What are the Five Elements?
In Chinese Medicine, the Five elements are as follows:
Wood is in the East, Fire is in the South, Metal is in the West, Water is in the North and Earth is at center.
There is also more information associated with each element (see chart: five element associations. When you talk about the Wood element, for example, it includes the Liver and Gallbladder organ system, the Hun (our Ethereal Soul), which teaches us benevolence and justice. The Wood element is about growth, Springtime, the color green. The taste associated with it is sour and foods like lemons can soothe this element. (I will go into more detail about each element in future posts – one for each season, starting in the Spring – stay tuned!)
Why change a good thing?
I’m an acupuncturist. As I delved into the deeper meanings of the medicine I practice, I decided to try casting a circle with the Five elements.
How did I learn this?
This wasn’t taught to me by an Ancient Chinese Master™. Rather I drew from different influences while deepening my own study of Chinese Medicine, alongside my pagan studies in my coven. My magickal teachers (and some of our patron deities) were curious about the medicine I practice, so I decided to do a series of rituals about each element.
To keep my acupuncture licenses current, I have to do continuing education. I’m also a geek and one of the things I love about practicing Chinese Medicine is that I get to spend the rest of my life learning about it. I devoured the book Five Spirits by acupuncturist Lorie Eve Dechar, in which she explains the psycho-emotional and spiritual meanings associated with each element and how to apply them to acupuncture.
A few years ago, I took a class with acupuncturist Lonny Jarrett on the “Spirit of the Points” and learned about meanings of the acupuncture points that we didn’t learn in school. (Trust me, there was more than enough to learn in acupuncture school to be able to pass the Board exams.)
Then I took what I learned and applied it to how I do ritual. I think it’s important to note that Chinese Medicine has shamanistic roots: the original Chinese character for doctor (yi 毉) depicted:
a shaman-doctor in the act of exorcistical healing with (矢 `arrows’ in) a医 `quiver’, a受 `hand holding a lance’, and a wu 巫 ‘shaman’1
I am still learning and reading about this shamanistic history.
How do I put this into practice?
I cast a circle, calling Wood for East, Fire for South, Metal for West, Water for North and Earth at the Center. That might be the only difference I do in a ritual. But sometimes, before I cast a circle, I also place very tiny stick-on acupuncture needles (also called “press tacks”) on certain spiritual acupuncture points to enhance or evoke their meaning during ritual. Gallbladder 40, for example, a point on the outside of your ankle, can be used to help you make decisions. Its name is “Wilderness Mound” – another way to think of this point is that it helps you “see the forest for the trees”.
Do you do this at work?
No, I practice acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at work, not magick. Sometimes I may incorporate the spiritual acupuncture points I learned from Jarrett and/or use the info I’ve learned about the five spirits from Dechar as part of my prescription, depending on what is going on with a patient. I also prescribe Chinese herbs that are appropriate for a patient’s condition.
My presentation on “Adding Chinese Elements to Pagan Ritual” will be at Pantheacon 2015. Here are the details:
When: Saturday, February 14th (aw, Valentine’s Day!) at 7pm.
Where: Circle of Cerridwen suite, room 966, at Pantheacon at the Doubletree in San Jose, CA.
1Carr, Michael Shamanic Heng 恆 ‘Constancy’ p. 117