At the 2018 NAHA conference I spoke of The role of scent in culture and spiritual practices, and how this has helped establish a framework for the practice of aromatherapy. In preparing for this presentation, I realised that I had just scratched the surface in understanding the role of scent within spiritual practices, and how this has influenced the way we use essential oils today. This became one of the catalysts for writing Volume III.
It is not surprising that the first chapter that I wrote was Chapter 3 – Sacred Scents.
Actually, before discussing chapter 3 and chapter 4 this week, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the team at NAHA for inviting me to speak at this year’s 2021 NAHA – Beyond Aromatics Conference on June 15 -18, 2021. What an incredible line up of speakers. This without a doubt will be the must-attend conference of the year!
Do not miss the opportunity to attend this amazing event. To find out more please visit https://conference.naha.org/
Now let me tell you a little about my two most favourite chapters of Volume III. I would like to begin by stressing that in no way do I have an idealistic or romantic notion that our ancestors were far more in tune with nature than we are today. At various stages of history, the attitude towards scent changed. Early Christian scholars were concerned that the power of scent could endanger Christians by inadvertently exposing them to pagan practices.
It was suggested that bad smells emanated from bad things and good smells from good things. This no doubt influenced the framework for early Christian practices. In reading Sacred scents you will also learn that there was a very fine line separating the role of scent in spiritual practices and healing practices.
In preparing for this chapter, I made use some excellent references by Mary Thurlkill’s Sacred Scents in Early Christianity and Islam; Deborah Green’s The Aroma of Righteousness – Scent and
Seduction in Rabbinic Life and Literature; Susan Ashbrook Harvey’s Scenting Salvation – Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination and one of my all-time favourite classics Constance Classen’s World of Sense – Exploring the Senses in History and across Cultures.
While Thurlkill states that many modern theories of philosophy and psychology demote scent as animalistic, uncivilised and boorish, best left to humanity’s evolutionary past, she explains that many current studies are reversing these antiquated trends. Green acknowledges a more positive attitude in the West towards scent thanks to holistic health practices. She also states that this has created new avenues of research and promoted interdisciplinary studies. I also agree with Green who explains that the rise of women involved within the academic world, along with major achievements in feminist studies and theory, has had a positive effect on research in virtually every area, smell and scent included. She states that many of the longstanding and misogynist claims regarding women and scent have now been dismissed without hesitation.
There is so much more that I reveal and discuss in this chapter. No discussion on sacred scent would be complete without acknowledging the role of India in introducing us to a plethora of sacred scents that still play an important role in the practice of modern-day aromatherapy.
We also spend the time to explore the role and use of incense and the many symbolic meanings of incense within many of the cultures in which incense is used.
We conclude the chapter by exploring some very unique aromatic ingredients and essential oils that have fascinated us throughout the history of human kind such as agarwood, frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, spikenard and yakusugi.
I hope that you will sincerely enjoy Chapter 3 – Sacred Scents.
In Chapter 4 – The Spiritual Dimension of Scent, I reveal a new framework that identifies the various pathways by which scent works at a spiritual level. There is so much exciting information to share in this chapter that I have decided to dedicate a separate blog for Chapter 4.
Until next time please take care.