I call on the West, the Metal element. It is our Po – our corporeal soul that is our street smarts, our hindbrain, our animal instinct. It teaches us to appreciate preciousness. Metal gives us the space to grieve then allows us to let go and move on. Welcome West.
This is how I might invoke the Metal element when casting a circle. I am Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and a Witch. A few years ago, I started calling the Five elements and incorporating spiritual acupuncture points in ritual as a way to deepen my knowledge and practice of both. I also began teaching my coven mates in Circle of Cerridwen about TCM by doing rituals for each element during its appropriate season.
This post will focus on the Metal element in Chinese Medicine. (For a general overview of the 5 elements, click here. For a chart of the 5 element associations, click here. And for a visual, here is a chart that shows the five element pentagram and how each element balances the others.)
Close your eyes and think of the color white or silver. Say “SSSSSSSSSSS” like steam coming out of a radiator. This is the healing sound for the Metal element. If you’d like to hear a wonderful musical interpretation, I recommend Six Healing Sounds by Yuval Ron and Dr. Richard Gold.
In Chinese Medicine, this time of year belongs to the Metal element – the Lungs and Large Intestine. The colors are white and silver. In keeping with the theme of ancestors, Samhain and the Day of the Dead during this season, Metal gives us the space to grieve and then allows us to let go and move on.
The Spirit of the Metal element: The Po, our corporeal soul
“The po journey from the lungs to the intestines, lifting upward with the first breath of life and dropping downward with the last. In life, the po resides in the lungs and is responsible for vital involuntary physical functions such as breathing, peristalsis, and evacuation as well as sensation, balance, and muscular coordination. At death, the po descends with the bones of the body to the underworld . . .”1
The spirit of the Lungs are with us from when we are born until we die. There’s another very important function that the Po serve while we are alive – to keep us from harm. As Dechar writes, “The po are our embodied knowing, our animal wit, our street smarts, the part of us that can sniff out what’s right or wrong, good or bad, safe or unsafe.”2
So how do we access these properties through acupuncture? There are three points I’ll focus – Lung 3, Lung 8, and Large Intestine 11.
Lung 3 (LU3) – “Heavenly Palace” – is on the upper arm, 4 fingers down from the armpit.
This point can be used for cough, wheezing and asthma but it is also a spiritual point called a “Window to Heaven” point. I use it when people are grieving. It doesn’t always have to be about a death – it can be about letting go of relationships that no longer serve us. Lung 3 can
“help reestablish our connection with heaven as it inspires us within as breath and without as sunlight . . . In this way we may retain the lessons learned from past spiritual encounters without clinging to the person or organization that was a vehicle for them.”3
Lung 8 (Lu8) – “Meridian Gutter” (Metal within Metal point) This point is strongest when needled between 3-5am, and on the Fall Equinox. It’s located on the thumb side of the wrist, about a thumb’s breadth above the wrist crease here:
Lung 8 can be used for physical ailments such as fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, pain of the chest, and wheezing. Lonny Jarrett has a very interesting interpretation of the functions of this point:
“Chronic sinusitis or diarrhea can be thought of at the body weeping tears of grief. By unblocking the meridian gutter, Lu-8 can help cleanse and renew our entire being. In this way we may restore luster and brilliance to the naturally unadorned mind and spirit.”4
Large Intestine 11 (LI11) – “Crooked Pond” (Earth within Metal point) This point is located at the end of the elbow crease here:
Generally this point is used to relieve rashes, fevers, sore throat, itching, and toothache. It can also be used locally for elbow and shoulder pain. It can also be used to help us process our food and our emotions. Food stagnation can manifest in a stomachache, heaviness, or uncomfortable feeling after eating which
“can be a sign that the stomach and large intestine are holding on and not processing life effectively. This can manifest as constantly chewing on the same emotional material without receiving the lesson offered, eliminating the waste, and moving on in life. Balancing the earth within metal can empower the virtues of assimilation and letting go.”5
How do I use these points ritually?
Last year I put press tacks (tiny stick-on acupuncture needles) on myself and my coven mates on these points during ritual. I guided them through a meditation on the Lung and Large Intestine channels. I also talked about the Po, the corporeal soul and asked what people wanted to let go of.
I think the spirit of the Metal element is a good complement to the traditions of honoring ancestors but it by no means replaces them. A friend who works with essential oils and I are going to experiment with oil blends for the Metal element. I envision that these blends may be useful to someone during a Samhain ritual, for example, if they are having a hard time getting past their grief. An oil blend for the Metal element may also help people in the Spirit Babies ceremonies. Another oil blend may be good as a kind of protection or enhancement to our “Spidey sense”. (These may also be used in ritual in place of the stick-on acupuncture needles for people who don’t want needles.)
For “cakes and ale”, an example would be baked pears and lily bulb tea. In Chinese Medicine, we use Bai He (Lily bulb) to stop cough, calm the spirit, and moisten the Lungs. Pears are also good for moistening the Lungs and I often prescribe it as a home remedy for dry autumn coughs. Try this caramelized pear recipe drizzled with a touch of maple syrup or honey instead of caramel.
One last thought about the Metal element from Lorie Eve Dechar:
“Just as the lungs function to take in the air we need to live and the intestines to let go of what is not useful to our life, the po guide us in letting go of ways of being that are no longer efficient and opening to new, more efficient possibilities.”6
What are you looking to let go of this season? How can the Metal element help you move on?
1Dechar, Lorie Eve, Five Spirits, Alchemical Acupuncture for Psychological and Spiritual Healing, p. 242
2Dechar p. 239
3Jarrett, Lonny, The Clinical Practice of Chinese Medicine, p. 577
4Jarrett p. 581
5Jarrett p. 599
6 Dechar p. 253