Floods, I Ching and the Return of the Isle of Glastonbury

Wednesday January 8th 2014
Port Meadow, Oxford this morning. The water level is still rising.

First rain and snow, then floods. The old gods.

Thousands of years ago, we’d have thrown iron into the water to propitiate them, or maybe sacrificed a white bull.

Today we gaze at screens. There’s awe but surely it’s not the same. We have insurance claims to think of and planes to catch.

We’ve had a lot of extreme weather in the last decade – and much of it has been a reminder of the fierce power of water on our blue planet – Katrina, the tsunami, Fukushima.

This country has old and accurate records of weather going back to the 17th century. But the Met Office only compares from 1914 onward. According to them the wettest years in the last 100 are.

2000 – 1,337.3mm
2012 – 1,330.7mm
1954 – 1,309.1mm
2008 – 1,295.0mm
2002 – 1,283.7mm

Here in Oxford, the Met record began in 1853 — Neptune was in Pisces back then too, of course. In January 1853, there were 62.8mm of rain recorded here; this past December we’ve had 112mm or so. And it just keeps on coming.

You could argue that this year was bound to be wet, with Jupiter, the planet of expansion, in watery Cancer, and currently retrograde, Neptune the god of the sea in his home sign of Pisces, and Saturn, the god of retribution, in Scorpio the third water sign. The North Node is there too, of course, and Lilith, she of the wilderness, is also in Cancer.

But if you check the ephemeris for all these years, it’s hard to link up anything astrologically. You can probably imagine a whole array of watery combinations that might bring floods. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. In 2000, which was sopping, none of the outer planets were in a water sign, nor were Lilith or either Node.

Nebamun fowling in the marshes. The High Dam
at Aswan has done away with this sport.

Not so long ago the wild was oceans, forests, deserts, mountains — and marsh. The marshes are almost gone, but looking out at Port Meadow, which lies on the edge of Oxford, one of the last pieces of common ground left in England, I couldn’t help wondering if marsh could make a comeback. That would make Ely and Glastonbury islands again. Holland would be Swampland. There’s a thought.

But it’s not just in Europe that marshes have disappeared. According to the WWF, half of the world’s wetlands have vanished since 1900. The recent typhoon in the Phillipines wrought such havoc partly because so much of the coastal wetlands in that archipelago have gone in the last 30 years, so there was nowhere to soak up that water.

The Chinese Book of Changes, the I Ching, uses combinations of eight trigrams to answer any question you choose to pose it. These trigrams describe, among other things, the ancient Chinese view of the division of the known world.

They are often translated thus

Marsh or Lake

As soon as you start playing with esoteric systems, it’s hard not to start matching them with astrology. With eight trigrams, you can see that you might be able to attribute a particular planet to a trigram, say thus:


Sun, Moon and Earth are actually attributed to these trigrams within the I Ching. The rest are up for debate. Click here to read an excellent attempt to match I Ching to Western Esotericism.  Personally, I find the I Ching too rigid and Saturnian to be relevant – all that talk of princes and submissive spouses. I wonder what would happen though if one recast the system in the light of modern astrology.

Ooo that would make the purists cross!

The Thames at Wolvercote on Christmas Day.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Christina,

    “Holland would be swampland” ?????
    I definitely don’t think so, not with the Dutch.
    God created the world, but the Dutch built Holland, we have our dikes and we keep them in shape !! However, with the waves as high as this last week I hope they will keep protecting us.

    Meanwhile, my feelings go to the British people; Neptune and Jupiter are really getting at you. I hope the rest of the year is going to be a lot better!


    • Christina says:

      Me too! I love astrology. Although tarot is OK for questions.

    • Anonymous says:

      in the past i’ve been trying I Ching, Tarot and even Rhunes, but they don’t appeal to me, I prefer astrology above all !


    • Anonymous says:

      I see what you mean – it would mean a whole different life ! It could be fun, but …………

      what would the British do if in future all winters would be like this ? Are you going to cope with this every winter for the rest of your life ?
      Pluto and Uranus are stressing you to think about the future and what can be done to prevent people from drowning together with their houses.

      In Holland we are able to maintain our dikes along the coast, but experts have for a number of years already been thinking in different ways where the dikes along the rivers are concerned. We need to give space to the rivers and that means, that people living in the vicinity of the rivers will have to move or accept that they are flooded every few years. Already some “polders” have been chosen to act as an overflow for the rivers if we are having high waters coming from the rest of Europe (Switzerland / Germany / France and Belgium).
      Zipping around in coracles can be fun for a short while, but it’s not very practicle, is it?


    • Christina says:

      Oh that’s true. But I think it might be fun if we were all zipping around in coracles. Oxford would be a small hump in the middle of a marsh.

  2. Diane L says:

    I fiddled around with the I Ching a time or two & agree it is rather much. Liked your comment about the purists too. *snicker*

    Good post! 🙂

  3. I smiled when I read Mimi’s answer to this post because that is what I thought “God created the world, but the Dutch built Holland”.
    As regards marshes, I live near the sea and although the area I am living on was never a marsh but sea (2000 years ago) all around it has been a marsh but was “made” land by Mussolini (now housing expensive villas). With all the extreme rain we have been having in Lazio this area is continually flooded and people have died. I always said that the Earth has a strange way of reclaiming what should always be hers.
    Till now I have found no problem with the I Ching…

  4. Janetto says:

    My surname (Kersey), apart from being later derived from a village in Suffolk and its association with a cloth called kerseymere, means either island surrounded by cress or, in Cornish, a sacred enclosure/hill-fort on an island or an reed swamp – so I am rather liking the fact that I may be coming into my own, to speak, with these returning marshlands and islands!

  5. weaver says:

    oh dear. I commented and hit publish and now its telling me to comment (again).

    • Jamma says:

      Oh yes … I’ll trade you weeks of dry weather for a good rainstorm here in Northern California … so staticky the cats get zapped when I touch them!
      And there are wetlands in my town that need to be wetter …
      (Hmmm … maybe your Oxford Pisceans should come for a visit and bring rain!)

    • Christina says:

      I’m sending some over now. Parts of town are under water – and one bit is an island (again). It’s actually only not an island thanks to human intervention over 100s of years.

    • Anonymous says:

      As the I Ching itself says, “No going without a coming, no front without a back” and I would add “No flood without a drought.” Here in the Southwest US, we are in the midst of a prolonged dry spell. The Rio Grande is a pitiful puddle in my area. Yet people here keep wanting to build swimming pools…

      Still, I am hoping that conditions improve: a little less rain for you in the UK, and for us a good soaking!

    • Christina says:

      yes. just been in meetings with two web-designers to update the site – including the comments!

  6. weaver says:

    hi, Christina.. hope your meet with web-designers went well. but I have also learned that if I simply open my gmail account *before* I click over to your site, I do have the auto option to comment. so that’s down to me. 🙂
    anonymous commenter in the southwest: isn’t is Crazy how everybody feels they need their own pool when water is always in short supply? boggles the mind, here in Cyprus, where every home ‘needs’ a pool and golf courses are going up everywhere…

    re the I Ching: I believe in the universality of archetype energy but a key factor with the Chinese is that they raise their children in such a different culture. they face the infant/growing child inward while westerners face the child outwards (on mom’s lap initially and so on…). so this changes the perception frame (Saturn) feeding the mind, I can only suppose.