Wild at Heart (Buffy Season 4, Episode 6)

Alas, poor Willow.

In this episode we learn why Oz was fascinated by Verucca, the lead singer of a frequent band at the Bronze.  Verucca, like Oz, is a werewolf.  We initially discover this the morning after Oz escapes from his cage and awakes next to a now human Verucca.  In contrast to Oz, Verucca celebrates her wildness and sees it as core to her own identity in the world.

Seeking to prevent her from doing any more damage, Oz locks Verucca away in his cage on the second night of the full moon.  Willow discovers the two of them naked the next morning.  While she had been nervous about the two of them from the start of the episode, this was more than she expected would have happened.

The third night sees the resolution of the Oz-Verucca relationship:  After tracking Verucca’s scent with Buffy, Oz realises they were thrown off the real trail; Verucca had gone to kill Willow.   Willow had been preparing a spell, but found she couldn’t actually go through with hurting the man she loved; this buys time for Verucca to transform into a werewolf and threaten Willow.  Oz arrives just in time, kills Verucca, and then gets tranquilised by Buffy.  The next day Oz leaves Sunnydale — and the show — in order to come to peace with himself.

What to diagnose?  I’ve already designed a potion to treat Oz’s lycanthropy in a previous post.  While I could advise making peace with oneself, I think I may save that for the episode in which Oz returns from Tibet.  Instead, taking my cue from Oz’s uncanny ability to track by scent even in human form, I will discuss the role odour plays in Chinese Medicine.

Listening and smelling is one of the five means of making a diagnosis in Chinese medicine.  The character for the part of diagnosis concerned with listening and smelling is the same — no distinction is made between the two.  The character contains two parts, the door radical, and within or between the doors, an ear.

This character always confused me.  How can it mean ‘to listen’ and ‘to smell’?  I was accustomed to thinking of the ear as a doorway through which perception comes; but this imagery would apply to other senses as well, particularly sight.  When I began to consider the image as an ear behind a closed door, however, the meaning stuck.  The character, which can also mean to receive news,  is indicative of those sense perceptions which do not rely on either sight or personal contact (e.g. touch, taste) to obtain information about the outside world.  Thus, the character presents the physician as a person inside a house and the patient as a person by outside the house.  News can be obtained by a person on one or the other side of the gate through overhearing a conversation, or catching the scent of what passersby may be carrying — flowers or dumplings (or maybe durrian fruit) — or the scent of whatever the inhabitants of the house might be cooking.

In the same way, a patient’s smell can tell us what is going on inside the house of the body.  What is the smell like, by which we can diagnose patients?  It isn’t quite body odor, and it isn’t always immediately noticeable.  Sometimes the odor is more noticeable after coming into the room for a second time.  Sometimes it is noticed after the patient leaves, and their scent lingers in the room.  Other times, it is quite palpable — to use the metaphor of touch in this case!

The various smells are categorised under five headings, each associated with one of the elements.  They can be used to corroborate other information gained from asking questions and feeling the pulse.  The particular imbalance they point to relates directly to either organ systems or meridian systems, so long as the underlying theory is based on five elements (rather than a strict yin-yang, six stages, or qi-blood-body fluids paradigm).

If someone has an imbalance in the wood element, they might smell rancid.  The smell is reminiscent of oil that has gone off.  I associate it with the smell of an old jar of peanut butter.  (Granted, this is a smell I do not often have the opportunity to encounter, since peanut butter rarely lasts long around me…)  The scent can likewise be associated with wood polishing oil or old linseed oil.  Often those liquids are simply old and spoiled oil.  The scent is not the sort of oil obtained from sandalwood or cedarwood, although those can also go rancid.

A fire element imbalance often shows up unsurprisingly as a scorched smell.  This sometimes smells like burnt toast, but I’ve also smelled it as burned flesh, having a slightly sweet edge.  Another time, I encountered it as more akin to the smell of ozone in the air on a summer day.

The odour of earth is fragrant.  I associate it with the smell of baking bread, a very full and rich scent.  Sometimes other fragrances can be indicative of an imbalance in the earth element — skin which smells like honey, or mangoes, or peaches, slightly musky but slightly sweet.  Diabetics sometimes have a fragrant smell to their skin, especially before they are diagnosed as such by biomedicine.   Diabetes is often associated with a Spleen-Stomach imbalance in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The rotten smell, often accompanied by a certain acridity, is the smell of metal.  It is quite different from rancid in that it does not have an oily quality; it is much more of a piquant, spicy, dry odour.  It also differs from the putrid scent, because it isn’t really the smell of something decaying slowly.  I suppose one could say it smells like rubbish bins outside restaurants — unpleasant, but not altogether so.

Water gives off a putrid odour, the smell of decay.  It is the scent of something slowly stewing in its own juices, locked into the earth by winter ice, unable to go rotten for the cold, and so it just slowly deteriorates.  I sometimes encounter this smell in dentists’ offices, actually.  I am not surprised that the teeth, although having their own microcosm, are strongly associated with the Kidneys (governed by the element water) and with jing-essence (stored in the Kidneys).  Yet the scent can also be like still water with scum on top, a very green scent; or like an old pool, in which the chlorine has somehow collected and concentrated and turned into some other scent.  The earlier reference to jing makes me wonder if the putrid smell is like an old, used condom, but I’m not going to test this theory… someone else can tell me what they think.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you think Chinese Medicine may have the solutions to your own body odour imbalances, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!


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