Saints, Sages and Ordinary People and Their Encounters with Aromatic Plants

An Invitation to Read: SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination by Dorothy Abram

     SEVEN SCENTS: Healing and the Aromatic Imagination is an invitation to enter the lives of individuals who have been transformed through their interaction with sacred fragrant plants.  I examine the historical lives of saints, sages, and ordinary people whose encounter with aromatic plants provided the means and method to heal the crisis of a divided mind.  Just as smell retrieves memories from the distant past, the power of the aromatic imagination constructs reality in the present.

The book begins by studying the origins of the repression of scent as an authentic source of knowing in Western society.  The consequences of that rejection for identity are tremendous: we live with this loss.  Echoing Western philosophy from Plato onwards, Freud claimed that, in fact, the evolutionary repression of the sense of smell was a necessary act that initiated our humanness.  Freud explained that by renouncing a four-footed stance in favor of a two-footed posture (that prioritized vision as the dominant sense for survival), humans repressed the sense of smell.

This profound absence continues to leave its trace in our lives today.  Yet, the sense of smell cannot be rejected in our pursuit of human wholeness. Questioning the emotional costs of such an act for contemporary society, this book proposes that reclaiming an aromatic imagination has the potential to heal this fundamental division in the senses.  Paying particular attention to the socio-economic setting that promotes such divisions within, this book seeks to locate and to elucidate the necessary attributes of an aromatic imagination.  Fragrant plants appear in cultural and historical settings worldwide and at various historical moments whereby we may pay witness to the power of reclaiming scent for contemporary consciousness.

Beyond theory, we must consider the lives and cultures that demonstrate the power of the aromatic imagination for what they may teach us.  In this way, we witness its power to unify and heal.  I examine seven fragrant plants and the people whose lives were transformed through their engagement with these fragrant sources.  These seven plants include:

  • Sandalwood (Santalum album)
  • Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea)
  • Neem (Azadirahcta indica)
  • Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus)
  • Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
  • Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum officinale)

The chapter on sandalwood tells the story of a female sage in 19th century India who healed a problematic case of madness through her use of fragrant sandalwood.  We would not have known about this powerful aromatic healer had she not entered the life of the mad priest of Kali, Ramakrishna.  Her healing method reminds us that, in addition to the physical upset, illness is a story—a narrative—that is constructed to make sense of experience.  It is the aromatic imagination at work.  The narrative that this female sage offered Ramakrishna enabled him to reform his identity from mad priest to divinely inspired saint.  Because they lived in a culture that honored spiritual insight and religious experience, they were named great teachers and creative geniuses.

The chapter on lotus (blue water lily) examines a traditional biblical narrative from the perspective of shamanism.  This is an unusual framework with which to analyze the book of Job.  The focus on the lotus opens new approaches to understanding that are not available without taking the plant and its meaning in the narrative into account.  In fact, it enables the reader to recognize Job as a shaman; that is, as a healer of humankind who gains his expertise through his successful underworld journey and the power of magical plants.  Analysis of this scented water plant reveals the emotional significance of Job’s journey.

The study of the pungently scented neem tree offers a fascinating inquiry into ambivalent states of mind brought together through interaction, inhalation, and ingestion of the leaves of this sacred tree.  It offers powerful lessons in healing through states of mind that must accompany the botanical cures for true healing today.  Highlighting the smallpox epidemic in India and the goddess called Sitala Mata who was believed to be in charge, neem demonstrates the power of faith to bring about healing.   The aromatic imagination heals the divided mind.

The passage of Abraham’s recuperation under the fragrant terebinth tree in the biblical book of Genesis sets the stage for a new look at the ancient tale and often studied story of the near sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac by the command of his God.  That is how we are often told this story: that the sacrifice was a God-given command to test Abraham’s faith.  However, by looking at the cultural context in which the act was nearly accomplished and by examining the Hebrew words used, the reader comes to a very different understanding that makes sense of this cruel request.  This evidence also demonstrates the quality of consciousness that Abraham achieved under the terebinth tree resulted in a compassionate ending to the episode.

Similarly, the chapter on fragrant tulsi narrates the specific qualities of plant, mind, and action that are required to bring about an altered state that expands consciousness.   Examining a maiden rite still held in India today, this chapter reveals the use of scents to describe emotional states of expression and achievement of unified consciousness.

Spikenard is well-known from the New Testament as the fragrant oil that Mary of Bethany used to “anoint” Jesus’ feet in the gospel of John.  By examining the original Greek text, we discover that Mary’s actions were directed toward Jesus, the man, in a profound and intimate gesture of relaxation and aromatic healing.

The chapter on jasmine examines this fragrant flower for use in healing epilepsy in the 19th century and in aromatherapy today.  In both situations and at both times, the scent of jasmine facilitated the physical control of symptoms and management of the disease.

In addition to their fragrant scents, all of these plants have psychoactive potencies that were employed in the healing practices described in this book.  But, it is the story that accompanies the botanical treatment by which healing is truly secured.  That story is different in each context where it appears.  However, in all the cultures and contexts that I examine in SEVEN SCENTS, the story pays witness to the achievement of a spiritual level of awareness.  That achievement is brought about through inhaling the scents of these sacred plants in a narrative cultural context.    Whereas the individuals in these chapters require healing from a conflict and crisis of consciousness—the divided mind—aromatic healing demonstrates a unification that is witnessed across cultures and historical eras.  This is the aromatic imagination.

Clearly, such diverse origins necessitate the location of a common underlying crisis; something that traces back to the origin of our shared humanity. I propose that the repressed sense of smell may finally have achieved its reappearance and vindication in the aromatic imagination.

We are healed with scent.

Jyotish: Extract

To mark the release of Andrew Mason’s book, Jyotish, we have released an extract from the book. In the extract, Mason discusses the background of astrology and introduces Jyotish.

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To read more about Jyotish, please click here.

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More Titles by Andrew Mason

Vedic Palmistry

Compact and concise information on how to determine health implications and life events using palmistry and Vedic wisdom.With a discussion of introductory level astrology and its integration with palmistry, no prior knowledge is required. An essential guide for anyone interested in Vedic wisdom, Ayurveda or yoga.

Click here to read more about Vedic Palmistry.

 

Rasa Shastra

An authoritative account of Asian Medical Alchemy, this book explores the herbo-mineral-metal based medicines used in these ancient healing traditions. The first resource of its kind, it provides exhaustive insight into the history of alchemy’s search for immortality, the variety of minerals used, and production methods.

Click here to read more about Rasa Shastra.

The Art and Practice of Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: Extract

To celebrate the release of The Art and Practice of Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine by Nigel Ching, we have released an extract from the book.

Click here to read the extract.

This textbook is a complete diagnostic manual for students of Chinese medicine. It covers how to collect and collate the relevant information needed to make a diagnosis and clearly describes the various diagnostic models in Chinese medicine.

Click here to read more about the book or to purchase a copy.

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Other Titles by Nigel Ching

The Fundamentals of Acupuncture 

A fantastically readable guide to Chinese Medicine, this illustrated textbook covers the basic foundations and principles of acupuncture and TCM. Nigel Ching covers everything from the theories of yin and yang to point functions and needling techniques.

Click here to read more about The Fundamentals of Acupuncture.

Weaving the Cradle: Raising Awareness of Infant Mental Health


By Monika Celebi

Over the last year I have spent many hours editing and writing ‘Weaving the Cradle’, a book on facilitating groups to promote attunement and bonding between parents, their babies and toddlers. The book, whilst celebrating best practice, is a response to the harsh cuts in the social and health budgets in this country and abroad.  It aims to raise awareness of the importance of infant mental health and to the great contribution parent-baby groups can make. It is my opinion that these groups should be available to all families who need and want them.

 

Research of the economic benefits of early intervention to support the mental and physical health of parents and babies is overwhelming (WAVE Trust with Department for Education 2013). Babies’ brain-architecture is formed in the crucial period of the 1001 Critical Days (Leadsom et al. 2014, Cross Parliamentary Manifesto). There are strong links between the babies’ environment, their relationship with the primary care taker (in most cases the mother), and their mental well-being. If the mother suffers, so usually does the baby (UNICEF, 2014).  A stressful situation, such as moving house or a traumatic birth, can contribute to the development of depression. A depressed mother, who is also isolated, will struggle to fully engage with her baby. This parent may interact less, or be less friendly to her baby, or feel terribly guilty for having ‘bad’ thoughts. Studies put the percentage of women with mild to moderate postnatal depression or emotional difficulty within the first year at 20 – 30 % of mothers. Fathers, by the way, can get depressed too.  There are also clear links between babies’ early experiences and later educational achievements (WAVE Trust, 2015).

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An Integrative Approach to Treating Babies and Children: Extract

To celebrate the release of An Integrative Approach to Treating Babies and Children, edited by John Wilks, we have released an extract from the book.

Click here to read the extract. 

 

Working with babies and children is most successful when therapists have a complete understanding and overview of all appropriate treatment options, and the effects of early influences on child health and development. This book shows therapists how to consider these factors in order to work more effectively within their individual areas of expertise. This book also offers helpful advice for working within multidisciplinary teams. Illustrated with case studies and including examples from current research, this book is a valuable resource for therapists from diverse disciplines.

 

Click here to read more about the book, or to purchase a copy.

Discover more titles by John Wilks here.

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Clare Stephenson on Eastern and Western Medicine, Acupuncture and Complementary Therapies in Practice

Clare Stephenson, author of The Acupuncturist’s Guide to Conventional Medicine, discusses how knowledge of Eastern medicine can improve conventional medicine practitioners response to patients, if complementary therapies should be incorporated into routine medical practice and her background in Eastern and Western medicine. 

Clare, you trained as a doctor in conventional medicine. What led you to discover Eastern medicine, and Acupuncture in particular?

I initially had close contact with Eastern medicine over 20 years ago through attending an evening class in Tai Chi. Tai Chi is based on Qi Gong, the ancient system of movements for health. Qi Gong is considered one of the five pillars of Chinese medicine – both share the understanding that the physical body is a manifestation of an energetic foundation which can be manipulated by subtle and not-so-subtle means in order to promote health. The exposure to the practice of Tai Chi sparked my interest in learning more about Chinese medicine.

The more I understood about Chinese medical health philosophy and its integrity, the more I wanted to learn. I travelled to China where I saw acupuncture being practised as a front line medical treatment alongside western medicine. This then inspired me to undertake a three year formal training course in the practice of acupuncture at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading.  All this was whilst I was also working in UK general practice and public health medicine, so I was continually being challenged to understand how these two approaches to describing health and disease might overlap!

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The Acupuncturist’s Guide to Conventional Medicine: Extract

To celebrate the release of Clare Stephenson’s new book, The Acupuncturist’s Guide to Conventional Medicine, we have released an extract from the book, which you can view here

 

Offering a systematic comparative approach to Western and Eastern medicine, this unique textbook enables students and practitioners of Chinese medicine to develop a core understanding of conventional medical language and treatments. It covers the physiological systems of the body and the conventional approach to diagnosis and treatment, enabling good relationships with conventionally trained practitioners. Accompanying online material, including self-testing questions and answers and checklists for revision, is available for those wishing to use the text for systematic study.

 

Click here to read more about the book.

 

How can reflexology help children?

Susan Quayle, author of the ‘Mouse’ series, spoke to us to discuss her background in reflexology, the concept behind her books and how the practice of reflexology can help children.

 

Susan, you’ve been a reflexologist for a number of years. How did you discover reflexology?

I actually believe that reflexology discovered me, despite my resistance to it.

I first came across it at a green festival in Dorset. I tried it and found it extremely relaxing. At the time I was a hardcore horticulturalist, plants were my passion, but I did buy Laura Norman’s book and was fascinated with the whole idea.

Shortly after this my sister-in-law became pregnant and suffered very badly with Hyperemisis Gravidarum and my first step on the road to becoming a maternity reflexologist, unbeknownst to me, was when I would visit her and give her the treatment for morning sickness from Laura’s book. It always made her feel better.

 

It was another ten years before I retrained in massage therapy and followed this training with sports massage. Unfortunately, the sports massage tutor wasn’t very good and we all felt that we would never get through the exam or have the required knowledge to work in this field so we left en-mass. The only other course that was running was the reflexology diploma, which I was very unsure about joining. Fortunately I did and came to realise very quickly what an incredible therapy it is. I have trained in many therapies but reflexology has been the focus of my career followed closely by aromatherapy.

 

What do you think it is about reflexology that is so beneficial for children’s physical and mental well-being?

I have seen reflexology totally relax children, almost instantly; their eyes glaze and have a far away look in them and it happens very quickly if the child is in need of the treatment.

Reflexology promotes a profoundly deep relaxation that often feels like a switch being flicked and a part of you just sinks into a deep restfulness. It is during this deep rest and quiet space that the body is able to begin a healing response.

Children are open to new experiences and engage fully, when they feel safe and comfortable, which enables them to reach this place of healing and relaxation very quickly. As they are so young and untainted by life-long indulgences their body can rebalance quickly and often does.

Every day our children are put under more and more pressure to perform, conform and do well. Their physical and mental health is constantly under threat and children with supportive families are just as likely as those without to be prescribed drugs for depression now.

Complementary therapies are an important part of family life. In so many cultures around the world, where appropriate, nurturing touch is shared by the whole family not just given to the babies and young children.

Touch helps children to be more accepting of their body and the changes taking place, touch is an important part of being human and I think is particularly important for teenagers, who would accept it more readily if it had been part of their every day life delivered within the safety of a loving family.

 

Your new book (and the other books in your series) focuses around characters and a story to accompany a reflexology exercise. How did you find this process?

As with all processes that appear to arrive from nowhere, my first book had actually been many years in the making; deep inside my head where all the creativity is happening without me even really knowing about it.

Both my children were brought up with a love of books; we read to them every day and sang songs, our favourites were always the rhyming stories and songs. So it all began with Slinky Malinky, The Gruffalo, The Snail and the Whale, Green Eggs and Ham and all those wonderful books for children. I have always been pretty good at putting little rhymes together for children’s cards and things so the rhyming was fixed a long time ago.

The actual ‘Eureka’ moment, like Archimedes, occurred in the bath, a great place for parents to get a moment’s peace and actually lose themselves in thoughts. I jumped out and wrote the first draft instantly, that was the effect of all those years of preparation in the hidden corners of my brain! Many months’ work followed but that very first draft took place on October 12th 2012. I have never been so excited or bewildered!

Once I had the idea it was only really a matter of allowing the story to develop in my head. I think I could come up with them forever!

 

What reaction have you had to your books so far?

The reaction to the books has been wonderful. They have been embraced by the reflexology community and have even won awards, along with The Children’s Reflexology Programme, (the teaching programme that now goes with them). I think it was such a unique and novel idea to put reflexology to a story and also to make this lovely, gentle complementary therapy available to children. Children have embraced it whole heartedly; they love the animal characters, finding the animals on their own feet but also sharing such healthy, positive touch with family and friends. Complementary therapy made accessible through play offers a positive understanding of issues relating to health, self care and nurturing, positive touch within families but also within communities.

 

How is Mouse and the Storm different from the other books in your series?

My latest book Mouse and the Storm differs from the first two in that it contains hand reflexology. The first two books use foot reflexology so are more about giving and receiving reflexology. Book three is about giving and receiving too, but it also focuses on self treatment. Mouse and the Storm was written specifically to support parents of children with additional needs and to go with our courses for these parents.

Being able to self treat offers many children who have challenges with day-to-day transitions, between places and activities, strategies to help them. It also allows children with sensitivity issues to take control of the pressure and touch that is used on them. We have seen some wonderful results with both the book and the course, and with these children loving and engaging with the animal characters too. We have had reports of children coming home from school and telling their parents how many times they visited Mouse that day.

 

Are there any challenges you have encountered when using reflexology with children?

Using reflexology with children can be as challenging as trying to get them to engage in anything else. It can take time to build a relationship with them, which can create some awkward moments! If a child doesn’t want reflexology the chances are that today you won’t be giving any. However if you are careful you may well sow the seeds that will allow you to treat them next time. Children are naturally curious and once they have made a connection with you they will put their trust in you and love to learn. You can’t force a child so really it is about releasing your own ego and making it all about the child. I had one little boy whose mum used to come to me for reflexology and I always gave him a bit too. He wouldn’t allow anyone to give him reflexology except me – he grew out of it soon enough and now gives his baby sister reflexology as well as his parents; he’s only five.

 

Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your book?

My passion is reflexology. I wrote my books so that I could share the huge benefits of reflexology with as many families as I could. I hope that the next generation will grow up not only knowing what reflexology is but what it feels like to receive and what it feels like to give, and value it as a resource available to them with little cost or effort. Hopefully these children will grow up wanting to share these books with their own children and so pass their knowledge on to the next generation.

Reflexology is an experience, a powerful human connection on a deeply personal and nurturing level that I hope will resonate with every child that encounters it through my books at a young age. To value connection and humanity through our basic human need, touch, is a value worth instilling from as early an age as possible. Complementary therapies are a gentle way of bringing communities together in health, well being, nurture and caring. Our children need to grow up in the warm embrace of these life skills for their own good health and that of each other. Our families and communities need to reconnect on the most basic level. This is a part of what I hope my books can bring about.

 

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.


To view the whole series by Susan Quayle, please click here.

Mouse and the Storm

A hand reflexology programme designed to relieve anxiety in children, accompanied by a soothing story about dealing with unexpected disruptions

 

Mouse’s Best Day Ever

A charming story about Mouse and her friends as they find fun on a stormy day with an accompanying simple reflexology treatment to help relieve discomfort from teething, constipation and colic

 

The Mouse’s House

An enchanting story about a mouse’s mission to make a cosy home for Winter with an accompanying simple reflexology massage for parents or carers to perform on a child

Mouse and the Storm: Extract

To celebrate the release of Susan Quayle’s new book, Mouse and the Storm, we are releasing an extract from the book – please click here to view it.

Mouse and the Storm tells the story of Mouse and her animal friends who are rudely disrupted from the comfort of their homes by a big storm! Waking up away from home, together they must find their way back despite feeling scared and lost.

Written in rhyme along with easy-to-follow diagrams and instructions for giving simple hand reflexology to a child, this book will help parents soothe children, especially those who experience anxiety or have sensory regulation difficulties.

Beautiful illustrations accompany the reflexology techniques which are easy to use to provide a calming experience to a child. No prior reflexology knowledge is required.

To read more about the book, or to purchase a copy, please click here.

If you would like to read more articles like this and hear the latest news and offers on our books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

 

What is Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Isobel Knight discusses new research, co-morbid conditions and management strategies for hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in this Q&A. Find Isobel Knight’s books on hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome here.

 

For those who are unaware, could you briefly describe what hypermobility is?

A hypermobile joint is one that has a larger than normal range of movement. If you look at the figure of the elbow picture below, the joint looks ‘inside out’. Hypermobile people tend to be people we consider ‘flexible’ or ‘bendy’, and as such there is a high prevalence of hypermobility in the dance and performing arts sectors.

Hypermobility can be generalized at a range of joints – for example knees and elbows, or sometimes found in peripheral joints (e.g. hands and feet). It is perfectly possible to have joint hypermobility and be asymptomatic, but for some people their hypermobility can cause pain, dislocations, soft-tissue injuries and there can be other findings – such as extensible and stretchy skin which might be more suggestible of a form of heritable connective tissue disorder such as hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

There are now new and strict diagnostic criteria in place to distinguish between those who have generalized or peripheral joint hypermobility through to those who have what is now called a Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD) or hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). The diagnostic criteria that I discuss in my books refer to the old names of Hypermobility Syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility-Type or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Type III) – but although the name and diagnostic criteria have changed, the overall management strategies remain very much the same for these conditions.

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