Living Conditions (Buffy Season 4, Episode 2)


Ah, the roommate from another dimension.  I’m afraid many of us have been there.  I mean, many of us have been in the position of having a roommate from another dimension, rather than having been to the dimension the roommate happens to be from.  Although, some roommates will just suck you into their world regardless of all your own attempts to maintain your hold on this reality…

In this episode, we learn that Kathy, Buffy’s first college roommate is a demon who escaped her dimension to come to Sunnydale as a student.  Through the use of an arcane ritual involving blood and a scorpion, she attempts to steal Buffy’s soul while Buffy sleeps.  Having Buffy’s soul means that Kathy will not be detected by her home dimension’s ‘missing child’ task force;  instead, Buffy the Soul-less one, will be taken back to the dimension Kathy affectionately calls ‘Nebraska’.  Buffy is only aware that she is having very strange dreams.  Buffy’s friends believe she is over-reacting, and begin to suspect she may be going slightly mad.

So what can Chinese Medicine do for Buffy now?  The ritual offers some clues, actually.  Scorpion, or Quan Xie, is used medicinally to extinguish wind (i.e. tremours, stubborn headache) and goes exclusively to the Liver channel.  The use of blood in the ritual, especially during dream-time, also points to the Liver.  At night, the blood returns to the Liver, where it nourishes the hun, the ethereal soul, and anchors those souls (usually numbered as three) to call them back from wandering about while a person dreams.

The hun can be thought of as that aspect of the soul which involves the person’s personality; it survives for about three generations after a persons death, having exited via the mouth (or the top of the head, depending on one’s tradition).  It is the soul-aspect of an ancestor that is honoured in the household shrines.  (The other aspects of the soul, the shen and the po have been treated elsewhere.  The po return to the earth with the bones, the shen departs to wherever it needs to go next.)

Therefore, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, the ritual being used by Kathy involves taking the hun from Buffy when they are most accessible — during sleep.  They are loosened from Buffy through the use of foreign blood.  In case Buffy’s own lack of blood should give rise to wind — when the vessels are empty of blood, they often fill with wind instead, sometimes leading to madness — a scorpion is used.

It’s all well and good to understand the mechanism of an illness, but what can be done about it?  In this case, I would say we need to anchor the hun by nourishing Liver blood.  For points, I would use BL-47, hun men (“Ethereal soul gate”) and BL-17, the shu point of blood.  I would also consider thread moxa on Du-26, not only a ghost point but also near the mouth from which the hun are being drawn out of Buffy.  (Used as a ghost point, the area is pricked in order to draw a drop of blood.)

Finally, if I were particularly keen on discerning where the hun are located during the day, I would consult with some of the Dunhuang manuscripts on iatromancy, which detail how the hun move from point to point following the waxing and waning of the moon.  (See Lo and Cullen 2005, Medieval Chinese Medicine.  Routledge.)    The Qianjin yaofang notes that the renshen is located in the navel at age 19; and then moves to the heart.  The Wuwei manuscripts from Gansu locate the shenhun in the heart at that time, moving to the abdomen (which I take to mean CV-12, the ST mu) the following year.  Since Buffy is 19 at the time of this episode (using the Chinese system of counting birth as ‘1’, and the end of the first year of life as age 2), I would want to address either CV-12 or CV-14 as well.  Note the scorpion seems to be crawling upwards from these areas, past the pericardium-mu point of CV-17, and towards the mouth during Buffy’s dreams.

For herbal medicines, I would use Xi Xian Cao, steamed in wine (jiu zhi Xi Xian Cao) together with Ba Zhen Tang.  Xi Xian Cao (herba siegesbeckiae), can help the Liver bank blood and experiences.  it calms the spirit when there is a tendency for it to rise or not be contained, and is specific for physically restless insomnia.   The Ba Zhen Tang is simply present to nourish the blood overall, and to ensure that the po remain anchored to the presence of qi.  I might think of also using Gui Zhi Long Gu Mu Li Tang for a similar purpose, the gui zhi and bai shao, or the sheng jiang and da zao combinations acting to harmonise the qi and blood (as wei and ying qi), and thus maintain the balance between hun and po, hopefully preventing Buffy from going mad and becoming dominated by the sometimes perverse po.

In the end, of course, Buffy gets her soul back, and Kathy is banished — well, taken by her father — back to the dimension from whence she came.

As always, this post is to entertainingly illustrate the ways in which Chinese medical theories can be applied to various situations.  If you feel that Chinese Medicine may benefit you, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

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