Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lunar New Year - Congratulations and Good Fortune for the Year of the Earth Ox

As of yesterday, January 26, we are now in the Lunar New Year, this year being the year of the Earth Ox. Chinese astrology is based on a combination of 12 animal signs and 5 elements, which at its most basic gives a 60 year cycle year of animal/element combinations. I was born in the year of the water dragon and that combination will come round again when I turn 60.

This year, of course, falling on January 26, the New Year is concurrent with Australia's own national day, known officially as Australia Day or unofficially as Invasion Day. January 26 1788 is the date the first fleet landed in Sydney cove to found a system of penal colonies in this southern land which served as a sort of British imperial gulag on the other side of world. The date thus marks the beginning of the European invasion/colonisation of this land and the dispossession of the indigenous Australians. Choosing this date as Australia's national day was designed to highlight the imperial connections with then Great Britain and Australia's dominionship status in the British Empire.

The date might not have been so bad in the past because we rarely had the official holiday on 26 Jan. Instead it was always held on the closest Monday to that date thus honouring the noble Aussie tradition of the long weekend. Consequently, celebratins were always low key as most of the population were away at the beach (or stuck in traffic on the way back home from the beach). But sadly in the last 20 years or so this country was overwhelmed with a silly sense of patriotic fervour leasding to holding the celebrations on the day itself and hence adding insult to injury to the indigenous Australian communities.

There have been frequent calls to change the national day to a date not fraught with such awful associations (and apparently it is ALP party policy). This year's Australian of the year, indigenous leader and scholar, Mick Dodson, has publicly raised the issue much to the chagrin of our PM. I think it's time we put this colonialist and imperialist date behind us and picked a different date, preferably in the second half of the year (surely something significant for this country must have happened between July and December. That's if we must have a national day at all.

In the meantime we can make the Lunar New Year a holiday. The good thing is that, like Easter/Pascha it's a movable feast thus giving us a certain amount of irregularity. It also marks a significant date for Australian Chinese, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Mongolian communities and encourages the rest of us to share and celebrate as well. I believe we should make holidays of significant dates for the many cultural/ethnic/religious communities that make the Australian people today.

So to find out what this year of the Earth Ox has in store you can check out this article from Asia Times online. And if you want to find out more about your own Chinese sign and how the Earth Ox will impact you can go here.

But what's that you say? A biblical scholar into astrology? Well, astrology permeates the biblical texts. Not Chinese astrology, of course, but that of the ancient Middle Eastern world. There is a long tradition of Hebrew/Jewish astrology. We find horoscopes amongst the Qumran scrolls and many of the great medieval rabbis were accomlished astrologers. Biblically the 12 tribes of Israel are linked to the 12 signs of the zodiac and the sevenfold menorah representing the seven spirits/archangels of God is linked to the seven planets of ancient astrology. Astrological references abound in biblical texts as said, especially Ezekiel, 1 Enoch and Revelation. Ancient readers/hearers of Matthew's infancy gospel recognised that the wise men or magi who come from the east were astrologers. The 4th century Church Father, John Chrysostom, who was opposed to astrology, was especially discomforted that the gospel itself recorded uncritically pagan astrologers following astrological portents in order to come and pay homage to the infant Jesus.

So rather than it being odd for a biblical scholar to be into astrology it should be considered more remarkable that too few biblical scholars have any astrological knowledge at all.

So for all of you reading this - Congratulations and Good Fortune for this year of the Earth Ox!

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