign. And in true Asian style (Feng Shui), there are ways to off-set the bad with additions to a space or changing /blocking bad chi by movement or colors.
So when we see the snake in items around us, we can mentally apply happy thoughts to the image through January 2014.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.