How the Ancients Saw the Seasons 

 June 25, 2023

By  Jolinda Rockett

Last Updated: July 22, 2023

How the Ancients saw the seasons

"Ancient" is a long time ago, so we are talking about teachers and influencers before our civilization was dreamed of. Why should we consider their teachings? Haven't we learned a lot since then?

I originally learned the 5 Elements of health when I began my studies in acupuncture. At first the ideas seemed charming but that initial assessment began to yield to a deep appreciation for the wisdom they held. These simple principles apply to the whole nature of each person. We are not isolated into distinct mental, emotional, and physical compartments. Nor are we separate from the natural world.

I cannot explain the many influences and depth of these correspondences in this brief writing. I can only attempt a brief impression to help you understand that your organs, your emotional expressions and thoughts are reflected in the seasons. And that connection should help put everything into a framework of understanding. Your lessons will be your own as you wake up to understand that your nature evolves,  like the seasons.


Spring is the season of the Wood element. It bursts out of the cold and recently frozen ground with sprouts and blossoms that defy the turbulent weather. Whipping in the wind, the tender new leaves of grass and trees, bend and flex like cellophane but stay resolute, almost in anger, determined to grow upward, using the sun’s rays for their insatiable needs. Remember the green of these delicate leaves when you think of the spring season and Wood element because that is the color associated with them, according to the old writings.

The Liver, the ancients explained, was connected intimately with vision and seeing. They noticed the sign of liver congestion we call jaundice when the whites of the eyes became yellow. However, their understanding extended beyond this obvious sign. Anger and outbursts of frustration are the natural reaction when vision is blocked. These are also the emotions attached to the Wood element. Anything that clouded the vision was treated through the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians of influence. Modern science is catching up to that idea, confirming that conditions of the liver and its processes are linked to diseases affecting vision. I don’t think they have quite understood the whole picture if they don’t recognize the emotional signs of poor vision. This and the tell-tale greenish tint of the Wood complexion of the face, particularly the temples and around the eyes are diagnostically important to the acupuncturist and herbalist.

After the spring energy has expressed its energy and wanes into summer, everything changes.


Summer and summer heat are represented by the Fire element. Fully developed leaves deepen in color to withstand the long and fire hot days of summer. Water from a sudden rainstorm is slurped up to maintain the tall posture of the mature plants. Crops and trees strain upward toward the sun to reach their maximum height.

Summer exudes joy. The Heart is considered the supreme organ because, the ancients told us that it is the center of organization of the body. The spiritual Heart wants to organize the community and you are invited to join in and enjoy fairs and festivals. It is a time for celebrating human connections.  

And the fire? The flames lick up up and the ash falls. A talent of the Small Intestine meridian of influence, a Fire organ, is to separate the pure from the impure.

Joy and laughter will eventually subside as the Fire suddenly cools.


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Late Summer...

Late Summer is the sweet season of the Earth element. Fruits and vegetables become fully ripe, and their sweetness is enjoyed by all. It is a time of transition. Energies begin to circle around and summer fades as quickly as it began. Berries ripen in sympathy for the bears who need extra pounds to withstand the impatient winter waiting in the wings. The trees are muted as they give up the fantasy of green. We are witnessing a turn toward a somber energy.

With contemplation, the emotional companion of the Earthy season, ideas and thoughts mull around and, hopefully, reflection becomes all the sweeter with sympathy. The golden yellow of the squash is the color representing the Earth element.

Digestion is the purview of the Earth, too. Internally our stomach transforms food and moves it around to find the essence of nutrition that we need.


Autumn element of Metal and finds the trees transforming. The brilliant colors belie the future bleakness. It always surprises us when leaves suddenly fall, but we have to remember the metallic crystals are found in the ground, so our attention is drawn there. There is a wistful sadness in the air. Now the energy sinks into the ground. 

We call this the Metal season or the essentially elemental time when identity becomes tempered and hardened. The loss of joy and sympathy we witnessed in the last 2 seasons makes us sad.

The Lungs and the Large Intestine of the metal meridians may suffer as some souls silently weep.


Winter and the Water element creep in with a depth of being that is hard to stay with. We knew it would show up, but we are never as prepared as we wish. Although we choose this time for our rowdiest and most socially demanding holidays, the energy of the heavens tells us to slow down and sink deeply into the very personal liquid places that we sometimes fear.

The organs that enjoy or suffer this season are the kidneys and bladder because they take the temperature very seriously.

We are almost numb until the little wild flowers of spring murmur with buzzing insects and suddenly we witness spring is on us again.

Yin and Yang, sinking and rising, warming and cooling, quiet and riotous. The ancients wove the patterns into our experiences of the cosmos so we can learn and never forget.

Can you relate to these concepts? Please share your ideas and experiences.

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We are strongest and healthiest when we can freely express our heartfelt nature. For over 40 years I have focused on health, first as a nurse, then acupuncturist, and now, through coaching, I help folks find their best health. Join me as we uncover how you can be truly glorious!

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