International Women’s Day 2022
The 8th March was International Women’s Day (IWD) and this year’s campaign theme was #BreakTheBias.
The official IWD website states that whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough; action is needed to level the playing field. The IWD 2022 campaign theme implores one to:
Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakThe Bias.
Today, the work of Julian of Norwich is more important than ever when it comes to breaking the bias. Even though Julian’s work is more than 600 years old, her revelations play a big role in helping to break the bias that has long existed in within society.
Julian of Norwich. Dreamtime Statue.
I have only known about Julian of Norwich for a short time. While I was upset that I had not known about her earlier in my life, I am also grateful for having recently discovering her work.
I am in awe of her work, and even though it was written in the fourteenth century, her revelations are more important than ever. Her words soothe and comfort the soul. She gives us strength and hope in difficult times, and most importantly, she reminds us “all will be well; all manner of things will be well.”
I am so grateful to share with you the amazing work of Julian of Norwich and how we can relate to her teaching through essential oils and the practice of subtle aromatherapy.
This blog is a brief introduction to Julian of Norwich and her legacy.
There are many books that provide a wonderful contemporary interpretation of Julian’s original writings.
Before deciding which book or books you read about Julian of Norwich, it is worthwhile exploring the author’s background to ensure that their approach in interpreting Revelations of Divine Love is in a style that you can relate to and holds meaning for you.
You can find a short list of books in the References and Recommended Reading section located at the end of this blog.
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic - and Beyond by Matthew Fox. Original book cover.
One of the books that I used in preparing for this webinar was Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – and Beyond, by Matthew Fox.
This book was written at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Matthew Fox compares the challenges we have been dealing with throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in the 21st century with the challenges that Julian of Norwich would have experienced with the bubonic plague in the 14th century.
I often skim past all the book praises or reviews published at the front of a book; however, I was moved by some comments in Matthew Fox’s book and would like to share them with you as they are so relevant to International Women’s Day.
Suppose you had a wise woman friend who was a scholar – and also the survivor of a plague many times longer and more lethal than the one we are going through now. Wouldn’t you want to know what she has to say? Thanks to Matthew Fox, we can find a friend in Julian of Norwich, exactly the mental, emotional, and spiritual vaccine we need now.
– Gloria Steinem
I loved the way Gloria Steinem describes the work of Julian of Norwich as a mental, emotional, and spiritual vaccine.
I am grateful for Matthew Fox, Mirabai Starr, and all the writers who have made the wisdom of Julian of Norwich available to everyone.
I was going through the online reviews of Matthew’s Fox’s ‘modern-day’ interpretation of Julian’s work and found some reviews that were critical of his interpretation. The reviewer states Julian has become fashionable over the last few decades particularly with academics and Julian’s writings have been used selectively to support current ideas about life and spirituality.
The reviewer is correct in saying that Julian would not have had a concept of climate change or global warming and that she was not a feminist.
However, the reviewer failed to understand that her work is eternal, and when read in the perspective of living in the 21st century, her work provides us with the impetus to deal with many of the major challenges we face today such as: climate change, breaking the bias, inequality, and pandemics.
Loss of Soul in Healing
In Chapter One – Re-shamanising aromatherapy, of The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy – Volume III, I cited David Tacey who states that most medical practitioners are trained in the bio-social model and are not able to identify the more subtle factors and spiritual elements that can trigger diseases in the body.
Tacey goes on to explain we need to return to a more holistic model of health that understands that religion and medicine find their common roots in traditional understandings of disease and healing.
It’s not surprising that Schnaubelt states that aromatherapy contributes to the realization of health that no material science can – “it accepts and integrates the phenomena of the soul.”
Furthermore, Schnaubelt explains that aromatherapy seeks to unite the body and soul. It is not surprising that Julian’s mystical insights inspire us to reconnect with the divine, and in doing so, it gives us all new understanding of what we must do to integrate body, mind and soul.
In my 2021 Masterclass – Reshamanising Aromatherapy, I explored the role of the shaman in traditional societies and asked where all the shamans have gone. In particular, I noted that historians have largely ignored the role of women in shamanic practices.
Tedlock’s book, The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine, provides us with much evidence that women played a very important role as shamans.
In the same way that Tedlock provides us with evidence to indicate women played a very important role as shamans, writers introducing us to Julian of Norwich remind us that women also played very important roles as mystics to help all of humankind to embrace the divine.
In Volume III, Chapter One, I also introduce you to Lambert, author of Wise women of dreamtime. Lambert is concerned with Western culture’s blatant disregard and desecration for the life-sustaining spiritual relationship between ourselves and our natural habitat, which Aboriginals deem necessary for health:
The overwhelming despair, resignation, and terror that arise as we helplessly witness, and participate in, the malignant population explosion and the tormenting rape of the natural world can be healed only if we view it through the ancient eyes of shamanistic cultures.
Lambert further asserts that change cannot occur unless Western culture embraces the important role of women as birth-givers, nurturers and healers in leading humanity out of this ‘spiritually famished, solar-focused male system.’
This is interesting as it is the way in which many contemporary writers and academics have interpreted the work of Julian of Norwich.
In The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy: Volume III – Psyche & Subtle, I refer to the work of Barcan, author of Aromatherapy and the Mixed Blessing of Feminization, who contends that aromatherapy is culturally identified as a ‘feminised’ practice because of the traditional associations of smell with emotions, memory, and the unconscious.
Barcan states aromatherapy manages to re-combine the separated realms of sensuality, spirituality, and medicine; and revives religious meanings and uses of scent. She maintains this feminisation is an ambiguous blessing for aromatherapy, which struggles to assert its legitimacy in the quest for scientific validation and a more radically inclusive holism.
While this may be of concern to some, I believe it is imperative for all those of us involved in healing practices to embrace the feminine. As Lambert argues, the feminine must be fully present and empowered on earth and in society so that healing of humanity’s rebirth can begin. If Barcan describes aromatherapy as a ‘feminised practice’, it may very well be possible that aromatherapy is able to act as a catalyst for radical transformation and healing of the deep structures of our society that Lambert wishes for.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have acted as a catalyst to help us discover incredible spiritual mystics such as Julian of Norwich. I hope this will also continue to give us the impetus and strength to help us embrace and empower the feminine that is needed to act as a catalyst for change.
In Volume III, I also explored the cultural appropriation and the commodification of shamanic practices. It has been suggested that the West’s fascination with shamanic practices is because more and more Westerners have become disillusioned with conventional western medicine, which fails to integrate the role of spirituality within the healing framework.
Tacey, author of Edge of the Sacred – Jung, Psyche, Earth, quotes Jung who said ‘it is easier to take on the spirituality and trappings of an exotic cosmology than face the poverty of our souls and begin a dialogue with the inner life.’
There has been much criticism of this instant ’Western’ consumption of traditional spiritualities. Tacey states:
Such stolen property would not take root in the white soul, and may inhibit or block a developmental process already taking place. We know we are spiritually bereft, but the way ahead may not be by means of a return to animism and ancestor spirits.
I believe, for some of us, Julian of Norwich offers us a unique opportunity to reconnect with our own spiritual heritage, one that still has meaning in the 21st century.
Last year, in the middle of the lockdowns, I was preparing and updating my presentation Aromatherapy and Mental Health Masterclass.
I was interested in finding out what - if any - research had been done examining the impact of the pandemic lockdowns and mental health, and in particular, the role of spirituality in supporting mental health wellbeing. I typed the terms ‘pandemic, spirituality and mental health’.
In the top five searches was a review of a book – Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a time of pandemic – and beyond, by Matthew Fox.
I was intrigued. I must admit to never having heard of Julian of Norwich before.
As I started reading the review, I experienced a sense of elation and excitement as I learned about Julian of Norwich. I also felt angry that mainstream male dominated religious institutions had intentionally suppressed the work of Julian for so long. We will speak about this later. Matthew Fox asks what type of world we may be living in today if her work had been embraced at the time of her writing her books.
I am not alone in my discovery, much of what has been written about Julian of Norwich is very recent. I am so grateful to Matthew Fox and all the writers who have made the work of Julian of Norwich accessible to us all.
Church Inside - reconstructed image by Richard Osbourne.
Not much is known about the true identity of Julian of Norwich. Julian’s writing does not tell us about her life. Some scholars speculated that she was a Benedictine nun because of her writing, but no evidence remains to connect Julian with the nearby Benedictine nunnery of Carrow. Another theory is that Julian may have received some early schooling from the nuns and may have received their support in her years as an anchoress.
What we do know is that Julian’s text survived the centuries through copies made centuries later by exiled English Benedictine nuns.
Others suggest she might have been a widow who became an anchorite. It is also believed that Julian may have experienced the death of a child during the black death of the late 1340s.
What we do know is that Julian was thirty years old at the time she fell gravely ill and was gifted with the vision in May 1373.
And when I was thirty and a half years old, God sent me a bodily sickness in which I lay for three days and three nights; and on the fourth night I received all the rites of Holy Church and did not expect to live until morning. And after this I lingered on for two days and two nights. And on the third night I often thought I was about to die, and so did those who were with me.
And being still young, I thought it was a great pity to die, but this was not because of anything on earth that I wanted to live for, nor because I was afraid of any pain, for I trusted in God’s mercy. But it was because I wanted to live so as to have loved God better and for longer, in order that I might, through the grace of living, have more knowledge and love of God in the bliss of heaven.
This text is in Revelations of Divine Love (The Long Text, Section 3) in which Julian tells us of her experience when she was close to death and she experiences sixteen revelations of Christ dying on the cross.
Julian wrote two versions of her visionary experience. The first is known as The Short Text and was most likely composed within a short period after she recovered from her illness in which she almost died. The second is known as The Long Text is a meditative commentary devoted to exploring and interpreting what had been shown in her visions. This was written during her time when she became an anchoress.
Historian Janina Ramierez, author of Julian of Norwich – a very brief history, provides us with an interesting chronology to highlight how turbulent life must have been in the period that Julian lived:
1337 - Start of Hundred Years War with France
1343 - Birth of Julian of Norwich
1349 - the black death reaches England
1378 - Start of the Great Western Schism
1381 – The Peasant’s Revolt. Chancellor Simon Sudbury is killed.
1383 – Henry Despenser leads the Norwich men on crusade
1390 – Julian has taken anchoritic vows and entered the cell at the Church of St Julian
1395 – Approximate date when Julian begins writing Revelations of Divine Love
1416 – Death of Julian of Norwich
1625 – English Benedictine nuns found the monastery at Cambrai, France
1877 – Henry Collins publishes printed version of Revelations of Divine Love
1901 – Grace Warrack publishes Revelations through Methuen, which becomes very popular.
2001 – Julian’s words are included in the Queen’s Jubilee window at St James’s Palace
Julian lived in a period of great social and political upheaval, relentless wars, and sweeping epidemics. In the fourteenth century, Norwich, the second largest town in England with a population of 25,000, was struck by the plague known as The Black Death.
It killed approximately three quarters of the population of Norwich. In a social and cultural context so saturated with suffering and death, it is not surprising that so many believers interpreted these as clear signs of God’s anger with humanity.
Julian became an anchoress around the age of 43, and she lived on for 26 years in one room: her only door to the world walled up. An anchoress is someone who is literally walled up inside a small cell usually built against the wall of a church.
The life of an anchoress was regarded as the living death of one who was as if dead to the world. She would have undergone some probationary testing to ensure that she was aware of her commitment, and that sufficient arrangements for her continued material support.
The thought of being an anchoress sounds extreme; however, Mirabai Starr, in the forward of Matthew Fox’s book explains it was a way to quarantine during a time when infectious disease was rending the fabric of society and people live in a collective state of fear and uncertainty.
Even as she spent more than forty years living in a small cell attached to a church, she had a window that looked onto the busy street in Norwich. From this window she offered spiritual guidance to her community. She kept tabs on neighborhood news and soothed broken hearts. She accepted loaves of fresh baked bread and shared honey from the hives she kept.
She would have had a companion or two who would assist her. Their responsibilities would have included such things as bringing food and drink and helping with laundry.
We know from her reputation as a spiritual advisor, she was consulted by Margery Kempe, a Norfolk visionary and holy woman, who records how she confided some of her own ‘revelations.’ Kempe describes the life of an anchoress;
It was a solitary life as a self-martyrdom from every worldly consolation in order that, stripped and set free from all earthly and sensory distraction, the anchoress may pursue her path through prayer and meditation towards spiritual enlightenment.
St Julian’s Church was rebuilt in the early 1950’s, following its destruction in the German bombing of Norwich on 27th of June, 1942. The new construction included a reconstruction of Julian’s anchorhold, which had been lost at the time of the reformation. It is now a pilgrimage destination and considered something of a shrine, with an associated Julian Centre.
Since 1980, Julian of Norwich has had her feast day on 8th of May in the Church of England’s calendar.
St Julian's Church. Sourced from Wiki.
Revelations of Divine Love
Barry Windeatt, Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and translator of Revelations of Divine Love, describes Julian’s work as a spiritual autobiography. He describes her as a profound and radical thinker.
It’s interesting that Julian of Norwich divulges very few details about herself, preferring her readers to focus on the revelations and not her. She suppresses in her longer text some of the personal details present in the shorter text, including all reference to the author being a woman.
This is interesting as Sheila Upjohn, author of In Search of Julian of Norwich tells the story how in 1973 many people in Norwich found themselves in an embarrassing situation.
On 8 May 1973 a distinguished company from all over the world gathered in Norwich Cathedral for a celebration. … Back in those days, the people of Norwich were astonished to find that it wasn’t purely a Church of England affair. Roman Catholics, many of them priests, monks and nuns, had come from America and France and Italy to pray beside all kinds of churchmen, from all over the world, at a Eucharist celebrated by an Anglican priest. It was the first time, as far as anyone knew, that a Roman Catholic priest had been officially present at a Eucharist in the cathedral since Henry VIII had dissolved the priory in 1538.
All this the people of Norwich heard of and approved, but their discomfort grew. The reason was this. The celebration was to honour the 600th anniversary of Julian of Norwich – and most of them had to admit that they had never heard the name.
Who was this man? And how had the inhabitants of this native city remained unaware of his existence for 600 years?
Their embarrassment became acute when it was revealed to them that their ignorance was deeper than they supposed. Julian, it seemed, was not a man after all, but a woman – a woman who had lived in Norwich 600 years before and had written a book.
Windeatt states her text is a witness to her intellect and knowledge of spiritual writing, unlike so many other texts of the time, there is no direct citation of other sources or even biblical references. He describes Julian’s test as a marvel of stylistic subtlety and grace, theologically precise, and with the impress of a distinct personality.
Julian declares that God is our mother. During medieval period it was not unusual for monks and nuns to write about Jesus as a mother who feeds and nourishes us. Julian expands our images for God and rejects any notion of an avenging and angry God. She allows us to open our mind, our heart, and our imagination so we may receive the divine love that makes, sustains and cares for us.
Ramierez invites us to explore the period in which Julian of Norwich lived, and offers us an insight into how and why her writing survived and why, for so long, her work lay hidden in the shadows of her male contemporaries.
Ramierez eloquently describes the text of Julian of Norwich:
Of all the works I have read, hers is one I most want to read passage by passage, phrase by phrase, word by word. As she gave time to writing it, we must give time to reading it. The rewards are immense.
This is wonderful and very practical advice if you decide to read Julian’s text.
What all scholars agree on is that she was the first known women to write in English.
Ramierez explains the Julian must have had to overcome many challenges to write Revelations of Divine Love:
Scholarship, spirituality, study - these were the preserve of men rather than women, so for a woman to write a book in the fourteenth century was both dangerous and difficult.
Julian’s book was nearly lost to the fires of reformers and the passages of time, but over six centuries. A succession of female thinkers ensured Julian’s work survived so that her voice can still be heart today.
As the monasteries were dismantled, texts such as the Revelations of Divine Love were destroyed, scorned and driven underground. Ramierez considers it a miracle that Julian’s text found a way to survive down the centuries.
Upjohn reminds us that when Henry VIII closed down the monasteries, he swept away a complex system of property, of worship and of learning that had been an unchanged part of English life for 500 years. The monasteries were centres of learning, home to the men and women who could write and they housed the great libraries of England. The dissolution of the monasteries meant that the loss of many of the books in the libraries.
Upjohn states it is likely that Julian’s original manuscript (which has never been found) would itself have been copied by scribes. The most interesting thing is that the book was not written in Latin, which was common at that time, but in Middle English.
It would not be until the mid-1600s that an English Benedictine monk, called Serenus de Cressy, was in Paris as chaplain to a newly-founded convert of Benedictine nuns in Cambrai. Serenus de Cressy came across Julian’s manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale.
In 1670, with the permission of his Abbot, he brought out the first-ever printed edition of Julian’s book. When it first appeared in print it, received some very harsh reviews. Bishop Stillington declared it the ‘fantastic revelations of a distempered brain’.
Ramierez explains that it contained mystical visions gleaned through meditation upon a gory gothic image of Christ, and steeped in Catholic medieval ideas, it’s not surprising that Julian’s text fared poorly in post-Reformation England.
However, I doubt Bishop Stillington even bothered to properly read Julian’s book.
Julian wrote in Middle English, which is not as complicated to read as some other fourteenth century texts.
When Julian wrote Revelations of Divine Love, the mystical tradition was very popular throughout Europe. For example, Hildegard of Bingen was one of the first female mystics to establish the tradition.
Ramierez describes Hildegard of Bingen as a remarkable woman who in the twelfth century experienced visions, but was also renowned for her work in medicine, music, poetry, natural history, philosophy, mathematics and linguistics.
Windeatt states before the twentieth century, Julian’s work had largely been overlooked.
He states that if Julian’s name is now widely known, it is thanks to the semi-modernised words of her thirteenth revelation – all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Julian’s book contains passages that have given hope to many during times of pain or suffering. It is a book full of positivity and optimism, but also contains ideas about spirituality that continue to resonate in our modern world.
For example, Ramierez explains that when Julian is describing the universe as a hazelnut that she holds in her hands, Julian is expressing and idea of enlightenment that underlies all world religions, and is the goal of so many spiritual seekers today.
When she refers to God’s love as that of a mother, she appeals to modern readers searching for a religious view that draws on both the male and female.
Revelations of Divine Love charts the inner journey of Julian’s mind and soul following a set of sixteen revelations that she received at the age of thirty.
Her work is as relevant, comforting and thought-provoking now as it was in the fourteenth century as she contemplates those thought-provoking issues such as – Who is God? How can we survive in a life full of pain and suffering? What is the purpose of my life on earth?
Fox reminds us that Julian lived her entire life during a pandemic; however, while others all about her were freaking out about nature gone awry, Julian kept her spiritual and intellectual composure, staying grounded and true to her belief in the goodness of life, creation, and humanity, and, in no uncertain terms, inviting others to do the same.
One interesting fact you would love to know is that Florence Nightingale took Julian’s book to the Crimea with her, and I have no doubt it would have been an immense source of spiritual comfort and strength for her.
Windeatt comments that Julian’s work has been now recruited in support of ecumenism (promoting unity among all Christian churches) and is used to support less traditional links between Eastern and Western spirituality.
Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich. Original book cover.
Creation spirituality and Julian of Norwich
Mirabai Starr calls Julian’s work a ‘radically optimistic theology’.
Instead of yielding to despair or blame, she sought out the goodness in life and creation.
Fox describes Julian as a practitioner of Creation Spirituality - a term that he coined.
Fox posits Creation Spirituality as a ‘synthesis of wisdom drawn from indigenous cultures, mystical traditions of the West, world religions and scientific cosmological explanations of the universe’. Creation spirituality also draws inspiration from movements in social justice, feminism, environmentalism, and process thought.
Fox states creation-centered consciousness can be found in the oldest traditions of the Hebrew Bible and in the reflections of medieval Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhart (c. 1260-1327), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280) and Julian of Norwich.
In the same way that those of us in the holistic health movement argue for a more inclusive approach to health and wellbeing that embraces traditional healing practices, science and spirituality; the proponents of Creation Spirituality also ask for the acceptance of the sacredness and mystery of life.
Fox explains that Julian’s response to the plague was grounded in a love of life and gratitude. Instead of running from death, she actually prayed to enter into it and it is from that experience of death all around her and meditating on the cruel crucifixion of Christ that she experienced her visions.
Fox explains that creation spirituality tradition is grounded in the same wisdom tradition of the Bible in which the historical Jesus stood. Creation spirituality, he claims, forms the matrix of Celtic spirituality and was foundational to Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinis, Metchtild of Magdeburg and Meister Eckhart; all whom led up to Julian of Norwich.
He further believes;
Creation spirituality begins with creation, the universe, nature as a whole. It is not anthropocentric, but first looks at the ‘whole’ beyond merely human interests. It is a tradition honored by indigenous peoples the world over, but premodern medieval world boasted many teachers operating from a similar mode of consciousness.
Fox argues the Black Death was responsible for killing creation spirituality;
… humanity shrunk its soul and came to see itself in battle against nature. Religion and culture gradually elevated fear of nature over trust in it, eventually making life after death more important than life before death. An obsessive preoccupation with redemption overtook love of creation in religion.
Fox believes that Julian’s wisdom is just as relevant today as it was over 600 years ago, as it helps us recover a healthy balance of the divine feminine and sacred masculine.
This is something that I spoke of extensively in Volume III regarding essential oils.
In the same way that Julian’s teachings can radically transform spirituality and act as a major catalyst for change, aromatherapy also has the potential to radically transform healing because it also helps us recover a healthy balance of the divine feminine and sacred masculine.
Aromatherapy and the Wisdom of Julian of Norwich
The work of Julian of Norwich can be such a powerful catalyst to reconnect us with our spirituality. In making the link with aromatherapy, I would like to remind you of the wise words of aromatherapist and author, Suzanne Fischer-Rizzi. She explains that essential oils have the ability to reconnect us with our spirituality because they have the ability to touch our hearts and open the door to our souls. Furthermore, essential oils give us the impetus for meaning in our life.
This indeed is the entire premise of The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Volume III – Psyche & Subtle. The book provides us with a roadmap for understanding the spiritual dimension of aromatherapy.
It was such a difficult decision in deciding which of Julian’s revelations I should choose and associate with the subtle use of essential oils. I turned to Matthew Fox for guidance as he divided his book into seven lessons that Julian shared with us. These seven lessons, he claims, help us to navigate a pandemic and to grow spiritually in the process.
I do sincerely hope that Julian’s lessons, together with essential oils, will help you navigate the ongoing challenges of life and to flourish with all the qualities that Julian refers to in the Revelations of Divine Love.
Sometimes we experience such darkness that we lose all our energy.
Spiritual lesson - The dark night of the soul - purpose, resilience
Julian instructs us not to flee the darkness but to face the suffering, chaos, and the dark-night of the soul.
When the dark side of life gets severe and penetrates our consciousness it is called the “dark night of the soul.”
Julian’s lesson about the dark night is to face it for what it is. Do not give in to denial. Put truth first. Go into the dark, even the darkest of the dark.
Julian acknowledges that sometimes “all our frailties and failings, our betrayals and denials, our humiliations and burdens and all our woe seem to utterly fill the horizons of this life.” Fox explains she herself confesses to experiencing “a constant flow of woe here” in this life.
She cautions us time and time again not to lose touch with the truth of the goodness of life and of nature even in the most challenging times.
Fox states Julian teaches us not to sentimentalize, cover up, or go into denial about suffering or challenges we are dealing with such as climate change or the coronavirus. We should not run from sorrow, fear, and grief, but stay connected to our feelings. Only truth will make us free, and we must confront the truth directly.
Essential oils to give us the courage to face the dark night of the soul include: Atlas cedarwood, benzoin, black pepper, cistus, German chamomile, everlasting, fragonia, frankincense, ginger, lavender, myrrh, neroli, peppermint, rosemary, sage, sandalwood and yakusugi.
Robbie Zeck beautifully describes the subtle qualities of fragonia oil as being like a candle carrying the light of dignity, nurturing the spirit, and helping you to come to terms and resolve any past traumas and unresolved family issues. Fragonia gently helps remove scars from past emotional pain.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- Don’t flee the darkness, put truth before denial.
- Take the occasion to examine one’s goals and intentions. Why am I here? What and whom do I wish to serve?
- Life is short. What do I want to do with my life? How can I contribute especially when times are difficult?
- Don’t take life and time on earth for granted
- Don’t be afraid to die. Do grief work.
- Resist self-pity and victimhood. Prefer getting better and enjoying life to languishing over feelings of pain.
- Stay connected with your feelings, whether they be of joy or sorrow.
- Beware of numbing yourself with addictions, and be aware of their presence in society.
- Study what Julian and other mystics teach us about the dark night of the soul.
God is all that is good … God says “I am the sovereign goodness of all things.”
Spiritual lesson - awe, wonder and gratitude
Julian advises us when it is hard to see the goodness of things, when one is stuck in the darkness and chaos is everywhere, it is important to remember the goodness of things. Julian encourages us to live as fully, joyfully, and gratefully as possible.
Julian instructs us to take delight and joy in life and to respond “with reverence and humility.”
She asks us to experience awe. Awe is about encountering greatness, something bigger than ourselves – the sacred. The sacred can be found all around us and in nature. I speak extensively about the clinical outcomes of experiencing awe and how essential oils elicit a state of awe in Volume III.
Which essential oil allows you to experience the feeling of awe and a feeling of joy?
I am sure that you can add many others to this list. My favourites include essential oils such as: Atlas cedarwood, bergamot, cardamom, Roman chamomile, clary sage, fragonia, hinoki wood, sweet orange, geranium, lavender, mandarin, neroli, rose, sandalwood and ylang ylang.
Thanks to bergamot’s sunny and warming disposition, the oil helps people regain self-confidence, and it uplifts and refreshes the spirit. The gentle fragrance, like a bouquet of flowers, evokes joy and warms the heart.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- Fall in love with the world, in spite of its history.
- Remember how special and what a blessing it is to be here in an amazing universe on an amazing planet.
- God is the same thing as nature, and God is the very essence of nature. Dwell on this.
- God is unending goodness and an endless goodness.
- We are all born into a birthright of never-ending joy.
- Value awe. A reverent awe is the proper response to the supreme beauty of the divine.
- Practice gratitude - The holiest prayer is the loving prayer of thanksgiving.
God is the same thing as Nature.
Spiritual lesson - connectedness, grace, harmony, biophilia
Fox states that many in Europe in the fourteenth century were so traumatized by the plague which attacked so indiscriminately and came repeatedly in waves, began to curse nature. Nature was to blame.
On the other hand, Julian saw nature as a place of grace, and human nature nested in the arms of a holy nature. She says the goodness of nature is not something out there, but inside of us: nature penetrates us in all its goodness. We are in it and it is in us.
Julian rejected the dualism between nature and the divine found in thinkers like Augustine and Thomas à Kempis.
She states “nature and grace are in harmony with each other. For grace is God as nature is God. … Neither nature nor grace works without the other. They may never be separated.”
Essential oils that elicit a sense of connection and harmony with nature include: bergamot, Roman chamomile, clary sage, lemon-scented eucalyptus, fir needle, fragonia, geranium, lavender, lemon, melissa, neroli, pine, rosalina, rosemary, sage, back spruce, tea tree and vetiver.
Black spruce teaches us to walk our spiritual path with ‘practical feet’ moving forward and making choices with grounded wisdom and intuitive understanding. Spruce supports intuition and teaches us compassion. Spruce awakens a deep innate spirit bond we have with nature.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- The first good thing is the goodness of nature.
- Nature and the Grace are in harmony with each other … neither works without the other.
- God is the true father and mother of nature.
- Between God and the soul there is no between.
God feels great delight to be our father and God feels great delight to be our mother.
Spiritual lesson - the Divine Feminine, compassion and harmony
Fox suggests that by invoking the divine feminine, Julian is informing us that we need a balanced sense of gender to survive and even thrive in a pandemic and after a pandemic has left us.
Julian is not alone among medieval mystics in calling forth the divine feminine and/or the motherhood of God. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1181) tells us we are ‘hugged’ and ‘encircled by the mystery of God’.
She recognizes Mary as an archetype of the divine feminine when she says “Mother of all joy, grounded of all being, a glowing, most green verdant sprout.”
Julian reminds us that “compassion is a kind and gentle property that belongs to the motherhood in tender grace.”
Julian states compassion is about putting kindness and caring into action. Fox reminds us that the test of compassion is not when things are going well, but when darkness descends and troubles occur. The dark night of the soul invites compassion and stretches our capacity for compassion.
In Volume III, I refer to the work of traditional healers who states that Western Culture has blatant disregard for the life-sustaining spiritual relationship between traditional peoples and their country, and that this in turn leads to a pattern of destruction this can only change if the feminine is fully present and empowered. The feminine nature must be fully present and empowered on earth and in human society so that the inevitable healing ritual of human rebirth can begin.
It is interesting because Fox also says something similar when he explains;
… when the divine feminine is neglected or ostracized, humanity is in trouble. And Mother Earth suffers, too. Wisdom is banished and its opposite, folly, takes over. We seem to be at such a place in history now. The balance between the divine feminine and sacred masculine has been broken.
Fox states that the divine feminine is calling us to wholeness and a return to balance.
Essential oils that reconnect us with the divine feminine include: German chamomile, clary sage, fragonia, geranium, everlasting, jasmine, lavender, melissa, neroli, palmarosa, rose and Santalum album.
The scent of rose has always been associated with divine feminine energy.
Rose has been described as a ‘miracle of nature’.
Mailhebiau states to simply smell it will refine our sensitivity, take us into an unknown world and disperse the shadows of our worries, anxieties and sorrow. It shows us love, not only human love which is a gift as it is – possibly the finest – from existence, but spiritual love, and we would even say divine.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- God feels great delight to be our Father and God feels great delight to be our mother.
- Compassion belongs to the motherhood in tender grace.
- Compassion protects, increases our sensitivity, gives life and heals.
- The divine feminine and motherhood of God are integral to the Trinity and Godhead.
- The Mother God suffers when Mother Earth suffers.
- Stand up to patriarchal vengeance and wrath, for they are found in us but never in the divine.
Between God and our soul … there is no between.
Spiritual lesson - non-dualism, identity and transcendence
Julian coined the term “oneing.” Other mystics and academics have come up with their own words for the oneing experience such as ecstasy, breakthrough, peak experience or flow. Oneing is Julian’s word for the mystical experience. Julian explains that “the fruit and the purpose of prayer is to be oned with and like God in all things.”
Fox states Julian reminds us that the soul has two duties to perform. The one is that “we must reverently wonder and be surprised” and the other is we must gently let go and let be, always taking pleasure in God.
Fox believes that letting go and letting be is what we experience in mediation and what we learn when we experience suffering and grieving. Julian explains that the goal is to find peace both in the light and the dark, good times and bad, joy and sorrow.
Essential oils that elicit non-dualism and allow us to experience ‘oneing’ include: Atlas cedarwood, roman chamomile, clary sage, frankincense, hinoki wood, lavender, neroli, patchouli, rose, sage, vetiver and sandalwood.
Sandalwood has always been the aromatic ingredient of choice around the world to symbolize the bond between humanity and the divine. Worwood beautifully embodies the words of Julian:
Sandalwood helps humanity to have the strength of conviction when standing against adversity, as it rejoins all aspects of being. It rejoices in the physical aspects of humanity, while always being aware of the spiritual self.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- There exists a “true oneing between the divine and the human.”
- Do not give in to our negative impulses … we remain in this muddle all the days of our lives.
- But our beloved wants us to trust that he is always with us.
- Trust is the basis of compassion and trust is the real meaning of faith.
- Our first duty in life is to “gently let go and let be, always taking pleasure in God”
God is our sensuality and I understand that our sensuality is grounded in nature, in compassion and in grace.
Spiritual lesson - courage, trusting our sensuality
Julian explains that “both our substance and sensuality together might rightly be called our soul. That is because they are both oned in God”
She goes on to say “God willed that we have a twofold nature: sensual and spiritual.”
Fox explains that Julian strove to bring body and soul, matter and spirit, into that 'glorious unity between the soul and the body.'
For Julian, God is a ‘glue’ knitting our soul and body together, spirit and matter in one. She writes “God is the ground in which our soul stands and God is the means whereby our substance and our sensuality are kept together as to never be apart.”
Fox is critical of the patriarchal relationship that has existed with the body within the Church. For example, he reminds us that Cardinal Ratzinger, who eventually became Pope Benedict XVI published a document declaring that Christians should not learn yoga because it might get you too much in touch with your body.
Julian teaches us that “until our soul is in its full powers, we cannot at all be whole.” She reminds us that “both our substance and sensuality together might rightly be called our soul. That is because they are both oned in God.”
Essential oils allow us to trust our sensuality and unite body, mind and soul. This includes essential oils such as: bergamot, Peru balsam, benzoin, jasmine absolute, lavender, mandarin, patchouli, rose, sweet orange, sandalwood, vetiver and ylang ylang.
Jasmine is my oil of choice to promote love and sensuality, to connect our spirituality and sexuality.
Lavabre description of jasmine beautifully embodies the essence of Julian when he states it releases inhibition, liberates the imagination, develops exhilarating playfulness and has the power to transcend physical love fully releasing both male and female sexual energy.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- In a pandemic, “God does not say, ‘you will not be tempted; you will not be troubled; you will not be distressed.’ What God said was, ‘you shall not be overcome.’”
- Trust is the basis of compassion and trust is the real meaning of faith.
- Trust your body, “God is our sensuality.”
- A “beautiful oneing was made by God between the body and the soul.”
- “God has forged a glorious union between the soul and the body.”
- “The goodness of God permeates us even in our humblest needs."
- Learn to forgive yourself and avoid a “false meekness that is really a foul blindness and weakness due to fear.” Avoid fear.
- Be true to yourself. Also be self-critical – but not too much; don’t overdo it.
We were made for Love … It amuses me that the Lord of Love overcomes the spirit of evil.
Spiritual lesson - the Power of Love – hope and compassion
Julian says we are surrounded in love, love is everywhere. After all, her book is called - Revelations of Divine Love.
Julian explains that throughout the entire time of her revelations, she observed two things. One is that divine love is boundless and will continue forever, and the second observation was that she could love and take delight in the common teaching of the church community.
Julian recognises love as our liberation when she writes, “we will never be blissfully liberated until we are at peace, and love, for that is our liberation.”
Fox states, “Love is not just about a feeling, it leads to action. Without action, there is no gift-giving.”
Essential oils that embody the love that Julian speaks of include: bergamot, Roman chamomile, fragonia, geranium, lavender, melissa, neroli, rose absolute and sandalwood.
Lavender essential oil harmonizing qualities beautifully embodies the wisdom of Julian. Lavender embodies the protective nature of Mother Earth and helps us to integrate our spirituality into everyday life. Robbie Zeck reminds us that the nurturing nature of lavender brings nourishment and reassurance whenever we have to navigate the challenges of life.
The essence of Julian’s lesson
- Goodness and love go together, love being a response to the good.
- We were made for love.
- God wants to be thought of as our Lover.
- The divine love is boundless and will continue forever.
- Love overcomes evil.
- Be strong and stand up to matricide and misogyny. Do so with all one’s heart, soul and capacity.
- Trust adds vigour to hope.
A blend in honour of Julian of Norwich
Add this to a diffuser and allow yourself to be surrounded with the spirit of Julian of Norwich.
Why Julian? Why Now?
Matthew Fox asks why Julian? Why now?
Furthermore, he asks why was her book and life’s work ignored for centuries?
Fox describes Julian as a deeply aware, conscious and confident woman who believed in her own experience as a woman.
She trusted her insight, intuitions, visions, experience, learning, and her right to tell the world about them. She trusted her fifth chakra, her throat chakra – to speak out, find your voice, tell your truth and wisdom as you know it. … She speaks out about womanhood and about mothering and about the Divine Mother. She insists on the feminine side of God. … Julian was an absolute champion of non-dualism, and this means she was a feminist, as Feminist theologian Rosemary Ruether has made it clear, non-dualism is the essence of feminist thinking.
This, Fox explains, is why she has been ignored for centuries. Julian’s feminism did not fit the patriarchal agenda of the time. Fox reflects on how humankind has behaved:
We were too engrossed with the masculine projects of empire building and ‘discover’ doctrines of raiding and destroying indigenous cultures of ‘mother love’; we were too busy chasing knowledge, at the expense of wisdom, for the power it brings to buttress our empires through science and technology, too preoccupied with creating capitalist behemoths that demanded we extract whatever goods we could from Mother Earth – or future generations – back. We were too busy enslaving other people to keep that economic project going. We were too busy keeping women down and enslaved in more subtle forms of domination and disrespect. Matricide and misogyny ruled. Julian’s feminism did not fit the patriarchal agenda at hand.
Fox further explains her dismantling and deconstructing of patriarchy did not fit with the empire building agendas of slavery, colonialism, genocide, and hatred of Mother Earth we call matricide; which has been driving western civilization since about 1492.
No wonder she was ignored for so long.
How would history, from both a religious and cultural perspective, be different if her book had been studied centuries ago?
He states the cause lies deep in the rejection of nature as sacred, in the exploitation of nature that capitalism and patriarchy have engaged in non-stop for centuries.
The denial of climate change and of science is part of this acting from the reptilian brain that patriarchy is famous for. … The matricide, the killing of Mother Earth and of indigenous religion, and the misogyny are all part of that sick and toxic masculinity that we need some vaccine to protect us from.
Fox states the pandemic that we are experiencing is too important to waste. It is a wake-up call. A wake-up call that honours the sacredness of the earth and of all its life forms; that honours the divine feminine alongside a sacred masculine; that honours the human body and its basic needs along with those of the earth’s body.
Fox also reminds us that Julian rejected a punitive God who operates on anger, punishment and what she refers to as ‘vengeance’. This Julian claims, does not exist in divinity – only in humans who project it onto divinity.
Preparing for this webinar has given me a deep insight into the soul and story of Julian of Norwich. A journey which has help me identify the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle regarding my own spiritual ancestry, and a journey that has given me a profound insight into the divine and spiritual nature of essential oils.
Thank you so much, and I do sincerely hope that you enjoy learning about Julian of Norwich as much as I have.
Watch My Julian of Norwich Webinar
References and Recommended Reading
Battaglia S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy: Volume III – Psyche and Subtle. Black Pepper Creative, Brisbane, 2021.
Fischer-Rizzi S. Complete aromatherapy handbook. Sterling Publishing, New York, 1990.
Mailhebiau P. Portraits in oils. C.W. Daniel Company, Saffron Walden, 1995.
Schnaubelt K. Medical aromatherapy. Frog, Berkeley, 1999.
Worwood VA. The fragrant heavens. Transworld Publishers, London, 1999.
Zeck R. The blossoming heart – Aromatherapy for healing and transformation. Aroma Tours, East Ivanhoe, 2004.
Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic – and Beyond. By Matthew Fox. iUniverse, 2020.
Julian of Norwich – selections from Revelations of Divine Love - Annotated & Explained. Annotation by Mary C. Earle, Publisher: Skylight Illuminations, 2013
Julian of Norwich – a very brief history. By Janina Ramirez. Publisher: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2016.
The Showings of Julian of Norwich – A New Translation. By Mirabai Starr. Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2013.
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love. Translated with an introduction by Barry Windeatt, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015.
Julian of Norwich: A Mystic for Today. By Willian Meninger. Publisher: Lindisfarne Books, 2010.
The Complete Julian of Norwich. By Fr John Julian. Publisher: Paraclete Giants, 2009.
An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich. By Veronica Mary Rolf. Publisher: IVP Academic, Revelations of Divine Love. By Julian of Norwich, edited by Grace Warrack. Publisher: Digireads.com Publishing. 2020.
Julian of Norwich: In God’s Sight – her theology in context. By Philip Sheldrake. Publisher: John Wiley & Sons. 2020.
All Shall be Well – A Modern Language Version of the Revelation of Julian of Norwich. By Ellyn Sanna. Publisher: Anamchara Books, 2011.
Sheila Upjohn. In Search of Julian of Norwich. Morehouse Publishing, New York, 2007.
Barcan R. Aromatherapy and the mixed blessing of feminization. The Senses & Society, 2014; 9(1): 33-54. doi:10.2752/174589314X13834112761001
Lambert J. ed. Wise women of the dreamtime – Aboriginal tales of the ancestral past. Inner Traditions International, Rochester, 1993.
Tacey D. Edge of the sacred – Jung, psyche, earth. Daimon Verlag, Einsiedeln, 2009.
Tedlock B. The woman in the shaman’s body – Reclaiming the feminine in religion and medicine. Bantam Books, New York, 2005.