In the Chinese calendar, now in its 79th sexagenarian cycle, a year can be named in three different ways, one of which is after an animal in the Chinese zodiac. So 2013 in the Gregorian calendar—year 4710 in the Chinese—is the year of the Water (yin) Serpent. Though the Chinese system isn’t fixed (as the Western zodiac is), tradition holds that the animal ruling the year of your birth shapes your inherent traits: your “MythBody.” We’ve resurrected that neologism—first coined by Huang for the Esalen workshops he co-led with the late Joseph Campbell—for our annual exploration of “The Way of the Animal Powers”: that vital interrelationship between your physical being and your story of yourself.
This year we’ll examine the mythology of the Serpent. In western lore, Snake is the devil’s representative, a feared and deceitful tempter whose potent poison can destroy even the greatest hero. But in Chinese legend, this silvery creature, who has meditated deep in the mountains for centuries to attain full potentiality, is a beneficent symbol of wisdom, intuition, attraction, intelligence, and mysticism.
Yet in both traditions serpents are symbols of the power of needed transformation. Accordingly, as we mix tall tales with Tai Ji insights, weave calligraphy and conundrum, share poetry and praxis—all in celebration of the marvelous mythic Serpent—we will focus on key transformative moments in our own lives, for as Campbell frequently remarked (quoting Nietzsche), “The serpent that cannot shed its skin must perish.”
For more information, visit www.livingtao.org.