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The wild geese at the shore

There’s a lot going on in the first line of Hexagram 53:

‘Wild geese gradually advance to the shore.
The small child, danger,
There are words,
No mistake.’

This is the first stage in the journey of the wild geese as they gradually draw close to their natural home. Now they are just reaching the border and coming into their own space. Why is there a small child here, though, and why is it dangerous for him, and what are the words about?

For me, the ‘small child’ has always brought to mind a young bird making its family’s traditional migration for the first time, not yet knowing the ways of the old home territory. But it occurs to me that a story by Rudyard Kipling casts a much stronger, more focussed light on the line.

In his Jungle Book, Kipling attributes this custom to the wolf pack:

“As soon as his cubs are old enough to stand on their feet [the wolf] must bring them to the Pack Council, which is generally held once a month at full moon, in order that the other wolves may identify them. After that inspection the cubs are free to run where they please, and until they have killed their first buck no excuse is accepted if a grown wolf of the Pack kills one of them.”

So Mowgli is brought along with the wolf cubs to the Council Rock, where the leader calls ‘Look well, O Wolves!’  And you can read the whole story at Project Gutenberg, O Best Beloved.

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