Enter the Yang Wood Dragon 2024
“There are Dragons and there are “not Dragons”...”
Happy Lunar New Year February 10th 2024-January 28th 2025
And Happy Losar February 10th 2024-February 12th 2025
Written by Eréne Lejeune for Da Yuan Circle
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*the dragon image above was taken by Eréne in 2011 on a pilgrimage to Wutaishan, China with Ming
Welcome to the highly anticipated Yang Wood or “Laughing” Dragon! Here it is: my 16th annual Lunar New Year write-up. Every year for the last 16, I enjoy a little casual fun with a decades long fascination and study of Zi Wei Dou Shu astrology (紫微斗數)( Chinese Polestar or Purple star). This year’s edition is a little different, as I write for Da Yuan Circle and honor Liu Ming; teacher, friend, founder of Da Yuan Circle and one of the most respected astrologers/scholars/practitioners/orators this side of the Song Dynasty (IMHO). I’m including some tidbits, anecdotes, and excerpts from his comprehensive body of work (available at dayuancircle.org). References, sources, credits and links to more info are embedded. I hope you delight in and benefit from this montage.
To that end, it’s incumbent upon me to report there are two kinds of people in the world of Chinese Polestar Astrology: there are Dragons and there are “not Dragons.” I am a “not Dragon,” so everything you read here is merely the opinion of a humble terrestrial creature; with aspirations and dreams, barely reaching the flank of the awe-inspiring magical, scaled, winged and mischievous amalgamation we mere mortals have come to know as Dragons.
If you’re a first-time reader of these annual missives, my approach is lighthearted. There are many lunar new year writings that delve into academic evaluation of the nuanced theory and practice of astrology* from the eastern perspective. These are of course all valuable and valid reads as well. Over the years, my audience has become pleasantly, and surprisingly broad, and I aspire to reach everyone where they are. There’s a little here for everyone, much like the composite nature of the Dragon itself. So, take a deep breath, make a cup of your favorite warm beverage, settle in for a lively perspective and ready yourself to go on the wild and omnipotent ride awaiting us all. Adventure, ritual, luck, renewal, stories, vigor, the acknowledgment of our capacity to self-reflect for the greater good, and to find joy in what is beyond our understanding, are at the heart and spirit of the Wood Dragon. If awe-inspiring potential, with a dash of humility for a palate cleanser sounds good to you, ride the energy this year to the benefit of all sentient beings.
So, enjoy your flight, and from all of us at DYC, we are wishing you a prosperous and graceful Lunar New Year—let your inner Dragon soar!
A brief and recent Wood Dragon history
The last time the Wood Dragon deigned to visit, the year was 1964…
The median price for a new home in the US would set you back about $20,000. A loaf of bread went for around $0.21 and Harvard University increased its tuition from $1700 to a whopping $1760. The Ford Mustang became available to the public for the first time and fetched about $2500.
Famous Wood Dragons
(1904): Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, artist Salvador Dalí, Joan Crawford, and Dr Seuss.
A happy 60th birthday to—:
(1964): Monica Bellucci, Lenny Kravitz, Kamala Harris, Keanu Reeves, and Scott and Mark Kelly, the identical twin astronauts of the NASA “twin experiment.”
Fun Fact: Wood Dragon Tracy Chapman recently became the first Black woman to win for a number one Country song as sole songwriter for her 1988 (also a dragon year!) hit “Fast Car,” and has been performing it with the country artist, Luke Combs; essentially making her “comeback” in Wood Dragon. Since her recent appearance and heartfelt performance at the Grammys, the original recording is topping the charts, once again. To make what is old, new again, and in an unprecedented way is very Wood Dragon.
Wood Dragon World Events 1904/1964:
(1904) The first underground lines of the New York city subway were built, work began on the Panama Canal, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) was established, and three typhoons caused widespread flooding and destruction in Vietnam.
(1964) Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Jean-Paul Sartre declined the Nobel Prize in Literature because he didn’t want to be “institutionalized.” Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. A lesser known and first of its kind “Occupation of Alcatraz” took place by five Sioux tribal members in San Francisco (see further below). Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., became Muhammad Ali. British molecular biologist Robin Holliday proposed the existence of the “Holliday Structure,” a branched nucleic acid structure. Tad Simmons wrote in his article about the PBS documentary1964, “The most pivotal year of the 1960s, arguably, is 1964. That’s the year American culture fractured and eventually split along ideological lines — old vs. young; hip vs. square; poor vs. rich; liberal vs. conservative — establishing the poles of societal debate that are still raging today.”
“A year of already known (phenomena), then forgotten and remembered again.”
The qi available to all in Wood Dragon
This year we have the opportunity to access our inner Wood Dragon. A year of already known (phenomena), then forgotten and remembered again. The shift from the subtle and tricky (but adorable and fluffy!) spirit of the Wood Rabbit (2023) into the inspiring and changeable Wood Dragon will bring a LOT of movement. We will hit the lakes, grounds and heavens; swimming, running and flying this Spring. Last year we learned direct and clear communication, patience, and that which has merit; creates a lasting framework for relationships. We will need these relationships in the years to come.
As we transition with all the subtlety of a thousand baby dragons in spring, we will have a crash course in understanding that summoning lightheartedness in the modern era is serious business. If you’ve surrounded yourself by honest companions (Ox 2021) your growth potential will be limitless. If however, you’ve surrounded yourself with “yes men,” to continue in fantasy will hobble not only opportunity for fruition, but when Wood Snake comes to coil in spring 2025 it will be a more difficult, albeit strangely cathartic self-realization period. For meditators and the spiritually inclined, a practice solo retreat may be in order if you are feeling swept away by the awesome power of it all. Keep your impulsive responses to stimuli harmless by reminding yourself that you and everyone you come into contact with, is someone’s child, and we are all here together. Wait for the substantive evidence and listen to your intuition before jumping to conclusions.
For the Dragon, to hold all things simultaneously, spontaneously, and with panache is just another Tuesday. Like the scales of the Dragon, the energy is fluctuating, colorful, changeable, and enormous. The Wisdom associated with the Dragon is an ability to shift and regulate qi despite the constant undulation of space, time and embodiment. If we can feel this dynamic quality without holding onto it, the sweeping sensations will be more tropical rain showers than catastrophic typhoons.
The Dragon energy is capable of holding all potential and possible outcomes simultaneously. Intensely playful, gregariously aloof, jauntily erudite and casually ostentatious; the Dragon would only be an exercise in extremes if the energy cared to focus on diametrics. The wee Wood Dragon will certainly test those with their nose to the grindstone. Luckily, of the 5 elemental talons, this wood year is the most adaptive Dragon of all. If you can “look up” once in a while you won’t miss the opportunities you never thought possible. If you’ve been building, percolating, and establishing the value of what it means to be in concert with all phenomena, remember to find the space between—sometimes we can receive gifts without effort. To hold onto these gifts, given freely by causes beyond our control or knowing, is folly. The changing scales of the Dragon will remind us that not everything we have is a result of hard work or previous causes. The harder we hold onto what we think we deserve, the more painful it will be to watch it leave. But, of course, this is the nature of things. Can you hold onto a center that is itself, a center of something else?
Massive change can take hold and small decisions will have a major impact. Trusting what has been done, what is possible, and the self-resolving nature of all phenomena is key to accepting our relationship with the interchangeable quality of qi in 2024. Although it feels very external, the beauty of Dragon energy is the alchemical potential: the subtle ability to turn inwards—will go incredibly far towards charming our way into Wood Snake (2025). Dragons have very, very long memories. So long, they sometimes forget where they came from and to whom they are indebted. This can lead to aloofness and disinterest. Recharge yourself in the well-traveled mountain trails this year, a Wood Dragon energy responds to the fresh air and the connection to the wild world.
“Can you hold onto a center that is itself, a center of something else?”
A brief history of the eastern dragon image
The Wood Dragon, although considered an inherently yang image in Chinese astrology, is actually representative of yin and yang, and more-so than any other metaphorical image in the zodiac. There are countless evaluations of the varying composite animals the Dragon inhabits and why. Many throughout history wax poetic about these nuances. One description is the 9 faceted dragon—the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a demon, ears of a bull, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a carp, claws of an eagle, and the padded paws of a tiger. This number also corresponds to Hexagram 1 “Heaven” in the Changing Zhouyi-Liu Ming 2009 (all 9's are thrown at the toss of the coins for divination purposes). Sometimes the Dragon is broken into a composite of five creatures; the horse, snake, fish, bird and tiger, representing the five elemental forces. This image has changed over the centuries and obviously reflects in the lived experience and oral traditions of the varying peoples and cultures from shamanistic and animistic populations, predating any written records. It is widely accepted as a composite of multiple animals that were likely** different tribes/clans, eventually united under the one image. This centralized and unified clan-states image emerging from the predynastic autonomous regions which comprise modern day China and beyond is often credited to Huangdi or the Yellow Emperor. There is a lot more to this story and scholars have entered into many thousands of pages of debates over this point, but I digress! As Han (206 BCE-220 CE) culture expanded and enveloped many peoples under one ruling class, the Dragon symbol evolved to become something larger and greater than any one idea. Regardless of the specifics, the importance of uniting society under the “Mandate of Heaven” became the ultimate ideal, and the mythical Hero's Journey. This construct continues to influence and shape society today.
One of the oldest archaeological findings of a dragon carving was recently discovered (2023) in Chifeng, China by the Inner Mongolia Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology from the Neolithic Hongshan culture (4700-2900 BCE). The artifact is essentially a long dragon shaped puzzle made from mussel shells. This newly discovered relic is fascinating because prior knowledge of dragon carvings during this period, in this region, were carved in jade, in a distinctive “C” shape, and used ritualistically for religious and/or government purposes. This artifact however, is shaped quite differently and appeared to be intentionally buried in the ground. This illustrates we only know a small part of the diverse uses and practices of the Dragon and its cultural symbology. Of import to mention here: although the image of the Dragon became more standardized in the Song Dynasty (960-1278 CE), all references to any particular and astrological ideas pre-date any named astrological systems or organized lunar or lunisolar calendrical systems. Versions of the Dragon symbology likely predate any organized version of astrology by a few thousand years, at least.
This year and the next few
If Dragon (2024) is characterized by vision and expansion, Snake (2025) is honing and execution, and Horse (2026) is building the dream that in some cases, is over a decade in the making. By Goat (2027), we will be able to objectively observe what our decisions, collective and personal, have allowed us to experience and create. For now, Wood Dragon is new and big and a kind of fruition that may be a long time coming. The practical result of these last 4 years will not be fully realized/executed until Horse 2026, but we first have to continue the grand vision that takes root in Dragon, when more work will be realized.
In politics, clear leaders will reveal themselves this year. Dragon leaders can be incredibly generous. Their relaxed confidence and ability to turn the most mundane into extraordinary is very attractive. This is part of what makes them good leaders, they not only inspire the rest of us with their big picture outlook but they also have je ne sais quois—the association with power and leadership (the symbol of the emperor) and its affinity with higher ideals (Heaven/the Sun). However, when the potentially impulsive masculine nature of war spirals into brutality, the masses serve to remind the scale of the action should be a reflection of a united story and a collective future. Rule changing, breaking and in general, challenging norms, including your own preconceived notions, are the style of the times. We are going towards more level-headedness after a dramatic 4 year run of wildness and economic uncertainty, but continued flares in idealism will last through Snake (2025) and Horse (2026), until Goat (2027). Pay special attention to what is happening on a global scale and be careful not to let apathy creep in. In sum, the antidote to the impulsive tendencies Wood lends to the Dragon, is to temper with humility.
Education, education, education
“For the Chinese philosophers, the power of the Dragon is of no value unless it is turned away from self-reflection and dedicated to benefit others. For this reason, even Dragons have a path—they must find their place and learn to give. Material things are only of interest to Dragons, if those things clearly represent personal history or accomplishment. Grand is the Dragon's favorite scale.”- from Santidao: The Three Treasures-Liu Ming 2008
There are many wonderful attributes of the dragon character, as has been mentioned at length. There are also a few snags though, and what Ming once referred to as the “shadowy impulse” of a character. In the case of dragons, the result of running amok and not understanding or practicing the value of empathy will result in egotism and the tendency to destroy. When a collective realizes the good they can create together, policy change and reform happen.
Ming used to tell a story about when he was working in a higher educational institution and the incoming freshmen were a Dragon cohort. He went on to say that even before the school year began, there was a particular policy they collectively decided was outdated and unacceptable. They formed a committee, protested, had petitions signed and within a few weeks, an administrator or two were fired or demoted, the policy was changed in the by-laws, and after it was all over, the Dragon committee just went on about their separate business again.
Another illustration of this type of positive activism is the famous “Occupation of Alcatraz” which took place in 1969-1971 when 89 Native American activists calling themselves, Indians of all Tribes (IAT), staged a peaceful occupation to reclaim Alcatraz Island and presented the US government the Alcatraz Proclamation—which set a kind of precedent for Indigenous activism at the time. In a fascinating illustration of Wood Dragon energy, the story really began in the last Wood Dragon year in 1964. A woman named Belva Cottier, a social worker in San Francisco and a Rosebud Sioux tribal member, had an idea to turn Alcatraz into a Native American university after the famed prison shuttered in 1963. She remembered the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and had the idea to publicly offer the US government the amount of money they had paid for it originally, (an equivalent of $9.40). Belva, her cousin, Richard McKenzie and about 35 other tribal members and various photographers and journalists, occupied Alcatraz for a total of only four hours. However, this action ultimately brought a lot of attention to the Bay Area Indigenous Rights Movement, creating a ripple effect, not only across the nation but through time; when the aforementioned Occupation of Alcatraz made a much larger ripple a few years later.
If we allow the youth to lead, the scale and potential of the Wood Dragon makes anything possible. And, if the young people will pause for just a moment to remember the people who came before them, great advances will follow. If the Dragon energy can simply pause for the briefest of moments to reflect, so as to avoid falling into aloofness, disinterest and apathy, it can move mountains.
“Dream big, dream deep, and allow the “crack” to awaken you…”
To dream of dragons
To dream of Dragons is particularly auspicious and… “represents the complex path to and maintenance of supernatural and worldly power—yang, majesty, and the emperor. It is our innate ability to manage resources that may be too great for a small sense of "self." It is the animal ridden by early Bön shamans (Tibet, Mongolia) in their ascent into the sky (Heaven)---Dragons, like tigers, in dream have a sound they make—it is a kind of sharp crack or crackling sound. If you hear this in dream (and do not fear or wake up) you are in the presence of pure beings. The Dragon is their messenger and your guide.”
-The Butterfly Book
Pay attention to dreams this year, the immature qi from the wake-world can be revealed as a nascent qi in dream. Dream big, dream deep, and allow the “crack” to awaken you…
For those that “sit and forget”
For Zuowang(坐忘) practitioners, it is recommended this year to do a physical/movement practice before “sitting and forgetting.” The playful energy of the Wood Dragon can bring great fruition and an effortless ability to relax our personal stories. Avoid over-exhaustion by releasing physical energy and redirecting energy in the channels. Ming writes in Santidao: The Way of the Three Treasures, “Inner alchemy…is the appreciation of our situation, particularly our true physiology, examined backwards…our nature emerges only to return.” Recognizing the space around the practice will gently sweep the path to the immensely open experience that Zuowang can bring in Wood Snake 2025.
Dragons are real. I live with one.
For the “clutch” of hatchling dragons being born this year, welcome! Dragon children are famously auspicious and are said to bring prosperity and good fortune to the family. All obstacles that meet them are merely there due to a temporal inconvenience. For parents of young dragons, it’s best to never say, “you are too young for that.” Your boundaries and expectations are not their problem. “Parent” is not what you will be to a dragon. Current best dragon raising practices suggest to not get in their way but gently remind them to see all sides—even if they do not agree. Your job may only be to let them know you are there, you love them unconditionally and you will join them in battle if the need arises. Dragons are not known for their stick-to-it-ness. Things come very easily to Dragons so their tendency to get bored may look like quitting to many other signs. But the truth is, if Dragon energy exists beyond time, there is no possible way to waste time, right? But what does my opinion matter? The only way to understand how to parent a Dragon is to ask one! So, when I asked the tween Water Dragon who currently allows me to drive her around and live in her house, “What is the one simple piece of advice you would like to give to the parents of Dragons?” She said “Well, this is true for all parents but particularly for Dragon parents: Don’t push us to do things you think we should do or things you think we should become or do in the future. Don’t push us into your dreams of us and let us live our dreams of us.” And then she said, as she gave a flip of her hand, “Slay!” From the mouth of babes…
The Skinny: what’s in/what’s out
In:(1) the “pirates code” (2) effortlessly chic fashion (3) prison reform (4) cloud gazing (5) military coups (6) stately celebrations and festivals (7) new alliances mixed with old ones (8) university politics (9) toddlers (10) data leaks/computer hacking (11) May-December relationships (12) eloping (13) “chosen family” (14) “firsts” (15) baby dragons (16) changing-your-mind (17) spontaneous karmic resolution and lateral fate thresholds, particularly if you are entering a new decade cycle (18) Completion Practices (19) gene splicing from apples to humans (20) billionaire space-pong and owning a rocketship, unfortunately (21) questioning everything (22) oral tradition (23) stem cell research and advancements in epigenetic therapeutics (24) rewilding (25) “winging” it
Out: (1) dogma (2) over-scheduling (3) over achieving (4) over-sharing (5) bullies (6) slow-and-steady (7 ) Satori (悟り)/Wu (悟) (8) climate change deniers (9) politicking and the “old guard” (10) phoning it in (11) living beyond your means (12) being stingy (13) postponing mental wellness (14) organized religion (15) organized takeovers (16) not voting (17) waiting for people to notice you
Gratitude and reciprocity (ganying) are always in
::Youth Charity::Education::Reform::Reinvigorating Ancient Knowledge::
Every year I recommend some ways to be financially generous in accordance with the auspices of the year because reciprocity is always in. This year, scale is magnified—your money will go much farther with cause based organizations. Youth organizations and prison reform are particularly strong ideas. I would like to personally highlight three organizations that are doing incredible work if you’re so inclined:
Humans need stories, but we must recognize the storyteller...
This organization is everything to aspire to in a Wood Dragon year; youth centered, Indigenous voices and environmental activism held by the community arms of gratitude and storytelling for a Human View we all need right now. Hy’shqe!
This organization focuses on anti-recidivism through education, emotional well-being and non-violence for formerly incarcerated youth to find their place in the community.
Our organization will be focusing on education and community in Wood Dragon. Our mission is to preserve and practice traditional wisdom streams originating from East Asia, informed by the teachings of the late Liu Ming. We provide access and support for those looking to center their theoretical learning of traditional arts and sciences in self-cultivation practices, which support a lived experience of interconnectedness to the animate, self-resolving nature of the universe.
But Eréne, what about me?! What do I do?:
Rat-You’re in the trine and you’re ready to use your ratty savvy to climb onto the dragon’s back. If you’ve been toiling and counting corn kernels the last few years, you’re not alone. Find some more rats and an Ox or two to get your vision to the next level. The view is great from up here!
Ox-Nap, nap, work, work, nap, work, big project! Nap. Walk in the woods. Nap. Boom-Snake year.
Tiger-You will keenly feel the ebb and flow of things this year. The adversity is offset by the random magical gifts. It’s a little boom and bust but that is how you roll anyway. A Tiger close to me recently reminded me about “executive time.” A tiger needs to lay low and digest now and again. If you’re feeling more contrary than usual, be alone and try not to project onto others. Internal eye-rolls over snappy comments are preferred. You can definitely succeed this year, there may be a dramatic shift in work-life or in a romantic relationship; see the long game.
Rabbit-Last year you found your “fluffle” and honed the next few years’ planning. If you’re a single rabbit and your dating life picks up, try to meet through mutual friends and community activities and not so much on the apps. You may be asked to teach and speak in front of people this year, make sure those who rally around you are strong and ethical and believe in your incredible powers of intuition.
Dragon-I know I always say, “do what Dragons do” because you will anyway. This year, I implore you to take a few lost, simple beasts under your immensely powerful wing and show them how to “look up.” Also, do whatever floats your Dragon Boat. And, read the children’s book, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. Throw a big party this summer. You are welcome to take a bow.
Snake-People will listen to you this year. Your simple and reasonable explanations and interesting hygiene advice will be well-received. Learn a simple ceremony to start your day and start or restart your Dream Path practice. Feel free to decline party invitations but be polite and write a treatise on the subject you’ve been fascinated with for years. You’re super weird and super cool, own it.
Horse-Imagine yourself this year as the Lung-ta, or “Wind Horse” depicted on Tibetan prayer flags that derives its energy from the tiger, snow lion, Garuda and the dragon. You may be ready for almost anything but be careful to stop and thank those around you who have helped, even if they aren’t as amazing as you at getting it done. A touch of patience and a collaboration with competent co-workers is key for you to be hugely successful. If you are a graphic designer, or working in the tech industry or science industry, take your talents to the next level or you will be B.O.R.E.D. It may help to donate some time where your talents will benefit the greater good. Maybe go to Mt. Kailash and do the kora.
Goat-It’s all going to be fine. Say this in front of the mirror, especially if high-stakes deadlines are ramping up your stress levels and since you have a hard time saying “no,” you will meet those deadlines if your life depends upon it. Try to focus a bit on your personal life this year as well as hugely stepping into community projects. If the state of the world has gotten you down lately, do your best to shake it off by seeing the beauty in your everyday life. You will feel inspired but always slightly behind the workload. It’s best not to over-do-it, exhaustion will cloud your judgment and goats are needed now for their groundedness and altruistic hot takes. Hone a skill and do your best to loosen up that rigid spine, literally and figuratively.
Monkey-You can easily keep up this year. Swing for the high branches, you may be ready to lead in your monkey way. Group projects with lofty goals will appeal, just make sure you keep an eye on due dates and edit your resources. If you’re a single monkey, you can have fun this year but try not to get too attached. Long distance could work.
Rooster-You’re in the trine this year and even if you don’t fly as high as the Dragon, you love a challenge. You can excel in all areas but it’s wise to choose at least one thing where you can give back as well as feed your ego, er, I mean spirit. You are tremendously capable of a lot so just watch the slip into morbidity if you feel like you are dropping some balls in the summer. Get the rock band back together.
Dog-If you feel outmatched by the energy this year, find a rabbit and offer to organize their storage unit. They will appreciate you. Stick with the pack and do your best not to take anything too personally. If you surround yourself with those that help you feel calm on the inside, you can shine as your humble, loyal helper self. You will do well as the assistant and can lead from the back seat but talk therapy may be in order. There will be some “fake it ‘til you make it” moments. Good luck…
Pig-Enjoy yourself this year, it will be pretty full-on. All areas of life and love will be full—family, chosen family, dating for the singletons, work, hobbies, parties—the whole shebang. However, keep an eye toward an amount of guarding resources both material and energetic so you can avoid unnecessary scrambling in Wood Snake 2025.
*If you’d like to go deeper into the technical calculations and learn Zi Wei Dou Shu, go here.
**There are so many sources relating to this information and debate, here is a fun History Channel recap of the basic unification of China during the Qin Dynasty.
To make astrology/feng shui/nourishing within, and other Mantic Arts appointments or traditional medicine appointments, please visit Eréne’s website
Eréne Lejeune for Da Yuan Circle
A special thanks to Heather McGarry for editing…again.
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