What a year that was! 1 January 2021 wasn’t the only New Year corner to be turned. On Friday 12 February 2021, the Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated where we transition from 2020’s year of the Water Rat to the Year of the Metal Ox.
Rats are sociable creatures; fearful of loneliness. The energy of the 2020 Water Rat year was Yang: fast-flowing and quickly evolving with change being wrought upon us in the blink of an eye, rather like a flash flood.
According to Chinese Mythology, the creation of the Zodiac and the order of its twelve animal members was decreed by the Jade Emperor to hinge on the outcome of a Great Race. Ox, with its immense strength, resilience and steadfast propensity for toil was considered the favourite to win. He was expected to take his place as the first Zodiac animal, particularly as the race entailed the crossing of a river. But Rat, ever resourceful in the face of adversity and dwindling odds, was granted passage on Ox’s back, climbing aboard on the promise of a song. And so together they set off, crossed the river and ran the race, with Ox giving of his energy and his stamina. But right at the race’s end Rat leapt forward from Ox’s back and crossed the finish line first.
Thus, Ox is the second animal in the Chinese Zodiac.
In China the Ox is associated with fertility and harvest. Abundance and prosperity. In other cultures we see a recurring theme of stability, along with nurturing and sacrifice where oxen are concerned. For the Native Indians and Celts nothing of the ox went to waste. With an innate understanding of the delicate balance of life, both cultures held a deep reverence for the symbiotic relationship between Man and Nature, her bounty, and the creatures that played their part in providing it. Every part of the animal was used to provide for the people. Ox and its female bovine counterpart, the cow, provided clothing for warmth, vessels for drinking, labour for toiling, as well as food and nourishment through the steady and constant supply of milk.
Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest systems of medicine which, along with Classical Chinese Medicine, is predicated on the belief that health and wellness depends on balance of mind, body and spirit, regards cow’s milk and other dairy products as almost sacred.
Cow’s milk is believed to balance the doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – the trinity of subtle energies that flow through our bodies. It nourishes our cells, tissues and organs, as well as balancing our emotions. Milk is believed to build ‘ojas’, the body’s subtle energy force. Strong ojas equals healthy sleep, iron immunity, happiness and stability…in essence, a body in its optimum state and brimming over with vitality.
The Vedas, the oldest texts in Hinduism, say that milk is like ambrosial nectar. Imbued with the essence of all plants, with the cow herself connected to the sun, it is the reason why milk and ghee are said to be golden in hue. There is a misplaced view in the West that Hindus worship cows. In reality the lowly cow is honoured for her selflessness and dependability as a giver rather than a taker; a provider rather than a demander. Water, grain, and grass in return for so much life sustaining yield. In a way the cow is symbolic of all of nature, so in Vedic culture why eat the ox when he plows the field and why eat the cow when her milk has the ability to nourish and sustain entire families year in and year out? According to Our World In Data the energy efficiency of whole milk production stands at 24%, while beef comes in at a woeful 1.9%. If we consider the definition of energy efficiency as the percentage of “calories in” as cattle feed to produce an end animal product – in this case, either milk or beef – the results really are stark.
2021 is a Yin Year and the ox is associated with the Winter season along with the stabilising, grounding element of Earth. Its auspicious hours are between 1am and 3am. In keeping with the Legend of the Great Race, Ox brings the energy of self-reliance, achievement through hard work and toiling away until the goal is reached. Ox is naturally cautious and favours a well-trodden path – it has to be said, sometimes to the point of stubbornness and an unwillingness to embrace change. There is also the occasional explosive “bull temper”. But the energy of Metal in 2021 might itself temper some of that sense of immovability so that the year becomes one where we dare to dream BIG, we get things done and we achieve all that we hope for by channelling Ox’s hard work, grit, and determination.