The Chinese year of the Black Water Dragon—2012, began January 23rd, and ends on February 9, 2013. The last time it was a Black Water Dragon year was 60 years ago in 1952. Black Water Dragon years are meant to “cool things down.” The Dragon is the fifth symbol in the Chinese zodiac.
Before you roll your eyes about all of this astrology business, keep in mind the example of the year President Obama was elected…the year of the Earth Ox, or water buffalo. Chinese astrologers predicted that the elected president would be one who was born during an Ox year (he was born the year of the Metal Ox), and President Obama was also elected during an Ox year. Astrologers claim that the Ox succeeds in a slow-and-steady process.
In addition to the Chinese zodiac animal, there is also an element (water, fire, earth, metal, wood) attached to each zodiac animal year, as well as a color, attributing more specific characteristics to that year. Historically, there were 9 types of Chinese dragons, which were regarded as demi-gods because they were believed to be a source of rain. This also meant that dragons were the cause of floods. Dragons play an important role in Chinese mythology. For instance, one of their river deities, Pi-hsi, is part tortoise, part dragon, and its ruling element is water. Another mythological dragon was born out of aquatic weeds. Different colored dragons foretold different weather patterns, for example, a black dragon predicted storms. The color black, when applied to a dragon year, gives it a mysterious, unpredictable quality. As applied to water, black water years signify storms, flooding and other “dark water” – water heavily loaded with sediment can be dark.
What about other water dragons? Water dragons appear in mythology and folklore all over the world. For example, in the Seneca Nation in the U.S. and in Canada, there is a story about a giant serpent-like dragon with antlers or the horns of a buffalo. He’s a formidable dragon, however, he’s been known to rescue women in some of the stories. The piasa bird is a North American dragon associated with modern folklore along the Mississippi River. This dragon was a man-eater, which arose out of stories in the 1830s. Another water dragon shows up in Pueblo stories across Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona—a Water Serpent tied to water disasters and fertility.
Among the predictions for 2012, Chinese astrologers foresee that it will be a year of peace and prosperity…and not the end of the world. Because dragons are associated with water flow, floods and rain, water dragon years are also called “Water Dam” years, as connected with the building and maintenance of dams and flood control. At the very least, Black Water Dragon years are never dry for the entire year; wetlands may stay wet during dry seasons, according to the myth. In particular, a water-related disaster is predicted for late 2012. Some predictions imply that dams will need to be checked carefully, otherwise they may fail, and land will be either hydrated or flooded. Overall 2012 looks like a year of great creativity and stormy weather, with a strong water influence, and possible flooding events (such as those caused by hurricanes). Whenever someone says, “expect the unexpected,” or forecasts stormy weather and possible flooding, it is prudent to sharpen our tools and be ready for anything. For more information on watersheds, floodplains and floods, check out ASWM’s watershed resources on the Mississippi River flood, the Natural Floodplains Functions Alliance and natural hazards. And may it indeed be a peaceful year.