BRANCHES, PHASES and ANIMAL EQUIVALENTS

In the following summary, we note the ‘Phase’ and the ‘Description’ are taken from the daily cycle of 12 double-hours with their corresponding animal signs, starting from 23:00 in modern time measure. So, ‘Commencement’ would run from 23:00 to 1:00 on the following day, or 11:00 pm to 1:00 am. Therefore, in the double-hour system, the day ends at 23:00 and a new day begins. The diagram below plots the animals (Branches) with the eight trigrams and 24 directions, covered in a separate post.12 Heavenly Stems 10 Earthly BranchesI: TZU: This first branch is the phase of commencement. It is one of the more creative phases because it holds within it all the seeds of the remainder of the twelve cyclic phases. It marks the period of conception and beginnings. The conjectural name for this Branch from the Chinese is “Child” or “Son”. In the hour pillar it marks the beginning of the day – the first double-hour – from 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM. This is a time of day where people are usually in their deepest period of sleep and are thus most easily able to contact and commune with the ancestors as the body is in repose. In the day pillar it marks the 1st three-day period of the month and encompasses the Bat, the Rat and the Swallow (3, 2 and 1 resp.) as day constellations. These day constellations correspond to the 12th, 11th and 10th Xiu (Lunar Mansions). They are all considered to be unlucky, having the names Danger, Void and Maiden, resp. In the month pillar it is associated with the 1st month of the lunar year, the beginning of winter. In the year pillar it is associated with the 1st station of the Jupiter cycle for the greater Year of twelve years. The name for this Jupiter station is also “Commencement” (the beginning of the twelve-year cycle). In both the month and the year pillars it is associated with the animal sign of the Rat, a nocturnal animal. It is a time of darkness, gestation, the void of the womb prior to the embryonic state, the “sleep of the dead”, but also a time of enormous creative potential, because great things can eventually come of it. It is considered unlucky because it is a time of apparent stasis from the outer perspective, but the creative process is begun in earnest in this Branch.

II: CHOU: The second branch is the phase of the first stirrings of life. It is the Yin counterpart to the Yang 1st phase and sees the fulfilment of the creative process begun in the 1st Branch from the standpoint that what was conceived in Branch I is now in embryo form in Branch II. The conjectural name for this Branch is “Clown”. In the hour pillar it marks the time of cock-crow and the 2nd double hour from 1 to 3 AM. This is the time of day where people begin their REM sleep and start the process of dreaming in earnest. Perhaps we could say that it imparts to us through the dream life the gist of our communion with the ancestors in Branch 1. There is a general first stirring in nature through this Branch, whereas in the 1st Branch all was relatively still. In the day pillar it represents the 2nd two-day period of the month, which is associated with the Ox and the Griffon (Unicorn) – Xiu 9 and 8, resp., which is a mixed bag in terms of luck. The names of the Xiu are the Ox and the Southern Ladle, resp. In the month pillar it is associated with the 2nd lunar month, usually around the solar month of December. Along with the year pillar, Branch II is associated with the sign of the Ox. In the year pillar Branch II demarcates the phase of the Great year known as “Closure”. It is a time of the beginning in earnest of the gestation period and encompasses the time in gestation where the human heart begins to beat. In all, this phase, again, represents the first stirrings of the now embryonic life yet to be born. It is a highly productive phase with regard to differentiation and the creative in-building of the many different qualities that qualify what is to eventually be born, whether a person, cycle or society. Branches I and II define the House of Creativity.

III: YIN: The third Branch is the phase of the first recognizable shape of the form to come. It is a Yang phase and marks a time of expansion. In human terms it is the time in gestation where the growing embryo becomes quite visible. Most of the cells have been differentiated and the embryo begins a very rapid process of expansion. The conjectural name for this Branch is “Reverence”. In the hour pillar it marks the 3rd double-hour and is called “nearly dawn”, from 3-5 AM. This is when the sun begins to rise and the blackest part of the night ends. The first faint stirring of the coming dawn becomes evident. In the Day pillar this marks the 3rd two-day segment of the month and encompasses the 7th and 6th Xiu – the “Winnowing Basket” and the “Tail”, resp. The associated day constellations are the Leopard and the Tiger, resp. It is considered to be a lucky period. In the month pillar it indicates the lunar New Year, and comes around the solar period of Jan/Feb. Along with the year pillar, it is associated with the Chinese sign of the Tiger. In the year pillar this marks the 3rd segment of the Great Year, denoted by the term “Establishing”, and it “establishes” the coming day and the New Year through the day and the month pillars, resp. It is a phase of great acceleration in the growth of the twelve-fold cycle. It is a time when the growing embryo “conquers” its domain and finally begins to move within it, when the light begins to conquer the blackness of night, when the seasons begin to break and the first glimmerings of spring can be felt. It is a phase marked by a growing sense of excitement and expectancy and a time when one comes to realize that things are really finally beginning to take shape since the start of the cycle in Branch I. It is said to be a time of conquering, along with the next Branch.

IV: MAO: The fourth Branch is the phase of the first outward appearance – of dawn. It is the Yin counterpart to Branch III. The processes of creativity are now very well in evidence. In terms of human gestation the fetus is now very active and is making its presence very much known to the outer world. This is the time in pregnancy where there is little doubt that the mother-to-be is pregnant with a viable fetus. There is no conjectural name for this Branch, but the name “Mao” and the Chinese character for it are the same one used for the constellation of the Pleiades, suggesting some sort of rising constellation or even perhaps the Sun. In the hour pillar this is the period of sunrise and covers the 4th double-hour from 5-7 AM. In the day pillar this covers the 4th 3-day period of the month and the 5th, 4th, and 3rd Xiu – “Heart”, “Room” and “Base”, or Foundation, resp. The day constellations covered are the Fox, Rabbit and Marten, resp. It is largely unlucky, except for Xiu 4. In both the month and the Year pillar this Branch is associated with the animal sign of the Rabbit. It marks the 4th month of the year and the approximate solar month of March. In the year pillar it marks the 4th segment of the Great Year, which is called “Dividing”. In the day this Branch divides the day from the night. In human gestation this “divides” the fetus from the mother and fully establishes that there is a life other than her own within her. In the year this marks the solar festival of spring and divides the cold from the heat. It is a time of appearance, of a final conquering of that which was or of finally moving somewhat into one’s own in terms of the outer world. Everywhere there is now abundant activity and the task at hand is now fully underway. In another sense, this could also represent birth, or a second beginning (in distinction to conception as a “first” beginning). With the previous Branch, it denotes the House of Expansion.

V: CHEN: The fifth Branch is a time of work and filling. It is a Yang phase. Typically, it is the time of the first meal and the time in the life of the fetus where the phase of most rapid growth takes place. The body is now completely formed from the perspective of its human-ness and has only to gain in strength and fill itself out. There is no conjectural name for this pillar either. In the day pillar this marks the 5th double-hour, the time of breakfast – traditionally the largest meal of the day. It is called, simply, “Meal time”. In the day pillar it marks the 5th of the periods, covering 2 days of the month. It encompasses the 2nd and 1st Xiu – the “Neck” and the “Horn”, resp. The day constellations are the Dragon and the Scaly Dragon, resp. It is mixed in terms of luck. For both the month and the year it is associated with the animal sign of the Dragon. In the month pillar it marks the 5th month of the year and generally comes around mid-April, when spring is in full bloom. Winter is well and truly gone by this point. In the year pillar it demarcates the 5th segment of the Great Year, which is known by the name “Filling”. It is, in all respects, a time of filling, of rapid growth, of magical transformation (re: spring and nature in general) and of rapid progress forward within the cycle. Color and growth abound in nature during this time.

VI: SSU: The sixth Branch is a Yin phase and is a time of equilibrating in work after the previous cycle of full activity. It marks a time when things settle in and progress goes on apace. For the human fetus it is more of the same from the previous month – more growth. There is no conjectural name for this Branch either. In the hour pillar this marks the time of day called “Middle angle”, referring to the angle of the Sun in the sky just prior to noon. This is the 6th double-hour, from 9-11 AM. It is very much in the same vein as the 5th Branch cycle of the day. The work of the day goes steadily onward as the Sun begins its ascent to its zenith in the day. In the day pillar this is the 6th of the periods, covering two days of the month. It covers the 28th and 27th Xiu, “The Carriage Board” and “Wings”, resp. The day constellations covered are the Worm and the Snake, resp. The 28th is considered lucky, while the 27th is not. In the month pillar this denotes the 6th lunar month of the year and marks the approach of the Sun to the solstice points. It is a very busy time in nature and in the fields. The crops are growing very quickly in the fields and vines are beginning to bear fruit. In both the month and year pillars this Branch is represented by the animal sign of the Snake. In the year pillar this marks the 6th segment of the Great Year and is denoted by the term “Equating”, although no explanation is given for its label as such. It is a time in nature and in the gestation period of ripening for certain plants and processes, and it is the 2nd half of the time of magic and mystery in the creative process. With Branch V it denotes the House of Mystery and Magic.

VII: WU: The seventh Branch marks the mid-point of the creative process in many aspects of nature. It is the high point of the year in many ways and marks the point of greatest activity on the outer side of things. This is a Yang phase and marks a period of culmination. It is the most extreme of the Yang phases of the greater cycle of which all the twelve Branches form the parts. The conjectural name for this phase is “Noon”, or midpoint. In the hour pillar this is the 7th double-hour of 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. It is the noon time of day and is a period of respite – usually when people stop for the mid-day meal. It is the period of the zenith of the Sun’s path through the sky and is the defining point between the most rapid growth in the day and its slow slide into decline. In the day pillar this covers the 7th period of the month, lasting three days. It includes the 26th, 25th and 24th Xiu, denoted by the names “Bow”, “Bird” and “Willow”, resp. The associated day constellations are the Deer, Horse and Buck, resp., and it is generally considered to be unlucky. In both the month and the year pillar the associated animal constellation is the Horse. In the month pillar this is the 7th lunar month of the year and includes the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is the time of year where there is the greatest amount of daylight. In the year pillar this denotes the 7th segment of the Great Year, known as “Fixing”, and it fixes the time of the initial decline of the cycle, as well as the time of the break in the cycle. From here on the cycle starts its steady road to decline and completion. The greatest amount of work has been done and now energies are begun to be put in place for reaping the benefits of the cycle. In the life of the fetus the full differentiation and setting in place of organs, tissues, etc. is now all done and all that is left to do is to gather in enough material to ensure a successful life after birth. Preparations are now underway for the start of the birth process and the full emergence into the outer world.

VIII: WEI: The eighth Branch is the phase of the full move toward in-gathering. It is a Yin period, and is considered to be one of the most Yin periods. Attention in nature and in human life is now given toward reaping. The notional name for this Branch is “Not Yet”, as in not yet time to rest. In the hour pillar this marks the 8th double-hour of 1-3 PM, which is called “Sun declines”. In many ways it is the opposite of the period represented by the 6th Branch. The activity is just as great, but it is geared toward finishing things rather than to active building. In the day pillar this marks the 8th segment of the month, a two-day period that includes the 23rd and 22nd Xiu – “Ghosts” and “The Eastern Well”, resp. The associated day constellations are the Sheep and the Tapir, or wild dog, resp. It is considered to be a generally unlucky period. In both the month and the year pillar this marks the animal sign of the Sheep, or Goat. In the month pillar this denotes the 8th lunar month and begins the hottest part of the year. These begin the lazy days of the most unbearable part of the summer. In the year pillar this marks the 8th segment of the Great Year called “Regulating; Controlling Ruin”. This begins the time of harvest in nature. In the life of the fetus this marks the time of decision as to when readiness for birth will be fulfilled. Branches VII and VIII mark the part of the greater cycle known as the House of Gender.

IX: SHEN: The ninth Branch marks the beginning of the end of outer activity, so-to-speak. It is a Yang phase and is recognizable by a final flurry of activity before the outer work of the cycle shuts down. The notional names for this phase are something akin to “stretch” or “repeat”. In the hour pillar it is the time of day when the Sun begins to cast its long shadows on the landscape. It is also a time when the animals begin their final flurry of feeding prior to roosting or bedding down for the night. The Chinese call this the “Time of Bu” (“Pu” in the old transliteration). This is the time of nourishment – dinner time – the hours of 3-5 PM. In old China it was said to be when mothers fed their fat babies before putting them down for the day. In the day pillar this marks the 9th period of the month which consists of two days, encompassing the 21st and 20th Xiu – “Orion” and the “Beak”, resp. The day constellations are the Ape and the Monkey, resp. They are generally considered to be unlucky. In both the month and the year pillar the associated animal sign is the Monkey. In the month pillar this is the 9th lunar month of the year and is a time of year when the harvest is in full swing. It is also the hottest month of the year in the northern climes. In the year pillar it denotes the 9th segment of the Great Year, a period called “Breaking, controlling balance”. In nature it is a phase wherein the animal world has to muster all the ingenuity it can to insure enough food to last through the night and a safe place to sleep. In the fetus it is the final period prior to birth and defines a time when the mother becomes truly ready to receive the new life into the world – and often not a moment too soon by this point.

X: YU: The tenth branch is the phase of cessation of outer activity. The work has been done and it is time to retire from further labors. It is a Yin phase and has the conjectural name of “Liquor”, suggesting a time of refreshment. (Doubled pillars of this branch tend toward alcoholism, too.) In the hour pillar this is the 10th double-hour of 5-7 PM. It is the time of sunset, when the Sun casts its final glorious rays into the clouds and gives a final burst of its resplendence before fading into the night. It is a time of reflection over the day’s labors and a time of relaxation and enjoyment after a hard day’s work. In the day pillar this marks the 10th segment of the month, encompassing three days and the 19th, 18th and 17th Xiu – the “Net”, the “Pleiades” and the “Stomach”, resp. The day constellations are the Crow, Cock and Pheasant, resp. and it is generally considered to be lucky. In both the month and the year pillars it is known by the animal sign of the Rooster. In the month pillar it marks the 10th lunar month of the year and is the time of year when the fields are plowed under. The harvest is complete and the crops are stored away. It includes the autumnal equinox. In the year pillar it describes the 10th segment of the Great Year, known as “Danger; controlling the Tail of Tou (the Great Bear)” This is when the Year Star (Jupiter) goes past the tail of the Great Bear. In human terms, it is the time of birth – the sunset of the Soul and its final bondage in matter. On the outer planes it is a time of welcoming the new life, of celebration (“Liquor”), and is also a time of greatest danger for the mother and the newborn – both in animal and human life. Along with the 9th Branch it shows the full artistry of the creative process, because all is now complete and can be shown in fullness. There is nothing left to do now other to than to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors. Branches IX and X define the House of Artistry.

XI: HSU: The eleventh Branch is a time of resting prior to sleep. It is a time of full reflection over the phase just passed. Branch XI is a Yang phase and has the conjectural name of “Weapon”, suggesting guard duty. In the hour pillar this is the 11th double-hour of 7-9 PM – the time of “Yellow Dusk”. The final light of the Sun fades into the black of night. In the day pillar it defines the 11th segment of the month, consisting of two days and encompassing the 16th and 15th Xiu – “Mound” and “Astride”, resp. The day constellations are the Dog and the Wolf, resp., and they are considered to be mixed in terms of luck. The Wolf as a constellation is considered to be very unfortunate. In both the month and the year pillar it is associated with the animal sign of the Dog. In the month pillar it marks the 11th lunar month and is a time of relatively relaxed activity in nature. Many animals begin their hibernation during this phase of the year. It is a time in human terms for protecting the house against the coming winter and of gathering fuel for warmth, since the trees would have all but lost their leaves by now. In the year pillar it marks the 11th segment of the Great Year, known as “Perfecting; controlling the Lesser Virtue”. In terms of the human birth process this is the time of assessment of the newborn-counting all the fingers and toes, etc., checking to make certain all is as it should be and of settling in to rest from all that hard labor. This phase starts the domestic period in the world of human affairs. In the old days it would have been a time of day when the house would have been battened down and protected for the night. It marks a time spent communing with family before retiring, or a final recounting of the cycle just about to end.

XII: HAI: The twelfth Branch marks the end, completion and final rest. It has the conjectural name of “Darkness”, and it is a Yin phase. In the hour pillar it marks the final double-hour of the day, 9-11 PM. It is known by the name “Man reposes (sleeps)”. There is nothing to do now but to go to bed and commune with the ancestors. In the day pillar this represents the final segment of the month and encompasses the 14th and 13th Xiu – the “Wall” and the “House”, resp. The associated day constellations are the Porcupine and the Pig, resp., and it is considered to be lucky. In both the month and the day pillar the associated animal sign is the Pig. In the month pillar it denotes the final lunar month of the year, and it is a time when the cold sets in and nature enters repose. In the year pillar it denotes the final segment of the Great Year, which is named “Receiving; controlling the Greater Virtue”. This Branch and the previous one denote the House of Domesticity. In both natural and human terms, all now reposes and sleeps. The refuse of the completed cycle has been put to rest and dug in to serve as the fertile ground for the coming cycle. The seed has been stored away. Mother and child now take a much-needed sleep and the baby is able to commune with the soul that called it into being. The parents are able to meet with the ancestors, released from the bonds of the physical world. All is quiescent and the cycle is finished – while the plans for the coming cycle are decided upon in the Heaven worlds.

branches_xiu

Note: The lunar mansions are covered in a separate post.

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