1st Month of Summer

  1. In the first month of summer, the tail of the Great Bear points to the south.
  2. Summer occupies the south. The fullness of power is in Fire.[i] Its will of life is joy, its power maturity and its virtue is ceremony and ritual.
  3. The correspondences of this month are the days ping and ding, the Sovereign Yan, his assisting spirit Zhurong, the creatures that are feathered, the musical note zhi, the pitch-pipe known as Median Regulator, the number seven, the taste of bitter, the smell of scorched, and the sound of laugh. The domestic animal is the chicken; the weapon is the glaive.
  4. Sacrifices are made to the spirits of the stove; in sacrifice, the lung is offered first.
  5. The trigram of the south is Li, Fire. “The Clinging is the brightness in which all creatures perceive one another. That the holy sages turned their faces to the south while they gave ear to the meaning of the universe means that in ruling they turned toward what is light.”[ii]
  6. In the period of Beginning of Summer, tree frogs croak, earthworms emerge and snake gourds[iii] grow.
  7. In the period of Lesser Fullness, dandelions[iv] are in seed, the bitter herbs flourish and the lesser summer heat arrives.
  8. The Son of Heaven is the Red Tailed Hawk[v]. He wears vermilion robes and vermilion jade pendants. He rides in a chariot pulled by black-maned vermilion horses and flies a vermilion banner. He resides in the chambers of the south. He drinks waters gathered from the eight winds and cooks with fires kindled with cedar branches. His dishes are large and tall, corresponding to the growth of things; from them, he eats beans and fowl.
  9.  His consorts also wear vermilion garments and play upon flutes and reed pipes.
  10. On the first day of summer, the Son of Heaven leads the ceremony known as ‘Establishing Summer’ at the southern altar.[vi] After the ceremony, rewards and gifts are given and all are joyful and pleased.
  11. The Son of Heaven commands the Master of Music to teach the practice of both music and ceremony as they are entwined. He also orders that those of great achievement and stature be honored. In the courts, minor cases are decided and those who have been imprisoned for minor offences are released.
  12. In this month, all of the ten thousand beings are encouraged to mature and grow taller. Nothing may interfere with this- neither the construction of earthworks, the sending forth of the troops, nor the felling of great trees. If all these ordinances are followed, the sweet rains will come throughout the month, bringing the blessings of Heaven.
  13. The hexagram of the fourth month is Ch’ien, The Creative. “The way of the Creative works through change and transformation, so that each thing receives its true nature and destiny and comes into permanent accord with the Great Harmony: this is what furthers and what perseveres.”[vii]
  14. In this month, the Son of Heaven wears garments of hemp and linen. He sends forth the foresters from the forests into the fields and plains to encourage the people at their work in the fields. At this time, medicinal herbs are collected and the plants of early spring recede. Wild animals are discouraged from harming the crops, yet there may be no great hunts.
  15. The farmers present the first wheat to the Son of Heaven which he tastes, along with pork after having first offered a portion to the spirits. In this month, the Son of Heaven tastes the first of the newly fermented liquors and attends musical performances.
  16. If in this first month of summer, the rituals of autumn were enacted, the bitter rains would come and the five foods would not be nourished. The people would be plagued by bandits. If the rituals of winter were enacted, the plants and trees would wither. Great floods would come, undermining all foundations and structures. If the rituals of spring were enacted, insects and great winds would ravage the crops so that they bear no fruit.
  17. The tree of the fourth month is the hawthorn.[viii]
  18. The medicinal plant of the fourth month is motherwort.[ix]
  19. The messenger of heaven is the red breasted grosbeak.[x]
  20. The fourth month governed tilled fields.


[i] This reference is found in the Yueling.

[ii] I Ching, p.269. References to the trigrams were not included in the original almanacs.

[iii] I am still looking for the North American equivalent of snake gourds…

[iv] In all the almanacs, there are references to “Omens and portents from the world of living creatures: signs of the changing year [monthly]. See p.220 of Major, J. S. (1993). Heaven and earth in early Han thought: Chapters three, four and five of the Huainanzi. Albany: State University of New York Press. I have modified the omens and portents through personal research and observation of Nature in these periods as well as reference to Heiner Fruehauf’s “Correlative Cosmology in Chinese medicine” The original texts state that sow thistles seed at this time. More relevant to the Northeast is the profusion of blowing dandelion seeds!

[v] Given that the original texts describe the thearch’s steed as a dragon, I have continued this “aura of ritual magic” (Major, p.226). The emperor in each season is represented by a resonant North American species. I chose the red tailed hawk as the emperor of summer both for its resonance as a feathered creature and its role as a creature sacred to indigenous people of North America.

[vi] The Yueling refers to this ceremony occurring on the first day of spring (which is logical). On the other hand, the Li chi and the Lüshi chunqiu speak of this ceremony occurring at some point in the first month. In all likelihood, there is no conflict as the first day of each season would be calculated anew each year rather than having a set date.

[vii] I Ching, p.371. While references to the hexagrams relating to each month were not included in the original almanacs, I believe they bring another layer of understanding to the movement and manifestations of qi in the relevant month.

[viii] Hawthorn blooms at this time in the Niagara region- its fruit is traditionally used as a cardiac tonic.

[ix] The addition of medicinal plants is purely my own- it is based on the actions of the plants and their resonance with the season. Motherwort is appropriately named leonurus cardiaca (lion-hearted) – “Old writers tell us that there is no better herb for strengthening and gladdening the heart…” For even more delightful information, see Grieve, M. (1971). A modern herbal: 2. New York: Dover

[x] The ‘messenger of Heaven’ is another addition based on personal observation of Nature. Birds are chosen by their arrival times, characteristics and resonance with the season. The red breasted grosbeak arrives at this time.

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