• Maggie Shayne

Year of the Ox

In yet another moment of putting last year behind us, we have just ended the Year of the Rat, and are now fully in the year of the Ox.

You dirty rat...

Even if you didn’t know last year was the Year of the Rat, you probably knew last year was one ratty-ass year. I mean, really, what do

In Chinese lore the animals were in a race to reach the emperor. The first 12 to get to him would be in the royal guard or something, but it didn’t matter because it was a small honor compared to being named one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, immortalized forever.

Ox and rat were in the lead, but rat couldn’t get across a body of water. So Ox let him ride on his back. When they reached the other side, rat jumped off and ran up to the emperor first, winning the race, the cheating little shit. Rat has a clever, scheming, me-first attitude that really personified 2020. No offense to rat people. There are good qualities too, I just don’t care. Personally, I think given his origin story and 2020, rat should be replaced in the zodiac. I suggest a giant panda. Why isn’t there any giant panda in Chinese astrology, anyway? It is the official national animal of China.

Ox, Ox, Baby!

We’ve left rat behind, now, and we are in the Year of the Ox as of yesterday, February 12th.

One thing I noticed right away was how change comes gradually. I celebrate the end of the old year on the Winter Solstice, and then again on New Year’s Eve. This year I celebrated it again on January 20th, thinking at last the new could really begin. And now here we are, entering another form of new year. This is good. New is good. The more, the better. I’ve noticed that at each point of these cyclical changes, I have felt more optimism than I did at the one before. So the momentum is going the right way.


The traditional Chinese zodiac meaning of an ox year is stability. There are few to zero big crises. It’s a year when hard work will result in the desired outcome.

But there’s so much more to cattle, isn’t there? (Just as there are reams more to the traditional Chinese understanding of ox symbolism.) In the US, cattle have become the staple of many diets. People ingest them anytime they eat. I’d hazard a guess there’s rarely a meal that doesn’t have some cow in it. My feelings about that have changed and maybe I’ll add a line or two at the end about how that adds to my prediction for the Year of the Ox. Meanwhile, I want to explore the wider understanding of what cattle represent to us as a whole. Kind of the archetype.

Sacred cows

The archetypal energy of the cow is one of wholesome sustenance. They are the energy of confident, stable abundance, of nurturing, of goodness, of generously flowing wealth.

The cow represents the energy of the mother. Her milk nurtures her young. She carries the calf, then births the calf, and then provides everything that is needed for the calf to grow and thrive. Her attitude is placid and calm. She is absolutely the element of Earth in her purest form. Earth Goddess. Mother Goddess.

But since ox are usually male, we can dial this in more specifically.

Bullcookies!

Bulls of breeding age prance, snort, and paw the dirt. They are full of bluster and spoiling for a fight. There’s an assertive, forceful, “don’t mess with me” attitude about bull energy. It sparks with intense fertility and buzzes with life force and vitality. It’s fiery and passionate and hot-tempered.

But the ox is typically older and castrated, so we can hone our focus even more.

The Grandfather

Mature, castrated cattle, aka your typical oxen, are big and heavy and very strong. “Strong as an ox” is a long-used phrase. Their energy is placid and arises from a place of knowing their own power. They have nothing to prove. They have no one to compete with, nor any reason for conflict. They do not need bluster, their power is obvious and undeniable. The ox stands calm and patient, knowing nothing can move him. He can go wherever he wishes. There is no hurry. He can take his time, enjoying sweetgrass and clover along the way. There is no obstacle he can’t push through with his steady, strong, solid, unstoppable pace. He’s like a glacier. His unstoppable, yet serene force, carries within it the nurturing powers of his mother, and when needed, the fire of his old man.

I like the notion of this. Of calmly moving forward, through every obstacle, doing the work and spreading our calm solutions over each problem. Nurturing the world with everything it needs to grow and thrive.

The Year of the Ox

The Year of the Ox should bring:

  1. Progress that take its time in coming, but moves in large strides when it does

  2. A steady flow of abundance and wealth

  3. A wholesome restoration of health and well-being.

  4. Rapid growth (Cattle go from 60 to 100 pounds to 2000 lbs in about 2 years.)

  5. Calm, confident strength that pushes steadily forward.

  6. Serenity and peace along the way.

I think I’m gonna like the Year of the Ox!

A plant-based eater's take

*Warning: This paragraph might piss off meat-eaters. Skip to the next sub-heading. However, it’s all true.

Personally, the cattle energy I’m feeling is all of the above with a touch of, “Ever mind the Rule of Three! Three times what thou giveth, returns unto thee.

Our treatment of our fellow beasties is definitely returning unto us. The horrible abuse of animals in Chinese wet markets brought us H1N1 and Covid 19. Chimps suffering from human meddling brought us HIV. Rats spread Bubonic Plague and mice, Hantavirus.

We don’t treat our nurturing mother cows with respect or dignity, by and large. But because there is always an equal exchange of energy, we have caused great harm to ourselves by this behavior. What we give always returns. And the harm is being visited right back upon us, just as the law of old warned us it would.

  1. Meat and dairy-based diets are the leading causes of heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune disease.

  2. The ozone is being destroyed due to cow exhalations. (People like to blame cow flatulence because it makes for good clickbait. It’s way more their breathing than their farting.)

  3. There is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey caused directly by runoff from animal agriculture across the country’s mid-section, which drains into the Gulf by way of the Mississippi River.

So the energy of ox, a strong, powerful, noble beast, is exacting inevitable, slow, patient, steady, unstoppable, and entirely natural payback. Actually, we’re exacting it on ourselves, we’re just using the cattle as the easiest route.

And the crystal ball says...

*Meat-eaters can read this part safely.

With this thought added to my calculations, my personal take on the Year of the Ox is that it will be a year of steady growth, nurturing and healing. Abundance flows in a reliable, steady stream. Peace and calm abound. It is a period marked by quiet, mature competence.

I believe it will also be a year of awakening and seeing clearly for the first time that every single one of our thoughts and actions create ever-widening ripples that eventually come back to us.

It is a year of seeing the results of our past actions as we have never seen them before. Many of us will have or have recently had one of those V8 moments of realization where we whack ourselves on the head and wonder what on earth we were thinking. That can happen in any of a million little parts of us as something we always believed is pierced by light.

As the waves of our past actions crash in upon our shores, this will also be a year of taking responsibility, mitigating the damage we have done as best we can, and most of all, adjusting our current actions so that we send out good ripples, positive ripples, helpful ripples, loving ripples, rather than harmful ones. And then that’s what will come back to us, multiplied many times over.

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