Nature, Society, and the Animated Female in Five Element Theory

Princess Mononoke

Continuing the theme of last post, here’s an interesting image from Mononoke Hime.

This image brings together the notion of metal (personal quality, value, boundaries, symbolized by the white color) and wood (healing, movement, hope- the green of the forest). It’s interesting to note how this image of the romanticized female relationship with nature has changed since 1937:

Snow White

Snow White’s virtuous qualities and purity (again, the white association, and metal ideas of value and rules) brought the positive aspects of the forest to surround her. However, nature/the forest was still seen as inherently dangerous and full of mystery; the deep forest represented a backsliding into the wilds of amorality and lack of rules. Yet Princess Mononoke embodies the law of nature itself- the harmonious processes inherent to nature that only when disturbed will create chaos. Her value lies in her ability to fight for this wholeness of nature, and she is a part of the ecosystem as well, in a pure and virtuous way that parallels Snow White.

Snow White represents a judgement on human behavior; fleeing to the woods to preserve correct action amongst human affairs. Princess Mononoke represents a judgement on human behavior as well; coming out of the woods to preserve correct action between humans and nature, as well as reminding humans that we are part of nature. They both address themes of justice, yet the latter brings the whole bearing of the tragedy of human industrial progress into the picture.  A.O. Scott sums up the themes of Princess Mononoke concisely and beautifully in his video review for the NYTimes.

The intense longing for a connection with the sacredness of untouched or “whole” nature seems to have ratcheted up several notches in the past couple decades. The woods often seem far away; the beneficial growth and renewal processes that the Wood phase represents don’t always manifest very easily in our current culture. More emphasis is being placed on the controlling phase, Metal, which can end up feeling like a box of rules and etiquette without the beneficial acknowledgement of value. Yet the most beautiful expression of the positive relationship between metal and wood can be found within each of us, as we allow ourselves to feel the emotions and take the actions indicated by each phase of our being. I love being a part of this process of bringing expression of these positive traits through the patient’s body, often with the simplest of acupuncture or massage treatments. I am beginning to see how acupuncture and herbalism can also facilitate the strengthening of our connection with a healthy nature, both as seen in our environment and within ourselves.


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