Next week is going to be an important time in our house. Over the last few years, as a family, we’ve tried to observe the lunar calendar in a variety of ways. We’ve tried to celebrate solstices and equinoxes, we’ve developed traditions based on the moon phases, and we’ve started to incorporate teachings about Chinese lunar/solar holidays into our family rituals.
Virtute particularly enjoys these things since he is probably the most connected to the moon out of all of us, though perhaps Jenny would dispute this given her wolf-like proclivities. Anyhow, I was mentioning to Virtute that this year we will be celebrating the Year of the Ox.** While Virtute is normally quite joyous to take part in celebrating each new year, this year he became quiet and distressed after I brought it up.
I was uncertain as to what had caused him to get into such a funk, so I asked what was the matter. The first few days of prodding yielded little results and it wasn’t until the full moon last week that he divulged what was on his mind. He approached me in the middle of writing and flopped across my arms. Then he blurted it all out. “Year of the Ox,” he heaved his inflection so fiercely that the sound of the word “ox” sort of lingered in the air like an echo. “Year of the Ox,” he repeated. “Of all the animals in the zodiac, none was more useful to civilizing regimes. The ox was the most useful animal in rice-based statist regimes and many upon many of Indigenous peoples fled into the mountains to avoid the fate that would beset them should they be confronted with the various dynasties intent on creating these hierarchies. But many could not flee and they became overwhelmed.” I knew that the ox had been one of the first animals to be effectively domesticated to help in rice paddy production, but I didn’t understand his consternation. So, of course, I had to ask.
Normally contemplative, Virtute responded promptly, “These were the first of the animal beings to be saddled with domestication and domination. They represent all the animals who have become partially or fully domesticated: goats, pigs, dogs, cows, gerbils, even us cats. This year is an important year. This year is a year that we must re-focus on our collective liberation, we must remember the teachings and traditions we held before the march of progress, and we must always reflect on the longstanding struggle of the ox and the sheep and the horse and all those other animals like the Atlas Bear and the Passenger Pigeon who were made extinct because they refused to succumb to these systems of domination.”
Virtute, resolute, hopped back in his cat condo and began conspiratorial conversations with Gumption. I slid back into my seat and watched the moon glow brightly outside my window.
**Note: Our friend Anabel kindly informed us that the animal that Virtute and I were discussing on the lai si envelope is actually a Goat – so alas this year is not The Year of the Ox, but The Year of the Goat. Fortunately, goats hold the title of “beast of burden” for the same reason as the ox, so we have concluded that this post can still stand. Let this year be the year of the insurrection.