With the increasing interest in the natural arts and sciences, many have found a keen attraction to the workings of fragrance. There have been untold volumes published on the healing applications of scent, yet the magickal applications have been less celebrated. This is unfortunate, for two reasons. First, the magickal applications of aromatherapy—existing since before recorded history in the sacred rites of our ancestors, who burned herbs and essences to their deities—in many ways may have been the foundation of the rich healing practices of the modern-day aromatherapist. We can only expand our understanding of the art if we remember its roots. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, is the fact that the magickal practice of aromatherapy is inseparable from the therapeutic. The treatment of mind and spirit is a key concern of magickal endeavor. In treating many ailments, the healer has discovered that the mind and spirit of the client colors the effectiveness of a given remedy.
Long ago, when humankind struggled through a strange world in ignorance, there was no true science—perhaps, in those days of darkness, there was no true knowledge either. The races of people were as children upon the earth, struggling to make their way through each successive day to see the dawning of just one more sun. It was in this time that superstition gripped the minds of civilized beings, when popular belief stood in the place that was to be reserved for science and art as the wheel of time progressed.
With all the available alternative healing methods available, what would make the art of the aromatherapist any more popular than another? Though there may be many different answers to this proposition, one that may be especially worthy of consideration is that of versatility. Within the scope of the oils that are the tools of the aromatherapy technician lies a world of possibility. Not only does each individual essential fragrance have virtues of its own, but the number of possible blends that may utilize the properties of several essentials is only limited by the knowledge and creative artistry of the person mixing them.
The history of the use of scent is tied inseparably with the use of herbs and plant stuffs for sustenance. Before the rise of the firs civilization, the rac of human animals had to resort to instinct for survival, much like their four-footed counterparts. One of the key senses tied to survival was scent.
We may not have senses as finely tuned as our primitive ancestors. We have less need to depend on smelling an approaching predator or recognizing the direction of food as its aroma is carried in the flight of a passing breeze, so we are slower alerting to the world about us. But we may suppose that our ancestors had highly honed sensitivities, for they needed them to ensure that they would survive another day.
Although the practice of aromatherapy has grown in popularity and usage over the past several decades, its effectiveness nd its subtle workings have never required the attention of humankind. Whether we like it or not, or even choose to believe it or not, we are all subject to the effects created by our surroundings. We respond in different ways to color, to temperature, to the many sounds that fill our world—and we are no less affected by the smells we encounter each day.
In the Orient, the concept of balancing yin and yang is rooted in the same type of thinking. These are the forces that embody the female and male forces that reside within each of us. They are the passive and the active, the mental and the physical, the mind and the body of the human makeup. It is when these complementing forces work in unison that the spiritual self is most healthy. In India or Tibet, this same sense of balance is sought through chakra work. The chakras are centers of consciousness located in a vertical line throughout the body. They correspond not only to different bodily functions such as reproduction, digestion, evacuation, circulation, respiration, and sensory recognition, but they also touch the base survival instincts that dwell within us all. They correspond to passion, hunger, the innate protective mechanisms of self-survival, and that unconscious, indescribable force that keeps us breathing in and out with no provocation from thought or reason. As in the case of yin and yang, when the chakras are in balance, they culminate in spiritual well-being.
The challenge of the aromatherapist is to take that natural capacity for reaction and direct it in specific ways for predetermined results. In light of the many differences between individuals, it is natural to question how we may standardize any such system dependent on anticipated response. We do this by cutting through experience and background to instinctive response. If we appeal to that part of us that yet remembers the scent of a food source that means survival or the scent of a predator that indicates danger, we can circumvent the conditioned responses and cut directly to the animal within. We awaken the beast that lives by instinct instead of wit, by necessity instead of preference, by survival instead of social doctrine.
The practice of aromatherapy exists in a plane that is made of the substance of two seemingly different worlds. As a system of healing the body, it is not unlike the pursuit of herbology. It is rooted in the healing arts of the earth, in the utilization of nature’s gifts for the betterment of humankind. However, this ancient practice is not limited to the treatment of physical ills but can be used to improve the mental, and even the spiritual, condition as well. In this application, it is more closely aligned with the practice of natural magick. As a system, it is a complete approach to the human condition. It is neither strictly art nor strictly science. While aromatherapy has applications in physical healing, it does not fail to acknowledge the ailments of mind and spirit that are wont to plague human existence.
The medium we use will be that of essential oils, for these are the most potent and easily usable form of nature’s aromas. While some students of aromatherapy restrict their practice to natural fragrances, others make use of synthetic substitutes too. Because the art is based on response to scent, it must be questioned whether it truly makes a difference whether that aroma is extracted from nature or earnestly replicated in the laboratory. If the difference is undetectable, will the resulting effect not be the same, as well?
Consider the homecoming of a traveler, navigating the way through field and wood, headed toward the comfort of familiar sur-roundings andthe welcoming embrace of loved ones. As the road draws to an end, our traveler may arrive on the edge of a meadow that lies just outside the familiar family home. The soft scent of heather fills the nostrils and elates the heart with the certain knowledge that home is near. As the field fades in the distance by a steady gait, the aroma of spaghetti and Grandpa’s old world sauce fills the air. As the scent surrounds our traveler, the senses of comfort and well-being as well as the feelings of warmth and love swell up in the heart. This is the essence of the magick of scent.