Feng Shui & Mermaid Imagery

Leighton-The Fisherman and the Syren-c. 1856-1858

You definitely get the feeling that the relationship is not going to work out… “The Fisherman and the Syren,” Frederic Leighton. Public domain.

I know many out there will hate to hear this, but mermaid imagery is disempowering for women and devastatingly so if it’s a single mermaid. Think of the phrase “like a fish out of water.” Well, that’s what a mermaid is. A mermaid tail cannot walk around on dry land, yet dry land is where the upper part of the mermaid has to be in order to breathe. So here’s this composite creature that’s at home nowhere, and powerless on land (which is where people live). If the mermaid image is female (which it almost always is, in contemporary depictions) and you’re a woman—watch out! Anytime an image (in your home, yard or office) is the same gender as you, it’s affecting you much more than an image of the opposite gender. In my opinion, that classifies as common sense.

I’ve often written about the problem of singular imagery having an adverse affect on the “relationship energy” of the home (examples are found on page 118 of Feng Shui for Hawaii, and page 14 of Feng Shui for Love & Money). Images of several merpeople are an improvement over a single merperson, in that sense. The earliest images of merpeople always showed interaction, not singularity.

John William Waterhouse A Mermaid.jpg

Well, here she is, out taking a “breather,” but she’s not going to get very far unless she holds her breath and jumps back in the water. “A Mermaid.” John William Waterhouse, 1900. Public domain.

Some of the earliest examples of merpeople can be found in mosaics on Crete. In those representations, the creatures have two scaly tails where you’d expect legs to be. They’re still not exactly land-friendly creatures, I’d say.

I recently had a client who agreed to remove her mermaid imagery, but she wondered what to do with it. I suggested letting it go, but in the meantime, storing it in a closet in such a way that if she opened the closet she wouldn’t see the images—the paintings are facing the wall. (This is my common recommendation when clients have items that are obviously unsuitable, from a feng shui standpoint, but they aren’t ready or able to part with them.)


Feng Shui and the Purpose of Rooms

Makai (lower) elevation, Liljestrand House. Photo by Bob Liljestrand. CC BY-SA 3.0.

In the May 2018 issue of HONOLULU magazine, there’s a nice article on the nine greatest Honolulu houses. Of course, the Ossipoff house on Tantalus is included. Betty and Howard Liljestrand were the original owners and one time their son, Bob, told his father that they really needed a reading light in the living room. His father’s reply was, “Well, you’re not supposed to read in the living room. You’re supposed to have conversations in the living room. If you want to read, go to the library.” He wasn’t referring to the public library; they had a dedicated library room in the house (as we do in our home). When I first read that, I thought, “That’s good feng shui—separate purpose for separate rooms.” But as I reflected on it, it also seems kind of anal. After all, books are quite portable, and the rooms in which books are stored should be rather dark with little or no direct sunlight—that’s what preserves the books best.

At some point feng shui has to meet the real world, and I would call that my specialty. I cut my feng shui teeth on tiny apartments in San Francisco—often just one-room, housemate rentals. Usually people had access to a common kitchen for food prep and eating, but everything else was done in their one and only space—their bedroom. That was the exact reason I wrote my second book, Bedroom Feng Shui. I wrote it with those people in mind.

If you live in a large, spread-out house, then by all means use all the rooms. Give them purposes like office, hobby room, sewing room, and try to refrain from adding a television in the living room—do try to reserve that room for conversations. That helps the energy of the home by not having rooms that feel stagnant because no one goes there very often. It also helps your energy because you do some walking. But if your place is small to tiny, then do what you have to do to make it work for you. The main feng shui suggestion is to cover up (with fabric) aspects of the room that are inappropriate for its use at the moment. The most common example is to cover a desk that has to be in a bedroom.

We have a beautiful living room in our home, but we mostly hang out on our screened-in lanai that’s between the living room and the kitchen. If we’re talking in the evening, we don’t turn lights on—we just let the day become night and enjoy the transition.

So the upshot of this article is some “real world” advice: Read where you have good light, and when you’re through, put the book back in a darker place.

Feng Shui & Bumpy Roads

Don’t let a bumpy road stand in the way of your good fortune. With a little creativity, there are feng shui fixes for this problem.

When we were in grammar school, my brother Charlie read a book on Eskimos and shared this with me. The word and the pidgin definition has stuck with me all these years.
The Inuit have a word: pie-toke (that’s a phonetic spelling, a guess on my part)—meaning: “nothing one can do about it.” That’s how a lot of people feel when they live on a bumpy road (or have a long bumpy driveway). Well, I’m here to say there is something you can do—red dots.

The reason for concern over a bumpy road is this: If the road or driveway leading to your home is excessively bumpy, good fortune (including money) is seen as bouncing off before reaching you.

Recently, a client sent me an email praising her full calendar as a massage therapist. A few days ago she had sent me an email saying that a client had left a $50 tip. She lives on a very bumpy road, and when I consulted for her, I gave her my standard advice to put a tiny dot of red paint or red nail polish in each hole and on each bump. I told her to say out loud, “This is smooth and flat” (or words to that effect) each time she did it. Shortly after she did that her landlord paved her driveway, which had been gravel. In a sense, he paved the way for good news and prosperity to reach her.

On page 26 of Feng Shui for Hawaii I tell the story of a client who lived on a bumpy road, and it was the first time that I recommended that cure, which I just came up with on the spur of the moment. (I firmly believe that I can’t go to a client and say, “You have a problem—too bad.” I have to come up with some kind of solution.) Not only did my client have good fortune at the time she put the red nail polish on her bumpy road, she called me earlier this year (ten years after she had first put the nail polish on the road). She said that her savings account was going down faster than she wanted it to, so she tried putting red nail polish in the rough areas of her road. It worked—within a week, she inherited $10,000 for someone she barely knew and hadn’t been in touch with for many years!

My dear friend, Carl, used to live in Puna on Hawaii Island. He lived on one of the most ridiculous roads I’ve ever been on. (Puna has some very rough roads, plus it rains a lot.) At my advice, he took a can of red spray paint and very lightly (like a tiny mist) sprayed a bit of red on each rough place on his road. Within a week, he called me to tell of the unexpected good fortune that found him.

The color red is used in feng shui when no other solution is possible. It symbolizes new blood—fresh beginning. It should never be used in lieu of repairing something when safety is an issue. I was teaching about red dots in a class some years ago, and one of the students came up to me a few weeks later and told me what happen to her when she tried using red dots on her car that needed repair. On the same day that she did that her car got totaled in a parking lot. She wasn’t in the car and no one was hurt, but I took it as a message that when safety is a concern—get it fixed—really fixed!

One final note: Since paint and nail polish contain chemicals, be judicious in how much you apply. The key is the symbolism, not the amount of red. You don’t want to harm the environment and you certainly don’t want to create any eyesores.

Earthquakes and Coincidences (And Some Practical Advice)

A lava flow moves on Makamae Street in Leilani Estates at 09:32 am HST on May 6. Photo by U.S. Geological Survey

Hawaii Island, where we live, was rocked by almost constant earthquakes on May 3, just a week ago. We live in Kona, quite a distance away from the epicenters, but we still felt them! In feng shui, we’re taught to pay attention to coincidences, and earthquakes offer that opportunity—big time. Quakes happen for reasons, and these latest quakes are caused by the intrusion of lava along a faultline in the Puna district. Strong as they were (the strongest being 6.9) these quakes felt like our usual earthquakes. The cause and effects are quite obvious to everyone.

Damage to the Kalahikiola Congregational Church in Kapa‘au, Hawai‘i, caused by the 2006 Kīholo Bay magnitude 6.7 earthquake and aftershocks. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

Sometimes earthquakes are caused by our messing around with the planet. On October 15, 2006 our island was hit by a 6.7 quake that caused a lot more damage than the recent quakes. That quake felt very different from our usual earthquakes, and the damage was much more severe. It came directly after North Korea announced its first underground nuclear test. My mother had a lifelong interest in geology and she told me at that time the entire Pacific region had unusual earthquakes (just before and after our earthquake). I believe in putting two and two together…

Damage at I-5 and I-210 freeway interchange (1971). Photo by E.V. Leyendecker. U.S. Geological Survey

When I told that to a dear friend, he told me that when Los Angeles had their big earthquake in 1971, he was living there. He said that the day before the quake all the newspapers had big articles about an upcoming underground nuclear test in Nevada. The day of the quake and thereafter, there was no mention of the nuclear test—it had been displaced by disaster articles. The media never made the connection between the two events, but (some) people who lived there realized the connection.

When China filled their Three Gorges dam, they had an incredibly devastating earthquake in that same region, and did the media make the connection between the weight of the displaced water and the quake? I don’t think so! We mess around with Mother Nature at our own peril.

I was in Hilo last week teaching a class, and a lot more people had registered for the class than actually showed up. The 6.9 quake shook things up a lot more there than it did here in Kona, and people were dealing with the aftereffects. One of the women attending the class came up to me afterwards and she was obviously still quite traumatized. She had been alone in her home and bookcases had fallen over and lots of irreplaceable heirlooms were smashed. I told her that every bookcase in our house was fastened to the wall with L-brackets (I make that suggestion on page 56 of Feng Shui for Hawaii), and all the valuable breakables were stuck down with the wax that museums use. During the 2006 quake, I had watched a lovely Roseville topple right before me, and sadly it wasn’t the only one. During the latest quake, I went to grab a delicate object and happily realized that I’d already stuck it down!

Here’s my practical advice, from someone who has lived through many a quake, and thanks to museum wax and putty, so have my belongings. To anchor your precious items, use the wax in places that don’t get direct sunlight. In direct sun, use the putty. The wax will melt in direct sun and the object can slide and break, even if there’s no earthquake. I know that from sad experience!

Feng Shui & Wine

Wine bottles are a source of visual noise. Photo by WineKing via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s not about the liquid—it’s mostly about the label, and somewhat about the shape of the bottle — at least as far as feng shui is concerned, anyway. Wine bottles are placed out (on display in rooms) on dining tables, side tables, coffee tables, sofa tables, and bars and counters. They are usually the only liquid with a brand label on display at a nice, gussied-up meal. Unless the labels stay facing the wall (which they’re not likely to), they are an issue in feng shui. First of all, they’re brand labels, and as such they are visual noise. You should avoid brand labels on view in your home. I’ve written on this blog before (here and here) about brands, words and visual noise.

Another major problem with wine labels is that they frequently have an image of a single living being. Be it a lone kangaroo or a single footprint, singular images are best avoided in the home—if they are going be on display. Singular images simply don’t have good relationship energy. If the wine bottle is always kept behind an opaque cover (when the wine is not being poured) then it doesn’t matter at all what’s on the label.

Most people in the real world are not going to turn all their bottles around or cover them up—so you could soak the label off. (But then how many people are going to do that either?) Well, I’m happy to say—there are always decanters—which can be delightful room accents and (if chosen carefully) can enhance an area of the bagua (because of the decanter’s shape or color). Clear, cut-crystal decanters can be used as dispersers of energy, when that’s called for to correct problems in chi energy flow within the home. These work wonderfully for storing spirits like gin or whiskey, and are so much more attractive on a table—and less noisy—during a meal when you are serving wine.

No. 132 Wine Decanter With Stopper, 1870 (CH 18732777) No. 2 Wine Decanter With Stopper, ca. 1835 (CH 18732025)
These beautiful vintage wine decanters are in the fantastic Cooper Hewitt Museum. Photos public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The shape of the bottle becomes an issue if the stored wine bottles are kept on their sides and in view. If the neck of a wine bottle points into the room, it symbolizes a gun aimed into the room—yuck. I’ve told this to many a client and they turn the bottles around immediately, saying, “It doesn’t matter to us which way the bottles point.” When the bottom of the bottle points into the room there is never a problem with poison arrow energy being aimed into the room—they can only happen when the top of the bottle aims into the room. And once again, if the bottles are stored behind an opaque cover, it doesn’t matter which way the tops face (or what the label design is). As with many things in feng shui, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t affect you. And remember, a nice piece of fabric can make a fine opaque cover… There are also some quite lovely solutions, such as adding doors to cover a wine rack.

This video from my Highline Kitchens showroom series covers cutting energy and “rifle barrel” energy and will show you what I mean.