Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 The Year of the Horse

Today, January 31st of 2014 begins the Year of the Wood Horse in the Chinese calendar as part of the sexagenary cycle of sixty 2-character terms. Each term consists of a “Heavenly stem” character and an “Earthly-branch” character; these combine to generate 60 unique terms that then repeat; in this case every 60 years. This means that the Year of the Wood Horse will only occur every 60 years. I was born 60 years ago, so this is very much my year!

The Horse ( )

In Chinese culture, the Horse symbolizes nobility, class, speed and perseverance. 
The magical horse is heroic, strong and can fly. Think Pegasus, Tianma, Sleipnir, Epona’s horses, the Hippocamp, the white horse of Rhiannon, the unicorn, the dragon-horse of Xuanzang, the kelpie, and the bailongma.  The white celestial cloud horse, sacred to the Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin—goddess of compassion—flies in the heavens and brings peace and blessings. The horse is linked to Varuna and equated to the cosmos. The white horse is also believed to be the last incarnation of Vishnu. Buddha is said to have left this physical plane riding a white horse.

Horses love to run, or fly in the case of mythic horses. They love freedom. They’re sexy, elegant and beautiful and embody the qualities of power, grace, nobility, strength, victory and freedom. In Native American lore, the horse symbol combines the grounded power of the earth with the whispers of wisdom found in the spirit wind. The Celts considered the horse noble, embodying qualities of stability, honor, trust, intelligence and strength. The horse was considered a vehicle and guide for transcendence, able to invoke courage and determination. The Celtic Ogham equates the horse with the Oak tree (a strong, stable life-affirming symbol, recognized for its tendency to attract lightning, symbolic of divine light and spiritual rebirth).

Some metaphysical writings describe the Horse as a “triangle” or “trinity” of hypostases: 1) bearing the gift of presence, elegance, and journey; 2) offering the energy of freedom, nomadic spirit, and endurance; and 3) holding the magic of telepathy and spirit messenger.

The Wood Horse ( )

2014 isn’t just the year of the Horse; it is the year of the Wood Horse, also called the Green Horse (wood being related to a growing tree and the color of young growth). The wood element is associated with spring, growth and vitality.

Wood represents the first phase of Wu Xing, an ancient mnemonic for systems with five stages or movements, used to explain a diversity of phenomena from cosmic cycles to the interaction between internal organs and from the succession of political regimes to the properties of medicines. The five elements include wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.

As one of the generative cyclical engendering five elements, wood feeds fire; fire creates Earth (ash); Earth bears metal; metal enriches water (e.g., water with minerals is more beneficial to the body than pure water); and water nourishes wood.

Wood is yang in character and associated with the planet Jupiter (and Zeus, the god of thunder and lightning), the color blue, green, wind. It is also associated with the Azure Dragon (Qing Long) of the east, one of the four mythological creatures of the Chinese constellations. The Azure Dragon is represented in the Kiyomizu Temple in eastern Kyoto Japan, where I visited in Spring 2013.

In Chinese Taoist thought, Wood is characterized by strength and flexibility (think bamboo and willow). Wood reflects qualities of warmth, generosity, co-operation and idealism. Wood heralds the beginning of life and embraces springtime and buds, sensuality and fecundity. Wood needs moisture to thrive. Wood, in turn, feeds fire. Wood burns. A Wood person is considered expansive, outgoing and socially conscious.

The wooden horse is a potent symbol. Perhaps the best known wooden horse is the Trojan Horse, used by the Greeks in the Trojan war to gain entry into Troy and destroy the city. As told in the Latin epic poem The Aeneid by Virgil: after a 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse—the emblem of Troy—and hid soldiers inside then pretended to leave. The horse was apparently left as a peace offering to the Trojans and to the goddess Athena to ensure safe passage home. Despite the priest Loacoon’s warning—“Don’t trust the horse! I fear Greeks, even those bearing gifts”—the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the elite force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the army, which had hidden under cover of night. The Greeks won the conflict as a result of this brilliant subterfuge. This is why malicious computer programs that trick users into running them as useful or interesting are called Trojan Horses.

Today, the Trojan Horse that stands in front of ancient Troy (Truva) symbolizes vigilant peace and freedom. It is a daily reminder to thousands of tourists of the power of deception in the guise of candy-coated “truths”. The ancient Greeks cleverly subverted a noble symbol of honor, grace and power through crafty deception. The noble Wooden Horse, like any symbol, is only as good as those who embrace its original truths and noble meanings. Think swastika, the pentagram, the cross.

Were you born in the year of the horse?

Horse years include: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, and 1906. Horse people are bright, cheerful, popular and fun loving (big giant grin). People born in the Year of the Horse are smart fabulous speakers who have a gift for getting through to other people. They find people and crowds exciting and love parties. Hehe… Horse’s childish innocence, sunny disposition, and natural charm attract many friends. HAR! I'm loving this...The horse is a very intuitive animal; horse-people follow their hunches. Luckily our keen judgment and natural intuition help us make the right decisions with those crazy hunches.

Rules constrain the proud horse that needs freedom to run. Horse people are quick-witted and right there with you before you’ve had a chance to finish what you’re saying. Horses are elegant, beautiful and highly intuitive animals. Horse people are frank and will tell you exactly what is on their mind; they dislike hidden agendas. 

The horse is complex and paradoxical: considered proud yet sweet-natured, arrogant yet oddly modest in their approach to love, envious but tolerant, conceited yet humble. They want to belong, yet they need to be independent. They crave intimacy, yet refuse to be corralled or tamed. One astrologer tells us that “The Horse will give up everything for love.”

According to astrologists, if you were born in 1954 (like me) or your child will be born in 2014, the influence of Wood Element provides the Wood Horse with more patience and creativity than the other Horse signs. While other members of the Horse sign are burdened with indecisiveness, the Wood Horse can pick a direction in life and work towards a clear goal. The Wood Horse takes this determination into her personal relationships, to which she is heavily committed. With gifts of understanding and a calm demeanor, the Wood Horse is very successful in cooperative social situations.

The Wood Horse remains adventurous and isn’t afraid to commit fully to the unknown.

What does it all mean for You and Me?...

OK. So, what does all of this have to do with you, 2014 and the Year of the Horse? Why, nothing… Perhaps everything.

It depends on whether you are mindful of the symbols around you; whether you think and write metaphorically; whether you are fanciful and whimsical; whether you appreciate the ancient wisdom of humanity and its link to the divine… Whatever your inclination, I wish you a wonderful and productive year of transformation and wonderful surprises. I for one am looking forward to 2014. I’ve embraced it as my year with its spontaneous “horse” energy for fast action and flow—my style, actually.  

I expect no middle ground. It’s a year of extremes, strong fluctuations, general chaos and great opportunity. A time of fast victories and unexpected adventure. A year to travel, especially off the beaten path. A year to connect with Nature and embrace Gaia’s radiant energy. Decisive action, not procrastination, brings victory. But you have to act fast to catch up with this horse.

I was born in the year of a Wood Horse. The colour associated with the Wood element is green, one
of my two favorite colours. It is associated with Spring, when I was born. Spring represents new growth and beginnings; I feel it in the air in my new career teaching at university and college and other pursuits and developments currently in my life. Wood is nourished by water; since I was a child I have been attracted to water. I started a book about water last year (the year of the water snake). It is half-written and I will finish it—and get it published—this year. I’m turning 60 this April, another fire month known for impulse, high energy, leadership and spirit. These traits are so close to Horse traits, it makes me dizzy with excitement.

Horse energy is pure unbridled spirit. Playful, wild, and independent. Horse has a refined instinct that flows through action and movement. Leap. Fly. Follow your instincts. Chase your dream. Catch it by the tail. Finish that novel. Send it off. Present that proposal. Go to that convention. Meet that publisher or agent. Assert your honesty and openness. The horse demands it.

I wish you an exciting and wonderful 2014!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nina Munteanu Teaching SF Writing Course at University of Toronto

My SF Writing Course at the University of Toronto (Continuing Ed) starts February 5th. The course runs every Wednesday night from 6:30 to 9pm from Feb 5 until March-end.

Register soon! Registration closes soon...

Go to this link for information on how to register for my SF course.

The course covers essential elements of science fiction writing such as:

  • defining and knowing the genre
  • world-building
  • premise, idea and theme
  • plot approaches & hero's journey
  • creating believable scenarios and characters
  • balancing believability with imagination
  • storyboarding and story promise
  • research

The course runs in a workshop-style; this includes interactive lecture using students' WIPs and relevant homework assignments.

See you there!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Writing Workshops in 2014

For those of you in the Toronto area, my series of monthly 2014 writing workshops is kicking off with "the Hero's Journey" Workshop on January 25th.

My monthly 2-hr workshops will continue on the last Saturday of each month from 6-8 pm (exceptions are May 24th and hiatus in July and August). The workshops explore some aspect of writing craft, marketing or promotion. Check out the schedule below.


We've changed the venue for the workshop series. For those of you following the series, workshops are now being held at the Flight Cafe (In Direct Flight) on 1382 Queen St. Toronto (Leslieville). The time, cost and schedule remains the same.

Workshops cost $30.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Visiting My Painting on Vancouver Island

rainforest behind Anne's house
When artist Anne Moody invited me to her place on Vancouver Island “to visit my painting”, I jumped at the chance.

Anne is a gifted artist whose works have graced the covers of several Starfire/Pixl Press books. “My Painting” illustrates the cover of my first short story collection about evolution and technology: “NaturalSelection”. The painting, aptly named “Mere Tranquility”, sits on the mantle of Anne’s inner room fireplace, looking very comfortable, despite the fact that I consider it mine. It was a gestalt Zen moment for me to stand there, gazing at the painting on the mantle and then to the book Natural Selection in my hand with the image of the painting on the cover. All rather pleasing, somewhat otherworldly, fractal and transcending.
Salt water marsh of Witty's Lagoon

Visiting my painting came with a lot of perks. I had the chance to visit Anne and husband Bob in their lovely home, nestled in the west coast rainforest of Metchosin, just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and a 30 minute drive from Victoria. Their property backs onto a lush grotto of cedar, Douglas fir, hemlock, yew, Oregon grape and sword fern. Their dog Siko loves to roam there. Maya, their stunning grey cat, prefers to hunt indoors, chasing my crumpled pieces of paper.

It’s a good life.

Arbutus tree
We sat over good food and wine well into the night, discussing art, ecology and animal behavior (we’re all biologists), why some people live in Toronto and climate change.

The second day I was there, Anne and I took our cameras and walked part of the Lagoon Trail of Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park. We entered the 56-hectare park from the Tower Point entrance via Olympic View Drive and Anne showed me her favorite plein air painting places.

The park encompasses several protected ecosystems including tidal lagoon, sandy beach, rocky shore, and mixed woodland. The regional park is home to an impressive and diverse fauna and flora that supported over 160 documented species.
Salt water marsh of Witty's Lagoon
It was a bracing day. The cool sea breeze brought the scent of forest and loam. We took Siko along and covered several ecosystems in our walk. It started with open salt marsh, overlooked by the fiery orange and green Arbutus and gnarly Garry Oak on the rocks. We then plunged into the darker, “cooler” greens of mixed coniferous forest of Douglas fir, yew, and cedar. The spicy sea air gave way to the fresh dank smells of fresh loam, moss and fern.

This is a great place to bird watch. We heard the haunting shrill of an eagle flying overheard. The tidal flats bring in the Great Blue Heron and the Western Sandpiper. The deeper forest is home to the Belted Kingfisher, warblers, juncos and many more songbirds.

The invigorating walk ended with an elegant meal (Anne keeps a fresh organic garden complete with two types of kale). The first course was a Tuscan soup in a tomato broth, with kale, beans, potato with homemade and smoked Andouille sausage.  That was followed by a barbecued Coho salmon, wild rice cakes, and creamed spinach laced with Pernod—sorry Anne! The secret’s out! It was delicious!

I ended the meal with a Maker’s Mark single barrel Bourbon. Since visiting Louisville KY and the Kentucky Derby with friend Toulouse LeTrek, I’ve been a Bourbon-gal.

Thanks, Anne and Bob!

Oh, and please keep “My Painting” safe… until next time I come to visit it...

Best Wishes Everyone for a very Happy New Year!

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.