One of the challenges for a modern Pagan is to take the sense of the
sacred, the elation and joy we experience in ritual circle and weave it into everyday life.  Aromatherapy has always been a cornerstone for me in threading enchantment and happiness throughout everything I do and it is achieved through both the types of scents I choose but also the divine experience of of intermittently smelling an ephemeral scent throughout my day.

Take this week. Work was proving somewhat stressful and challenging. I experienced this as feeling this cloak of something unhappy closing in around my bright centre; smothering me.  At times like this there is always a special trio of oils I turn to:

Lemon - As I have said before, this does what you expect and smells of lemon.  It's powerful citrus scent is like experiencing a bottle of sunshine and it is the most joyful, carefree and uplifting oil I have ever used.

Lavender  - a clean and herbal scent which is something of a cure all. It balances your mind and body, de-stresses and it a generally, aids relaxation and reduces stress.  Really something of a wonder herb!

Rosemary  another clean and herbal scent but with an extra kick of something, Rosemary wakes up my whole brain.  If I need something to get me focussed and to keep me sharp then Rosemary is always my first port of call.  The herb has traditionally been associated with good memory - even in Shakepeare's time when Ophelia says "There's Rosemary, that is for remembrance".

On tough days at work I use a combination of either Lemon and Lavender or Lemon and Rosemary dabbed on the neckline of my clothing, perhaps on a seam where the oil won't show but where I can smell it easily. In both cases the Lemon is a really bright and uplifting scent which makes my mood light and joyful.

       -  In combination with Lavender it clears my mind but acts as a
            gentle stress reliever.

       -  In combination with Rosemary it doesn't have the same stress
            relieving punch but my mind works like a clear and clean
            supercharged machine.

By using the scent on my clothes it wafts around me all day and I am constantly absorbing the uplifting, clear and stress relieving
effects.  Everytime I consciously notice the scent I use it as a
memory trigger.  This reminds me to bring myself back to my centre of calm and joy and this happens several times in the day. 

In this way there is an ambient effect and more powerful individual instances of mindfulness.  I have often heard other people remarking on the lovely smell and so in some way I feel like I can be the centre of a wave of joyful calm in the office.

My only words of warning on this gorgeous practice are:

1. The oils can stain your clothes so be careful about where you apply them, you might prefer to use a tissue tucked in somewhere.

2. Oils such as Lemon can irritate the skin so don't put it somewhere where the oil will be able to soak into your skin.

3. Don't use the same oils everyday as your nose will become accustomed to the scent and you won't be able to smell it any more. Using more and more oil will solve this temporarily but will
get expensive and eventually you'll end up overpowering the office.
Better to only do it a couple of days a week for maximum effect.

Happy Scenting!
Roman Chamomile
We have just enjoyed a few days of heatwave in the UK seeing temperatures of up to 30 degrees which is unusual for us.  Lugh was most definitely making his presence known at Lammas. It has been a glorious blaze of Summer for those few days but in a rare fit of stupidity I forgot to put sun tan lotion on and enjoyed the worst sunburn I have had in years.

My skin was so sore I knew I had to do something to alleviate it and so I set to it with my collection of essential oils and a pot of unscented cream base for mixing which would also moisturise my skin after the extreme drying out it had just received. Before application I also had a cold shower to take as much of the heat out of the burns as possible.

My recipe was as follows:

30g of an unscented base cream - they are readily available on the internet for adding essential oils to.

Then I added a 2.5% dilution of oils...about 15 drops.  12 drops of Lavender and 3 drops of Roman Chamomile as it is such a strong scent. After adding the oils to the cream I briskly stirred them with a clean spoon until it was all properly incorporated.

Lavender is well known as a curative for burns I have been using it on burns and insect bites for 16 years.  It not only speeds the healing process but is soothing and antiseptic to help avoid any infections.

I used Roman Chamomile here because that is what I had in the house but really German Chamomile would have been better as it has stronger anti-inflammatory properties. Roman Chamomile is a very calming and soothing oil and give how much discomfort I was in a bit of soothing was very welcome.

I kept the cream base mixture as neutral as possible e.g. no existing fragrances and only a few ingredients.  I wanted something that would simply act as a carrier for the essential oils but that wasn’t an oil like olive olive or sweet almond oil which might keep the heat in and make the burns worse.

If you have not used these oils before, or haven’t used them in a long time I would recommend you do a patch test first on your skin (the crook of your elbow is a good place to try it out as the skin is more delicate there).  The last thing you want to do is slap something on your sunburn which you are allergic to.  People who have allergies to the Chamomile or Ragwort plant family should drop the Chamomile.

If your patch test is clear then apply as necessary.  I found that this mixture speeded the healing time and alleviated some of the soreness and itching I associate with too much sun. One week later and my skin is healed with no sign of peeling. 

Prevention is always better than cure though so the first chance I got I stocked up on sunscreen!

NB: You might find over time the oil and cream separate out in which case just stir it up again.
I have recently been increasing my use of essential oil and have noticed that my supplies are running a little low.  Low is comparative really since when I was an impoverished student 3 small 10 ml bottles was an incredible amount, now less than about 10 bottles and I worry I don’t have everything I need!

Increasing my use of essential oils has been in response to my ongoing battle with stress and that has driven me to try some new oils this time around.

So what did I buy?
Lavender is an old standby that I can’t believe I went without for so long.  Balancing, comforting, anti-bacterial the uses of lavender feel absolutely endless.

Rosemaryis something I used to use a few years ago but sort of fell off my radar for a while, now feels like an excellent time to get re-acquainted with it.  It is such a great oil for clarity and mental stimulation but it also feels very strengthening which is also something I could do with right now.

The next 3 are completely new to me.

Palma Rosa – I really wasn’t sure about the scent of this when I first smelled it.  I think I was expecting it to be very rose-like, because of the name (silly I know) and whilst is most certainly floral, it isn’t really “rosy”.  I am using it on my clothes today so that all day at work I am inhaling it, contemplating it and remembering to relax and breathe. Despite my initial reaction to the scent as the day goes on it does feel very calming, with some underlying complexities in the scent which are delightful.  All in all it is really growing on me and I am experiencing a sense of relative calm at work

Lemon – Not a great deal to say about the scent; it smells of lemon.  Gorgeous citrusy and sunshine in bottle. When I am ready to experience a gentle uplifting of my spirit then I know this oil will be perfect.  I have used Orange and Grapefruit successfully in the past and whilst they both have very different scents the effect is similar.  I bought Lemon this time around to add to my armoury of citrus delights.

 Roman Chamomile – All the books say this smells a bit like apples.  Well I really didn’t get that – maybe apple pie…at a push!  Only goes to show how differently we all experience the world we share.  The scent was familiar but I just couldn’t place it. I used a little of this last night in a new practice I am trying out – which is anointing and massaging my feet prior to entering a meditative state.  The scent of Roman Chamomile made me feel very homely - like I had some baking in the oven or something. 

Obviously the other reason for picking these oils was blending.  Most of them work well with the others and with the other oils I already have and I want to get back into making my own blends again.

On a final note, I am using this opportunity to branch out into a new way of experiencing aromatherapy.  In the many years I have been using it (as an amateur) I have been concentrating on the physical properties, and the way the scents made me feel.  I would like to start thinking more about the energetic vibration of the oils and how I could be using that aspect more consciously in my practice.

I tend to buy my oils from Starchild who are very knowledgeable, fast and reliable (and have the most beautiful little shop in Glastonbury if you ever get to visit).
All things minty fresh!
In my little aromatherapy series I thought I would start with Peppermint rather than the ubiquitous Lavender or Tea Tree.  Peppermint is a sorely overlooked essential oil, perhaps because it is so strong it will overpower most blends you would care to make with it.  But I find it one of the most invaluable oils for getting me those really tough days.

It has a clean, sweet and minty scent which can feel a little like being beaten round the head with a tube of toothpaste – but there is nothing which is more powerful for waking me up, focusing my mind and energising me.  With my love of all things citrus you would like I would be reaching for the grapefruit and orange scents but neither of them compare to the intense sensations I get from peppermint.  There are two situations I find it most useful – firstly the mid-afternoon slump at work and secondly exercising when I don’t feel like it.  But recently I was diagnosed with a nasty little dust allergy and some days the only time it doesn't hurt to breath is when I am inhaling Peppermint, the cooling menthol really soothes all my sore parts.

Magically speaking I probably wouldn't use Peppermint as it leaves me too awake, too present and too strongly grounded for my preferred mental ritual state.  But if you ever need a boost of something to get you through a rough day - reach for the Peppermint!
I have adored aromatherapy for 16 years.  When I was a teenager I bought several amazing tomes on aromatherapy and devoured them.  In later years I did less compulsive reading but by then I had already established a set of habits and routines and even when I was an impoverished student I always had essential oils in my life (from Birthday and Christmas presents mostly).

I use them for:

Magick, Chakra work, Mediation
Stress-management and relief
Concentration and Focus
Anti-bacterial purposes
Various ailments

There are probably a million and one other ways I could be using them on top of those.

But I wanted to write a quick introductory post because I will likely be coming back to this theme again and again.  Scent can be a vital and deeply pleasurable part of ritual work and essential oils can induce a far larger range of moods and associations than other options such as incense.  They can also be a discreet way of practising low-key magick in the workplace or other areas of life where you do not want or need to draw a huge amount of attention to your practise.

A few words of warning which are oft repeated in the various books:

1. Check the contraindications before you use the oils - some should be avoided by pregnant women, people with allergies or will irritate the skin if applied directly.
2. Don't use them internally.
3. Always check you are buying "pure essential oil" (a good way to tell is price - if they seem so cheap it is too good to be true - they are probably not pure). 

My top aromatherapy books for inspiration and information are:

The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood
The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless
Culpeper's Herbal

So dive right in to a wonderful, scented second half of the year!