February 10th was the start of a new year according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, the Year of the Serpent, one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. A snake year is often seen as one of mixed blessings: finding a snake in your house is thought to be a good sign because it means you will not be hungry, says one source. But others say a snake in the house is a sign of impending disaster.
This positive but wary view of snakes is borne out in nature. Snakes can be deadly creatures but venom from some of the deadliest species has properties for use in medicines to treat digestive disorders and a number of other diseases in humans.
No surprise, then, that 2013 is forecast to be one of much turmoil but also transformation. Each animal of the Chinese zodiac is associated with an element and the snake’s is fire but, in the larger Chinese astrological cycle, 2013 is also associated with water. So this year is actually the Year of the (rather sinister sounding) Black Water Snake, a combination of two elements (fire and water) that don’t exactly mix.
Turmoil Is Predicted
Writing in Forbes (and with a grain of salt to be using traditional Asian astrological lore to make market predictions), Tom Aspray observes that snake years have not been kind to investors. Analysts are predicting turbulence in the market; such will be all the more notable as last year (a dragon year — dragons are associated with good fortune in Chinese culture) was a bullish one. Indeed, there’s already been a report about the recession in the euro zone deepening, with repercussions on the global economy.
Tenacity Will Be Needed
Those born in the year of the snake are said to be “enigmatic, intuitive, introspective” and able to maintain focus and discipline, qualities that can certainly help in uncertain times. One species of snake that could be seen as “focused from the start” is the tentacled snake, a fully aquatic snake native to Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam. It is born knowing a full arsenal of hunting techniques to catch its diet of fish (here’s a video of this snake in action).
Snakes are also associated with tenacity and cleverness in Chinese culture and those born in snake years are thought to have such qualities which one type of snake, ratsnakes, can be seen as embodying. Scientists have found that ratsnakes have been adapting to global warming by becoming more active at night. While it’s predicted that climate change spells doom for many species, some snakes are ready to survive the changes.
Transformation Could Be the Result
For myself, I’m banking on the idea that a snake year can be one of transformation and new beginnings. Snakes do seem to literally “transform” themselves as they shed their outer layer of skin, some every few weeks and others annually, because they’ve grown out of it and also to shed parasites.
Snake skin indeed has some special properties that make it flexible yet durable and enables them to move without having limbs. Scientists have learned that it is hard and stiff on the outside but flexible within, properties they are studying to develop abrasion-resistant materials which could be the basis for new types of artificial implants in humans. Certainly, having such flexible armor could be helpful in facing the challenges of a new year.
What do you think the Year of the Black Snake holds for you, turmoil or transformation? Some of both?
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