2nd Month of Autumn

  1. In the second month of autumn, the tail of the Great Bear points to the west.
  2. Autumn occupies the west. The fullness of power is in Metal.[i] Its will of life is grief, its power balance and its virtue is justice.
  3. The correspondences of this month are the days geng and xin, the Sovereign Shaohao, his assisting spirit Rushou, the creatures that are hairy, the musical note shang, the pitch-pipe known as Southern Regulator, the number nine, the taste of pungent, the smell of rotten and rank, and the sound of weep. The domestic animal is the dog; the weapon is the halberd.
  4. Sacrifices are made to the spirits of the gate[ii]; in sacrifice, the liver is offered first.
  5. The trigram of the West is Tui, Lake. “The Joyous is mid-autumn, which rejoices all creatures…[iii] The Joyous…is a sorceress [a woman who speaks]…It means smashing and breaking apart; it means dropping off and bursting open.”[iv]
  6. In the period of White Dew, swan geese pass through, swallows depart and chipmunks stockpile morsels.[v] In the period of Autumn Equinox, thunder begins to retract its sound, hibernating insects retreat to shelter and water begins to dry up.
  7. The Son of Heaven is the Wolf.[vi] He wears white robes and white jade pendants. He rides in a chariot pulled by white horses and flies a white banner. He resides in the chambers of the West. He drinks waters gathered from the eight winds and cooks with fires kindled with cedar branches. His dishes are angular and deep; from them, he eats hempseed and dog flesh.
  8.  His consorts also wear white garments and play upon bells, gongs and cymbals[vii].
  9. The Son of Heaven orders his officials to carry out the hundred punishments with exactitude. “Beheadings and other executions are always appropriate, with neither excess nor deficiency. Any sentencing or imprisonment that is inappropriate will in turn bring about its own censure.”[viii] This severity is balanced by the care given to the poor and elderly at this time.
  10. At this time, the Son of Heaven orders that his officials examine and assess the sacrificial beasts, making sure that they fit the standards with perfection. He then leads rituals to welcome the autumn qi and ward off sickness. He tastes the hempseed and dog flesh after first offering it to the spirits.
  11. In this month, his officials encourage the people at their harvesting, urging them to bring in all grains and vegetables and to sow the winter wheat. Those who fail in the sowing are punished with severity.
  12. Tariffs and taxes are reduced at borders and gates; merchants and commerce are encouraged so the markets are abundant and all the people are served.
  13. The hexagram of this month is Kuan, Contemplation. “The ablution has been made, but not yet the offering…Those below look toward him and are transformed. He affords them a view of the divine way of heaven, and the four seasons do not deviate from their rule.”[ix]
  14. In this month, the “killing ethers begin to increase in strength”[x] and Yang decreases every day. Day and night are equal in this month; at this time, weights and measures are rectified. If the ordinances of this month are honored, the white dew will descend throughout the month.
  15. If in this second month of autumn, the rituals of spring were enacted, the autumn rains would not fall. Plants and trees bloom out of season and all feel unsettled. If the rituals of summer were enacted, drought would come, the insects would not retreat to hibernation and the five grains would sprout out of season. If in this month, the rituals of winter were enacted, the land would be battered repeatedly by great winds, thunder would resound out of season and the plants and trees die prematurely.
  16. The tree of the eighth month is the honey locust.[xi]
  17. Its medicinal plant is mullein.[xii]
  18. The messenger of Heaven is the screech owl.[xiii]
  19. This month is governed by the military officers.


[i] This reference is found in the Yueling.

[ii] While the Yueling refers to the god of the door (the same as in spring), this is a mistranslation of the character. In spring, the character is hu [door], in autumn men [gate]. This is consistent with the association of the Po with doors and Hun with gates hence the sacrificial offerings of lung and liver respectively.

[iii] I Ching, p.272.  References to the trigrams were not included in the original almanacs.

[iv] I Ching, p. 279

[v] 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”.

[vi] 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.  The creatures of autumn are hairy, thus the wolf.

[vii] The Yueling cites bells- I have included two other traditional instruments made from metal.

[viii] Lüshi chunqiu, p.190

[ix] I Ching, p.486. 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.

[x] Lüshi chunqiu, p.191

[xi] Black walnuts fall in profusion at this time.

[xii] The addition of medicinal plants is purely my own- it is based on the actions of the plants and their resonance with the season. Mullein has an affinity for the lungs and skin, the plant itself striking the balance between the hard and the soft. This is resonant with the metal element which is yin on the exterior and yang on the interior.

[xiii] 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. Screech owls are heard at this time.

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