The Year of the Yin Metal Ox

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The Year of the Yin Metal Ox

In East Asian cultures (China, Japan, and Korea), the lunar new year always has three different attributes. There’s one of twelve animal spirits, one of five elements, and a yin or yang energy attribute. This year (2021) is the year of the yin metal ox. The last time we had this particular combination was 1962.


To be clear, since we’re normally talking data and analytics on my blog, zodiacs and other such things have no causative basis in reality save for self-fulfilling effects. The only quantifiable effects that have been proven are those we generate ourselves, such as beliefs around lucky/unlucky things changing our behaviors, like fertility and birth trends. We cause the zodiac, not the other way around.

Elemental Basics

So, what’s in store for the year of the yin metal ox, based on East Asian culture and lore? Let’s look at each of the three components.

Yin and yang are energetic opposites. Yang energy is growing, yin is receding. Yang is expanding, yin is contracting. That part’s pretty straightforward.

Metal is part of the wu xing five element cycle – earth, water, fire, wood, and metal. There are two elemental cycles, a creation cycle and a destruction cycle. Metal is associated with progress, persistence, righteousness, and determination; in the elemental cycle, it creates the water element and destroys the wood element.

The ox shows up in East Asian lore as a reliable beast of burden. It’s symbolic of wealth (because in an agrarian economy they’re not cheap animals), hard work, honesty, diligence, and faithfulness.

Looking Back

2020 was the year of the yang earth rat characterized by expansive energy, steady growth, and quickness/cleverness (with a touch of chaos). Now, for us, that doesn’t exactly sound like a match given… you know, global pandemic. But you could argue that it was exactly that year for the virus and the world as a whole. As humanity had to slow down and stay put, the rest of life on earth flourished and had a great year. Perhaps a reminder for us that we’re not the only species that matters on the planet.

The Year of the Yin Metal Ox

So what’s in store for us in the year of the yin metal ox? Putting these combinations of energy, element, and animal together, we end up with a year heavily focused on persistence, diligence and faithfulness, in an environment which allows us to catch our breath. After the craziness and chaos of the year of the yang earth rat, the year of the yin metal ox is what you’d call a rebuilding year in sports.

This is the year to double down (as both metal and the ox) on the traits of persistence and diligence. The yin and metal indicate the destruction cycle of the five elements; use the energy of the year to cut away things from your life that no longer serve you, that hold you back. Yin metal energy could be symbolized by an ax or sword, demolishing bad influences in your life. Cut away unfaithful friends & customers, lazy habits, and anything encouraging you to behave in unethical ways.

Look instead for those friends who bring out the best in you, those disciplines you’ve always wanted to study, and building habits and traditions to stick with. The year of the yin metal ox is the year to take a hard look at your personal network, cutting loose those who take more than they give. Conversely, it should spur us to action to make sure we’re giving as much or more than we take for ourselves. Oxen are all about planting and tilling the fields.

The Bigger Picture

Zodiacs and such are usually harmless fun, and I find they serve an useful purpose in helping us focus on a specific part of our lives. They have us zero in on a key aspect of our personalities and ask serious questions about that. For the ox, it’s a question of diligence and persistance. What do we give up too easily on? What should we be giving up that we’re being too stubborn about?

Normally, zodiac calendars apply most in traditional lore to those born in that year, though the energy of the year affects everyone. So, with that in mind, take some time during your lunar new year celebrations to ask what you should and shouldn’t give up on this year, and make a plan for it.

May you have a safe, happy, healthy, and prosperous year of the yin metal ox!

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