Earth Snake

My first exposure to the lunar calendar with its zodiac signs came from grandma’s favorite “Chinamen Buffet”. Like maybe many Chinese restaurants in the west, this one provides a calendar placemat. It was this early exotic exposure that cued me into the notion that I am a “snake” with a birth year of ‘89. In my youth I was quite taken with the idea of snakes. They are elusive critters much harder to catch than toads, frogs, and turtles. They are also much harder to retain. More snakes escaped my confinement than any of my other early pets.

Society of course does not share that childlike fascination of the serpentine; at least western society. I suppose that snake with his winning temptations in the Garden of Eden ruined our trust. The snake is forever a sign of evil and deceit. An unfortunate animal to be associated with indeed. But alas the world is bigger. In ancient Greece, Egypt, and Mesoamerica, snakes were worshiped and revered. Apparently India is called the “Land of Snakes” and even to this day snakes are worshipped as gods.

A bit of internet research has yielded that Korea also has its own snake mythology. Eopsin (업신) is the goddess of storage and wealth, she would often take the form of a snake. As is such, snakes were welcomed into Korean households and even prevented from leaving, as abandonment by Eopsin would surely mean bankruptcy.

Although the Gregorian calendar rules here in Korea, there is still the residual influence of the Chinese or lunar calendar. For instance, about half of the holidays celebrated here are dependent on the full moons’ date rather than a fixed western date. May is a month that includes both of such holidays. It also happens to be my birth month. It’s the culmination of these truths that has led me into the rabbit (note: snakes are quite incompatible with rabbits) hole of discovery, to find what it means to be a snake.

It is believed in Chinese culture that the snake is the most mysterious of the dozen zodiac critters and also the most intuitive. So far I like those adjectives, they suit me much better than “deceitful” or “evil”. Additionally a snake personifies intelligence and is seen as wise. I like the sound of that (maybe it’s the snakes vainness coming through) although those are really not adj. I would use in describing my personality.

Additionally it is said that snakes are intuitive, creative and meditative. These all work for me well enough although I wish I could be more diligent with the meditative bit. They say that snakes also tend to be more independent, distrustful and solitary. I wouldn’t be quick to call myself “distrustful” but definitely independent!

Burrowing further into the “snake” hole I have learned that each zodiac animal is also paired with one of 5 elements depending on the year you are born. A 1989 snake is considered an “earth snake”: “calm, with strong self-control, but not steadfast and diligent enough in work.” Another site had similar information with the addition of; “They’re friendly and approachable and believe that they’ll reap great rewards by working hard and relying on common sense.”  Now that sounds like me!

With a dozen zodiac signs and 5 different elements, that means an earth snake only comes along once every 60 years. Out of curiosity I looked into these other elemental snake traits and found; “appreciating the arts and a refined taste”- not me, “fond of the limelight” -not at all, “a born leader” -no thank you, and lastly “communicative, but sentimental” -nope. Well I’m intrigued, a bit of truth to the zodiac?

On yet another website, I learned that in ancient times, the Chinese divided the day into 12, 2-hour periods with one of the zodiac animals representing each. The snake oversees the 9am-11am gap. As far as I know, I was born around 10am, firmly planting me in the hour of the snake within the year of the snake. I am not sure what this means exactly but of the few lucky numbers snakes have, 89 is one of them.

I am generally skeptical of these mystical, fortune telling type destinies (maybe it’s the wise, intelligent snake within me…) but nevertheless I cannot help but to feel some affinity for the enigmatic snake. If I find myself married to a “dragon” or “rooster” then maybe I will take a closer look at my zodiac destiny. Until then I’ll keep walking on two feet.

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