Feng Shoo-‘way

My husband, a Landscape Architect, suggested I should write about Feng Shui. Many large companies use Feng Shui when designing their office blocks and landscapes, so he thinks there might be something in it.

The “Feng Shui” we are most familiar with is a modern decorating style based on an ancient Chinese belief that all objects are alive and filled with Qi (life force). Balancing the Qi energy in any given space will ensure “health, wealth, good fortune, productivity” and great sex for those who live and work in it.

Qi is composed of Yin and Yang, the two opposing but interrelated Feng Shui forces that make up every thing in the universe. These forces support and nourish one another and create the essence of life around us.

Yin is supposed to be the female force – soft, slow, quiet, passive and moist – while Yang is the masculine – strong, colourful, active, bright, (and presumably dry…)

(Funny how the guys always get the interesting part in these ancient philosophies, isn’t it?)

A Feng-Shui-corrected home is meant to balance the Yin and Yang, harmonise the universal life forces, align the Qi – and look pretty, all at the same time.

(It is actually really easy to make this stuff up as you go along. Try it. Just use the words “Energy”, “Life Force”. “Harmony”, “Qi” and any other New Agey buzz-words you can think of, in any old order – people will believe you, I promise!)

Let us continue:

There are 5 elements of Feng Shui: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, and these interact in “productive and destructive cycles.” (I couldn’t find out what this actually means…unless it’s like “Rock, Paper, Scissors?” Metal and Fire beat Wood, Earth and Water beat Fire?)

You will also need a Bagua (“8 Areas”) diagram, which combines the magnetic direction with a range of colours, the 5 Elements and the Nine Major Areas of Life into a Magical Map of Feng Shui that will help you to evaluate and adjust your home and work spaces to maximise your health, wealth and so on.

The key is to make sure you check very carefully which direction is magnetic north, because the Qi is aligned with the Earth’s magnetic field, and if you get it wrong you will be poor, unhappy and celibate for ever!

There is some correlation between these two diagrams – but, as we have come to expect, diagrams of this nature tend to show a bit of “creativity” with the rules. Anyway, you get the point, I’m sure. North (at the bottom) is watery and blue/black and is related to your career and business – etcetera.

Important to note: If you are in the Southern Hemisphere you should NOT turn the diagram upside down – North is North, regardless of where you are on the face of the Planet…… Or is it????

It is well documented that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening and appears to be in the beginning phases of a reversal that happens on average every 300 000 years and takes about 1 000 years to complete itself. In the interim, the field will weaken and become chaotic, with as many as two or three North and South poles simultaneously.

These reversals have happened many times in the past, but the change is gradual and the planet is still protected from solar radiation because the magnetic field does not disappear altogether while the shift is happening. (No, the North and South geographic poles are NOT going to suddenly flip over in 2012, despite what the crackpots are claiming. Watch this blog for some ideas on that silly notion soon!)

Feng Shui adherents don’t seem to be too concerned about the fact that the north magnetic pole is constantly on the move at the rate of about 40km a year. From my African perspective, magnetic north shifts by about 1 degree annually. It is currently in the far north of Canada, and will most likely be in northern Siberia within 50 years.

Now, imagine this: you’ve just paid some nice lady with a kaftan and beads good money to align your furniture and ornaments with the Qi energy and the North pole’s magnetic field – and then the damn thing goes and moves!

Do you have to move everything fractionally every year? What happens if your bed ends up IN FRONT of your door and you can’t get out? What about your garden? Do you have to dig it all up – the patiently aligned paths, the cute little 3-legged money toads, the carefully raked Japanese Garden – and move it around to make sure it’s where your Bagua says it needs to be?







Feng Shui is a type of Geomancy or divination by geographical features. It assumes that by placing physical objects in an environment in specific ways, you can influence your life and future for the better. This is purely magical thinking.

Creating a pleasant and peaceful environment is great, but claiming that it can influence the course of your life, prevent illnesses, bring you money and good fortune, help you find love and happiness?…. No, it won’t. It’s just bricks and mortar, sand and stone, wood, metal and water. The magic is in your head.

Qi, the so-called life force is part of a metaphysical, not empirical, belief system. This type of energy belief is popular in many cultures and religions. (It must be stressed that the energy referred to is not the energy we refer to in physical science – the potential for a system to perform work on another system.)

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of Qi energy. Many alternative health practitioners claim to be tapping into this magical life force (acupuncture, reflexology, chiropractic etc), but it has been shown that their limited effectiveness is really due to the placebo affect, and in some cases to the benefits of relaxation and massage.

Feng Shui is a seductive and complex system. When I was researching this blog, I found myself thinking it’s no wonder people are taken in by Feng Shui – it SEEMS so plausible! All the carefully specified rules, complicated diagrams, special ornaments… the consultant who comes around and measures directions, gives advice on how to build, how to hang doors, where to place mirrors, what colours to use, where to place furniture… and the end result is so gorgeous – so Japanese – so mystical.

Sorry people, it’s STILL just a style of interior decoration. You may feel good working and living in such a space but it will not influence anything other than your state of mind.

If you really want to change the course of your life, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol, get off your butt and into the gym, work hard but smart, love your family and friends and use your common sense!



3 comments on “Feng Shoo-‘way

  1. Nice one Auntie Cathy! as a side-note, I have various incenses with the five elements as flavours. does this mean I can bring a little “water” into a dry corner of my room? but surely it’s a WOODEN object that I set on FIRE in a METAL stand…

  2. I rather enjoyed reading Feng Shoo-’way cathywagnerblog and perma-linked the url so I can visit it once again later. Great ideas and many of the things you raise have greatly helped. Thank you.

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