''Mysticism and diet have always had a complicated relationship from ritual meals to food taboos. The shaman or priest’s knowledge of stars and seasons dictated planting and harvesting as well as the precise time of hunting expeditions or nomadic wanderings. As “civilization” emerged from loose-knit horticultural hunter/gatherers to hierarchical agriculture settlements the accumulated wisdom, from plant/animal husbandry to medical knowledge, would form part of the basis for an authority literally rooted in the peasants struggle against the earth.  The Daoist Immortals are often described as “abstaining from grain” (bigu) as part of their training and progression in the Dao. Many scattered and contradictory writings have appeared on this elusive practice of bigu from reducing it to another ascetic practice to modern works touting it as the next weight loss and health panacea. This paper seeks to brave the wild tangle of references and to separate out the chaff. I wish to immediately point out that cultivated cereal grains are a relatively recent addition to the human diet and “represent a radical departure from the foods to which we are genetically adapted (Cordain 1999.) Likewise, the “abstention from grain” of Saints must be seen to be a fundamental technique of achieving immortality, perhaps only inferior to a magical plant or elixir that would instantly fulfill the same function as the practice of bigu.''

Many implications can be derived from this exerpt.

 ' Intersecting this mythological complex, that weighed on the collective unconscious of China much like the doctrine of “original sin” in the West, was a system of “magical medicine” that fought pathogenic corpse-demon-worms that were bent on their hosts destruction. These parasites, which sometimes took the form of actual worms in the body, also existed on a more subtle dimension and were of great concern to Daoist aspirants (though it may well be presumptuous to refer to them in past tense). Gradually there was conceived as being an equally grand heavenly hierarchy—as above, so below—that was to torment the ethereal souls in a multidimensional fashion. There are many variations and numbers, but the majority of Daoist schools recognize three major “worms” (san-ch’ung) or “corpse demons” (san-shih) that feed on the cereals, or “The Five Grains,” ingested by their human host. The three worms shorten the lifespan of their host by snitching to the celestial bureaucracy of his or her misdeeds. Each infraction, depending on if it’s a misdemeanor or major offense, will accordingly result in time deducted from the host’s allotted days on earth. The worms are motivated to incite such transgressions to hasten their own salvation from being a parasitic demon-informer. This may have been deduced from crop infestations to the observation that organic parasites entered through feet and inhabited intestines.

            The three worms, or again three corpses. depending on the text, reside in the head, torso and lower body (three elixir fields  dantian) and are assisted by a pernicious group of nine worms that do everything they can “to incite people to evil or ill.” Upon his death the host is cast into hells and the worms are rewarded by feast of the poor soul’s corpse. The Upper Worm is named Peng Ju, is white and blue color, and focuses on tempting the adept to long for delicious food and other “physical” delights. The Middle Worm, Peng Zhi, is white and yellow and incites the adept to greed and excessive emotions of joy and anger. The Lower Worm, Peng Jiao is white and black conspires to entice the mystic to the worldly pleasures of sex, alcohol and fancy attire (Eskildsen 1998) or vitality-sapping wet dreams (Eskildsen 2004).'

February 18th marked day 57 of a 60 day solar cycle. On this 57th day titled Geng Shen, one is advised to make supplication to the divine realm requesting passage thru ones transgressions, renewal and transformation with the support of natures yang Metal-yang Metal energetic configuration. This day is also used to keep close watch over the 3 tain taken, or three ancient treasures, making sure they are not corrupted by the 3 worms:

'1. The Upper Corpse, Pengju lives in the head, symptoms of its attack include a feeling of heaviness in the head, blurred vision, deafness, and excessive flow of tears and mucus.


2. The middle corpse, Peng Zhi, dwells in the heart and stomach. It attacks the heart and makes its host crave sensual pleasures.


3. The lower corpse, Peng Jiao, resides in the stomach and legs. It causes the Ocean of Pneuma ((qihai) corresponds to lower dantian) to leak, and make host lust after women.'


 'The all night vigil, as mentioned above, is the observance of gengshen which originated during the Six Dynasties, day the 57'th day of each sexagenary cycle, that constitutes a “Daoist year” (which could explain some longevity stories?) On this night the worms leave and report to heaven so people remain awake on a vigil which was thought to weaken the worms. “Three such vigils were thought to severely weaken the worms, seven to cause them to perish together with misfortune and illness, extension of life” (Pregadio 2008). In China the occasion, the observance of which became widespread during the Tang, had quite a sombre tone as aspirants tried to thwart the worms with abstinence of sex and meat while undergoing purification rituals and meditation. 

Known as Koshin in Japan, it was more of a social festival of general merriment and feasting to stay awake compared to the austere Chinese observance. The Japanese built up a significant cult around the day and associated gods, spirits as well as developing their own distinct theories of demonic parasites. Both the Chinese and Japanese terms, of geng and ko, as in gengshen and koshin, respectively mean monkey thus it is a “monkey day.” One is tempted to conclude from the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” of the monkey worship and monkey iconography associated with the day that there is some basis in the myths that glorify the primitive, uncontrived purity of the monkey culture compared to humans. Levi (1982) writes of “the appearance of monkeys, the wild version of humans, after that millet stopped swelling, and also the separation of gods from men because of rice fragmentation” which speaks to a direct relationship with the mythology and symbolism of the very day seeking to lessen the parasitical influence that seems born of civilization.'



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