01 FIRE 
02 EARTH ䷁
05 WOOD ䷃

08 QI
00 VOID ䷼



The Metal Element 

Air shifting, skin tightening, clarity of sight, liminality. White, like bones and ghosts. Magic, the underworld, things that are not exactly alive yet not exactly dead, fertilizer. Werner Herzog, shoegaze, solemnity, austerity, condensation, storage (it’s ‘gourd season,’ after all). Oh Autumn, nature’s strip tease, strip us down to what's essential. Drop it like it’s hot, return to origin. Through your pivot of beauty and loss, let us understand the indispensable allure that lies within, allow this transformation to uncover who we are without our fruits and flowers, expose the silvery crone core in all of us and let her luster be untarnished.

In the five element calendar, Autumn corresponds to the element Metal. The progeny of heat and pressure, Metal embodies the magic of time, its innate preciousness an exposé of the Hermetic rituals that occur in the mysterious depths of the underworld where life, death, and transformation happen. Sequestered and shrouded deep within Earth’s core, metals alert us to the hidden treasures within, much like Autumn asks us to go inward and mine the caves of our own unconscious for riches to sustain us through the yin time of year.

Metals are comprised of matrices of minerals, which are catalysts for action and necessary for all organic life, sustaining and empowering all processes from mushroom to man. Metal is one of the first things we pounded and shaped for use, and in this sense, it has always been emblematic of alchemy and transformation. Metals are, in essence, what make things valuable.

Ever verbose Lonny Jarrett likens Metal to the “condensation within the Earth of heaven’s spiritual light, which is evidenced in their radiant brilliance and intrinsic worth.” In the Taoist classics, Metal is described as ‘condensed yang’ - precious energy that has moved into storage. Before modern physicists even traced the origin of Metal to dust clouds formed by the stars and the sun in a prehistoric rager in outer space, Taoist philosophers believed that metal’s purpose was to grace the earth with the ‘purity of heaven’.

On The Metal Element Within and Throughout

It has EPIC composure, won’t relinquish authority, loves to be master of ceremony, wants you to kiss the ring. If the Metal element were a song, it would surely be Janet Jackson’s ‘Control’

When I was 17, I did what people told me

Did what my father said, and let my mother mold me

But that was long ago

I'm in Control - Never gonna stop

Control - To get what I want

Control - I like to have a lot

Control - Now I'm all grown up

Metal is all hard edges and radiance, awe-inspiring with its brilliant shine and fierce containment. Aloof, hard to read, detached, and a bit mystical, Metal is like all of your unrequited loves folded into one. Shapeshifting sorceress, she can be recast and molded a thousand times over, and be it a weapon or a diamond ring, her fine edge cuts to the core of things. Like Water, Metal can take any form. But whereas Water is spillage and flow and won’t shirk at being called ‘everywhither’ (go ahead, call her that to her face!), Metal holds form on her own with an erect poise. In order to hold that form with the grace and austerity of a bronze bust of Isis, Metal runs the risk of being somewhat fixed and unyielding. Our embodied Metal element is the conformist in all of us, the part of us that takes the shape of the container we are in, being careful not to splatter, spurt, or spill, fastidiously keeping it all within the lines. That’s why Metal gets the bad rap of being a control freak - she’s nature’s corset, holding it all together with rigorous discretion, doing her best to prove that scrupulous and prudent can be sexy, too.

Metal in five element medicine imparts the virtue of self-worth, the kind of self-worth that has you singing Janet Jackson to yourself in the mirror whilst dance-impaling the ghosts of anyone who dared vanquish your virtue. Metal wants you very much to know that self-worth should NOT be confused with ‘self esteem,’ which is bumbling, young, dumb, and risky (hello, WOOD element), generally lacking the refinement and discernment that is the hallmark of the Metal element in her ripened experience.

On The Lungs and Large Intestine

Our embodied Metal element is the Lungs and Large Intestine, who provide the pivot of gain and loss for the body cosmos. Like a piggy bank amassing pennies from heaven and the blade of a knife on a chopping block, our Metal organs accumulate precious qi from above via inhalation and cut our losses out the back end via defection. Uniting heaven and earth, they are our emissaries to the outer world, intimately embroiled in the sordid affairs of our environment.

In a mystical sense (Metal by her very nature is fond of the mystical), the Lungs and Large Intestine allow us to be in touch with the essential spirit of things and to let go of their superficial material form. When the ‘letting go’ part becomes a problem, we might suffer from not being able to exhale fully, constipation, anal retention both metaphoric and medical, and control issues. If we don’t know how to hold onto what’s sacred and valued, we might suffer spiritual crises, grief over past losses, feel 'cut off from the qi of Heaven’ (aka UNINSPIRED), and become afflicted with diarrhea or asthma.

In the Taoist classics, the Metal organs are said to impart ‘purity’, but this is NOT the pontifical purity of virgins and penance that may come to mind. The purity of Metal is about emancipation - in returning to the Earth what no longer serves, they keep us true to ourselves, not full of proverbial s#^t. Our Metal organs allow our essential nature to shine like an untarnished nugget, cleansed of the chaos of culture.

To understand the inference of purity upon the Metal element, here’s a hot metaphor from Car & Driver Mag —

“What is most of the extremely rare metal platinum used for? Catalytic converters — the devices on automobiles used to clean exhaust. Platinum is an exceptionally good catalyst: it aids in the conversion of toxic gases in exhaust, such as carbon monoxide, into non-toxic gases.”

Gonna throw down my favorite seasonal hashtag #natureismetal in honor of the alchemical battles that Metal wages on behalf of all of us on the reg, stoically with strength and persistence.

lead ——> gold

chaos ——> order

That’s alchemy, m’dears.

All hail the Lungs + Large Intestine ∞


On The Alchemy of Metal and Fire

To understand the Alchemy of Metal and Fire is to understand this poem by Joan Didion’s 4th grade daughter about Autumn —

Dry winds and dust, hair full of knots. Gardens are dead, animals not fed… People mumble as leaves crumble, fire ashes tumble.

Throughout California, early autumn is wildfire season, the spurious offspring of the slow climate apocalypse, the shifting winds, and encroachment upon the urban-wildland interface that ravages our typically halcyon homestead. In the Five Element Cycle, Fire shapes, melts, and controls Metal, and when the two meet in the blustery, shifty, liminal cauldron of Autumn, we all feel the capricious chemistry. Fire melts the order of the Metal element inside of us, disintegrating the hardened belief that all is tidy and contained, that we have some modicum of control over the shenanigans of the Heavens. Metal is mastery, and for the things we have yet to master (ala WEATHER), Fire can threaten Metal’s sense of stability and adeptness. I see this emerge clinically every year in my practice. Anxiety, apprehension, desolation, grief… they all seep into the consciousness as the physical symptoms of Fire and dryness attacking the Lungs start to appear: dry cough, parched nose and throat, over-sensitivity to wind and changes in the environment, tiny streaks of blood in the phlegm, phlegm being lodged deep in the lungs, lingering sore throat, and that scurrilous ‘black gunk’, aka toxic particulate matter in the upper respiratory tract.

Though the adeptness of Chinese medicine rests in highly individuated care via your local Acu Crone, desperate times call for desperate measures. Thusly, I put together a shopping list (very Metal) for harmonizing Metal and Fire during wildfire season at the behest of my patients near and abroad, who are reaching out for support.

肺 For Lung dryness: Autumn Rain Teapills

肺 For cough with sticky yellow phlegm: Clean Air Teapills

肺 For cough with sore throat: Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa Loqaut Syrup

肺 For inflamed mucus membranes and allergies: Ponaris Nasal Emollient

肺 For fragility both physical and emotional: Reishi Mushroom Tea

On Dryness

In the alchemical chamber of our bodies, the Lungs sit at the seat of our inner heaven, and like a surly Zeus, controls water to condense, rise, and descend like rain clouds. Healthy water in our Metal organs forms a fluid interface between the internal and external world, a velvety mist that lubes the tubes and makes such banal functions as breathing and shitting as smooth as Sade crooning ‘Smooth Operator.’ This refined yin nectar nestled within the hardened crystalline matrix of our Lungs and Large Intestine forms a protective sheath and barrier betwixt us and the harshness inflicted by our environment. Ever the edgy alchemist, the element Fire likes to harass our Lungs and erode this barrier, and with the added vector of *wind*, the elemental orgy of fire, wind, and metal turns sour (we’ve all been there), drying out our fluid sanctums and leaving us parched and withered.

Dryness, in its myriad forms, is a messenger hearkening an out of balance Metal element. Acupuncturist and scholar Lonny Jarrett likes to say that dryness imparts a sense of loss, and a feeling of being ‘burnt by heaven’ which has taken away what one has valued. If you live, like I do, in the anguishing charnel grounds of LA wildfire season, you are no stranger to this scorched despair. Is it any wonder that in these fiery bowels my patients and community have dry cough, parched mucus membranes, constipation, dry skin, sore throat, and blood tinged spit? What’s more - it plunges us deep into the throes of examining the quintessential Metal quandary: how can I accesses the ever-present essential spirit of things whilst letting go of their superficial material form? It’s a hot mess of loss over here.

So… what’s a gal to do if she’s feeling scorched and scorned? Keep the Lungs clear and polished to receive the heavens, of course. Perhaps in connecting to the Lung qi, we can come to an embodied knowing of the transient nature of form, acknowledging deep within the soma that the only object of lasting value is the eternalness of emptiness and spirit (cc: Heart Sutra). Holding this for everyone today and always.

Baked Asian Pears:
An Anarcha-Taoist Prescription to Dispel Lung Dryness

Yin - it's nectarous, slippery, high femme, fluid… just like all the women I’ve loved and lost (badda bing!). Asian pears, sweet emissaries of Yin, banishers of dryness, are effortlessly sexy sorceresses, reposing coyly in a fishnet stocking on the shelves of most Asian markets but also available elsewhere, and lucky for us, in season. With their mucilaginous kink, they moisten the lungs and soothe a parched respiratory tract, particularly puissant for the tender throats of our little ones who might need to be straightjacketed to the table in order to take cough medicine (ahh, memories from my childhood). Pears balance the inner ecosystem from the damage of hot, dry weather, and though they have an affinity for the lungs, they are great for dry constipation in children and adults alike. I have shared this recipe with patients for over a decade, and if taken a few days in a row, it can subdue the most stubborn of dry cough and heal the sorest of throats. This recipe is adapted from the supreme Chinese kitchen witch tome Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen, which, if you are my patient, I have probably demanded that you get at some point.

Wash - but don't peel - your pear.

Cut off the top 1/3 of the pear and reserve (pear hat! V cute).

Core your pear, making a hole but leaving the bottom intact (will become a chalice for accoutrements).

Place in an oven-safe vessel with a lid and a little liquid.

Stuff the pear with a dab of coconut oil, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and if you like:

Chuan Bei Mu Bulb - Clears Fire, drains mucus, and is especially chic for blood-streaked phlegm and a hot, sore feeling back there.

Replace the top of the pear, cover, and cook in a 350° oven for about 1-1.5 hours until the pear is soft and yielding.

A consideration: I have a pantry full of exotic unguents because that’s my job. I would never assume that you keep an arsenal of lung herbs at your disposal, so just know upfront: the pears are what’s key here, everything else will just layer on moxie and it’s all optional, like everything, always and forever.

Zombie Fungus Congee:
An Anarcha-Taoist Prescription For Boosting Lung Qi

Mushrooms are biology’s continuum between birth and decay, teetering presumptuously on the precipice between life and death, one foot always in the grave. Ushering one poor soul across the River Styx while sowing the seeds for another life’s claim on some prime terrestrial real estate, fungi are the entire life cycle manifest. In the spirit of the Death Holidays, celebrate the shapeshifting shenanigans of the mushroom with some Goth Medicine (buying this web domain RN): a savory Cordyceps mushroom soup, based on medicinal congees from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Cordyceps is a gloriously macabre mélange of science fiction & Greek myth. Its delicately deceitful spores coyly infect its caterpillar prey, killing them softly then re-animating itself within their corpse. When the fungus parasitizes the larva, its mycelia spread through the larva’s body, hijacking its nutrients and sapping all of its succulent Qi. The Cordyceps then springs forth from the larvae’s head, birthed from the brains of its prey like Athena erupting from the head of her father Zeus (oh, the poetry of it all!). All guts, glory and folklore aside, these lil’ fungi are truly mythical in scope. Is it really a coincidence that the Cordyceps - hailed on the street as Himalayan Viagra - is revered for its ability to boost Lung qi? In the throes of Metal season, it improves the way your body uses oxygen, is great for recovery after a respiratory illness, boosting stamina, quieting asthma, coughs, weak lungs, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If you’d like to harness the power of the Huntress Athena, boot-up for an all-night Bacchanal, or carouse with the saints of caterpillars past, here’s a recipe for Cordyceps Congee:

3 organic chicken thighs, parbroiled for 2 minutes and cut into pieces.

4 strands of dried Cordyceps

6 red Chinese dates

A handful of goji berries

1 girthy knuckle of ginger

4 1/2 cups bone broth

1/2 cup rice or barley

Place your chicken & medicinals in a large stock pot, covering with broth. Simmer with the lid on for 1½ hours, strain the ginger, ladle into bowls, sprinkle some sea salt, and drink to your newfound pomp & circumstance.

On Wei Qi and Protecting Yourself

Be it a chastity belt or a sword (wearing both right now!), Metal is protective by its very nature. Tough, enduring, impenetrable, our Metal organ’s jobs are to render us essentially bulletproof (a word that has the misfortune of being coopted by Silicon Valley Nootropic Bros), immune to sticks, stones, pathogens, and the ever-changing moods/emo seizures of our environment. The Lungs govern what is called Wei Qi - the ancient Chinese medical term for our body’s energetic shield and first line of defense - and their optimal functioning ensures its strength and circulation, providing vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. Wei Qi warms the body and protects from the rigors of the outside world. It’s lively, agitated, antihistamine agitprop for the cause of your wellbeing. If you catch colds easily, are prone to allergies, sneeze at the faintest pressure drop, have chronically low energy, poor wound healing, or require a long time recuperating from an illness, your Wei Qi may be low, bro!

Wei Qi also has an intimate bond with our relationship to change - how we adapt, weather, and flow with the cosmic unfurling. Take this poetical interlude from the Huangdi Neijing:

If we ignore this vital connection between heaven, earth, and human beings, we risk to be harmed by pathological influences. This is the main principle of health and longevity….If we go along with the changes that heaven brings, our yang qi will be stable and firm. Even if there are pathological influences present, they will not be able to cause harm. This is the beneficial result of following the energetic rhythm of the seasons. Therefore the sage cultivates the unity of jing and shen, imbibes heavenly qi, and is intimately connected to the secrets of the universe. If we go against this vital connection, the nine orifices will become blocked on the inside, the muscle layer will become clogged on the outside, and the protective effect of our wei qi will become disbanded.

Nature: it’s movement and change (cc: the I Ching), so we’d all do right by our ol’ pal the Tao to lean into the parts of ourselves that are adaptable and pliant. When all else fails, here’s a few hot tips for boosting the Wei Qi to protect yo self  from the rigors of change like a surly switchblade sister:

Winds— they’re the enemy! Keep the Wind Gates of your neck and chest covered like a boss.

White, pungent foods support the detoxification of the lungs and Metal element. Think turnips, radishes, horseradish, onions, garlic, and leeks.

Diffuse Metal essential oils like Frankincense and White Pine in the home, or place on Metal element spirit points.

Nourish the Lung yin with moistening foods like loquat, mushrooms, honey, apples, pumpkin, flax, and almond oils, kelp, squash, eggs, Tremella fungus, and pears.

Strengthen and circulate your Lung energy with qigong and pranayama.

For the fragilest of Lungs, you may want to consider an air purifier.

Ritual Medicine:
Magically Charged Wei Qi Tonic

If one cannot obtain medicines

One can live still to several hundred years of age,

If one fully grasps the principles

Of cultivating Qi and practices daily.

Indeed, humans exist within the Qi

And Qi exists within humans.

From Heaven and Earth to the myriad things,

Qi is pervasive.

There is nothing that does not rely on Qi for life.

— Master Ge Hong, The Book Of The Master Who Embraces Simplicity, 4th Century C.E

Ritual and Medicine were once entwined in a caduceus of consanguinity, an ouroboros of serpentine synergy. Mutually engendering one another, they coaxed forth each other’s latent powers and filled in the gaps in their respective repertoires. Most traditional medical systems still honor this alchemical marriage, but our current hegemonic medical paradigm has been ripping up the paperwork and denying them rights. As a healthcare provider, it’s fashionable and expected that I shirk away from this brouhaha and peddle the antiseptic certitude of allopathic care with sophistry and absolutism. However, I believe the physician should be a mender of chasms, honoring the prosaic prowess of each paradigm and fusing ritual and remedy as one.

On a forced sabbatical recuperating from the pernicious three-week flu that recently swept Los Angeles, I was reminded of how important it is to fuse ritual & medicine, particularly when you’re wilted and supine, struggling to find your mojo in a disempowered mire. There’s nothing more humbling then being banished to your bed by a gruesome malady, a victim of capricious circumstance failed by your own flailing biology. It is in these ashen hours that a call to arms is ever so crucial, so that we may remind ourselves of our ferocious latent powers and re-connect with the seeds of our quieted magic. This is a simple, homespun ritual that I like to do at the advent of cold & flu season, when I feel an itchy tingle beckoning in the back of my throat, or when I’ve got tendrils of pestilence bristling within my body. The purpose of this rite is to strengthen the body’s energetic shield and first line of defense, and allow its innate curative alchemy to expel any lingering pathogens. As magic is best when it’s a prosy pastiche of incongruent passions, this ritual draws upon Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fire Cider folk herbalism, and the ancient Taoist art of qigong.

A Little Background

Qigong is the ancient Taoist art of cultivating qi from the environment, and circulating its healing helices of gossamer elixir throughout the body. Through qigong, we can tap directly into the diaphanous motive power that operates the universe, and sycophantically siphon it into our own body cauldron. Qi is everywhere… within, without, above, below, giving life to all things. Its nature is to move and change, and the root of all health problems, be it injury, illness, or aging, involve the stagnation and circulation of qi and blood. Their harmonious flow is the basis of all ancient Asian medicinal and magical practices.

This simple equation, culled from the magnificent book The Healing Promise of Qi by Roger Jahnke, appeases both the science nerd and wizard in me, and distills the myriad mysteries of qigong into a basic formula:

Practice + Intention = Inner Harmony = Qi Flow = Health and Longevity

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are inextricably linked to qi. Doctor Shen’s Compendium of Honoring Life (Shen Shi Zunsheng Shu), a Chinese medical text from 1773, states that:

the lung is the master of qi. Above, it connects to the throat; below, it connects to the orifices of the heart and the liver. It is in charge of inhalation and exhalation, and, in more general terms, the flux of coming in and going out.”

The optimal functioning of the lungs ensures vitality and fortitude for the body en masse. The Statutes of Medicine (Yimen Falü), another Chinese medical text from 1658, illuminates this relationship, stating that:

“all bodily qi has its physical origin in the lung. If the lung’s qi is clear and straightforward, then there is not a single type of qi in the body that will not obey and flow along smoothly. However, if the lung qi becomes obstructed and turns murky, then the qi dynamics of the entire body will start to go against their natural flow and start to move upwards instead of downwards.”

The lung also has the unique distinction of being the uppermost organ in the body, an envoy between the external evils and the internal sanctum, uniquely susceptible to pathogenic factors like wind and cold. The lungs control the strength and circulation of Wei Qi, the ancient Chinese medical term for the body’s defensive energy and proverbial force field. This ritual uses qigong and kitchen alchemy to strengthen the lung energy, boost Wei Qi, and ensure the harmonious flow of qi throughout the body.


Your ritual libation will be a magically-charged Wei Qi Tonic, comprised of horseradish root, white onions, hot peppers, garlic, ginger root, and apple cider vinegar. In some circles, this is called ‘Fire Cider’ (big ups to the herbalists fighting against the corporatization of this folk medicine!). Fire Cider is white and pungent to support the lungs, as this combination of color and taste resonates with the element Metal in five element correspondences within Traditional Chinese Medicine. You can find directions on how to make this infernal brew here. Wei Qi Priests & Priestesses could also use an immunity alembic of their choice in lieu of Fire Cider. A strong hot toddy, a shot of fresh pressed garlic juice, oil of oregano, cayenne & lemon water, whatever tickles your pickle. Ideally, your libation will be zesty, fiery, and entirely NOT sip-worthy. But with a dash of magical zeal, anything radiating with the harmonics of healing will do.

When you fall ill, first regulate the breath,

Ingest the Qi, and fix your attention on the afflicted area.

Practice holding the breath,

And by means of conscious attention

Visualize the breath concentrating in the afflicted part.

Visualize the Qi attacking the illness.

When you can no longer comfortably hold the breath,

Exhale very slowly.

-The Immortal Master’s Treatise on the Absorption of Primordial Energy

1.    Prepare the space with a banishing ritual that you vibe with, and an incense or smudge wand of your choice. Ai Ye, Mugwort, would be an excellent fumigant for this rite, as it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to purify pathogens, and warm deficient conditions within the body.

2.    Sit your Wei Qi Priests & Priestesses in a circle in a comfortable seated position, each with a chalice of Wei Qi Tonic. If you are rolling solo, just plop down and have at it.

3.    Call upon a pathogenic factor you wish to expel. This could be an emotional pathogen plaguing the body, such as lingering bad habit or traumatic event, or it could be a physical ailment, such as a runny nose or sinus headache. Attune to the physical locus of the pathogen within the body, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. Where does it linger? Is it heavy, oppressive, constricting? Does it feel hot? Sticky? Smokey? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Connect with its noxious character and feel it licking the walls of your viscera.

4.    When the pathogen has been effectively summoned, slowly imbibe the Wei Qi Tonic, and feel its vigorous heat burning away the putrid evil of the pathogen. Sip slowly and with fierce intention until a visceral response is elicited. This could be anything from a hearty sweat, to a cough, tearing eyes, digestive noises, cathartic breath, or a sensation of lightness within the body. When you feel you have expelled your pathogen, push your ritual chalice to the center of the circle.  If you are working with a group, this will signal to the other Priests & Priestesses that it is time to move on to the Wei Qi cultivation portion of the rite.

5.    Now that you have purified your body, gather the Heavenly Qi of the universe and store it within you. Begin by standing comfortably in Horse Pose. Circle your arms over your head as you inhale Heavenly Qi through the lungs, drawing the qi down through your arms as you rest them in a circle over your umbilicus, exhaling Evil Qi out of your lungs. Visualize spirals of healing qi descending into the lungs, and disseminating protective Wei Qi over the surface of the body. Repeat at least 5 times.

6.    Electrify the Wei Qi, and increase the diameter of its energetic field by relaxing and shaking the body vigorously for at least one minute. Imagine golden white light enshrouding you with protective mojo that no ills can permeate.

7.    Give yourself a Wei Qi bath, by rubbing your hands lightly over the entire surface of the body, starting with the head and face, moving down the outer legs, and back up through the inner legs, dousing the body in energized, electric Wei Qi.

8.    Once thoroughly exulted, close the rite by taking a few deep breaths to honor your inner physician. Whenever you feel persnickety, pestilent, or fatigued, know that qi is bounteous, free, and omnipresent, the marrow of the universe ripe for the suckling. Enjoy in robust health.   

American Ginseng:
Warlock Of Wei Qi

Some might say that American Ginseng is the patron saint of checking yourself before you wreck yourself, via things that come real stealth that are bad for your health.

In that regard, American Ginseng may be the hero of our time, a Wei Qi tonic with a subtle temperament that enshrines the lungs and protects the body from the menaces of stress, illness, dryness, and other desultory -ess’s that erode the qi and disorder the body temple. Who, out of us, is NOT suffering from one of these maladies?! Come forth, I dare you!

Thwarting the archetypal vulgarity of American might and moxie, American Ginseng is cooler, calmer, and more collected than its Eastern Ginseng brethren, showing us that grace and restraint can be sown in native soil, i.e. there may be hope for us after all. While all the Ginsengs share the commonalities of adaptogenic herbs, Chinese and Korean Ginseng are surlier wizards that rise the qi and can heat the body, unsuitable for constitutions prone to high blood pressure, insomnia, irritability, headaches, and dryness. American Ginseng is less stimulating, more like a gentle, warty warlock who has made a covenant with the Wei Qi to protect and venerate you with softhearted honor.

Because it’s a North American native, the root can also be sourced domestically and ethically from Wisconsin to Appalachia, where it’s poached like hell inspiring tales both tall and televised, so you know it’s juju must be good (cc: Appalachian Outlaws + Smoky Mountain Money).

The malady de rigueur in my clinic is a dry cough with perpetual sore throat, and a precarious tiredness teetering on “am I getting sick?” This, my friends, is what American Ginseng LIVES FOR. Let it perform magic spells upon your lungs and body! How to, you ask?

Decoct 3-6 grams of dried American Ginseng root and add it to 2-3 cups of water with a thumb-sized nob of ginger, chopped. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for an hour. Drink daily in the morning to moisten the Lungs and keep them polished to receive the Qi of the heavens. Your Wei Qi will ensconce you in protective armor all season long.

On Pruning

Some get uneasy in the naked bardo of Autumn’s leafless bower, but it’s this aspect of Metal season that I love most - it’s unsentimental, cuts to the core of things, prunes the superfluous, and gets down to the proverbial brass tacks (metal pun very intended) that give life anatomy and architecture.

We should all be pruning on the reg, but the stinking pyre that is Late Capitalism has us clutching and hoarding like there’s no tomorrow. Pruning brings an elegant austerity to things which is in abundance in natural states, but lacking within the confines of culture. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - ‘austerity’ is as sexy as it comes when it comes to both words and concepts. Austerity invokes the efficiency of a well-oiled machine, where everything has a purpose and nothing is gratuitous. Austerity can also be mystical, but in a ‘Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram’ kind of way - pragmatic, everyday, purifying, preparatory. It’s the kind of mystical that gives rise to value and structure, much like minerals and metals do for earth, plants, us.

My favorite elemental tome likes to say that Metal provides “the structure that enables us to apply the metaphysical to the mundane,” a spirit I like to invoke each Autumn through a practice of crystallizing values I call the ‘Ritual Inventory’. It’s as simple as making a list of your daily habits, practices, protocols, and pruning what has become superfluous, rote, mechanized, lacking purpose. If you have trouble figuring out what gets the chopping block, you can use this simple equation:

What giveth qi vs what taketh away?

Take it further - Practice austerity in the coming months, doing only what is necessary, aligned, honoring of your energy. The time for superfluousness lies ahead, on the wanton beach of summer where resources and rambunctiousness run high. For now, bask in the asceticism of Autumn, where rigor and virtue reign.

On Grief

When our Metal element is in balance, there’s an embodied understanding of the value of loss. The ecstasy of an effortless poop, the rapture of a deep exhale, the religiosity of beholding the phantasmagoric colors the trees turn as leaves wither and die. Emptiness is fundamental and sacred, debts and forfeiture are nature’s way, the sighing of autumn pulls what was once expanding to the ground, and all the world is sinking and descending like the wailing of a Morrissey song. Every day is like Sunday, and if you turn the station you miss the point.

The Lungs and Large Intestine teach us that we can simultaneously mourn our losses whilst celebrating the sacred space they make in the core of our being. However, if we mourn losses past their season, we can become besotted with Metal’s shadow, grief. To understand the Lungs relationship with grief, think about the somatic sensation of sadness. Sadness brings us down into ourselves, like Persephone retreating into the underworld… a tightening of the chest, a grasping for air, a collapse of our will, a fine mist clouding the lungs until the tears cascade and break like clouds. This is the same pull of gravity deep into Earth’s core that creates and shapes precious metals, if we allow ourselves to surrender to the process. Grief unprocessed is an interruption to the flow of our vitality, like a fine mist clouding the lungs, blocking inspiration and the magic of change.

The Chinese character for grief - Bei 悲, - is drawn as the refusal of something over the heart. It is the refusal to accept what is, a resistance to the alchemy of pressure and time, a failure to allow the weathering of the elements to shape us into remarkable precious gems. Debra Kaatz translates Bei as “grieved, sorry, sad, to lament, to regret the passing of the summer of life.” If we fail to allow erosion and rust to have their way with us, we reject the polish of the passing of time. If instead we move through the pain of loss and longing, calmness and peace can permeate the void like small lights in the dark sky that eventually fills with stars. Our lives can then be guided by the infinite Tao, we follow the breath of the world where it leads us.

An Acupressure Spell for Transforming Grief

Sadness, like all emotion, is a transient energy, and as water vapor turns into clouds when it cools and condenses, it passes and transforms into other feelings. Taoist doctors use the metaphors of matter shifting through space and time to inscribe meaning and mythos to the capricious seasons of the body, as the natural world provides a cipher that we can all decode within the template of our bones. They speak to grief as embodied weather, a migratory emotional climate that is described as a cloud or mist that clings to the Lungs, obstructing the qi of heaven from penetrating our inner chamber and sitting upon the heart like leaded smog. In Taoist Tales of Acupuncture Points, the weather of grief is spoken to as Autumn rainclouds -

“When the autumn rains come we take shelter and wait for the weather to clear. The bitterness of sorrow soaks everything around us, but slowly the clouds clear and we begin again to breathe the inspirations of each new day. In our grief the tears fall, and like the rain, water the ground beneath out feet and allow us to wash away the bitterness and pain.”


Things get a little treacherous when the weather is denied its season, when we bury the grief and don’t allow the clouds to swell and burst. I’m thinking a ton about grief these days (or rather, FEELING IT, as grief by its very nature is anti-intellectual), because I’m tracing my ancestry as a devotional to my mom, who never got to finish this work before departing this world last year. I’m mourning her, and beneath and beyond that grief, I’m mourning all of the ancestors I never got to know, the grief extends itself to the stories that lie dead and buried that I’m trying to witch out of the ground. This is a BIG grief - collective, even - and I’m having to revisit the rituals that got me through her passing in order to stay afloat. This one - an Acupressure Spell For Transforming Grief - is stop, drop, and roll Anarcha Taoist qigong for when sorrow clings like a mist to your deepest core. It will require to you embrace the sorrow, then use the mojo and moxie of your own hands to break up the clouds and allow the storm to rage as it may.

Sadness and grief, can become physically embodied as phlegm in the lungs, chronic cough, constant dripping sinuses, eroded immunity, wheezing, and unresolved bronchial infections that can’t be kicked with antibiotics alone. Grief also has a home in the body, and likes to rest its oh so weary head upon acupuncture point Lung 2 ‘Cloud Gate’ 雲門. Cloud Gate speaks to the aspect of grief that feels like living “under a cloud”, where one can’t see the vast expanse of the sky. Located in the tender depression that your finger falls into whilst tracing the underside of your clavicle outward where it meets with the shoulder, Cloud Gate can be used clinically to to help break through the clouds so as to be inspired once again. It’s helpful to make yourself familiar with the location of this point before we begin, which you can do here.

And so we begin.

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine erect, and establish a connection with the energetics of Earth below where you make contact with the ground, and Heaven above where the spaciousness is felt above your crown. Take a few deep breaths sinking into this polarity, connecting to the rise, fall, and cadence of your own breath.

Bring your attention to your Lungs and chest. Notice the quality of sensation in that area. Feel how your grief likes to nestle inside.

Begin to feel into these repositories of grief. If it feels safe, it may feel right to use painful images, moments, and memories from the past to make your grief fully tangible (it’s ok, you got this). Attune to the physical locus of the sorrow in the chest, and fix your attention on the afflicted area. What’s it like in there? Is it frigid, foggy, windy, stormy? Does it feel heavy and oppressive, or tight and constricting? Does it have a color? A smell? A sound? Summon it forth, feel its viscerality, and let it grow. Most of us will be crying at this point, and I usually become a snotting, weeping mess. Ephemeral visions of things I was sad about at 9 years old appear before me, so I’d cry about those, too. The reservoirs of the Lungs are deep and many-chambered.

Feel the most recent sorrows, and the genealogy of all sorrows that came before them. Whatever ghosts of sorrows past are hiding in there, feel those as well.

What’s behind that sorrow?

And THAT one?

And what about THIS ONE?

Keep going and going until all the grief coffers have been emptied upon the table.

When you have summoned the sensation of sorrow fully, briskly rub your palms together in the front of your body until you feel electric sparks of qi between them, a seeping warmth that spreads + summons.

One side at a time (or alternating sides, do ya thang), use your fingers together (like a claw) to tap vigorously over your Cloud Gates, allowing the qi of your hands to move and disperse the vapors of grief choking and oppressing your Lungs and Heart. Continue vigorously, tapping, tapping, tapping, TAPPING, until you feel the density begin to dissipate. If you need more qi, rub your hands together again.

There will be a moment when you feel a lightness start to permeate your being, an openness and spaciousness break through the lungs like the shards of sunlight after a storm. This is usually when the tears stop, and something else appears. Feel into this. Allow that sunlight to spread, and crowd out anything dense that might still be lingering in the shadows. Feel the caverns of the Lungs and chest fully filling up with sunlight.

Whatever sensation emerges here, allow it to BE, perhaps pass and transform into any other feelings or sensations it longs to be.

When the weather feels settled, notice the Cloud Gates in your chest and how the feeling in there has transformed. Take a few deep breaths into this, and allow the expansiveness of the Lungs and Heart to be fully felt and honored. Bow to the sacredness of emptiness, and tell your Tao that you are ready now to be filled with newness and inspiration.


When I think about the alchemy of loss and grief, my mind inevitably rests upon Poetess Gloria Anzaldúa and her concept of the ‘Coatlicue State.’ An incarnation  of cosmic processes and embodiment of the sacredness of paradox, Coatlicue is an Aztec goddess that represents the conflicting identities of Life-Giver and Death-Bringer. To Anzaldúa, the Coatlicue State describes a “moving closer to knowing that means embracing moments of despair, desconocimiento, and failure.” Those activities or Coatlicue states which disrupt the smooth flow of life are exactly what propel the soul to do its work: make soul, increase consciousness of itself. Anzaldúa teaches that “our greatest disappointments and painful experiences- if we make meanings out of them- can lead us toward becoming more of who we are.”

On Longing

I’ve been waxing on about grief and its relationship to the Metal element, but grief has a sister shadow, and her name is Longing. My man Lonny Jarrett describes longing as grief directed toward the future (oh, Lonny!). Longing likes to direct our attention outward, away from the precious gems and treasures that lie within, unto the various vagaries of livin’ in a material world and being a material girl. An in balance Metal element doesn’t mind a good tarnish, and through the majesty of the Lungs and Large Intestine, allows us to connect to the transcendent value of things without attachment to material form. Metal out of balance can become obsessed with perfection (anal retention=very metal), and suffering from low self-worth, directs its gaze outward for the keys to lasting happiness.

Longing can ensnare us in a spiral of endless wanting and dissatisfaction ref’d on the streets as the phenomena of ‘hungry ghosts’. Hungry Ghosts are the avatars of hunger and hoarding, and this, my friends, is their season to tramp about. Black Fridays, shiny new things, gift guides, midnight instagram comparison attacks, lists of what we long to “accomplish” in the New Year.

Though Metal’s blade can be crushing during the holiday blitz, there are ways we can engage with it equitably and overcome its gravitas, a Taoist gift guide if you will:

Quality over quantity, as goes the old adage.

Polish the old and present it as new. One of my most cherished gifts (not even given during the holidays! SO avant garde) came from a dear friend who stealthily rescued my ruined Le Creuset teapot from the trash, restored it to its original grandeur, and presented it upon my doorstep without a word.

Give experiences in lieu of material things, which is throughly more sexy and exploratory than a wrapped relic. One year, my partner and I exchanged a series of enigmatic love letters detailing surrealist adventures we would ensconce each other in. We visited redwoods and got engaged. We vowed to be silently supportive of each other’s creative pursuits. I told him I would get him a tattoo mixed with my menstrual blood, but alas! It appears to be against health code.

Seek the mysteries. Holidays are about family traditions for many, but for me they are about communing with the mysteries of the natural world. The winter holidays are, at their core, an expression of the awe of beholding the cosmos transition from

dark—>light—>dark, again.

My partner and I are spinster nuns with dogs in lieu of children and no moms, so this is easier for us than it may be for others. Perhaps you can extricate yourself from the cacophonous confines of the family table, politely, with a promise of another dinner soon? Tell them nature is your religion and you’d rather worship in peace & solitude. 

When all else fails, The Heart Sutra. Treasure emptiness as sacred, holy and valued.

Mixtapes of the Tao:
Metal //Autumn

Autumn is the season of decay and destruction, of letting go and grieving our losses whilst surrendering to the seduction of change, of underworld magic where base materials begin their process of transformation into precious ones, and things like Chelsea Wolfe begin to make a little more sense.

Yes m’dears, the season of the Dark Goddess is upon us, and should you need a suitable soundtrack to match the entropic ennui of THE most yin of yin time of year, I got yo backs! In my latest installment of Mixtapes of the Tao, I’ve finessed an Acu Jamz playlist to croon tales of diamonds and rust into your ear while you contemplate your sorrows and losses whilst swaying to Metal’s boom + clack. Ahhhhh, Metal season… smelt us into something more refined, let pressure and time weave their spells upon us in your alchemical gristmill.

Public Service Announcement: If you love mixing Joy Division with Janet Jackson and have a rampant disregard for social codes, you may already be a Taoist! 



Elemental Reading List

Light On Pranayama, BKS Iyengar:
Lungs, living their best lives

Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, Mysticism in the Age of Information, Erik Davis:
Do Techgnomancers Dream of VR Sheep? Gnostic mythology meets computer love in the alchemical marriage of the digital and the spiritual

Rules For Radicals, Saul Alinsky:
Metal loves rules but also likes to rage against the machine

Mushroom Essences,
Robert Rogers: Harnessing the underworld magic of Gaia’s best alchemists

Promethea, Alan Moore:
“'I'm going to teach you the way of the sword.' 'What like chopping people up and stuff?' 'Oh darling you're rather literal. You see, darling, on this level, everything is symbolic. Swords stand for reason and discrimination. Frankly, dear, they cut through bullshit. Reason slices through illusion and hallucination.’"

The Way Of The Crucible, Robert Allen Bartlett:
Paracelsus-chic practical alchemy for the aspirant Metal Mage

The Order of Things, Michel Foucault:
Foucault is like a leather daddy Marie Kondo, a master of ceremony and discipline that spends 200 pages categorizing the ephemera of life into neatly folded socks with elegant erudition, and then in the last chapter tells us it’s all meaningless. MOST METAL

The Way Of Zen, Alan Watts:
A manual on emptiness to appease the Large Intestine in all of us

Psychology and Alchemy, Carl Jung: Smelting the base metals of our soul in the quest for the imaginal opus

Owning Your Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche, Robert Johnson: Because you can’t spell alchemy without ‘ME’

Japanese Death Poems, compiled by Yoel Hoffman:
Metal minimalism at its most refined (and goth)

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Resmaa Menakem:
A field guide for healing the Po Soul (thank you for the rec, Lorie and Benjamin)

Gemstone Reflexology, Nora Kircher:
Put Metal to work on your qi

Cultivating Stillness: A Taoist Manual for Transforming Body and Mind, Lao Tzu via Eva Wong:
Internal metallurgy to become like Metal, subterranean and smooth

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Maryse Condé:
A cauldron of colonialism and patriarchy that elegantly elucidates the legacy of puritan trauma, ie what to read when you opt out of Thanksgiving

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Botton:
Applying the metaphysical to the mundane in a hella Metal rumination on the alchemical gristmill of toil

The Ultimate Journey: Consciousness and the Mystery of Death, Stanislav Grof: Because we’re all gonna return to the mineral matrix when the reaper calls

On The Po Spirit

The Metal organs house their very own aspect of soul (“why have only 1 soul when you can have 5?!” -Taoism), and its name is the Po Spirit.

Lorie Dechar, my mentor and exquisite emissary of the Five Spirits of the shangqing taoist tradition, describes the po thusly:

“In life, the po resides in the lungs and is responsible for vital involuntary physical functions such as breathing, peristalsis, and evacuation. At death, the po descends with the decaying bones of the body to the underworld where it is reincorporated into the inert structures of the earth, the stones, crystals, and minerals of the soil, whose richness they renew in the process of slowly decomposing and disappearing.”

Animal wit, embodied knowing, somatic sensations, the dance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, street smarts, complexes, primal desires, psychosomatic syndromes, intuition, instinctual responses, stayin’ alive… this sensorial stew is the realm of the po. Never taking a holiday, the po are always working on our behalf like the cunning Metal mages they are, autonomic aboriginals of the wildself.

You can honor and appease them by engaging in the traditions of the Cunning Folk, our ancestors that lived in right relationship with the qi of the land by their embodied wit and wisdom. Be the sentient forest crone you wish to see in the world. Hone your wildmind with foraging, hunting, mushrooming, birding. Take a forest bath and attune to the rhythm and cadence of the World Soul. No one needs ‘science’ to tell them what to do and I often wish it would take a long walk off a short pier, but these practices have been shown to lower cortisol and interrupt the fight or flight response, which is really all I want for Christmas for every one of us.

Po imbalances can manifest as “emotions that elicit involuntary instinctual responses at the level of the breath, hormones, fascia, muscles.” If fight, flight, and freeze run rampant, the po may need attending. I recommend trauma-informed acupuncture, Somatic Experiencing, Continuum Movement, breathwork, plant medicine, and psychedelic therapy as allies.

Waving Goodbye To Metal  

How it Seems to Me

— by Ursula Le Guin

In the vast abyss before time, self

is not, and soul commingles

with mist, and rock, and light. In time,

soul brings the misty self to be.

Then slow time hardens self to stone

while ever lightening the soul,

till soul can loose its hold of self

and both are free and can return

to vastness and dissolve in light,

the long light after time.