A calculator can’t deal with a cusp but a human can.
This thought has been hanging around since I had a series of conversations first with my son Joe, and then with my husband Peter, about the time it takes to draft a ba zi. It takes me hours to draft a full ba zi. You see, I draft by hand whereas many feng shui people use a calculator. I can’t come up with a fully drafted set of data as quickly as a calculator can but the more I draft the more I retain the methods of calculation in my brain. Once the calculation becomes familiar the mind is freed up for making new connections. It might not sound like much but it takes years to become adept with this kind of stuff.
Perhaps that is why Peter and Joe aren’t the first to come to the conclusion that calculating is better left to software and humans are only needed for the interpretation of the output. I’ve seen pages of data that cover a person’s entire lifetime generated by Chinese ba zi calculators that pinpoint lucky and unlucky ages, clashes, combinations, and other such minutiae. So why draft by hand?
I’m committed to drafting by hand because it arouses my curiosity and empathy. No matter what the ba zi says I begin to care about the person. Drafting by hand counters my linear and mechanical side and opens me to the Tao. When I make mistakes in my drafting I notice that they are usually calling attention to something important. To sum it up, I get better results when I draft than I do when I try to read from a calculator.
For a feng shui professional, certainly using a calculator scales better because you can make more money in less time. If that’s what you wanted you’d have to design one based on your own way of calculating. To be clearer, there are three possible charts when calculating my ba zi: one that acknowledges a cusp, one that doesn’t, and one that uses lunar months instead of solar. I’m sure there are other methods I haven’t learned.
That there are at least three different possible calculations for a ba zi might sound fishy in theory, but in practice the interpretation of each one is not dramatically different – what changes is the emphasis. People who read ba zi learn to use the method that emphasizes what they see as important. The clients they attract will probably have similar values. There’s nothing sneaky about it. No one is wrong when it’s a question of preference. My preference is to free your mind so the rest can follow. I want to help people get unstuck so they can be who they want to be.
Some feng shui people prefer not to recognize a cusp, maybe because the cusp is very much like the horns of a dilemma (from Greek meaning two premises). It’s a little uncomfortable to consider because no one can really have two different year branches. Ultimately, a decision has to be made and that may slow down the process. Calculators don’t raise that issue.
In mathematics the cusp can be defined as a curve that resembles each horn of the crescent moon. I don’t know how that hits you but to me it says there’s something hidden or yin about a cusp. Hathor comes to mind:
In Egyptian mythology Hathor, actually seven Hathors, would arrive at the birth of a child to impart the child’s fate, future and even the hour of death. The seven Hathors were also known to exchange a pauper born with a lucky fate for a prince born with an unlucky fate in order to protect a dynasty. Under the Greek rule of Egypt, the seven Hathors were identified as the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters. Not the ones in the Ivy League. My Bryn Mawr education in Classics still comes in handy at times for making bad jokes. But I digress.
In astrology a cusp is a useful marker. Like that first late summer morning in Seattle where you can smell the ocean again tells you fall is coming, a cusp tells you the wind is shifting. You’ll probably need both sunglasses and a sweater for the following weeks.
A cusp is where one phase is ending and another phase is beginning. We mark the beginning of seasons with specific dates in specific months but the actual change from summer to fall occurs over a prolonged period. It doesn’t happen overnight. Still, there are years where it feels abrupt. That in itself illustrates what the cusp is like. A cusp signals two (or more) possible nuances. It’s about what is coming next but also about the immediate past.
But back to calculators vs. drafting by hand – what difference does it make if the person reading your ba zi uses a calculator or not? Let’s look at a real life example.
Recently you may have heard in the news about the tragic death of Emeline Miller, the 19 month old daughter of Morgan and Bode. Her birthday is November 5, 2016. Because her death was by drowning the first thing that came to mind was that the Pig was probably her Mong San. I also suspected there might be a Pig in her four pillars.
Mong San, also sometimes called the Hidden Star, Death Star, or Death Angel, indicates the hidden danger of an element (i.e. wood, fire, earth, metal, water) based on a person’s birth information. Mong San is not a predictor. I would call it a warning. There’s no reason to be scared of information that allows you to pursue what you want to have happen. If you have metal Mong San being a chef may not be a great idea. All those knives!
Knowing a child’s Mong San is just one of many helpful applications of ba zi. Who do we want to protect more than our children?
When a ba zi is expressing the same “theme” in different ways, that’s when you know you’re onto something. The year, month, day and probably hour of her accident trigger a timing factor in Emeline’s ba zi that changes her Metal to Water. A yin metal stem person in the presence of tons of fire with a water Mong San – looks like a possible drowning to me.
Emmeline Miller Ba Zi
birthday: November 5, 2016 hour unknown
It turns out that the Pig is her Mong San as I thought, but there’s not a Pig in her ba zi unless it’s in the hour. That seems unlikely as I’m pretty sure she was born in the morning. There’s no Pig in her Big Fate. So how does the Pig factor into this?
Emeline’s birthdate is only 2 days off the cusp between the Dog month and the Pig month. If you use the lunar month she is firmly in the Pig month. The dates that begin and end the Pig month vary depending on whether you are using lunar or solar months. When the birthdate is close to the cusp of the month, considering the lunar month in addition to the solar is helpful. A calculator only displays one or the other.
My point here is that an experienced feng shui person could have alerted Morgan and Bode to the magnitude of the danger of water in Emeline’s case. A human will note the Pig’s proximity in the month where a calculator would make nothing of it. A calculator can tell you that the next Pig year is 2019, the next Pig month is from November 7 at 20:54 – December 7 at 13:30, and the next Pig day is August 11. A calculator can even tell you that adjusting for daylight savings time the next Pig hour is from 10-midnight tonight, but it cannot deal with a cusp.
Again, why is this important? Because for Emeline, the Pig is the water Mong San. That means the perils of water are greater for her than they may be for others. When she is around small bodies of water such as hot tubs, bath tubs, and swimming pools she is at greater than normal risk of drowning. This means Emeline’s parents needed to take extra special care with bathing and swimming. I’m sure they used caution and common sense, just as any loving parent would.
What if Morgan and Bode could have used the uncommon sense that is hidden in the ba zi? Could Emeline’s death could have been prevented?
Nothing is certain, but I think her chances would have been better had her parents known how great the risk was for her. I think they would have wanted to know. Knowing in advance means you can choose what you want to do about it.
I wish I had known while I was still pregnant that my daughter Ella would need life saving surgery as soon as she was born and that there was a condition that would most likely lead to her premature birth. As it happened it was three days after she was born before anyone figured out that she needed surgery to survive. By that time her lungs were already damaged. In those hours, days, and months the worst moments came when I was considering how I could have prevented the situation and whether I should be blamed.
One morning, when I was in the hospital elevator on my way to visit Ella there were two women talking about the mother of another baby in the NICU.
“This is her fault you know. And now she doesn’t want to come and see the baby.”
If those women had known how much I also wanted to avoid feeling the pain of seeing my baby daughter suffering they might have said the same about me. I was luckier than Bode and Morgan because Ella survived. I hope they will be able to forgive themselves and each other. To be honest I’m not sure if I could.
I do know that when our hearts are breaking it’s our nature to look for a target to blame. But if healing is what we want then blame is taking us in the wrong direction. My feng shui studies are an ongoing lesson about that.