The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #339: The 5 Elements, The Water Tiger, and a Reading from Empty Hands

Since it recently became the year of the water tiger (per the Chinese version of the lunar calendar), I thought for this week’s show, it might be interesting to look at some of the philosophical underpinnings behind the elemental alignments the characters in The Thirteenth Hour martial arts novella, Empty Hands, have (Earth, Wind, Water, Fire, Void).

The original inspiration was Japanese esoteric Buddhism and the martial arts that use that system as a way of figuratively describing different kinds energy.   You’ll find more about this in epsiode 151 on the godai and in texts like The Book of Five Rings.

There is also a separate, very similar system tracing back to ancient Chinese astronomy using slightly different elements (Earth 🌎 土, wood 🪵 木, fire 🔥 火, metal ⚔️ 金, and water 💦 水), widely used in things like traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.  Those five elements are paired with the twelve zodiac signs to make 60 different signs, this year’s water tiger sign being one.  Since these ideas spread through a lot of Asia, you see them in cultures beyond China.  In that way, they looped back to Japan.


There, these ideas became the gogyo (五行 – “five phases”).  In the episode, I read a section on this topic from Stephen K Hayes’ Mystic Arts of the Ninja (the two graphics above are from that book) as well as a section from Empty Hands, which was inspired by both this and the godai system in creating elemental alignments for the characters as a way of encapsulating their personalities (and in a way, making their easier to write!)


This winter, if you’re looking for an adult of child mask, check out Thirteenth Hour mask combo package on Etsy.  This fall, it became really hard to find good quality masks for our kids as they were going back to school.  There are still long wait times for some of the companies we like best, so I thought, why not try to find an alternative?  I eventually settled on the triple layer masks available for printing on by the company Flashbay.  They were one of the few companies I found that were transparent about their third party safety data (Junior:, Adult: which is nice.  I was impressed by how well these masks performed on the filtration tests, even after repeat washings.  Also, I really liked how both the ears and nose piece could be adjusted for a good fit.


The Thirteenth Hour mask combo also comes with Thirteenth Hour hand sanitizer! (But of course.)


There are now Thirteenth Hour toys!  If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up ( and get them there.

If the past few months have got you needing a break, you may want to chill out to this 80s synth throwback track for a upcoming LP with the accompanying music video:

Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.  

empty hands ep cover_edited-2.jpg

Stay tuned.  Follow along on Spotify!  There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.

Check it out!

As always, thanks for listening!


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