3rd Month of Summer

  1. In the third month of summer, the tail of the Great Bear points to the south.
  2. In this month, the fullness of power is in Earth.[i] The will of life of Earth is compassion. Its power is decrease and its virtue is sincerity.
  3. The correspondences of this month are the days wu and ji, the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, his assisting spirit Houtu, the creatures that are naked, the musical note gong, the pitch-pipe known as Hundred Bell, the number five, the taste of sweet, the smell of fragrant, and the sound of singing. The domestic animal is the ox; the weapon is the sword.
  4. Sacrifices are made to the spirits of the inner court[ii]; in sacrifice, the heart is offered first.
  5. The trigram of Earth is K’un, the Receptive. “The Receptive means the earth. It takes care that all creatures are nourished. Therefore it is said, “He causes them to serve one another in the sign of the Receptive.”[iii]
  6. In the period of Lesser Heat, sultry winds arrive, crickets again reside in walls and the young swallows learn how to fly.[iv]
  7. In the period of Great Heat, decaying grass transforms into fireflies, the earth steams in the sweltering heat and heavy rains fall from time to time.
  8. The Son of Heaven is the Bison[v]. He wears yellow robes and yellow jade pendants. He rides in a chariot pulled by black-maned yellow horses and flies a yellow banner. He resides in the chambers of the center. He drinks waters gathered from the eight winds and cooks with fires kindled with cedar branches. His dishes are round and covered; from them, he eats panicled millet and beef.
  9.  His consorts also wear yellow garments yet they play no instruments at this time, having only their voices as music.[vi]
  10. In this month, the Son of Heaven orders the Master of Fisheries to harvest the white sturgeon and the alligator gar, muskie and perch.[vii] The Master of Marshes is ordered to collect timber and cattails.
  11. The Son of Heaven commands the officers of each district to render the grasses and grains collected for the feeding of the sacrificial beasts. He himself offers millet to the Great Spirit, the ancient mountains, the great rivers and the spirits of the four directions. He prays for the prosperity of all his people.
  12. The hexagram of the sixth month is Tun, Retreat. “The power of the dark is ascending. The light retreats…This retreat is a matter not of man’s will but of natural law…it is the correct way to behave in order not to exhaust one’s forces.”[viii]
  13. The Son of Heaven sends his blessings and aid to the weakest of his subjects. He orders that the dead be mourned, the sick and elderly given nourishing food and soft bedding so that the ten thousand beings are assisted as the year wanes.
  14. In this month trees flourish. The foresters are sent to inspect the woodlands to insure that no trees are harvested or cut.
  15. Nor at this time may there be any undertakings which jeopardize the work of the fields. Neither the raising of armies nor the drafting of labor for earthworks should occur. “Do not initiate the great undertaking, disturbing the nurturing ethers. Do not issue any order that anticipates the proper season, interfering with the affairs of the Divine Farmer.”[ix]
  16. In this month, the earth is wet and steaming, blessed by the great rains. One smells decay as the green above returns to the soil, nourishing and renewing it.
  17. If in this third month of summer, the rituals of spring were enacted, the grain would scatter and fall and the people wander away. If in this month, the rituals of autumn were enacted, lands high and low would flood, the grain not ripen and there would be many miscarriages. If in this month, the rituals of winter were enacted, wind and cold would arrive early; there would be attacks and unrest along the borders, causing the people to retreat inland.
  18. The tree of the sixth month is the shagbark hickory.[x]
  19. The medicinal plant of the sixth month is sweet leaf.[xi]
  20. The messenger of heaven is the goldfinch.[xii]
  21. The sixth month is governed by the Lesser Ingathering.


[i] The sixth month is complicated by the fact that a system based on four (4 seasons) must also accommodate the five elements. While this may appear slightly awkward, we must remember that five is the number of manifestation. Anything that manifests in form must have five aspects, rather than just four. Traditionally, the sixth month is attributed to earth. This echoes the placing of the spleen and stomach in the 6th position, thus providing the pivot. See The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid to read more about the 12 officials in the eleven positions.

[ii] The Yueling cites the ‘god of the drain’. I substituted the inner court as another appropriate correspondence. I believe I found this reference in Needham’s Science and Civilization in China.

[iii] I Ching, p.269. 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.

[iv] The original texts speak of either young geese or hawks learning to fly at this time. I have more opportunities to observe barn swallows than the aforementioned, thus the reference to swallows.

[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. The creatures of earth are the naked class or bovines. The bison, while hardly naked, is the best representative in North America and is held sacred in indigenous culture. However, this does lead to the awkward fact that he ends up eating beef…

[vi] No instruments are mentioned in the Yueling, Li chi or Lüshi chunqiu. The conjecture that they sing (singing being the sound of earth) is just that.

[vii] The original texts refer to alligators and gavials- I have substituted the largest fish found in the Great Lakes and North America.

[viii] I Ching, p.129

[ix] Lüshi chunqiu, p.155

[x] The original tree cited is the hazel. Hickory also has sweet nuts- “Native Americans prized hickory nuts for their sweet fatty oil, and they dried and ground the remainder for use as flour.” See http://www.field-notebook.com/?p=214

[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. Sweet leaf is the Native American name for Wild Bergamot, monarda fistulosa. “In half a dozen Indian tongues the word “sweet” indicates something fragrant, tasty or beautiful, somewhat like the English word “fair”. There is also an added inference in the word, as if there is an offering of bounteous richness from Mother Nature.” P.363 of The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plant as Medicines by Matthew Wood.

[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.

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