Z is for Zodiac–A to Z Blog Challenge

ZodiacZ is for Zodiac

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

I love reading the Zodiac placemats usually found in Chinese restaurants.  I also enjoy Greek mythology.  Combine those together and I am a Leo born in the Year of the Ram (or Sheep depending on your view).  I have always had a kick out of having a lion and a lamb.  To add to it, Rachel means “lamb” and my middle name Renee’ means “reborn.”  My parents had no idea at the time.  They thought Rachel Renee’ sounded lovely.

The signs of the Zodiac are more than fascinating conversations.  This was how people explained the movement of planets (of which the Sun and Moon were usually added—star and satellite) and the adventures of life that happen to us.

I am positive the tracking of celestial bodies started as early as Adam and Eve though official documentation takes us to 3000 BC in Mesopotamia.  The gods and goddesses believed in at the time connected to each of these celestial bodies.

In response to these Zodiacs, some Christians created the “Labours of the Months” that used specific Twelve Apostles that were most popular during the Medieval and Renaissance times.  The Labours according to months:  January-Feasting (Jesus Christ); February-Sitting by the Fire; March-Pruning Trees/Digging; April-Planting/Enjoying the Country and Picking Flowers; May-Hawking/Courtly Love; June-Hay Harvest; July-Wheat Harvest (St. Peter); August-Wheat Threshing; September-Grape Harvest; October-Ploughing and Sowing; November-Gathering Acorns for Pigs; December-Killing Pigs/Baking.

Western Zodiac (Greek)

The word “Zodiac” comes from the Greek word “zodiakos” and means “Circle of Living Things.”  The Greek Zodiac is divided into twelve parts.  The sun spends one month in each sign while the moon passes through every sign each month.

Twelve Constellations:  Aries,Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

Times of Each Constellation:  March 21-April 20, April 21-May 21, May 22-June 21, June 22-July 22, July 23-August 23, August 24-September 23, September 24-October 23, October 24-November 22, November 23-December 21, December 22-January 20, January 21-February 19, February 20-March 20

This Zodiac starts on March 21st as this is the Spring Equinox and the best time to start work—in this case—preparing the ground for growing.

Eastern Zodiac (Chinese)

The Chinese Zodiac originated in the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD).  The story shared is that the Jade Emperor called for a calendar to be determined with each of the twelve parts being represented by an animal.  This calendar was based on the Chinese lunar calendar.  The people saw that there were 12 full moons over the course of the year.

Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals Signs:  Zi Rat (Wisdom), Chou Ox (Industry), Yin Tiger (Valor), Mao Rabbit (Caution), Chen Dragon (Strength), Si Snake (Flexibility), Wu Horse (Forging Ahead), Wei Sheep (Unity), Shen Monkey (Changeability), You Rooster (Being Constant), Xu Dog (Fidelity), Hai Pig (Amiability)

The number of toes for each of these animals also determined personality traits.  Even toes on a foot are yin (male and negative) while odd toes on a foot are yang (female and positive).  Many of the animals have hooves and thus have one toe.  The snake is considered as having to toes due to the fork in its tongue.  The rat is both yin and yang as it has four toes on each of its front paws and five toes on each of its back paws.

It is also bad luck when it your Zodiac year.  Every 12 years, your animal year comes and so these ages are hardest for you:  12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, etc.  This is because you offend the God of Age during that time though you can wear something red given by an elder or a relative to return your luck.

8 Burmese Zodiac Signs

This Zodiac was created by monks of Myanmar (formerly Burma).  Rather than dividing into 12 parts as the Greek and Chinese Zodiacs had done, the Burmese one saw the world divided into 8 parts.  There were eight planetary energies—seven that we are aware of today as well as Rahu, a conceptual celestial presence that intersects with the earth, sun, and moon during an eclipse.  The sacred lotus blossom has eight petals that solidified the number eight as precious.

As a result, these other “eights” appeared–

Eight Cardinal Directions:   Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Northwest, West, North, Southwest

Eight Days of the Week:  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Morning, Wednesday Afternoon, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Eight Burmese Zodiac Animal Signs:  Garuda, Tiger, Lion, Elephant with tusks, Elephant without tusks, Rat, Guinea Pig, Dragon

Stories that feature a Zodiac or images from a Zodiac:

  • “Hercules and the Nemean Lion,” Greek tale—connected with Leo in Zodiac, Hercules had Twelve Labors and the first one was to slay the Nemean Lion that terrorized the land though its skin could not be pierced so Hercules had to stun and strangle and cut the pelt with the lion’s own claws
  • “Order of the Animals,” Chinese tale, the Jade Emperor said that the first twelve animals to arrive and rat was first in this race though tricked several animals to have this be so
  • “Garuda and the Naga Serpent Race,” Burmese/Hindu tale—connected with Garuda in Zodiac, when Garuda was born, his bird deity size and energy was so large that he scared all the other deities so he shrunk down to not intimidate though he declared himself a devourer of snakes and became the enemy of the Naga serpent race

What stories do you know that feature a Zodiac?  Images from a Zodiac?  Please comment below and share with others.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here: https://storycrossroads.com/2017-schedule/).  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.

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