Year of the Sheep – 2015
We are about to begin another year under the Chinese (and other Oriental cultures’) calendar. This will be the year of the Sheep or Goat or Ram. The first consideration, then, is which animal is the correct one for the year. There is no easy answer to that question, however.
As I understand it, in Chinese, symbol for this year’s animal is , which is pronounced “yang.” It is used for either a sheep or goat as it literally means a ruminant animal with horns on its head. Within that category are several wild animals and two which are domesticated – the sheep (mianyang or “cotton yang”) and the goat (shanyang or “mountain yang”). A ram can be either one, so that term is sometimes used to refer to this year. In Japan, there are separate characters for “sheep” and “goat,” and this is clearly the Year of the Sheep in that country. There are also separate characters in Vietnam, where this is unmistakeably the Year of the Goat.
It is confusing for us Westerners. For this discussion, we will refer to the coming lunar year as a “Year of the Sheep.” Most people know that the years in the Chinese zodiac cycle through twelve different animals. Additionally, each of those animal years cycle through affinities to the five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. This will be the Year of the Wood Sheep, which occurs every 60 years. In 2015, the new year begins with the full moon that occurs on the afternoon of February 18th in the United States, and the morning of February 19th in China.
In this post, I will be making some predictions as to what may occur during the next year. I am not holding myself out as having any extraordinary psychic powers. I am no more or no less psychic than you are – and that is true whether you are Suzy Skeptic who does not believe in the existence of anything “paranormal” or you are the world’s top psychic or astrologer (whomever that may be be at the moment).
The approach here is to assume that there are historical cycles such as those recognized by the Chinese zodiac, and then look at what has occurred in previous Sheep years. With that historical perspective, we should be able to extrapolate and predict what may occur during the next few months. That approach has been remarkably accurate in the past. I do admit that I was wrong in my prediction for the 2014 Super Bowl, but it was because I ignored the data. Anyway, since that game involved the Seattle Seahawks, I feel we can just “pass” on that here in 2015.
Sheep are docile animals which gather in herds and are basically friendly and trusting. They present a completely different kind of energy than the wild excitement of the horse during the past year. Accordingly, the world should be a little more peaceful and there should be at least a semblance of international cooperation in the months ahead. Sometimes, though, the herd instinct brings people or groups together that do not naturally belong together and problems can result.
Let me give a few examples. The Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I in the Sheep year 1919, though that treaty was never ratified by the United States. The U.S. did sign separate treaties with the combatants and kept an international focus with the establishment of the League of Nations. That organization was intended to join all major countries for the express purpose of preventing future wars. Unfortunately, it did not achieve that purpose and it ceased to exist when the United Nations was established following World War II.
1955 was a Sheep Year. It was the most recent Year of the Wood Sheep, and that year the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries formed the Warsaw Pact to counteract the perceived threat from NATO. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (“SEATO”) was also came into existence that year as a mechanism for the United States and its allies to try to contain Communist China. In both cases, the herd was made up of members that did not naturally belong together and neither organization lasted for long. In fact, the Warsaw Pact was formally dissolved during another Sheep year – 1991. Then during the next Sheep year, 2003, most of the former Warsaw Pact members and other newly freed Eastern European republics joined the European Union.
Last year, Russia, as predicted, was a central actor in many world events. While Russia will continue to be important to the events of the coming year, it seems that the main focus will shift to China and to East and Southeast Asia. In previous Sheep years we have seen the U.S. 7th Fleet help to evacuate the Chinese Nationalist Army to Formosa in 1955, which was also the year in which the war between North and South Vietnam began. In 1967, the Cambodian Civil War began, the United States was actively engaged in the Vietnam War and hundreds of people were killed or injured during riots in Hong Kong. In 1979, China invaded Vietnam, triggering the brief Sino-Vietnamese War. Then in 1991, South Korea’s president was forced to resign after riots protesting the beating death of a student by police in that country. While 2003 saw an agreement between India and China with respect to the status of Tibet, North Korea threatened the peace of the region by restarting its nuclear plant, testing missiles and intercepting an American surveillance plane over the Sea of Japan. It would not be surprising for North Korea to cause disruption during the coming year.
Sheep years have often brought natural disasters. In 1931, floods in China caused the greatest loss of life of any natural disaster since at least the time of Noah, with deaths of more than 4 million. That same year, nearly 200 were killed in a Nicaraguan earthquake. In 1967, hundreds died in floods and landslides in Japan, and many more in Lisbon, Portugal’s flooding. There were also serious earthquakes in Venezuela, resulting in hundreds of more deaths. During the most recent Year of the Sheep, 2003 more than 2,200 people died in an Algerian earthquake and more than 40,000 in a massive earthquake that struck Iran.
The United States has also suffered from Sheep year disasters. The most widespread series of earthquakes ever to hit this country were those centered around New Madrid, Missouri which began in late 1811. The area was sparsely populated, so damage to humans was limited, but the potential for large earthquakes in that part of the Midwest remains. In May of 2003, the U.S. experienced more tornadoes in one week than at any time in recorded history.
Nature may be expected to again show its power in the upcoming Year of the Sheep. It seems likely that China could suffer serious floods and at least one major earthquake. Iran may be due for another large earthquake, and this could be a year with some severe weather in South Florida. Keep in mind, too that it was the Sheep year 1991 when the “Perfect Storm” hit the Northeast United States causing over $100 million in damages and killing several people; and that same year the “Halloween Blizzard” caused another $100 million in damages and additional deaths in the Midwest.
Several commentators have noted that Sheep years tend to bring an end to wars. That is true to some extent. As mentioned, World War I ended in a Sheep year, as did the Second Congo War which had caused perhaps 5 million deaths over a the period from 1998 to 2003 and the Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895 (another Year of the Wood Sheep). Other wars, though, continued right along, like World War II in 1943 and the Vietnam War in 1967. Some wars even began in Sheep years, such as the Cuban War for Independence in 1895 and the Salvadoran Civil War in 1979. The American invasion of Iraq occurred in 2003.
Over the next year, I would expect more calm and less war, though “civil wars” may crop up or continue as nationalist or religious groups seek to secure themselves in their own “herds.” As the sole superpower in the modern world, the United States is going to be drawn into and play a significant role in bringing an end to ongoing conflicts and preventing smaller “civil wars” from spreading. In doing so, the United States will need to make agreements and form alliances with various parties – one of which may be Iran. The Iran Hostage Crisis began during a Sheep year, 1979, so Iran is due back in the spotlight this year.
Unfortunately, it does not seem that we can expect peace in the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli 6-Day War occurred during 1he 1967 Sheep year, and in 1895 some 3,000 Armenians were burned alive by Ottoman troops. “Generational memories” such as those have not been erased from the cultural consciousness of the region, and the fighting is going to continue until they someday are.
American President Barack Obama seems to be healthy, but he is cautioned to watch his physical condition this year, as Sheep years have been hard on presidents. In 1919 Woodrow Wilson suffered a serious stroke; in 1955 Dwight Eisenhower suffered a coronary thrombosis while on vacation in Denver.
Turning to the economy, it is popular for pundits to prognosticate probabilities per presidential election cycles. The popular wisdom is that the stock market will rise in the year before an American presidential election. Every Sheep year falls in the that year before the election, and in most of those years the market has gone up. Sometimes there were large increases, like 1919, 1943 and 1955 when the gains were 23%, 26% and 32%. In other 1931, however, there was a 41% drop in the market. The last four Sheep years have seen small gains in 1967 (1%), 1979 (2%) and 1996 (9%); and a small loss (-2%) in 2003. I would expect a small gains this year, with less volatility than in recent months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average should move above 19,000 this Spring and the S&P 500 should top 2,100.
Since 1955, the unemployment rate has risen slightly in two Sheep years (1991 and 2003), has dropped slightly in two others (1955 and 1979) and was unchanged in 1967. I would not expect a great deal of change in that rate during the coming months.
Since Sheep years are times when people generally want to settle down and start or spend time with their families, the coming year should be positive for real estate.
Precious metal prices are harder to predict because gold, especially, was price-controlled until 1968. Gold prices did increase 50% in 1979 and 20% in 2003, but they decreased slightly in 1991. The prices will probably increase this coming year, possibly by a significant amount.
Sheep years have not only seen nations joining together, as mentioned above. There have also been significant “herd instincts” demonstrated in business matters. In 1955, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations joined to create the AFL-CIO; and in 1967, McDonnell-Douglas was created by the merger of McDonnell Aircraft and Douglas Aircraft. We should look for mergers involving electronic companies in the coming year; and this should be a good time for industries dealing with textiles, paper and wood.
One company that bears watching this year is McDonald’s. Its first restaurant opened in the Sheep year 1955 and the Happy Meal was introduced in the Sheep year 1979. The company may have a surprise waiting for us soon. It should also be a good year for Apple, which is named after a tree and for Walt Disney.
I don’t want to leave the finance discussion without looking briefly at the Wood Sheep year of 1895. That was the year of the first big-bank bailout for an entity that was “too large to fail.” In that instance, though, the big banks, acting through Mr. J. P. Morgan, bailed out the United States. The country had been in a serious depression since 1895, and gold reserves had dwindled dangerously. The U.S. had started to issue bills as silver certificates, but those were not well accepted. It seemed inevitable that there would be a run on the Treasury’s gold reserves and the country would default in payment. That is when Mr. Morgan and his banking buddies stepped in. The banks agreed to give the government the gold it needed in exchange for bonds which would be repaid over the next several years, with interest at a rate that was extremely favorable to the banks. Consequently, the U.S. did not default. The economy turned better that year and continued to improve for several more years. Do not be surprised if there should be some “major” financial event shaping markets after mid-year.
In matters of personal finance, bear in mind that Sheep are sometimes too trusting. We should all look carefully at investments and major purchases, or we may end up getting “fleeced.”
I think we will see that 2015 is going to be a good year for arts, literature, ideas and technology. Previous Sheep years have brought us books Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lolita, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Sophie’s Choice and One Hundred Years of Solitude; movies like Frankenstein, Lady and the Tramp, Blackboard Jungle and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; and television shows such as Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Prisoner.
The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album was released in 1967, and that same year over 400 million viewers watched the Beatles sing “All You Need is Love” on the first ever international satellite television broadcast.
1991 saw the beginning of the World Wide Web project and the first website was created. Disneyland opened in 1955, and the eradication of smallpox was confirmed in 1979. However, technology has not always been beneficial in Sheep years, for 1979 was also the year of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
In this Year of the Sheep, we may expect to be entertained and amazed by the creativity of many wonderful people; but, again, let us try not to be too trusting. Look to the environmental impact of new or improved technologies and to the side effects of new pharmaceuticals.
I know that by this point many Colorado readers are saying, “Enough already about wars and floods and earthquakes. What about Peyton Manning? Is he going to play to next year, or what?” So, okay, let’s look at that.
Peyton Manning was born on March 24, 1976, during the Year of the Dragon. During Sheep years it is best for Dragon people to relax and rejuvenate, and it is a time when they should watch their health – all of which would indicate that Peyton may be thinking he should hang up his cleats. However, Dragons intensely dislike major changes in their environment during Sheep years.
Peyton’s environment has always centered around football. His father Archie was an NFL quarterback, so Peyton has seen the locker room as the center of his world since he was a baby. From that point of view, he must certainly want to continue playing – and the fact that he is guaranteed $19 million to continue is a great incentive.
Since Peyton is one of the few NFL players who was active during the most recent Sheep year, 2003, it is instructive to look back to see what happened then. Peyton was the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. In the previous year, 2002, the Colts started very strongly before struggling in mid-season. They finished 10-6 and made the playoffs, but were blown out 41-0 by the New York Jets in their first playoff game. Does that sound familiar, Broncos’ fans?
The next year, which was the Sheep year, the Colts again had a great start, winning their first five games. They also finished strong, ending the season with a 12-4 record. In the playoffs, they beat the Broncos 41-10 and beat the Kansas City Chiefs 38-31. They eventually lost to the New England Patriots (though nobody probably thought to check the footballs’ inflation), but Peyton Manning was selected the league’s most valuable player for the season.
The big difference between now and 2003 is that he accomplished all of those things with a 27-year old body. Whatever happens in 2015 will have to be done with a 39-year old body. There is a big difference, but my best guess is that Peyton will be back to play this season and he will play quite well.
In your personal life, you should find that Sheep years are generally quiet and that cautious action and prudent behavior is rewarded. If you have been thinking of moving or remodeling a home this would be a good time to do it, after appropriate planning. You will probably feel that you should be saving more, but you may find that it is just too easy to spend during the year, especially to spend on loved ones. It will be a good year to travel and to slow down and enjoy life. Green is the luckiest color, and purple is also positive.
Some health problems are possible, and some of the year’s travel may be for reasons relating to health. Various forms of alternative medicine will gain popularity over the year, and they are certainly worth considering. Everyone should be careful of what is put into their bodies, be it drugs, alcohol, prescriptions or junk food, as liver problems seem to proliferate in Sheep years, as do problems with the gall bladder, including gall stones. In keeping with the quiet and harmony that should predominate, this would be a good year to begin a meditation practice.
Back in 2012, which was the Year of the Dragon, there were folks worried that the world would end, based on misinterpretations of the Mayan calendar. I predicted then – correctly, as it turned out – that the world would not end. I have also correctly made that prediction in the two years since. I feel the same way this year, and I will categorically predict that the world will not end during the Year of the Sheep. I feel strongly enough about this that I promise that if I am wrong I will not write any predictions for the year of the Monkey which will begin on February 8, 2016.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I do not believe that you are any less psychic than I am. If any of your predictions are different from what I have put forth, please share them or keep them private – whatever you think is best.
Gong xi fa cai!, as they say in Mandarin. Happy New Year!