Understanding Chinese medicine: A belated Happy New Year of the horse

On the 31st January, we left behind the year of the Water snake https://wellmother.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/chinese-year-of-the-water-snake/
and are now in the early days of the Chinese new year of the Wood horse which will last until 18th February 2015. What does this mean and how relevant is it for us?

What do you think of when you think of a horse? Do you think of a horse calmly stood in a field? Or a race horse? Or a mythological winged horse?

What a horse means to each of us is different and depends on our experience of being with horses and with the culture in which we live. For the Chinese the horse is considered to be brave and noble and a horse year is considered to be one of good fortune. Traditionally horses would be used in battle and many important battles have been won due to the power and strength of the horse. This is where we get the idea of a horse symbolising strength and courage, as well as grace, elegance and nobility.

In many cultures there are magical Horses which have supernatural powers, are heroic, strong, and can even fly! The Chinese goddess Kwan Yin has a white celestial cloud Horse which flies through the heavens, bringing peace and blessings. In western cultures, the horse too is often viewed a sacred and mystical and we have our own winged horse in Pegasus.

In Chinese astrology the horse is one of 12 animals which each appear for a year in sequence. Every 12 years when they appear they are in one of the 5 elements of earth, air, fire, water and wood. This creates a cycle of 60 years. The last horse year was 2002/3 and the element was water. The one before was 1990 and the year my daughter was born: she is a metal horse.

The natural element of the horse is Yang Fire and this year the horse is a Wood horse: so what does that mean about the horse we have this year?

Yin and Yang: night and day, or the shady or sunny side of the mountain: essentially represent the daily movement of energy, which expresses basic life forces of expanding outwards and transforming or moving inwards and building up or forming energy. This movement is expressed in the annual flow of energy through the four seasons with summer being the most Yang and winter being the most Yin, with earth, the fifth element being the transition between each season.

The horse is considered to represent Yang fire energy: day time and summer time: times when we want to connect with others, be outside and be more dynamic than at night or in the winter. This means that the horse is an expression of the most outward and dynamic energy:  think of a galloping horse. It is considered a sociable, enthusiastic and happy creature.

Horse at Relaxation Centre Bristol, Lucy Trend

Horse at Relaxation Centre Bristol, Lucy Trend

This picture was taken at the Relaxation Centre, where I teach my courses in Bristol, but Lucy Trend, one of my trainee teachers on my Teacher Training Programme: thank you Lucy! It is quite a woody horse with the green on it and the greenery behind!

As with everything however, there is another side to the horse energy: it is not galloping all the time. The other side is that if the horse can not learn to moderate its fiery, outward, Yang energy it can get exhausted, and become temperamental, unstable, easily panicked, carried away by strong emotions and influenced by people. They can even tend towards depression.

This year the horse is in the element of wood, which is represented by the season of spring and the element before fire. Wood is of course what feeds the fire, so it can increase the fire energy, but it can do this in a way which is nourishing and helps to keep the fires burning. In this respect it can settle the horse’s fieriness.

Since last year was a water snake, perhaps you can begin to see how this year is completely different: we are moving from an animal which is quite slow and pondering, and in the water, and now a spring horse comes galloping in. It is a sudden surge of energy: and we might expect to see things start moving more quickly and dynamically in our lives.

Of course, this all depends on how we used the water or Yin time. If we rested, gathered up our energy, like animals do when they are hibernating in the winter , then we have the energy and are ready to express all this in new ideas and projects. Since the horse is dynamic, then travel and adventure are often indicated in a horse year. However, it is always important that this Yang energy is balanced by appropriate times of rest. It is a fast paced year so it is important to be sure that you are galloping off in the right direction. If you are, then take that leap and fly!

Whatever you think of all of this, I love Chinese medicine because it offers a way of understanding that we exist in a world with other animals, with different seasonal energies and that each day and each year is different. It helps us realise that not everything is down to us and that we have to be able to listen to our environment. Even if everything I have written above, doesn’t quite make sense, it is worth just noticing how this year might be a different year for you and what opens up in a different way!

5 comments

  1. Pingback: Fin de l’annee du cheval et un regard vers le mouton… | Well Mother

  2. Also, for other signs, I thought I’d post that I read somewhere that opposites to Horse such as Rat (or even Pig or Ox), should take great care with impulsive decisions and changes this year as they are more ponderous and lack the boldness and vision of horse and may make wrong choices in a Horse year. I seem to remember the suggestion for a Rat this year was to stay put or exercise great prudence in any big changes or decisions: “If you just do what you want like a Horse, you could end up broke at the end of this Horse year! The impulsive way of doing things in a Horse year is not the best year for everyone. For example, the spontaneous energy of Horse year brings challenges to the thoughtful Rat who is Horse’s opposite.” http://susanlevitt.com/astrology/horse-year-2014/

  3. Me too, I was thinking the same thing Hannah, I didn’t do too much resting last year. I did make big changes though, right from the end of January so it fits with the rebirth aspect Suzanne wrote about: ‘The Water represents the rebirth, the flexibility and the power to change. Both snake and water are a perfect combination for us to re-birth ourselves.’ And I am a Snake after all, so I’m glad I could ride that wave of energy!
    For this year, I am interested in the Water into Wood aspect, which begins at a time when Water season is just turning to Wood season for this year, but the astrological Wood will continue for a further 12 years! And it will be 11 more years before I see that in my own sign. Fascinating cycles weaving in amongst each other (like Snakes)!

  4. Thanks for your thoughts on the year of the Wood Horse, Suzanne. My immediate response on reading your blog was ‘oh dear, I haven’t been resting and gathering up my energy at all over the last year!’ After some reflection, I have been connecting with a very different aspect of the Water Snake; going back inside, into the past for deep healing (Yin/Water) for the purposes of transformation (Snake). So maybe for me, this year will be more about bringing the consequences of that transformation out into the world (more Yang). One of the things I love about Chinese Medicine is the depth/complexity of the ideas, which means we can apply them in very different ways to our own lives. Hannah

    • suzanneyates

      Dear Hannah, thank you for that observation. Indeed, that is what the Water Snake year has been about for me as well. I agree, Chinese medicine offers a depth of ideas and approaches. In the short blog piece I had to simplify somewhat the aspects of Yin Water snake…but of course, as you rightly point out, Yin is not just about rest. It can be about going inside, introspection and inner transformation.

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