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    Post Blog post: Not knowing about dodder

    Hexagram 4 has an exceptionally clear, direct Oracle:
    ‘Not knowing, creating success.
    I do not seek the young ignoramus, the young ignoramus seeks me.
    The first consultation speaks clearly.
    The second and third pollute the waters,
    Polluted, and hence not speaking.
    Constancy bears fruit.’
    It’s often the one that gives people their first sense that Yi has a voice of its own and is talking to them, personally. And it’s a coherent message: the ignoramus is seeking answers, but asking again and again won’t help.
    At least, it’s coherent unless you read, for instance, Rutt’s translation:
    ‘Offering.
    “We do not seek the dodder, the dodder seeks us.”
    When the first divination is auspicious,
    repeated divinations are confusing, and are not auspicious.
    Favourable augury.’
    The same in Kunst’s thesis, and in Part II of Minford’s lovely book. As Minford explains (with a nice, long quotation), this idea is drawn from a 1933 essay by Arthur Waley. Legge said that tangmeng was ‘dodder’ (the name of the hexagram is meng); the Han dynasty dictionary/ glossary/ encyclopaedia Erya says that meng is equivalent to ‘dodder’. Waley was quite sure that ‘we do not seek the dodder, the dodder seeks us’ is a spell to ward off harm when you damage the plant.
    This all seems pretty unnecessary: the text makes perfect sense as a whole with ‘ignoramus’, whereas plants aren’t known for consulting the oracle themselves. It’s not like other re-readings – for instance, ‘piglet’ for ‘retreat’ in Hexagram 33.6 gives you ‘fat piglet’ instead of ‘fat – er, wait, I mean “enriched” – retreat’. (I’m still sticking with ‘retreat’ as making more sense overall, but I can see the point of the piglet, as it were.) Geoffrey Redmond sees no need for dodder; nor does Harmen. Nor do I, really… and yet…
    First, what actually is dodder, and what might it have meant to people?
    It’s a wholly parasitic plant: as soon as it germinates, the seedling senses the nearest green plant and grows towards it. (If it doesn’t reach a suitable host plant within a few days, it will die.) It twines around the host plant and sinks rootlets into its stem.
    Its own root now dies off, and it grows no leaves of its own – most species of dodder actually produce no chlorophyll – but grows fast, spreading from one host plant to the next. Soon, it forms a tangled mass of fine, twisting stems that covers the host plants. It flowers and sets seed. The seeds aren’t wind-borne, but carried between plants by animals and humans. (Modern farmers are warned of the dangers of carrying dodder seed between fields on their tools and boots.)
    Waley observes that parasitic, rootless plants (epiphytes) are regarded as sacred in other cultures – the obvious example is mistletoe. “The epiphyte, then, which has no roots of its own, is mysteriously nurtured by Heaven, and is therefore in touch with the secrets of Heaven. Hence its importance in rites of Divination.” Redmond points to a lack of evidence that dodder had such significance in China – but it is uncanny, the plant without roots that seems to appear from nowhere.
    Dodder is highly regarded in Chinese medicine as a treatment for osteoporosis, liver and kidney complaints, and as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps that’s why it’s the first plant the speaker/singer of Ode 48 plans to gather as he thinks of a willing girl:
    ‘I am going to gather the dodder
    In the village of Mei.
    Of whom do I think?
    Of the lovely Meng Jiang.
    She was to wait for me at Sang-Zhong,
    But she went all the way to Shang-gong
    And came with me to the banks of the Qi.’
    Dodder is also a serious threat to farmers. It will spread diseases between plants, sap their strength and greatly reduce crop yields. However, from what I’ve been able to discover, it mostly thrives on leguminous plants, and isn’t a serious problem on grains. The soya crop was under threat, but not the millet.
    Here’s how it looks:

    (Richard Sears also says that the original meaning of ‘meng’ was a kind of plant; the character consists of ‘cover’ with an animal beneath it, and the plant radical. A ‘covering plant’.)
    Let’s try a thought experiment, and try to substitute ‘dodder’ for ‘ignoramus’ in the line texts, translate the rest accordingly, and see if they hold together.
    Line 1:
    ‘Sending out the ignoramus,
    Fruitful to make use of punishing people,
    To make use of loosening fetters and manacles.
    Going on in that way is shameful.’
    Now… the verb here is fa and means literally an arrow fired from the bow, and more generally ‘send out, distribute, expand’. Waley suggested that this referred to pulling the dodder free from its host plant. Perhaps it does. However, spreading, distributing, developing, expanding, arrow-from-a-bow – that sounds more like action of the rapidly-growing plant to me. So let’s try,
    ‘Spreading dodder
    Fruitful to make use of convicts,
    To make use of loosening fetters and manacles.
    Going on in that way is shameful.’
    Maybe we need the convicts’ labour to clear the spreading dodder, and must loosen their shackles enough that they can work. Or maybe the epiphyte is an image for the convicts: each has flourished by parasitising others, but now we can put them to use, and not allow their spread to continue.
    Line 2:
    ‘Bagging dodder, good fortune.
    Receiving a wife, good fortune.
    The son governs the home.’
    Bagged dodder is valuable medicine – not least as an aphrodisiac.
    Line 3:
    ‘Don’t take this woman.
    She sees a man of bronze,
    And there is no self.
    No direction bears fruit.’
    There is no meng in this line. Waley suggested this could refer to the bronze colour of the plant and its lack of leaves or roots; I’m not convinced.
    Might we see a parasitic tendency in the woman, though?
    Line 4:
    ‘Confining dodder.
    Shame.’
    The first word here is the name of Hexagram 47 – oppressed, confined, with the character that shows a plant hemmed in by walls. This looks to me like the dodder in full growth, choking and smothering its host plant. You should have tackled it while it was young.
    This even fits in with the line pathway, which travels through 64.4 and 63.3 – the lines about the recurrent problem of invasions from Demon Country. Any gardener who ever tried to eradicate bindweed (a relative of dodder) will see the connection.
    Line 5:
    ‘Young dodder.
    Good fortune.’
    Here’s the same ‘young dodder’ or indeed ‘young ignoramus’ as in the Oracle text. At line 5 it joins with 59, Dispersing, as the energy of the host plant is ‘dispersed’ into the dodder. (The medicinal qualities of dodder also vary depending on its host plant.)
    Line 6:
    ‘Beating the dodder.
    Fruitless to act like an outlaw,
    Fruitful to resist outlaws.’
    Waley saw in this line a parallel to the correct way of gathering mistletoe: it must be knocked down from its host tree, not cut with a knife. The problem with that is that outside the tropics, dodder doesn’t grow on trees like mistletoe, but entwined and rooted into soft plants. I don’t see how you could possibly dislodge it by beating – I imagine you’d just mash up the host plant and dodder together. It’s worth noting that ‘outlaws’ are also those who beat with sticks, etymologically speaking.
    If the dodder is growing on your soya plants, then to beat it would certainly be counterproductive. Actually… this reminds me of many experiences of the line describing how people make enemies of themselves and ‘beat themselves up’.
    ~~~
    So… some ridiculous stretching, some ideas that seem as though they might be usable. What to make of this?
    I think it comes out rather like Hexagram 33’s piglet. 33, in readings, means ‘Retreat’, not ‘Piglet’ – it has to, to make any sense. That, incidentally, was just as true in 1,000BC as it is now: an oracle that gave readings like…
    ‘What should we do about the invading foreigners?’
    ‘Pig!’
    ‘How about marrying into that clan?’
    ‘Pig!’
    …might not have become so popular…
    However, when we remember the fleeing piglet who doesn’t want to be eaten, this colours our sense of what it means to Retreat. Likewise, Hexagram 4 in readings means ‘Ignorance’ not ‘Dodder’, but thinking of the dodder can still colour our sense of what it means to be ignorant: without roots of our own, parasitic, perhaps destructively so – but also growing, potent and maybe magical.

  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to hilary For This Useful Post:

    charly (January 30th, 2018), iams girl (February 1st, 2018), Liselle (January 27th, 2018), tacrab (January 27th, 2018)

  3. #2
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    Hi, Hilary:

    I also believe that the Doder adds some charm to an otherwise little attactive hexagram.

    My feelings are disordered like the look of the messy hairs of the dodder when covers almost all her host with whom she have simbiotic ties that sometimes evolve towards a fatal end. I will go by steps.

    Quote Originally Posted by hilary View Post
    Hexagram 4 has an exceptionally clear, direct Oracle: ...
    that gives people their firs sense that Yi has a voice of its own and is talking to them, personally.
    Here is explicit that the Changes speak to us: wo means I, me, we, us. It's a person or a collective that's speaking to us. Of course, if a person, why not a woman?

    The character for the first person pronoun, with the phonetic «e» instead of «wo» belongs to the name of the «Lady in the Moon» Heng-E or Chang-e that get raised to the moon after eating unnoticed the spells for immortality that «Queen Mother of the West» gave to her husband. The immortality that she obtained unwillingly was, upon some point of view, a punishment for her IGNORANCE.

    Her early name meant «Constant Beauty», and the later «Everlasting Beauty». Maybe both suitable (1) for a woman that was always young and passed from being a MORTAL with a constant love for her husband, that maybe didn't deserved her (2), to be an IMMORTAL ever young woman, deprived of her former possessions, except her beauty, single, although still married, without any company but her received BUNNY (3).

    Chang-E became almost a deity, a female beautiful immortal spirit, close to those called «JADE MAIDEN», That's one of the names received in china by the DODDER according to the sources that inspire Waley.

    Maybe some could feel that the archer was a victim. Maybe victim of his own IGNORANCE, he didn't know how to behave with a woman in love.

    The same in Kunst’s thesis, and in Part II of Minford’s lovely book. As Minford explains (with a nice, long quotation), this idea is drawn from a 1933 essay by Arthur Waley. Legge said that tangmeng was ‘dodder’ (the name of the hexagram is meng); the Han dynasty dictionary/ glossary/ encyclopaedia Erya says that meng is equivalent to ‘dodder’. Waley was quite sure that ‘we do not seek the dodder, the dodder seeks us’ is a spell to ward off harm when you damage the plant.
    ... Geoffrey Redmond sees no need for dodder; nor does Harmen. Nor do I, really… and yet…
    First, what actually is dodder, and what might it have meant to people?
    As you say, modernists, Waley, Kunst, Rutt, prefer DODDER. Moderns but no modernists, may prefer IGNORANT but cannot ignore DODDER.

    Redmond, writing with Tze-Ki Hon, discards the dodder. Writing standalone he translates DODDER!

    I believe that some ambivalence of feelings goes behind the opposition between appearance and reality. But reality, is not it apparent? Ambivalence that accompanies us when we think that what we like could be better and what displeases us could be not so bad.

    If the feelings were not messy, how a parasitic plant, fatal for many hosts, can receve a name like LOVE VINE among westerners or , among chinese, JADE MAIDEN also trasnlated as BEAUTIFUL WOMEN? (4)

    Isn't that among many peoples around the world vines evokes LOVE and SEX, like in the Song of Songs? Isn't that DODDER has, among many other meanings, connection with LOVE TIES, MARITAL TIES, JOY, DANGER, GAMBLING?

    The strings of the dodder are long, they can reach any distant even contradictory meanings... like any other thing in the world or any other term in the Changes.

    (To be continued,
    or if you prefer,
    Soon more messy thoughts)

    Best regards,

    Charly
    _______________________
    (1) The mainstream on changing names is, as far as I know, that Heng became taboo during the Han dynasty. I believe that maybe Heng adquired an irreverent conotation for an immortal demigoddess due to the almost identical pronunciation of the word Meng: Constant Beauty > Ignorant Beauty?

    (2) The husband was a violent man know for killing nine innocent sun-birds to whom he was charged to merely scare away. A case of easy arrow shot. He carelessly left the spells without warning his wife, to whom he did not care for too much, always being engaged in fights.

    (3) Chang-E was isolated in the moon like in a golden, or better silver jail, without human company. Her only company was a rabbit, about whom I don't know what to think. Lost time ago, I was said that bunny was a little rabbit, a rabbit a young coney and a coney a tall rodent. Anyway, Chang-E was deprived not only of the company of her husband but of all other opportunities of human love or company. The story of a woman of only one man had a sad end.

    (4) JADE MAIDEN, I believe an evolution of the character wang=king that, applied to female immortals like Queen Mother of the West, as a term of respect, denotes de recognition of strong supernatural powers. The immortal female attendants of Queen Mother of the West were called JADE MAIDENS, had recognized hability to instruct even those learned, like kings or nobles (all were IGNORANTS in comparison). Gentle girls, of course, but also was adviced not to MAKE LOVE with them. Maybe they were like the STRONG GIRL not to marry with of the Changes.

    Maybe they were like dodders or dodders were like they.

    The common or scientific chinese name of the dodder is written with a RABBIT below the radical cao = GRASS. It can be read as RABBIT GRASS or as F_CKING RABBIT, cao = GRASS has an homofone cao = F_UCK. That's why I distrust of the meaning of the rabbit, but that's another story. Nobody's perfect!

    Ch.
    Last edited by charly; February 5th, 2018 at 07:52 AM.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by charly View Post

    The character for the first person pronoun, with the phonetic «e» instead of «wo» belongs to the name of the «Lady in the Moon» Heng-E or Chang-e that get raised to the moon after eating unnoticed the spells for immortality that «Queen Mother of the West» gave to her husband. The immortality that she obtained unwillingly was, upon some point of view, a punishment for her IGNORANCE.

    Her early name meant «Constant Beauty», and the later «Everlasting Beauty». Maybe both suitable (1) for a woman that was always young and passed from being a MORTAL with a constant love for her husband, that maybe didn't deserved her (2), to be an IMMORTAL ever young woman, deprived of her former possessions, except her beauty, single, although still married, without any company but her received BUNNY (3).

    Chang-E became almost a deity, a female beautiful immortal spirit, close to those called «JADE MAIDEN», That's one of the names received in china by the DODDER according to the sources that inspire Waley.
    Heng-E is an interesting character and there are a few variants on her story. One is that she stole the elixir of immortality; another is that Yi's jealous apprentice broke into the house when Yi was away and demanded she give it to him - she refused, but couldn't fight him off, and took the elixir herself as her only way of escaping.

    'Heng' is the name of hexagram 32... with its traditional association with marriage... despite the absence of much indication of this in the text...

    I didn’t know she could also be associated with hexagram 4. Versatile woman...

    Redmond, writing with Tze-Ki Hon, discards the dodder. Writing standalone he translates DODDER!
    He does? Where??
    ...

    (To be continued,
    or if you prefer,
    Soon more messy thoughts)
    One of the best kinds of thought.
    _______________________
    (1) The mainstream on changing names is, as far as I know, that Heng became taboo during the Han dynasty. I believe that maybe Heng adquired an irreverent conotation for an immortal demigoddess due to the almost identical pronunciation of the word Meng: Constant Beauty > Ignorant Beauty?
    Her name became taboo because there was an emperor with that name. You weren't allowed to write the name of the emperor, so you had to replace it with some other related character.
    (2) The husband was a violent man know for killing nine innocent sun-birds to whom he was charged to merely scare away. A case of easy arrow shot. He carelessly left the spells without warning his wife, to whom he did not care for too much, always being engaged in fights.
    Come, come, this isn't at all fair to Yi, even if he is a rather ambivalent hero. The ten suns came out at once, and he shot down nine of them, and saved us all from burning to a crisp. Though I seem to remember someone had to stop him from absent-mindedly shooting the tenth one as well.

    The elixir of immortality was given to him as a reward, but - according to one version of the story, anyway - he didn't drink it at once because there was only enough for one person, and he didn't want to become immortal without his beloved wife. So that's why it was there for Heng-E to make her escape to the moon.

    Did you know she consulted the yarrow stalks before she went? The Guicang says so...

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    Quote Originally Posted by hilary View Post
    ... One of the best kinds of thought...
    Hi, Hilary:

    Of course, I believe that TRUTH has more than only one face and we are so IGNORANT for not correctly distinguishing one from others.

    I didn't know the variant of sacrificed loving woman. If Yi knew that one dosis was excessive, why he didn't notice her before, why didn't he shared with her. Maybe both were victims of circunstances, but Chang-E went with the worse part. He remained doing his accostumed life in the earth. She gets the only company of a rabbit. It reminds me of Princess Kaguya. Not a good end for a story of love.

    About Redmond I believe he did it. No sure, maybe my mistake. I don't have his books, must verify.
    Anyway, I believe that the received text says literally MENG = DODDER, with its cao = grass radical although it must be understood as a hologrammatic metaphor. The other name of the dodder, JADE MAIDEN (or the more democratic Beatiful Woman) makes me think that the sense could be that GIRLS don't need to be educated for being wise, that they were mainly UNLEARNED but not ignorant while boys even educated, always need some sort of advice or instruction like given by Jade Maidens. Like women are NATURAL SHAMANS when men always need to be innitiated.
    Maybe female consultants have to read UNLEARNED and male consultants UNINITIATED or if they prefer IGNORANT.

    Names in folk stories used to be descriptive. Maybe is true that the name became taboo, but the second name is descriptive of her destiny, not any homophone. With some husbands is better to lose them that to find them. A Jade Girl is too god for them or maybe too strong.

    I read about the Guizang in Shaughnessy, the bond between the changes and Chang-E was strong and ancient. Maybe there is more about she in H.4 something like: Isolating a Jade Maiden is not good, why did she get isolated? For whath crime was she isolated? Maybe for excessive suffocating love? For her own lascivity? The dodder might have the answer. If Chang-E consulted the Changes, she didn't get good advice. Of course the answers of the Changes are adaptive to the questions. If it was so, the advice is "BE CAREFUL WITH YOU WISH FOR". Here mainly for boys:

    BeCareful.jpg
    The Poor Host and the Insatiable Dodder


    Maybe Yi was unable to get a pacific arrangement because he was troblesome by nature. The skilled archer predominated in him over his goodhearted feelings and the conscience of duty. That's why he was punished, as it was said at least in the variants that I know.

    Messy thoughts to be continued. Thanks, Hilary

    All the best,

    Charly

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    Charly: Redmond, writing with Tze-Ki Hon, discards the dodder. Writing standalone he translates DODDER!

    Hilary: He does? Where??
    Hi, Hilary:

    Of course, YOU HAD REASON. He did it NOWHERE.
    MY MISTAKE! I don't know how to apologize.

    Maybe a freudian slip, I have some reserve towards Redmond. I go to analize it.

    Maybe because of NEOPHYTE, with its botanical connections with exotic or even invasive plants moved my inconscious to forge a false remember.

    My memory wakens. To write in a hurry without providing footnotes is not a good practice, must recognize.

    Yours,

    Charly

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