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.
Now we have fine health care facilities throughout the world to maintain our physical and mental well-being. There are medical remedies for almost every conceivable ailment and chemical concoctions devoted to every purpose. And yet the old-world ‘ beliefs have not completely faded from our lives. The superstitious world of civilization in its age of ignorance has taken a stubborn foothold in a new age of science and knowledge.
We know, now, that the world is not the center of the universe, as the pseudo-scientists of ages past would have had us believe. These one-time scholars of darkness—the astrologers, philosophers, and alchemists—have been proven wrong in many instances. Yet we pick up the daily newspapei and still consult the ancient systems of art and science as we peruse our daily horoscope. The old wives’ tales are deeply rooted in cultures and family heritages; we swear by Granny’s cold remedy that she inherited from her own Granny, and a hundred Grannys before her.
What is the obsession with the oid beliefs that seems so inescapable in a modern world? While it may be true that science has overturned many of the old beliefs, it has given credibility to so many more. Mother’s chicken soup has been found to contain a natural antibiotic that helps us to combat disease. The garlic that our ancestors were so fond of swallowing to chase away the demons that caused human suffering has also been found to have bacteria-fighting properties.
A dear friend once told me to not disregard the lore that has come down from distant years, for it often contained great wisdom. Within the substance of this simple statement is the foundation of the survival, and constant revival, of the ancient arts. Necessity was the motivation behind the old ways of healing. Centuries ago, as early as the year 1210, it was heralded that ‘Nede makith the old wiff to trotte.’ This proverb, as recorded in The Common-place Book before 1500, illuminates the driving force behind ancient home remedies and, perhaps, explains the reason for the successes of our ancestors in the healing arts. Their remedies had to be effective for their survival. They were not reaching for a Nobel prize; rather, the fruit of their labor was life itself.
And so the old arts continue to survive. Researchers are forever reaching back to ages past in hopes of touching one or another of the ancient magicks of our ancestors, whose many specks of light pierced the darkened worid of ignorance before the dawn of science.
The use of scent for healing body, mind, and spirit was but one of those specks of illumination. Some of us may remember the smell of camphor that filled the room as Grandma took up the battle against winter colds on our behalf, or the smell of mustard used in the paste that heated our bodies and chased the congestion from our chests. There is a crossover between the herbal remedies of the country folk and the modern application of aromatherapy today. Just as the body may absorb medication through external application or direct ingestion, we take in the therapeutic value of our healing concoctions through their scent as it is absorbed by the sensitive membranes of our nasal passages.
The avid cocaine user and the abuser of inhalant substances know well the ability of the nasal membranes to absorb both scent and substance into the body. The aromatherapist employs the same principle for positive purpose, building and healing instead of weakening and tearing down.