Mao/aasta is the Year of the Snake, which arrived early on 10. veebruar as per the Chinese lunar calendar. Yet mao/tee is not snake tea; it's stomach tea. These words are not homonyms, they simply happen to share a common possessive (or genitive) case. You can find a large variety of locally grown and packaged herbal tea mixtures such as the ones pictured here in any apteek (pharmacy) in Eesti. Interestingly, Kubja Ürdi/talu (herb farm's) maotee plant mixture is completely different from Vadi Gild's "Murueide maotee" on the right. (Muru/eit is a mythological character similar to Mother Nature.) Photo: Riina Kindlam
Most likely the first thing that comes to mind when you read mao is Communist China's late Chairman Mao Zedong. He would no doubt be celebrating right now as well, especially since he was born in a mao/aasta (year of the snake). Is that how he got his name?!...
According to Chinese astrology, people born on the year of the snake are said to be keen and determined. They know how to maneuver themselves toward their own destinies and destinations. (Mao tee (written as two words) also happens to mean the path of the snake. Tee is thereby a true-blue homonym, meaning both tea and road/path.) People born in this year are also said to be sophisticated, calm and not outwardly emotional, but they might have a touch of paranoia at times.
English-language media seems to refer to it simply as the Year of the Snake, while it's interesting that in Estonia, the creature's other, more specific attributes are also mentioned – we have currently begun the year of the must vesi/madu or black water snake.
MADU or uss = snake
Uss is the word most people first learn for said slithery reptiles (roomaja(d), literally "crawlers"). Vihma/uss is earthworm ("rain snake"), pael/uss is tapeworm, the rather nasty mao/parasiit (stomach parasite). So why isn't it called mao/madu (stomach snake)? The difference lies in the fact that madu is usually reserved for larger members of the family, such as lõgismadu (rattlesnake), püütonmadu (python), lohemadu (dragon) and the star of the newly arrived Chinese New Year.
Another slightly more uncommon word for snake, which mirrors its movement is SIUG, from the verb siuglema, to slither. Maotee siugleb nagu mao tee sinu makku. – Stomach tea snakes like a serpent's path into your stomach.
MAGU or kõht = stomach......
(Loe edasi Eesti Elu 8. veebruari paberlehest )
Happy mao year!