Mythic Prelude:

 Cooking with the Earth Rat
Hooo Boy! And Yow! Does it ever look hairy and scary now! Do those people who've been telling us it's time for the floor to crack, the roof to drop, the Earth to shake and the Bubble to pop, look prescient, or what? A few days before this writing (Jan. 27, 2008), financial markets all over the world tumbled by as much as 7 1/2%. The American Federal Reserve -- you remember them, the consortium of private banks costumed as a US government agency -- put into effect on Jan. 22 a rate cut of .75%, a week earlier than it was planning a .5% cut. And America's apparently now turning into one great fire sale, as investors all over the world are buying up everything they can as fast as the deals can be cut and the ink can dry.
"For much of the world," wrote Peter S. Goodman and Louise Story in a Jan. 21 article in the International Herald Tribune, "the United States is now on sale at discount prices. . . . Foreign buyers are buying aggressively, taking advantage of American duress and a weak dollar to snap up what many see as bargains, while making inroads into the United States, the world's largest market." Master currency trader George Soros, in his Jan. 22 Financial Times article "The worst market crisis in 60 years," sees the current financial crisis not as a global meltdown, but as a shift in the economic center of gravity from West to East. "Although a recession in the developed world is now more or less inevitable," he writes, "China, India and some of the oil-producing countries are in a very strong countertrend. So, the current financial crisis is less likely to cause a global recession than a radical realignment of the global economy, with a relative decline of the US and the rise of China and other countries in the developing world."
Viewed in these terms, 2008 resembles a seesaw in which the Eastern end rises as the West sinks, and oil-rich Third World countries buy up so much of the United States that, in a huge karmic turnabout that some may find delicious, the USA could come to look like a gigantic Singapore, with India Street, Arab Street and other rides and exhibits, all encompassed in one immense Chinatown theme park. Not that we're going to see all at once an exquisite New York Persian Pavilion, starring Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who finally gets to place his wreath at the site of the World Trade Center because Iran now owns it. Or that in towns and cities all across America, thanks to Venezuela's oil wealth, people will get served some much more peppery salsa than anyone bargained for in La Bamba Caramba!, starring Hugo Chavez.
No one knows yet how weird it may get. And in the view of some observers, the economic turmoil is only a carefully-crafted side show to mask the main action as new prisons and concentration camps are quietly constructed, and the architects of the new North American Union prepare to dismantle the U. S. constitution, create a single North American currency called the amero, and implement a national identity card system that is not an end in itself, but only a prelude to the ultimate goal of implanting an RFID chip under the skin of every person on Earth. The first experiments in this program reportedly began in Florida in late 2001, when parents concerned for the safety of their children were only too happy to help the U. S. government test a new way of protecting them by inserting into their bodies the tiny Radio Frequency ID chips -- not even 1/4 inch long! -- that can be used to assign a unique ID to each wearer, and monitor his or her location all the time.
The implications are dire. If such a system were in operation worldwide, then all obedient persons would be on, so their "live" RFID chips would allow them to pass through scanners to go where they want and get what they need. The chips of incompliant people could simply be turned off at the master control terminal, leaving them unable to get food, fuel, shelter, or anything. How perceptive or paranoid is the video about all of this, North American Union & VChip Truth, now still up at YouTube? We'll know by May 2008, when the USA's new national identity card system is scheduled to go into effect.
It sure sounds spooky, huh? And it sure is, if all these people who are doing these insidious things actually know what they're about. It could turn out in the end that the only things that save humanity from complete enslavement are Murphy's Law and the sheer ineptitude and bozosis of the would-be slavemasters. Some encouraging news in this regard comes from a US Justice Department audit released a few weeks ago, reporting that American telephone companies have now cut off wiretaps that the FBI was using to spy on suspected criminals, because the government spooks consistently failed to pay their phone bills. And these people are allegedly about to control us, even as their phones are disconnected and their furniture is being sold out from under them to the Saudis and the Chinese?
It's no wonder that those people who present themselves as channels and intermediaries of communication from beings in such upscale areas as Sirius, the Pleiades and Arcturus, and places as close to home as Venus, are working overtime to remind us how all the Ascended Masters love us. The Galactic Federation, according to those humans who claim to speak for them, is rooting for us to nail this matchless moment of crisis and opportunity. And all our other transdimensional friends and fans, while of course having to obey the Prime Directive and not interfere in any way to help us, are truly hoping -- honestly, they mean it -- that human beings will face the fear and darkness before and around us and make the brave choice of Love that saves us and our planet, and crowns our mission as heroic beings about to ascend and liberate ourselves into galactic consciousness.
As everybody who's been following the game knows, the excitement keeps building now, and the stakes and the arena couldn't be bigger. The position of humankind is to the cosmos as home plate is to Yankee Stadium. We stand now in the batter's box as exalted spirit beings from everywhere have by now packed every seat, and are hanging on every pitch. The roar of the crowd would be deafening if they actually made a sound, but they don't. It's an eerie feeling to be playing in a park that we know is completely sold out, even if we can't see anybody seated anywhere, or hear even one Bronx beer burpster yelling, "Humanity, ya bum!" Something to break the silence sure would help, as Saturn is on the mound, with a glower on him that makes Bob Gibson look as sweet as Porky Pig, and a five o'clock shadow heavy enough to scare Sal Maglie. The lanky lefty from Capricorn is bringing everything but heat -- knucklers, fork balls, sliders, changeups, folly floaters, absolutely nothing down the middle -- and one funny thing is that there's no umpire behind the plate calling balls and strikes. We just get one pitch after another, and the only thing we're pretty sure of is that we'd better not hit it on the ground to Mercury at short. The odds of taking Saturn over the wall are a million to one, and our best shot is to punch it to right, where Jupiter is hung over again and may not be able to see second base, much less hit it on the fly.
So. Is Earth, are all of humanity, now in the classic do-or-die spot with two strikes and two out in the bottom of the ninth? No. Nowhere near it. We're not even in the 8th inning, which comes in 2010, much less the ninth, which spans 2011 and 2012. For most of us, especially those who have not yet awakened to the grandeur and urgency of the years we live in now, this month is more like that moment after the 7th-inning stretch when we've just yawned, rolled our shoulders, loosened our neck and sat down to watch the climax of the game. For humankind, it's not even close to being over.
For the Chinese, the lunar New Year that begins this month, and the whole grand cycle that unfolds from it, are spectacularly auspicious. For China, the bases are already loaded with acrobats fast enough to star in the Shanghai Circus. The heart of the batting order is coming up. And if morale weren't already high enough, the grizzled reliever on the mound is having trouble concentrating because his phone has just been cut off, and he can't reach anyone to find out if his house and his car have just been repossessed, or sold to a man in a burnoose.
The astrology chart for the new Year of the Earth Rat, as it looks in Beijing, follows here. Astrophobes, please take comfort. We're not going to analyze this chart in detail, with all the angles and numbers , though there is a brief Astrology Alert! below to put the chart in context. The chart appears here -- rather than in the Astral Notes -- because, as we'll see in a few comments below, it's a very accurate symbolic picture of where China is now and is going from this year and into the years to come. If it is true, as some astrologers propose, that the alignment of an individual birth chart shows the set of spiritual opportunities and challenges that the soul has come to work on in this lifetime, then we can also suppose that a collective chart cast for a country may show its condition and possibilities at a given moment in its history. As we'll see, this chart clearly reflects where China is about to go in a year when everything is coming up peaches and peonies.
And the chart is worth examining for a moment, like a painting or woodcut on a gallery wall, just because it's very nice to look at. Even if astrology holds no interest for you, please ask yourself: Will the person who can't see the exquisite energy and beauty of this chart be able to see the beauty in you? Do you want this person designing your clothes, catering your reception, even serving your lunch? Such food-related issues, mundane as they may seem, are quite relevant as the Year of the Earth Rat comes.
The Year of the Earth Rat Begins
Feb. 7, 2008 at 11:44am in Beijing, China (39N55, 116E25)
Only a few comments are really needed about this chart. One key point is that what we see in the 10th house is not just an ordinary stellium -- that is, five or more planets spread anywhere through the full 30° span of one zodiac sign. This chart has an extraordinary five planet conjunction. The Sun and Moon are flanked by Mercury and Chiron to their right and Neptune's trident on the left, all within a narrow band of only some 5 1/2 degrees. And to Neptune's left, though not close enough to be conjunct all these planets, is the horseshoe-shaped North Node of the Moon, or Dragon's Head. So there are six dramatis personae, enough for an opera seria complete with lovers (Sun and Moon), Father Neptune, Chiron the kindly herbalist, Mercuria the clever servant and a whole chorus of folks festooned for a fair. What does their tremendous cluster of energies mean and offer?
At this moment, and symbolically for the entire year ahead, our faculties of vitality, creativity and intellect (the Sun), our emotional bodies and intuition (the Moon), practical mentality and communications (Mercury), healing abilities (Chiron), spiritual bodies and mystical perception (Neptune) and our powers of attraction and cohesion into relationships (Dragon's Head) are all powerfully linked in Aquarius, the sign of friendship, egalitarian consciousness, revolutionary spirit and communal celebration. Does this guarantee that some miraculous breakthrough into peace, joy, enlightenment and brotherhood is now going to dawn for and upon all of Earth's people? No. All the conjunction means is that all the players are at the same table, and the ducks are all in a row. What happens now depends on how we use this superb moment of opportunity. And where and how we use it will vary from one place to another. For Beijing and all of eastern China, this chart is extremely good for commercial success and earthly prosperity, as we'll soon see. For other places, the great conjunction in Aquarius may manifest as extraordinary outcomes in other areas of life.
Astrology Alert! What Does This Chart Tell Us?
Just how prosperous and promising does the lunar year ahead look for the Central Nation? Over the Moon. The Aquarius stellium is in the 10th house of livelihood and profession, and is also associated with the accomplishment and prestige that tend to come in the maturity of middle age. Taurus rising makes this a year for acquisition. Mars in Gemini in the second house of money is likely to bring the rewards that flow when intrepid, proactive investors make moves that are courageous and flexible, yet still judicious. And as Mars is trine (at a 120° angle) to both Neptune and the Dragon's Head in Aquarius -- and thus to the whole conjunction in Aquarius -- this is a year when China's earning capacity and visionary management should cooperate to yield excellent results. Almost the entire chart, in fact, is harmonious. The only "stressful" element in it is the T-Cross among the Taurus Ascendant and the Moon's Node axis in Aquarius/Leo. This set of sharp 90° friction points represents, as if this were not already obvious to us, the very high likelihood that the Middle Kingdom will initiate this year a major realignment of relationships, forming closer connections with some new partners, and placing much less emphasis and backing on other associates and competitors who have become less important to China's interests.
Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn, in the 8th house of death and regeneration, of bringing the moribund to closure and clearing the way for what is vital and new, signal major shifts of political and financial power, which the Chinese are likely both to catalyze and to direct for their benefit. Venus in Capricorn in the 9th house of law, authority and travel could be the signature of the Beijing Olympics, in their pageantry that will be stunningly beautiful, and stiflingly unspontaneous. Uranus, who is among other things the technologies of electronic communications, is in Pisces in the 11th house, promising that the Chinese will uncork this year some movie, film and CGI products that everyone thought, until summer 2008, that only Hollywood could do this well. Surprise!
Astrology Alert Over! Back to the Earth Rat
It all looks dizzyingly grand. Are we, ahhh, really getting above and ahead of ourselves here? Yes, certainly, but no more than so many of us are doing now, as we look five years ahead to 2012 when our focus really needs to be in the present moment, or we ask hierarchies of beings on star systems light years away to guide us through the coming years, when the work of building community, tending children and fields and learning new responsibility is to be done here and now. For those who love peals and perorations of mystical poetry, 2008 may be a boring year to read the Universal Festival Calendar, as so much space in this year's mythic preludes will be devoted to the earthy, practical business of keeping life together on the ground. There is no way around this. When Saturn is in the Earth sign of Virgo, Jupiter and Pluto in the Earth sign of Capricorn, and a Chinese Year of the Earth Rat begins now, it's time to be expert in the dirt and accept that this year, we put our house in order on the Earth plane. It's time to take a second look at the animal that western myths have often cursed as treacherous, vile and even Satanic, but which the Chinese have always revered as a token of prosperity, and have even honored for having opened for them the crucial, life-sustaining secret of Rice.
Anybody who ever heard Cagney snarl "You dirty rat!" at the rival hood he's about to gun down knows what the much loathed and feared rat means in the West. He's ugly, sinister and filthy enough to have carried the Black Death that wiped out Europeans by the millions in the 1300's. The ancient Khemitians, who thought that rats and mice were birthed by the Nile mud, were among the many peoples to see everything in the mouse family, most of all the big rats who swarm in dingy places, as e-word and unclean. Christians in the middle ages, who tended to see the Devil spreading everywhere, naturally linked him with creatures as numerous and prolific as flies and rats. Peasants in Germany said witches could create mice from scraps of cloth, and send them out to eat up their enemies' crops and stores. There was another popular story about how there were no mice on Earth yet when Noah was building his ark, so Satan made the first mouse and got him on board, hoping he'd either gnaw a hole in the boat and cause it to sink, or eat up all the food in the ark so that everyone in it would starve. Noah was said to have killed the mouse by throwing at it a glove that turned into a cat who killed the mouse and ate it. So there should have been no more mice or rats alive aboard the ark. But there were obviously more rats aboard than Noah invited, or knew about. They always show up, lots of them, whenever there's food to be had.
The same hungry emphasis, if not the same take on the rat's nature, appears in the Chinese symbol of the rat as one of the twelve animals in the lunar year cycle. Legend has it that one day the Buddha summoned all the animals of the world to gather around him. The first twelve animals to answer the call became, in order of their appearance, the symbols of the Chinese lunar year cycle, each animal representing the qualities of the year and the people born in it. The first animals to arrive were, in this order: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. So in Buddhist cultures -- and among the Hindus, who always imagine a mouse near the beloved Ganesha -- the rat has a special dignity as the first creature to come when the Awakened One called. The rat's alacrity may have had little to do with the Noble Eightfold Path. It may well have happened that the first thing the rat said to the Buddha was, "I'm here. When do we eat?"
The rat's a survivor, noted for his ability to live anywhere from frozen wastes to caves deep underground. The Chinese character for a species of rodent called the chien mouse also means "money," and this is why the Chinese are likely to protect this small bringer of wealth, not try to eradicate him. Shrews have long enjoyed the same status, and safety, in Chinese households. The Chinese take on the mouse family is not uniformly positive -- misers are called "money rats" -- but rats are still honored in some legends for having brought China the gift of rice, by showing the earliest mythic farmers that the rice grain is hardy and good to eat.
People born in a Year of the Rat, and by implication the year itself, are said to have the rat's qualities of quickness, resourcefulness and adaptability, alertness to both opportunity and peril -- and a shrewd instinct for knowing which is which -- and an optimistic talent for finding the fat, edible grain sack even in the darkest cellar. As a Rat Year begins each 12-year lunar cycle, it favors the kinds of self-starters who are likely to form clear intentions and carry on through to their goals, and who also know that many little mouse steps close to the ground can in the end bring happier progress than a heady, ambitious leap that ends in a crash and a fracture.
The Chinese consider any Year of the Rat auspicious, but this one, the Year of the Earth Rat, is the most favorable of all because it begins an entire new 60-year sexagesimal cycle, which is formed of all the combinations of the 12 year animals and the five elements (earth, wood, fire, metal and water). For most people, an Earth Rat year comes only once in a lifetime, and when it does, it is by far the best time to get married, bear children, open a shop, dedicate a newly-constructed building, or begin any new enterprise that relies for its enduring success on its having begun in a year that is solidly founded on the Earth, and her power to yield nourishment for rats, mice, humans and everything else.    
How seriously do the Chinese take all this, as they balance the two materialistic forces and energies of "godless" Communism and soulless capitalism, and would seem on the face of things to regard their traditional calendar as a quaint superstition, as relevant to today's life as burning joss sticks to bring good fortune, and beating a gong to keep hungry ghosts at bay? They take it far more seriously than they let on. It is worth remembering that the Year of the Earth Rat before this one began in early 1948, and climaxed in January 1949 with the Red Army surge that took eighteen major cities in a week, swept Chiang Kai-Shek and his fellow Nazi admirers off the mainland and onto Taiwan, and proclaimed that now, far more suddenly than anyone could have imagined, the East is Red.
Were Mao Zedong and Chu Teh determined to take Beijing and everything else before the Year of the Earth Rat was done? We'll never know. Any more than we'll know whether in 1973, as Mao and Richard Nixon were beaming and crooning at each other across their Eight Jewel Duck, Chou En Lai -- too courteous to say out loud that Henry Kissinger was bland, opaque and yes, inscrutable enough to be Chinese -- was thinking 35 years ahead to 2008, when another Year of the Earth Rat would come, and could finally bring to China the recognition, wealth and power of the new Mandate of Heaven that China had been waiting all these centuries to claim. Did Chou envision a Beijing Olympics in 2008? No one knows. Do the Chinese aspire to regain Taiwan in the Earth Rat year that now begins? Absolutely. Do they regard this Earth Rat Year as a hinge point in their country's history, the beginning of a new era? No doubt.
All of this sounds so dynastically majestic, and seems to call for the thundering cadences of Milton, Gibbon or Homer, or at least for the lush orchestrations of Beijing opera. But the Rat's focus is still on the rice in a year that is spelled F - O - O - D. The Jan. 21 New York Times editorial "Until All the Fish Are Gone" warns that "mechanized fishing fleets from the European Union and nations like China and Russia - usually with the complicity of local governments - have nearly picked clean the oceans off Senegal and other northwest African countries," and that fish stocks worldwide may soon be too depleted ever to recover. And now the Sinai region of Egypt, where I live, is in crisis as Palestinians breach the Gaza wall with bulldozers, and so far a million and a half people have streamed into Egypt -- not on a "shopping spree," as one witless American journalist put it, but in a true environmental and humanitarian emergency. Under Israel's declared policy of "economic warfare," children in Gaza are starving. Their parents are willing to risk a clash with Hosni Mubarak's army, as Palestinians make a desperate grab for bread, cooking oil, medicines and always, inevitably, yet again, rice.
So how to serve and try to digest 2008? By focusing on both the practical and spiritual energetics of food, and remembering the small, crucial rituals that can be overlooked when the wrong plate is full. We will get many reminders as the year goes along. Three simple ones are worth noting now. One: is eating a conscious act?
"The few minutes of prayer and meditation we have before meals," writes Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov, "create the conditions needed for eating to become a sacred act. [I]t is important to meditate for a moment before you eat, so as to be fully conscious of the importance of the gestures you are about to make . . . So, before each meal, remain silent for a few seconds; immerse yourself in the awareness of how important, even indispensable, to life this act of eating is. Be respectful of your food, and your gestures will be imbued with a suppleness, a harmony, a gentleness and an extraordinary love that will reflect on you. And then with what ease you will carry out your everyday tasks!"
Two: is the making and sharing of food an act of love? It is said that the person some native American peoples honored as second in dignity to their chief was not the strongest warrior or the medicine man -- but the head cook. Everyone was expected to keep her happy, with the understanding that the more she felt loved, the more love would flow from her into her food, and the healthier the whole community would be.
Three: is the meal prepared and taken with gratitude? Let us remember, no matter how urgent the year looks, that we will do well not only to speak the prayer of thanks, but to sing it. Learn a blessing chant for the food table. Will we do well not just to bless the food, but to attune ourselves with it? In the Year of the Earth Rat -- Yes. Keep Holding That Frequency.
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The Chiron - Neptune Conjunction of 2009 - 2012:
Prelude: The American Election of November 4, 2008
Prelude Supplement: And the Winner Is . . .
Act 1: Conflicts: The Neptune Return of April 11, 2009
Act 2: Complications: The Triple Chiron-Neptune-Jupiter Conjunction of May-August, 2009
Act 3: Turning Point: The Exact Chiron-Neptune Conjunction of Feb. 16 - 17, 2010
Act 4: Crisis and Climax: The Crosses of Summer, 2010
Act 5: Denouement: The Near Chiron-Neptune Conjunction of Nov. 2 - 3, 2010
2012: The End of . . . What?
Copyright 2008 Dan Furst. All Rights Reserved.