All about Fortune, Bear and Bull Markets…

Sometimes we find messages hiding outside of our inbox. I am not talking about spam, I am referring to insights and other such unwritten communications we sometimes receive with no return address. It happened to me a few days ago when I was teaching a workshop on the symbolism of the Tarot and gazed at the card Fortune.

Suddenly, the time sensitive meaning of the card was revealed to me. It dawned on me that the Fortune that eludes most of us right now, or in other words, the global recession, is due to an imbalance in the interaction between the three creatures that are in charge of spinning the Wheel of Fortune.

As you can see in the card above, the wheel of Fortune is spun by three entities. These of course are symbols of processes in life. The monkey is relentlessly trying to make the wheel spin upwards. The monkey, representing the “best and the brightest” will do whatever it takes including magic, lies - white or of other persuasions, monkey business and other mischief to force the wheel or the Dow Jones Industrial Average to spin upward. Don’t get me wrong, I love monkeys, for all its worth, I was born in the year of the monkey and as they say, it takes one to know one. The force that resists the monkey is symbolized by the crocodile (Seth) that is trying to stop the wheel from turning. It represents the powers of stagnation, sleep and restoration. Some monkeys in their constant attempt to spin things around use PR and other means to persuade us that the crocodile is evil and wishes to destroy us. I am not sure that is what the crocodile is really all about but we will soon get to it.

The other creature depicted in the card is the sphinx. The sphinx job’s is being still, thus maintaining the balance and at the same time serving as a divine referee in the ongoing tag of war between the monkey’s forces of expansion and the crocodile’s forces of hibernation and reception.

In the 21st century the Wheels of Fortune became the stock market where the monkey and crocodile are still spinning digits up and down. However, in the sake of modernity, these creatures are wearing different costumes. The monkey has turned into a Bull and the crocodile is now called a Bear. Here is a passage from about the origin of the names Bull Market and Bear Market:

  1. The terms "bear" and "bull" are thought to derive from the way in which each animal attacks its opponents. That is, a bull will thrust its horns up into the air, while a bear will swipe down. These actions were then related metaphorically to the movement of a market: if the trend was up, it was considered a bull market; if the trend was down, it was a bear market.

  2.  Historically, the middlemen in the sale of bearskins would sell skins they had yet to receive. As such, they would speculate on the future purchase price of these skins from the trappers, hoping they would drop. The trappers would profit from a spread - the difference between the cost price and the selling price. These middlemen became known as "bears", short for bearskin jobbers, and the term stuck for describing a downturn in the market.

I beg the difference. These explanation might be historically correct but they are not mythologically correct and therefore fail to explain the hidden symbolism of the two great animals. As long as we refer to the superficial and somewhat aggressive explanations (the way the animals fight or the way traders speculate) we are in the danger or forever being victims to the dark side of those symbols and like addicts be influenced the ups and downs of the market. If we look at the mythological attribution of the two animals we will see that our ancestors worshiped the two animals as gods. Both the bear and the bull have been revered by different cultures in different times. Joseph Campbell argues that the bear cult might have been the oldest shamanistic religion on the planet, while Bull worship was common throughout the ancient high civilizations. This means that both creatures are needed to maintain equilibrium. We should not banish the bear from Wall Street.

The bull, as do bull markets, has a tendency to charge forward, while often times blind to whatever is happening in the periphery. It is distracted by its own focus, aiming only at the goal. The raging bull can be dangerous, especially when it is deregulated as we have all witnessed in the last couple of years. The bear, most likely due to the bad PR paid sponsored by the monkey, has been misrepresented as bearing the ill-fortune message of recession. But to be honest, what the bear really represents is a time of hibernation, reevaluation and assimilation. Perchance we could have avoided the current global recession by embracing and invoking the bear instead of excommunicating it from the marketplace. The bear is most famous for its ability to hibernate, slow its metabolism, SAVE energy and ride the winter while dreaming of honey and fury plump and soft she-bears. Pumping money into the market and trying to inject steroids into the injured bull might not be what the vets would prescribe. The poor bull is tired. This might sound like a bunch of bullshit to some, but even the use of this adjective supports the argument that too much “bull-marketing” can cause the bull to be so exhausted that it cannot even attend its basic needs. And the bull’s basic need is “To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub" as Hamlet so pointedly exclaimed. What the overly bull 14,000 Dow Jones Indexed market needs is some rest.

What the Wheel of Fortune teaches us is that in order to make a Fortune, we must combine and integrate the two forces of the bull and the bear instead of pitting them one against the other. Expansion without editing and assimilation, spending without saving is like sneaking into a theater to watch 5 movies one after the other without a break. Yes, you got a great deal but did you have the time to appreciate the true message of the film? Did you get to enjoy the full arc of the characters transformation? Could you assimilate the messages embedded in the stories and change your own life? Most likely not. Expansion without hibernation, action without reception makes the balloon pop in our face.

In their book “The Millionaire Next Door,” Thomas Stanley and William Danko came to a similar conclusion to that depicted by the ancient card of Fortune. Their research on millionaires revealed that these individuals have managed to put together bullish and bearish attitudes together resulting in abundance and security. Below are several factors the authors discovered that are common to most of these millionaires:

  1. They lived below their means (bear)
  2. about two third are self employed (bull)
  3. About 80% are first generation affluent (bull)
  4. 50% live in the same house for more the 20 years (bear)
  5. They all have funds saved that can allow them to live in same lifestyle for 10 years without working (bear)
  6. about two third work between 45-55 hours per week (super-bull)
  7. 79% have at least one account with a brokerage company, but they make their own investment decisions. (bull)
  8. They are (in the authors words) tightwad. (bears)

The book was published at the end of the last decade but perhaps if we would have listened to some of their advice (after all, a world of tightwads is no fun to live in) we would not be in the mess we are in right now…

That is what I received from the card above…Since there are all together 78 cards, better I stop here and not charge through them all, after all, I too need to hibernate a little…

Sweet dreams…