February 28, 2017
A new year dawned recently, the year of the rooster, and red is the color of wished good fortune in China. So when the morning dawned with a glorious, crimson-stained sky, I sighed at nature’s synchronicity. The date for the Chinese New Year has been determined by the Chinese lunar calendar perhaps since the time of the first emperor, Huang Di around 2637 BC. Because it uses moon phases for its measurement, the day is never the same according to our western reckoning. However, fireworks, parades, amazing food, and red envelopes wishing good fortune mark the occasion.
According to mythology, the Jade Emperor oversaw a race with all the animals, and the first twelve winners became the representatives of the Chinese zodiac. This year’s representative is the Rooster, who came in tenth, and represents reliability, fidelity, and punctuality. People born under this sign are assured of advancement, are multi-talented, and have keen senses. They are honest, lucky, and a bit bossy.
It is coincidental, indeed, the way media figures these days posture and preen, puff up and prance as though in imitation of a cock fighting to impress. Yet those born under the astrological sign of the rooster are said to be uncomplicated, straightforward, and although fond of flashiness and flattery, conservative in outlook.
Outside of the Chinese zodiac, roosters have been alternately revered as symbols of light and denounced for associations with dark arts and use as witches’ familiars. Sacred to many, including the ancient Persians and Romans, the bird figures in religious rites. Roosters have been used for divination and signify fertility. In fact, the name “cock” can describe a male’s genitalia. In heraldry, roosters serve as representations of countries, towns, and sporting teams, prancing over flags and standing guards on weather vanes and coats of arms.
Although to some, the domestic bird offers protection from ghosts and bad spirits, the rooster also represents a Hindu war god and a part of a twain demon. Three roosters’ calls announce the beginning of the Norse Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse or end of days. Some Tibetan Buddhists name the bird symbolic of greed. In Mexico, a rooster crowing at sundown welcomes bad fortune or warns of the approach of witches or the angel of death, and in parts of the Southern United States an oddly-timed crow precedes a death in the family.
However, instead of expecting the disagreeable aspects of this animal’s personality as we enter this Year of the Rooster, I prefer to recall Chanticleer, whose song heralded the rising of the sun. After all, every yin has a yang, and none of us are without flaws, even revered representations.
As the morning dawned and solar rays spread, cumulous clouds burnished golden, and purples played at the shadows. Although I live far from farmland, I imagined his song, a high-pitched and hopeful call inviting us to another day and a new year. May you bring peace and understanding, Year of the Rooster.
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