Late summer, the season of the Earth

According to the Chinese metaphysical arts, each of the Five Elements – Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth – have a corresponding season. “How can that be?” you’re probably wondering.

The months of August and September are considered a separate season, called late summer. If you look at many of the ancient and pagan traditions, many harvest festivals begin in August. August and September are the months when many celebrated Earth festivals, a time of gathering of the crops, giving thanks to Mother Earth for the plentiful gifts and enjoying the fruits of the Earth.

In my Transylvanian homeland, 6th of August is celebrated as a Christian Orthodox religious day, however, the church actually “borrowed” the day from the pagan traditions of the land. It is called “the day when the face changes”. In the religious context it is related to Jesus Christ, in the pagan one, the face is the face of nature. The Sun still shines over the land, yet its rays do not scorch the land as it did in July. The pagan tradition says that nothing grows anymore in August, but everything that has grown already ripens and matures.

In the Chinese arts, late summer is the season of the Earth element.

In Chinese medicine, Earth governs our digestive system and all its components. Its code name is The Granary.

The main two organs of the system are the Spleen (Yin) and the Stomach (Yang)

The main responsibilities of the Spleen system:

  • Transformation: digestion makes nutrients for the Blood by transforming the food intake
  • Transformation: by combining nutritive Qi with the Qi from the Lungs (air), it produces the nutrients for all the internal organs and the Blood
  • Transportation: Spleen moves Qi upwards so that the nutrients reach the Lung Qi and the organs
  • Keeps everything in its place: just like Earth holds everything in place, Spleen holds the internal organs in their proper place inside the chest cavity, including the Blood in the vessels

Given its responsibilities, the Spleen system governs over the following areas:

  • Production and quality of Blood
  • Muscle mass and limbs
  • The mouth, the tongue and the sense of taste
  • Intellectual activities, reasoning processes, memorising, logic and critical thinking

At a mental and emotional level, the Spleen is affected by:

  • Worry. “Worry knots the Qi”
  • Overthinking
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Excessive intellectual activities, reasoning, problem solving and memorising

The Stomach, the Yang partner of the Spleen, gives the Spleen its ability to discern between what is important and what is not, both in the case of digestion and in case of mental processes.

Regulating cures. The system can be kept in balance by:

  • Taste: sweet. Sweet foods can support the digestive system and can also damage it, if they are consumed excessively. Please note that the taste is given by the Chinese medicine nutrition theories and does not necessarily imply the taste felt by the tongue. For example, most grains are sweet in taste according to TCM
  • Smell: fragrant, sweet
  • Colour: yellow, gold. All yellow and brown crystals and stones support the Spleen
  • Movements: turning the waist
  • Sounds: singing, talking
  • Virtues: trust, sincerity, empathy

Spleen disorders

At a physical level:

  • gastritis (the digestive system chewing on its own parts),
  • nutrient excesses and accumulations: obesity, fatty liver, gallstones, kidney stones
  • nutrient deficiencies: lack of vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium
  • lack of appetite and energy, ME, CFS
  • overeating
  • organ prolapses, heavy bleeding: haemorrhages, heavy menstruation
  • lack of menstruation, scanty menstruation
  • metabolic diseases, such as diabetes
  • muscular dystrophy
  • any lumps, cysts and phlegm accumulations

At a mental and emotional level:

  • eating disorders, addictions
  • mental fatigue, lack of focus, inability to memorise
  • brain fog
  • no desire to speak

People with a Spleen blocked by worry fail to nurture themselves, by neglecting their needs and putting everyone else first. By trying to do everything themselves, they will try to control the odds of the outcome: “If I do this instead of waiting for my partner to do it, I don’t have to worry that it won’t be done properly or on time”, “I cannot take a day off from work because they won’t manage without me”.

Sadly, a lot of our modern life has made us believe we have to be present and in control of everything at all times and many of us we feel guilty about taking “me” time to nurture ourselves. This leads to what the TCM calls Yin deficiency or the burnout syndrome.

Singing is the sound related to this system. Because the Spleen is responsible with holding everything in place, the diaphragm was linked to the Spleen and singing was the human activity that seemed to influence the system the most. At a physical level, the diaphragm keeps together the organs situated in the abdomen, and it’s a muscle. At an emotional level, singing makes the worry disappear and it helps us memorise things easier.

The virtue of this system is trust. We trust that the world will still be out there when we take “me” time to nourish ourselves. We trust our partners to do their best, we trust our children they will be fine, even when we are no longer around, we trust we will still have our jobs by the time we come back from our vacation, we trust the Universe will provide for us no matter what.

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