Phases (Buffy, Season 2)

I find it intriguing that the two episodes (one in season two and the other in season four) where Oz’ lycanthropy plays a pivotal role, so do revelations about homosexuality.  Rumour has it that JW wanted to turn either Willow or Xander into a gay character, but hadn’t quite made up his mind at this point.  Well, this is episode where Xander gets directly set up to come out. (Although his comment about Giles being a drama queen in the previous episode could also be seen a small step in that direction.)

How the series would have been different had Xander been gay is interesting to contemplate.  It would have rounded out the gang nicely: Buffy the Slayer, Giles the Watcher, Willow the Witch, Xander the Gay Guy.  (And we all know gay men have mysterious superpowers, right?)  On the other hand, if Xander had come out, or beat Willow to it, then where would Anya and Tara have been? Of course, if both Willow and Xander were not straight, we could still have had Tara.  But then the show might end up too much like a high school version of Dante’s Cove.  Tresum on the Hellmouth.

All that having been said, Oz is awesome. Still, watching this episode I was struck by the interweaving of werewolves and homosexuality in a more fully developed comparison than the one liner Michael J Fox’s friend delivered in “Teen Wolf”. Boys growing hair. People going through changes, discovering themselves.  I wonder if Teen Wolf did influence the writers of this episode.  At least J K Rowling didn’t seem to weave the homosexual element into her own werewolf plotline — but this post will take its cue from Severus Snape.  Let’s see if we can figure out a potion to cure Oz of his affliction.

The first aspect of Oz’ symptomology is its striking cyclical nature.  Every month for three days his physiology undergoes a drastic change.  These changes are manifested in an excessive growth of body hair, increased tension, violent outbursts, feeling out of control, increased interpersonal conflict, binge eating, and insomnia.

With the exception of increased body hair, these symptoms parallel those of PMDD, or prementrual dystrophic disorder (hirsutism occurs with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Increased growth of body hair usually indicates coldness in the associated channel, or possibly disregulation of the Tai Yin channel, since the Lungs control the growth of body hair.  Uncontrollable feelings and mania are usually linked to Stomach Fire, and the sort of anger Oz is manifesting is associated with Liver Fire.

As it presents, this case seems to be one either of extreme cold changing to extreme heat, or a mixture of the two.  The formula Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang, which we had given Xander when he was possessed by a hyena spirit, works for mixed hot-cold disorders.  Ideal for warming both the Stomach and Liver, and often used in Japan to treat migraine headaches, is Wu Zhu Yu Tang.  Finally, Bai Hu Tang is the classic formula to cool Yang Ming heat.

The second aspect to consider is the mode of transmission of this affliction.  On the one hand, the bite from a werewolf would affect the blood level — saliva has to penetrate into the body to take hold.  On the other hand, it quickly moves to take over the jing level (and if we think about it, the actual blood tissue is more of a jing-related humour in that it is very substantial), and must therefore secret itself away in the curious organs.  The werewolf infection, then, must be some sort of fungal toxin.  (Fungus often takes up residence in the curious organs.)  Therefore we must also be certain to add herbs which drain dampness, have a resonance with the jing level, or clear toxins from the curious organs.

With these two scenarios in mind, it seems we can put Oz on a monthly regimen:  Take Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang just after the full moon, to help regulate his system.  Adding some Ze Xie may help drain out the dampness which allows the pathogen to multiply.  A week or so before the full moon, Wu Zhu Yu Tang should be taken; I would add some Sha Shen as a TaiYin envoy and some Ze Lan to move blood in case of a PCOS related hirsutism for female lycanthropes.  I would not modify the formula further than this.  Finally, in the days approaching the full moon, or during the day when the moon isn’t out (although, technically, the moon is only truly full during daylight hours), he can drink Bai Hu Tang, modified by the addition of cold Tian Men Dong.  The Shi Gao in particular should help anchor and cool the heat in his blood, while Tian Dong clears worms from the marrow.  Tian Dong could also be added to the Gan Cao Xie Xin Tang formula, at least for the first week after the full moon.  After that, its coldness might compromise the balance of the formula.

Acupuncture for this condition is a bit more difficult.

To clear parasites from the curious organs, one can use GB-13 (or GB-8 — both connect to the brain), GB-28 (to drain damp-heat), GB-39 (treats the marrow).  Treating LI-1 or 2 in Oz’s case might not be a bad idea, since that is the original site of entry (his nephew bit him on the finger).  I would add ST-37, the sea of blood point relating to the Large Intestine because it resonates with both the blood which has been affected, and the channel whose weakness allowed the pathogen to enter.

It is said that without the proper cultivation, acupuncture won’t have as deep or lasting effect on anyone. Of course, I have the benefit of foresight, knowing what happens to Oz in Season Four. Still, self-cultivation is a vital and central aspect of Chinese medicine which I have been overlooking in these posts.

The question then becomes, what sort of practice should Oz cultivate?  I suppose if he masters the Five Animal Frolics, he could begin to integrate his wolf-like identity.  (Although, I don’t recall “wolf” being among the five animals.)  Each of the animals is associated with one of the organ systems in Chinese medicine, and the practice of all five help to balance out the system as a whole.

Then, I would advise Oz to practice stillness, in order to help overcome the urge to transform involuntarily.  Several religious traditions can be drawn on to cultivate this aspect of health.  Sitting zazen is the most famous; vinayasa meditation is becoming quite popular.  Byzantine Orthodox hesychasm is more obscure, but reviving.  If one can find it, some Kabbalistic traditions focus on the meditation of nothing.  Sufism is famous for its poetry and music, but in order for a Mevlana dervish to twirl unceasingly, he must be centred on a still point within.  Since Oz lives in California, he can easily find access to any of the above traditions, according to what resonates most with him.  Cultivating stillness will ironically move Oz down a spiritual path, however, so he should choose wisely.

Finally, adding something to decouple his connexion to the moon, or to strengthen and internalise an association with the sun would also be effective.  A very slow and centred sun and moon salutation practice might help regulate his hormone cycle and keep his blood moving — and strengthen his connexion to the sun.

With time and self-cultivation, I am confident Oz will be able to come to terms with his new essential nature.

As always, this post is for theoretical purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from the Asian medical tradition, please seek qualified practitioners.

Happy Slayage!


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