Out with the Dog and in with the Pig!
I encourage you to reflect, briefly, upon the major themes of the Earth Dog—loyalty, trust, safety, boundaries, argument, spite, territory, love, affection, companionship, in/out groups, stubbornness, connection, trauma, anxiety, solitude, privacy, protection, justice, inquiry, fairness, and equity,to name a few. How have these manifested in your life? In the world around you?
Staring February 5th, we “officially” transition into the year of the Yīn Earth Pig, so put on your party hats! As the 12th, or “last,” Animal in the Zodiac, the Pig is the party at the end! All your Ancestors have ever wanted is for you to invite the people you love into your home, so you can cook, eat, and make babies—your enjoyment is their immortality!
As we delve into the richness of the Pig symbol, I invite you to consider the possibility that life can be remarkably simple and that the deepest meaning of everything might be right on the surface. If you ask a Pig—what is the meaning of life? If they’re honest, they will probably say, “Food! Sex! Music, Art!” So, relax. I know the sky is falling, and we all have monumental ambitions to save the world, which seems to be spinning more out of control every day, but this Year is already inviting us to calm the hell down, eat a snack, get cozy with a loved one, and take a nap—the “future” might actually depend on it.
象 – Symbolism
First, in order to understand the nature of the Earth Pig, we must examine the Chinese Character for Family, Jià, 家. The character contains the radical mián, 宀, which means roof, and the radical shĭ, 豕, which means pig/boar, so it’s a pig under a roof, and it is the Chinese word for family or blood relations. It also means household, home, and domestic, and it is also a term for a lineage, tradition, or school, such as Chánjià, 禪家, or Dàojià 道家 (Buddhist/Daoist).
The Character Jià, 家, and the symbol of the Pig, are intimately related to the Chinese principal of family, continuity, immortality, and procession, which exemplify the nature of Traditional Culture itself. The Pig is at the heart of what it means to be Chinese, for "China" was the decision of about 80 cultures to stop being nomads and to farm grain instead. That meant no more herds, and since there are no herds of pigs, the pig became their meat of choice.
There is an expression among Chinese farmers that goes, “we only dig in our Ancestors.” Meaning the family has been there so long the soil is made of their dead relatives—this is Earth Pig Qì. This Year will bring forward memories and values so ancient they can’t be named. This is a year to remember what we are trying to save and to rest so that we can do so.
Wealth in Chinese culture was often measured by the number of Pigs you owned, for Pigs were and still are a mainstay of the Chinese diet—fatty pork, rice, and cabbage. Many other ancient traditions outlawed pork, but the Chinese made a different decision, in part because Pigs don’t need to be grazed like cows and sheep. Everyone in China eats pigs, and as any vegetarian who has traveled in China can attest, it is very common to order a vegetarian meal only to find big hunks of pork in it.
Of course, this sounds strange from our perspective, but take yourself back to an early agrarian people, transitioning from a nomadic to a domestic relationship with animals. Within a few generations, the wild boar transformed from a big black hairy tusked beast to a fat pink pig that could give birth to and nurse 60 piglets in a litter—this is the very meaning of family, reproductive essence, and motherhood. The Pig is therefore the ultimate symbol of nourishment, nurturing, and generosity.
-Gregory David Done
101 Rogers Street NW
Olympia WA 98502