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Ruminations on Zen's Cows  

Part 9: Equinox, Solstice and Good Excuses to Celebrate, Cont.

by Ming Zhen Shakya, OHY
Page 3 of 3

It required a thousand years for the Basque citizens of Pompey’s town to discover the existence of their native son, the former bishop and now saint, Fermin, and to start celebrating his demise. In l324 they inaugurated a San Fermin fair on October 10th, forgetting for the moment that this was the date upon which he had merely been arrested, not decapitated. By 1381 they corrected the error, and moved the entire celebration back from the Autumnal equinox to the Summer solstice.(The weather, it was explained, wasn’t much good for bullfighting in October and July was more suitable for fiestas.) But aside from meteorological considerations, all that is certain is that the same time interval between the autumnal equinox - then Sept 25th - and October 10th (16 days) became the same period that intervened between the summer solstice - then June 22nd - and the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona on July 7th. Originally, the date might have been fixed as the first quarter moon (half moon) after the equinox or solstice solar event, the half-moon being most easily and accurately determined by gross inspection. As we previously pointed out, it is the only time in the month in which a straight line connects the semi-circular endpoints of the crescent moon. The famed "fortnight" technically marks the two week period between half-moons.

It required another few hundred years for the Pamplonese to take the saint seriously enough to name a church after him. So, in 1586, as Shakespeare sat in England writing his plays, somebody wrote the dedicatory name of San Fermin into at least the history of Basque architecture.

Old poster advertising San Fermin feria.

Saturnine and San Fermin have been thoroughly fused. We can see this amalgamation clearly illustrated in this Pamplona fiesta poster. The symbol of the planet Saturn resembles the number five (5) differing from the number by having its horizontal top bar extended to the left and the terminal point of the bottom arc trailing down "below the line" in the actual shape of a sickle. In the poster the bar is curved upwards at its ends to suggest the bull’s horns and the terminal point is curved upwards to more closely resemble the number five which especially in Chinese Alchemical terms, is a symbol of androgyny. (Three is invariably the numerical value assigned to "male" just as two is always used to indicate "female" as in, for example, I Ching hexagram constructions. Together they add up to five, the vaunted number of Divine Marriage.

The Chinese, too, recognized in Saturn an old but far from otiose deity whom they associated with a virile bull.

Saturn devouring his child in cart pulled by winged dragons. Wheels of the cart are Capricorn and Aquarius.


There are several other curious but noteworthy parallels between Chinese Daoist and Basque traditional beliefs. One is that in both religions, the Dao or the sky as the Ground of All Being are regarded as maternal. The second curious coincidence is the Tai Ji symbol, that black and white yin/yang symbol which we associate almost exclusively with China (though it was not introduced into China until the Tenth Century A.D.) This symbol, in variant form, was already the national symbol of the Basque people when Hannibal and Julius Caesar visited the Iberian peninsula. We’ll examine these coincidences in a subsequent chapter.

As an exercise, continue the Trataka technique, combining it if possible with feeling the pulse beat in the Hara and an awareness of breathing.


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Part 13
Last modified: July 11, 2004
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