“The Pack” (Buffy, Season 1)


Xander and a few classmates get possessed by the spirit of a hyena during a trip to the zoo. The hyena was brought to the SD zoo and put in a specially designed exhibit. Specially designed by a “Primal” who seems to have studied either the beliefs of the Maasai or hyenas, or both.

Yet another episode with a crazed anthropologist. Although, I suppose the Primal “zookeeper” could equally well be a field biologist. The line gets a little blurred at times, I suppose, when one believes the animal aspects of human nature are the faculties which should be studied.

Still, I have to admit this is my favourite episode of Season 1. Even if the little pig gets eaten.

I think the diagnosis of Xander is pretty clear here, and although China did not have hyena-demons, they definitely record the existence of and possession by fox-demons.

The following theoretical discussion is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone other than the fictional characters afflicted by this condition, and it is presented here for amusement purposes only.

Hu Huo syndrome is the term that has come down to us for this condition, which seems to resemble Behcet’s disease. Interestingly, this condition seems to affect primarily people who live along the Silk Road. Its characteristics, however, can be generalised as a paradigm for several inflammatory disorders. Restlessness, fatigue, aphthous ulcers or stomatitis, and unrefreshing sleep are all characteristics of this pattern.

The formula used to treat it? Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang.

Zhi Gan Cao (12g)
Zhi Ban Xia (12g)
Huang Qin
Huang Lian
Gan Jiang
Da Zao
(Ren Shen)

Personally, I might add some Zhi Shi, since the Liver is obviously involved given the green eyes Xander and the others manifested at the moment of possession.

Why Zhi Shi?

The formula focuses on opening up the qi dynamic (which zhi shi could aid), according to Bensky’s “Formulas and Strategies”, rather than on draining Stomach fire. In fact, it can be used to treat Stomach qi deficiency, and could perhaps be used for someone who can’t stomach certain situations they must confront. Mitchell, Ye, and Wiseman have a nice discussion of this formula in their commentary on the Shang Han Lun (p240f).

With this in mind, we can devise an acupuncture treatment which drains heat while supplementing the centre, clears turbidity and warms the interior, nourishes blood and regulates qi.

Moxa CV4 (SI mu, to clear cold from lower warmer and encourage the separation of the clear from the turbid);
Needle CV12 using an even technique (ST mu, used to supplement the centre directly; ST36 may make an adequate substitute);
ST12 (because it connects to the diaphragm and can open it up to allow the qi to circulate properly) or ST9 (Regulate the Sea of Qi, and use its ability as a window to the sky point to vent heat from the Heart);
Moxa on head of needle at LV13 (SP mu, since the SP needs to be supplemented).

I would hesitate to use ST44 to drain heat, but I might consider PC8. I would not add LU7 (to open the Ren Mai) since I want to use the CV points as points on the primary meridians or points relating to the Triple Warmer, which is the physiological dynamic needing to be rectified in any case.

The PC and TW channels, incidentally, can be used for treating ghost possession generally. PC7 and 6 are both ghost points, if I recall correctly, and are usually bled for this use. In this sort of treatment, I might consider using TW17 as the window to the sky point, TW3 to regulate interior and exterior (use moxa to tonify its action), CV3 instead of CV4 (TW mu point), and maintain the other mu points. Mu points receive their yuan-qi through the distribution network provided by the SanJiao mechanism.

Personally, though, I’d stick with the herbal formula. I hear wonderful stories from veterinary acupuncturists, but I’m not sure I’d want to do acupuncture on an unsedated hyena.

The information in this post is not intended to diagnose or treat humans or animals. Please see a qualified practitioner if you think acupuncture or herbal medicine could benefit you or your loved ones.

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