3rd Month of Autumn

  1. In the third 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 Tireless, 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 Cold Dews, geese arrive and stay, goldfinches dive into the great lakes to become clams and asters bloom. In the period of Descent of Hoar Frost, coyotes sacrifice small creatures, vegetation withers and hibernating insects close their burrows.[v]
  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. In this month, the severity increases. Leaves turn golden and fall; branches are cut and made into charcoal. None may escape the duty of bringing in the harvest; nothing may be taken out of the storehouses. The hoarfrost descends and the craftsmen stop their labors. “The cold airs are all coming, and the people will not be able to endure them. Let all enter within their houses…”[viii]
  10. In this month, the musicians enter the hall of study to practice with wind instruments.
  11. The hexagram of this month is Po, Splitting Apart. “Splitting Apart means ruin. The yielding changes the firm. ‘It does not further one to go anywhere’…Devotion and keeping still result from contemplating the image [the mountain resting on the earth]. The superior man takes heed of the alternation of increase and decrease, fullness and emptiness; for it is the course of heaven.”[ix]
  12. In this month, the Son of Heaven is notified that all is ready for the great sacrificial rites of autumn. He tastes of the beasts given in sacrifice, after first offering them to the spirits.
  13. The Son of Heaven gathers his officials so that they may receive the almanac of the coming year. Taxes are assessed; laws and tributes are reviewed according to the distance of the relevant district to the capital; there is no room for personal or private considerations. Moreover, those who preside over justice must hasten to complete their sentences, that innocent may go free and the guilty be punished.
  14. In this month, the Son of Heaven leads the hunt and thus teaches the use of the five weapons. At the end of the hunt, he commands the offering of wild game to the spirits of the four directions.
  15. If in this third month of autumn, the rituals of summer were enacted, there would be flooding, the winter stores lost and the people would suffer colds and coughs. If the rituals of winter were enacted, there would be theft and banditry, the borders would come under attack and the country divided. If in this month, the rituals of spring were enacted, warm winds would come, the qi would rise unseasonably and there would be rebellion and uprising.
  16. The tree of the ninth month is the honey locust.[x]
  17. Its medicinal plant is pleurisy root.[xi]
  18. The messenger of Heaven is the osprey.[xii]
  19. This month is governed by the Archer Lords.


[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] Li chi, p. 174

[ix] I Ching, p.501. While references to the hexagrams relating to each month were not included in the original almanacs, I believe they bring another layer of understanding re the movement and manifestations of qi in the relevant month.

[x] Honey locust has pea-shaped flowers like the original sophora tree.

[xi] The addition of medicinal plants is purely my own- it is based on the actions of the plants and their resonance with the season. Pleurisy root is a traditional name for butterfly weed, the root of which is used in the treatment of asthma.

[xii] 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. Ospreys have more in common with owls than with eagles as has previously been thought.

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