Helpless (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 12)


Buffy celebrates another birthday, the anniversary of Angel losing his soul.  (Angel does not celebrate.)

Is this the first episode in which we see Giles in an ambiguous position, in which we aren’t quite sure if he’s really a “good guy” or a “bad guy”?  Where do Giles’ loyalties really lie?  By the end of the episode, I think the answer is made clear:  they lie with Buffy herself.

The episode is interesting for its lit-crit potential as well.   A brief deconstruction of the plot would highlight its portrayal of the paternalism and patriarchy of the English sort which gave rise to the development of teenage culture.  At least one book, Teenage, The Prehistory of Youth Culture 1875 – 1945 by Jon SavageTeenage, makes the case that youth culture really began to take on the qualities we associate with it today after the European and British governments sent its youth off to be killed during the ill-fated Great War.  After WWII, we saw teenage rebellion in the 50s, after another generation was sent to war by their fathers.  Ditto in the US during Vietnam.  The point would seem to be that children cannot trust the government of their fathers — or mothers, now, perhaps.

Enter feminism and enter Buffy.  One can be a “hero, female” without having superpowers, as Buffy proves in this episode.  Nor is Patriarchy necessarily good for men, even old white Anglo men — especially if they do not hold ultimate power, nor seek it.

Buffy will eventually note this primary element in feminist discourse — that it is a tool for analysing structures of power, and a philosophy for making structural change — in Season Five.

But let’s turn our attention to issues that can be treated by Chinese medicine.

In hypnotising Buffy, Giles instructs Buffy to “Look at the flaw at the centre of the crystal.”  While one could take this as a comment on the Watcher’s Council, I will use it as a foreshadowing of the problem that manifests at the end of the episode:  Zackary Kralik, the deranged vampire with “mother issues” ends up shows that he also has a weak spot in his centre, that is, in his digestive system.  He drinks holy water and gets dusted from the inside out.

Poor Zackary Kralik.

Acute case of a damaged centre.

Perhaps if he had been taken different pills, the effects of the holy water would have been mitigated.  The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica notes several herbs which treat “damaged centre”.  Among them are shi hu, gan di huang, yuan zhi, shan yao, mai men dong, sang bai pi, lu jiao jiao, and hei zhi ma.  Xu duan and niu xi are also used.

Shi Hu and Mai Dong are a classic combination to supplement Stomach yin.  Di Huang, Yuan Zhi, Shan Yao, Lu Jiao Jiao, and Sang Bai Pi all relate to essence, and often focus on its retention.  Hei Zhi Ma and Shan Yao are also used for their nourishing qualities.  Niu Xi and Xu Duan both strengthen the kidneys and sinews.  A damaged centre, then, seems to be indicated when the stomach is too weak to supplement the pre-natal essence.  This may be one result of anorexia nervosa (which Zackary does not seem to have), and I may consider using some of these herbs to rectify the damage caused by extensive fasting.

I might note that the combination of Sang Bai Pi and Di Huang is used as an envoy to direct medicinals to the Channel Divergences.  Lu Jiao Jiao is rather too sweet, warming and outwardly moving for this effect — usually.  Perhaps not in a case where one wishes to build up essence and strengthen Stomach fluids to push out a pathogen.

While the above herbs would indeed make an interesting formula, I might select for Zackary a combination already in the formulary:  Harmonise the Six Fu Decoction.  Interestingly, this formula does not have any of the above herbs in it.  Rather, it makes use of Ren Shen, Sha Ren, Ban Xia, Xing Ren, Bai Zhu, Huo Xiang, Bai Bian Dou, (Chi) Fu Ling, Mu Gua, Hou Po, Gan Cao.  Each of these herbs has a correlate with one form the previous list.  Ban Xia and Yuan Zhi, for example, both scour phlegm.  Mu Gua, which relaxes the muscles, is complemented by Niu Xi and Xu Duan, which strengthen them.  Ren Shen and Bai Zhu is a different aspect of Shi Hu and Mai Dong.  Xing Ren and Hei Zhi Ma both moisten the Large Intestine.  Sang Bai Pi is outward moving, as is Huo Xiang.

Essentially, this formula is for someone whose qi is already fairly intact, just disordered.  It can be used to build someone up — after all, it contains both Ren Shen and Sha Ren.  But it isn’t something to necessarily use long-term — except perhaps in Southern China, where this formula might have a greater resonance.  The former formula might be too heavy for their climate (and thus also too heavy for the above-ground dwelling population of Sunnydale).

As for acupuncture, I’ve already treated someone with the ST-SP channel diveregence, to which we were pointed by the collection of single herbs.  We’ve also treated Spleen issues with the Luo Vessels.  Primary channel points for improper diet could also be used in this case.  So that leaves Sinew Vessels and Extraordinary Meridians.  Two channel systems with completely different domains:  wei qi in the former case, jing in the latter.

I would choose the Sinew Vessels in this case, especially since wei qi moves faster than jing and time is of the essence here (no pun intended).

IBS symptoms can be seen as too much wei qi going to the intestines.  Stomach fire conditions are likewise able to be analysed the same way — too much wei qi.  Hot type hemorrhoids, Crohn’s, and various food allergies are all manifestations of too much wei qi on the interior.  (Harmonise the Six Fu decoction moves the wei qi to the exterior through the use of Huo Xiang; Mu Gua — which relaxes the sinews to open them up to the exterior; and the aromatic qualities of Hou Po.)

To diagnose which meridian is disordered, one could use any of the typical diagnostic procedures, with an eye to diagnosing the wei qi level or the level just interior: pulse, hara, and palpation along the channels.

Since this is an emergency case, let’s choose the confluent points of all the yin channels — CV-17, where wei qi enters in at night; CV-3 or CV-2 (depending on which is not already burned by Buffy’s cross) and GB-22.  We don’t have time to palpate along all the channels to diagnose ah shi points for shallow needling.  So let’s choose to release all the jing-wells of the feet and arms by doing vigorous needling at GB-20 and GB-30.  (Needling all these Gallbladder points might have a positive overall effect on whatever neurological issue Zackary has, too.)  One might choose to add some thread moxa or even cup these areas, time permitting.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel Chinese medicine may benefit you, please seek a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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