Dead Man’s Party (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 2)


Now that is a welcome home party — and a zombie episode I had forgotten about.  At least in this episode, the Nigerian masque was not brought back and displayed by a well-intentioned anthropologist, but by Joyce, the Art Gallery Owner.  After all, anthropologists can’t be blamed for everything that makes the White Man’s Burden heavier (or facilitates the post-colonial vengeance of the Two-thirds world upon the imperialist and decadent White Man).

Did anyone else notice in this episode several foreshadowings of seasons six and seven?  Xander and Buffy joke about how slaying is all fun and games until someone gets an eye put out (although this also foreshadows how the demonic masque wearing Zombie gets defeated in this episode).  Willow mixes drugs, addiction, and witchcraft in the monologue.  And Xander implicitly tells Buffy she won’t stay buried.

Xander, in fact, is the one who gets credit for this episode’s topic.  “You can’t just bury things, Buffy,” he raves at her, with more force than the scene demands.  “They have a tendency not to stay that way.”  Cue up Zombie attack, delivered after Willow’s sarcastic comment about using violence.

Chinese medicine would concur with Xander:  It can be difficult to keep a pathogen buried in the body.  Sooner or later, it will use up the substance which is keeping it buried, and wreak havoc on a now very weakened system.

The term Chinese medicine uses for this phenomenon is latency.  A latent pathogen is one which the body’s defenses (wei qi) could not expel entirely, but which could not penetrate further because the supply lines for the troops — actual substance of the body (the ying qi) — was too strong to be broken.   Like an enemy trapped behind a country’s defensive lines but who can’t penetrate any further into their territory, the pathogen goes into hiding.  It may stay in the wilderness and forage, or it may enter the homes of villagers and commandeer food, clothing, and other supplies — in the case of the body the supplies it demands are jing, blood, and body fluids.  When these substances are used up, the pathogen has a tendency to come out of hiding, with greater strength than before.  Usually, however, signs of the pathogen lurking have already shown up as a gradual weakening of the body.

Several modern diseases, particularly autoimmune conditions, are considered to be latent warm disease pathogens.  Multiple sclerosis is one example; lupus is another.  Note also that trauma — especially emotional trauma — can be considered a retained, or latent pathogen.

Fire toxins are a particular example of a latent pathogen.  Wind and cold can combine and enter and be transformed into heat and later into fire, leading to fire toxicity.  Fire toxicity seems to find its particular home in the blood.  For practitioners who only use the primary channels, the Small Intestine channel is particularly effective for addressing these conditions when dispersed.  The Pericardium and Triple Warmer channels, on the other hand, help promote latency (and thus should be tonified).  Finally, the Stomach, Lung, and Large Intestine meridians are responsible for the original transformation of cold into heat (as well as internal, emotional factors); wind-cold, and wind-heat conditions respectively.

Two principles derive from the theory of latency.   (The theory was first fully articulated in the Southern Chinese Warm Disease school of medical thought.)  First, the pathogen relies on yin substances to become latent, and can become latent at the jing, blood, or fluid/ ying qi levels.  Second, if the body is too weak to expel a pathogen, the practitioner can build up these substances and lead the pathogen into latency, to be expelled at a later time.

Although I mentioned several primary channels which can be used to address these conditions, the channel system which most effectively deals with latent pathogens, because of its connexion to the wei qi and jing qi levels, is the network of Channel Divergences.  Depending on needle technique, the channel can be used to either promote latency or bring a pathogen out of latency to be expelled.

The beginning of the channel divergences of the legs tend to be located around the pelvis, on what are called the Doorways to the Earth points.  Doorways to the Earth bury things in the body.  They are needled to either access what has been buried and raise it up to be expelled via the orifices of the face, or to maintain their burial within the body’s yin substances.  These points include BL-40, GB-30, LV-12,  ST-30, SP-12, Du-4;  KD-10 or KD-11, Ren-1 or Ren-2; some would even include Ren-4, Ren-6, and Ren-8.  BL-35, as the Yang Meeting point could also be considered.  These points happen to be the confluent points where the Yin and Yang Channel Divergences join together.

The channel divergences “end” at the upper orifices.  (Technically, a debate exists about whether the Channel Divergences are the internal trajectories of the primary channels, but that debate concerns how the channel systems relate to one another and not so much to how they are used clinically as separate channel systems.)  The orifices provide the means by which the body can expel pathogenic factors.

Relating these concepts to the episode at hand,  the zombie masque needed its eyes opened (well, shattered in this case) in order to release the demon and break its power.  We did not want to rebury the demon, but we need to remind the body that what it is doing is taking a pathogen which had once been buried (the corpse) and is now crashing the party of life (as a zombie), and for this reason the doorways to the earth points are needled.  Interestingly, all the channel divergences connect with the Heart on the way to the orifices, and right before the zombies come crashing through the windows, Buffy and friends are having a heart-to-heart argument.

So:  needle doorway to the earth, then a point along the trajectory (which often relates to the heart — CV-17, BL-15, GB-22, HT-1, SI-10 are all good choices), and then the upper orifice point.  If the practitioner prefers, one could needle according to the looping system I mentioned in the earlier Ted post on treating food allergies with the ST-SP channel divergence.  In this case, rather than needling bilaterally and moving upwards, the points are needled unilaterally pointing up on one side, until the topmost point is reach which is angled to point towards the other side.  The rest of the points are needled from the top down, angled downward, and the jing well point of the yang channel being treated is also needled.

Needle technique depends on what is being done with the pathogen.  To bring it up from the depths, use a superficial-deep-superficial technique, with a vibration at the initial superficial and deep levels.  To promote latency (which can also be a technique to build up the particular bodily substance related to the Channel Divergence), the reverse technique is used:  deep-superficial-deep, with vibration at the initial deep and superficial levels.

Needles are retained 20 minutes, and treatment should occur for three consecutive days, with a three day break following, for a total of 18 days (9 days of treatment total).  After that time, treatment efficacy should be assessed.

For reference, the following Channel Divergences are related to their yin substances:

BL-KD:  Jing essence

GB-LV:  Blood

ST-SP:  Body Fluids

SI-HT:  Ye-thick fluids

TH-PC:  Qi (note the TH CD does not end at an orifice, but goes into the chest or stomach)

LI-LU:  Thin fluids or Wei Qi

Herbal treatment depends on what one is trying to accomplish.  A simple three herb formula that I might try is  Jin Yin Hua, Xuan Shen, and Huang Qi (one could also add Lian Qiao).   Jin Yin Hua and Huang Qi as a combination nourish blood, while the Jin Yin Hua itself will clear fire toxins.  Xuan Shen nourishes yin and clears fire toxins.  Together, all three support yin substances which maintain latency, while searching out and clearing the enemy from now secured lines.  Adding the Lian Qiao further strengthens the fire toxin clearing ability of the formula.  One might add something to open orifices, too — Da Zao is said to disinhibit the nine orifices, as does Yuan Zhi.  Xin Yi Hua opens the nose.

If one is more interested in promoting latency,  E Jiao, Sang Bai Pi, and Di Gu Pi are your combination of choice.  E Jiao and Di Gu Pi (or Sang Ji Sheng) are a pair which serve as envoys to direct formulas to the Channel Divergence level, both relating to Jing and Wei Qi by the nature of their substance.

Finally, Tian Dong and Fen Xi treat “hidden corpse”, which is thought to relate to Gan syndrome in children.  This is also a type of latent pathogen, and perhaps relates most to the SI-HT channel divergence, given Tian Men Dong’s tropism for the Marrow.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you may benefit from the tradition of East Asian medicine, please seek a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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