Hell’s Bells (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 16)


Finally, the big event the season has been building towards:  Anya and Xander’s wedding.  After showing us Anya’s happiness and hope, we are taken on a tour of Xander’s nightmares, and his imposition of that nightmare onto Anya.  Of course, Xander’s own family has its share of blame, as does Anya’s past.  After all, it was a fellow demon who decided to ruin Anya’s wedding day — waiting nearly a century to exact his revenge.  Still, he would not have been so successful had not Xander’s own character weaknesses allowed an opening.  But how can character flaws be treated with sinew vessels?

One place to start is with Xander’s family.  Xander’s family all seem to have an ‘elbow problem’ — i.e. they down shots too readily and too frequently.  Elbow conditions are clearly able to be treated with sinew vessels.   One could also call the Harris family problem ‘inverted teacup syndrome’, a term the Jia Yi Jing uses to refer to diaphragmatic problems treated with the arm tai yin and arm jue yin sinew vessels.  Ordinarily, ‘inverted cup syndrome’ typically involves symptoms similar to asthma.  Lucky for me, Xander’s little cousin (the one who states she’s bored by the wedding) uses an inhaler. So we will treat ‘inverted cup syndrome’ with the sinew vessels.

Inverted cup syndrome is mentioned several times in the Jia Yi Jing.  In Scroll One, chapter 5, a syndrome called ‘xi ben’, ‘inverted cup’ is discussed as resulting from a liver organ which presses upwards on the heart, tensing the flanks below.  (This can be treated easily enough through manual therapy with visceral osteopathic techniques developed by Jean-Pierre Barral.)  Scroll 8, Chapter 3 elaborates on the syndrome, describing its etiology as an accumulation in the lung, but localised to the right lateral costal region (by the liver).  If untreated, it leads to shortness of breath, qi counterflow in the lungs (i.e. coughing), and aversion to cold.  It can last for several years, becoming a chronic condition.  In this case, qi gong and herbal medicines are indicated.  It can be transmitted to the Liver, though not in the spring.  CV-14 and SI17 are both recommended.

Earlier, however, in Scroll 2, chapter 6, two sinew vessels are said to treat inverted cup.  My edition of the Ji Yi Jing ( :76n167) has a footnote explaining, “The Tai Su explains, ‘The inverted cup is the diaphragm and although the sinew channel does not penetrate the viscera and bowels, it is dispersed throughout the diaphragm’.  Thus disorders within the sinew channel may result in symptoms of diaphragmatic dysfunction.”  Those symptoms include chest pain, lateral costal tension, and spitting up of blood.

So, I would treat Xander’s father and cousin using the arm sinews.  Usually arm sinew vessels are indicated for chronic conditions.  Asthma, of course, is generally considered a chronic condition with periodic acute episodes — and so is alcoholism.  After releasing yang qi along the Du Mai, and checking that the neck is fully released so that wei qi has an unobstructed pathway through the interior and exterior of the body, I would palpate the channels and needle three ah shi points with the chisel technique.  I would then burn thread moxa at either at the tip of the thumb (by the nailbed) or middle finger.  In Xander’s father’s case, I would combine the sinew treatment with tonification of the associated primary channel, at the ying-spring point.  Clearly, his problem has gone interior, and even passed on to his lineage — and thus resides at the jing level.  I might therefore combine the ying-point (PC8) with the shu/ source point (PC7) and perhaps the associated shu point on the back (BL-14).

As for an Extraordinary Vessel treatment, straightforward Yin Qiao-Ren Mai treatments are often effective for asthma, using the functions of the opening-coupled points for those vessels, LU-7, KD-6.  The Lungs take in qi and send it downwards, where the Kidneys grasp it; the Lungs then raise the qi to disperse it outwards, moving fluids and breath in the process.  If I were to add any points along the CV channel, they would be chosen according to more specific differential diagnosis:  CV-22 for opening the throat; CV-12 for food induced asthma; CV14 for diaphgram problems (the ‘inverted teacup’ mentioned above), CV-18 for LV attaching LU type asthma.  KD-2 is a Yin Qiao point which could help strengthen the Kidney yang (KD-2 as a fire point), or the Yin Qiao point ST-12 can be utilised for its connection to the diaphragm, if that is an issue.  Thus, LU-7, CV-14, ST-12, KD-6 would make a simple combination.

However, I think Xander would make a better candidate to treat with the extraordinary vessels.  Xander has let his fears get to him, by not speaking them to the person he most needed to have hear them.  His choice not to communicate his fears destroyed the relationship, and the rest of this season and the next plays out the consequences of his silence.  The choice not to speak is an action, which speaks louder than words, but which also leaves open false interpretations and miscommunication, as Buffy and Riley learned in Season 4.

Xander’s fears, which he never spoke until it was quite late (but not too late — Anya was willing to work with him, but he refused the partnership she offered), involve time, his lineage and potential progeny, and his own individuation.  This is Yang Wei and Du Mai.  I would needle the Du Mai first, to bring his individuality and sense of self outwards to meet time, letting his confidence in making his way in the world (as himself, as a husband-to-be) inform the way he integrates the external and internal worlds which he inhabits.

The points I would needle are right SI-3, followed by the Du Mai points Du-5 (Dark Gate, the place where fears and depression are held), Du-15 (Mute Gate, also a Yang Wei point, allowing a crossing over to that vessel), the Yang Wei point GB-13 (Root of Spirit), and close with SJ-5 (Outer Gate).  The combination of Du-5 and SJ-5 should be particularly effective as two ‘gates’ — the hidden or mysterious gate, and the outer gate — are paired:  Xander passes through his hidden fears and crosses the threshold to the outer gate of married life, facilitated by actually speaking his fears and darkness, Du-15.

My herbal formula prescription would be a variation of Ma Huang Tang.  It treats aversion to cold and several Lung-organ associated conditions, including asthma.  It is also effective at releasing diaphragmatic constraint, particularly in ‘excess’ tending individuals.  How does this relate to alcoholism?  I’m using a Kanpo body types when looking at Xander’s father.  Xander’s father has a body type which is robust and could use some exterior releasing, venting herbs.  He clearly has some cold things to say, and perhaps is using alcohol, with its hot and blood moving properties, to dislodge whatever cold may be affecting him.  Perhaps, since Ma Huang is difficult to obtain in some countries, a substitution could be made with Ai Ye, which warms the blood to stop bleeding (emotional hemorrhaging).  Perhaps combine it with Yan Hu Suo, which moves the blood and qi and alleviates pain.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are suffering from asthma or an inability to express your fears to those in your life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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