January 31st of 2014 begins the Year of the Wood Horse in the Chinese calendar as part of the sexagenary cycle of sixty 2-character terms. Each term (representing a year) consists of a “Heavenly stem” character and an “Earthly-branch” character; these combine to generate 60 unique terms that then repeat; in this case every 60 years. This means that the Year of the Wood Horse will only occur every 60 years.
I was born 60 years ago, so this is very much my year!
The Horse (馬 午)
In Chinese culture, the Horse symbolizes nobility, class, speed and perseverance.
The magical horse is heroic, strong and can fly. Think Pegasus, Tianma, Sleipnir, Epona’s horses, the Hippocamp, the white horse of Rhiannon, the unicorn, the dragon-horse of Xuanzang, the kelpie, and the bailongma. The white celestial cloud horse, sacred to the Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin—goddess of compassion—flies in the heavens and brings peace and blessings. The horse is linked to Varuna and equated to the cosmos. The white horse is also believed to be the last incarnation of Vishnu. Buddha is said to have left this physical plane riding a white horse.
Horses love to run, or fly in the case of mythic horses. They love freedom. They’re sexy, elegant and beautiful and embody the qualities of power, grace, nobility, strength, victory and freedom. In Native American lore, the horse symbol combines the grounded power of the earth with the whispers of wisdom found in the spirit wind. The Celts considered the horse noble, embodying qualities of stability, honor, trust, intelligence and strength. The horse was considered a vehicle and guide for transcendence, able to invoke courage and determination. The Celtic Ogham equates the horse with the Oak tree (a strong, stable life-affirming symbol, recognized for its tendency to attract lightning, symbolic of divine light and spiritual rebirth).
Some metaphysical writings describe the Horse as a “triangle” or “trinity” of hypostases: 1) bearing the gift of presence, elegance, and journey; 2) offering the energy of freedom, nomadic spirit, and endurance; and 3) holding the magic of telepathy and spirit messenger.
The Wood Horse (木馬 午)
2014 isn’t just the year of the Horse; it is the year of the Wood Horse, also called the Green Horse (wood being related to a growing tree and the color of young growth). The wood element is associated with spring, growth and vitality.
Mossy cedar, Revelstoke Park, BC (photo by Nina Munteanu)
Wood represents the first phase of Wu Xing, an ancient mnemonic for systems with five stages or movements, used to explain a diversity of phenomena from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicines. The five elements include wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
As one of the generative cyclical engendering five elements, wood feeds fire; fire creates Earth (ash); Earth bears metal; metal enriches water (e.g., water with minerals is more beneficial to the body than pure water); and water nourishes wood.
Wood is yang in character and associated with the planet Jupiter (and Zeus, the god of thunder and lightning), the color blue, green, and the wind. It is also associated with the Azure Dragon (Qing Long) of the east, one of the four mythological creatures of the Chinese constellations. The Azure Dragon is represented in the Kiyomizu Temple in eastern Kyoto, Japan, where I visited in Spring 2013.
In Chinese Taoist thought, Wood is characterized by strength and flexibility (think bamboo and willow). Wood reflects qualities of warmth, generosity, co-operation and idealism. Wood heralds the beginning of life and embraces springtime and buds, sensuality and fecundity. Wood needs moisture to thrive. Wood, in turn, feeds fire. Wood burns. A Wood person is considered expansive, outgoing and socially conscious.
The wooden horse is a potent symbol. Perhaps the best known wooden horse is the Trojan Horse, used by the Greeks in the Trojan war to gain entry into Troy and destroy the city. As told in the Latin epic poem The Aeneid by Virgil: after a 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse—the emblem of Troy—and hid soldiers inside then pretended to leave. The horse was apparently left as a peace offering to the Trojans and to the goddess Athena to ensure safe passage home. Despite the priest Loacoon’s warning—“Don’t trust the horse! I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts”—the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the elite force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the army, which had hidden under cover of night. The Greeks won the conflict as a result of this brilliant subterfuge. This is why malicious computer programs that trick users into running them as useful or interesting are called Trojan Horses.
Today, the Trojan Horse that stands in front of ancient Troy (Truva) symbolizes vigilant peace and freedom. It is a daily reminder to thousands of tourists of the power of deception in the guise of candy-coated “truths”. The ancient Greeks cleverly subverted a noble symbol of honor, grace and power through crafty deception. The noble Wooden Horse, like any symbol, is only as good as those who embrace its original truths and noble meanings. Think swastika, the pentagram, the cross.
Were you born in the year of the horse?
Horse years include: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, and 1906. Horse people are bright, cheerful, popular and fun loving (big giant grin). People born in the Year of the Horse are smart fabulous speakers who have a gift for getting through to other people. They find people and crowds exciting and love parties. Hehe… Horse’s childish innocence, sunny disposition, and natural charm attract many friends. HAR! The horse is a very intuitive animal; horse-people follow their hunches. Luckily our keen judgment and natural intuition help us make the right decisions with those crazy hunches.
Rules constrain the proud horse that needs freedom to run. Horses are elegant, beautiful and highly intuitive animals. Horse people are frank and will tell you exactly what is on their mind; they dislike hidden agendas. The Horse is complex and paradoxical: considered proud yet sweet-natured, arrogant yet oddly modest in their approach to love, envious but tolerant, conceited yet humble. They want to belong, yet they need to be independent. They crave intimacy, yet refuse to be corralled or tamed. One astrologer tells us that, “The Horse will give up everything for love.”
What does it all mean?…
So, what does all of this have to do with you, 2014 and the Year of the Horse? Why, nothing… Perhaps everything.
It depends on whether you are mindful of the symbols around you; whether you think and write metaphorically; whether you are fanciful and whimsical; whether you appreciate the ancient wisdom of humanity and its link to the divine… Whatever your inclination, I wish you a wonderful and productive year of transformation and wonderful surprises. I for one am looking forward to 2014. I’ve embraced it as my year with its spontaneous “horse” energy for fast action and flow—my style, actually.
I expect no middle ground. It’s a year of extremes, strong fluctuations, general chaos and great opportunity. A time of fast victories and unexpected adventure. A year to travel, especially off the beaten path. A year to connect with Nature and embrace Gaia’s radiant energy. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast to catch up with this horse. My book about water, which I started last year (the year of the water snake), will run its course to publication this year. It is half-written and I will finish it—and get it published—this year.
Horse energy is pure unbridled spirit. Playful, wild, and independent. Horse has a refined instinct that flows through action and movement. Leap. Fly. Follow your instincts. Chase your dream. Catch it by the tail. Finish that novel. Send it off. Present that proposal. Go to that convention. Meet that publisher or agent. Assert your honesty and openness. The horse demands it.
I wish you an exciting and wonderful 2014!
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.