Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The Korean Zodiac
In the early days of discovery in Korea someone asked me for my zodiac sign and began counting on his fingers, telling me how old I was. I found this intriguing but didn't have enough language to ask how he did it. In time I did learn he was locating my zodiac sign within the list of twelve and making a calculated guess of my age, which was correct.
The counting starts on the ring finger where the finger joins the hand. It starts with the sign of the rat. From there you move to the middle finger where it joins the hand for ox, the index finger for tiger, on the index finger one goes to the first joint for rabbit, the second joint for dragon, and top of the of the index finger for snake, move to the top of the middle finger for horse, the top of ring finger for ram, the top of the little finger is monkey, the first joint going down is rooster, the second joint dog and where the little finger joins the hand you have pig.
Depending on the year you were born you have a 'Tee'. It repeats itself every 12 years; 2009 is the year of the Ox. It is a 60 year cycle, 10 celestial components are added to each of the 12 signs for a period of 10 years and since you have only 10 celestial signs you begin again with the the last celestial sign again in sequence until you reach the 60th year. In Korea the 6oth year, the hwangap, was an important birthday, few lived to make their 60th year.
When you see the list of the animals and remember your 'Tee' it is not difficult to surmise in some way what some would judge to be compatible and not compatible in marriage and in dealings with others and your relationship with the present sign of the Zodiac.They are quite different from western zodiac signs, easier to figure out and more fun to play with. The ram and ox do appear in the western zodiac, the only place they coincide.
How much of this influences the Koreans is difficult to know, but certainly it is an underpinning of the culture. You see the horoscopes in the daily paper as you do in the West, probably as important or not important as in the West. Christianity in time should be changing this dependence for many.