May your dreams come true
Why was I surprised not only finding Damask roses that grow wild on Crete, but also supremely cultivated on the East part of the island? And how did I find myself care-taking and distilling these roses a short year after I had started painting roses on paper in order to bring back the somewhat faded rosy colours into my dreamcatcher life?
I wish to take you to a special rose journey on a very selective memory-lane, a free-spirited blend of historical, ancestral and personal connotations. As you come through my gates I would rush to tell you that initially I thought Rose medicine had not come into my life until about fifteen years ago. Leaving the garden door latched I soon realised Rose had actually been there all along. As a truly multidimensional being, I allow nonlinear reading of the timeline that we walk. While a chapter of an aromatic plant journey is orchestrated into a meaningful whole, occasionally inspiration would simply vanish, or the humble storyteller might fluctuate like bouncing butterflies. As I filter myself through the ebbs and flows, I need to make some significant realisations before I can wholeheartedly offer my fragrant visual travel blend as supportive teaching notes and guidance for others on an aromatic Soul Quest.
With a fascinating introductory element for the place of our main reference, how joyous to read that “The oldest European accent on the Rose is a fresco in the palace of Knossos in Crete, dating back to about 2000 BC.” – and the text continues as – “Clay tablets also exist from Pylos, in the Peloponnese, which were used as receipts for the purchase of Rose oil (about 1500 BC)” I will come back to this a bit later, only to note here that you can almost always find justification for your subject of discussions, whether you bring your validating points from the context of culture, history, economy, jurisdiction or scientific research.
The path of thorns and challenges
Once upon a time, just about a quarter of a century back from now came a turning point in my life. Things first developed in a rather slow-paced sleepy fashion during that long period I later coined as the stage of ‘The Bleeding Rose’. At this somewhat specific point I went crazy in many ways. At least, most people around me at the time thought I had gone nuts as nobody could understand the peculiarity of things I was doing for my health and well-being. These just seemed compromises and sacrifices on one hand, and extravagant luxury on the other end, and almost completely unheard of. And so I was a weirdo for the ones looking from outside. If you were going mad suffering from crucifying pain and several other hugely life-compromising side effects? From something that only unhurriedly over the years was validated and finally diagnosed (labeled) as severe endometriosis… Why was I so bloody determined? I simply had enough of feeling insane and helpless in the exclusivity of the hands for what I experienced as a somewhat incapable and often humiliating approach and treatment protocols of mainstream allopathic Western medicine. Not all of it, but largely. So I went ‘crazy’ doing just about anything humanly possible, and even more to help myself. In my awakening process, I explored alternative complementary medicine that became my prime-time support on my personal alchemical journey. As I was going through my own self-development process, I started learning about self-love. At the base of the learning curve is that: when there is a DIS-EASE and you are unwell, your first priority is to take care of yourself! It is a huge learning process, but ‘lucky me’ as they say, I had the strong drive, the intuition, the small voice inside, and that zingy calling, say ‘higher guidance’. I just knew there was a way out when everything and everyone else claimed the opposite. Whether hope served as a placebo in this, does not matter. I wanted to heal, I wanted to change my life for the better and in this hugely transformative process I went through continuous Q&As about the meaning of my life, and life in general.
Some people just flip a coin in finding their answers. For others, there are Oracle cards! An endless source of inspiration on your soul’s path. Waiting patiently on the new arrival’s shelf in my library is ’The Herbal Astrology Oracle’ and I thought it’s the right moment to uncover the Rose card from the deck. The guidance it carries goes like that: “It is time to allow for greater love in your life. Allow the dance of trust and intimacy to heal and open your heart. Like the Rose, you are rising from harsh soil, through the path of thorns and challenges, as you grow and blossom in your spiritual journey.”
The Father of Roses
Checking in with our time machine at the turn of the millennium again, it was when I started walking up on the first hill of a huge mountain ready to face what was coming on the horizon. I lived in various neighbourhoods of a fairly green part of Budapest called Rose hill stretching lusciously on the Buda side of town. In case you have never visited my home country, an interesting fact to know is that it’s the river Danube that both divides and unites the capital of Hungary, hence the two sides Buda and Pest. During the aforementioned time in my mid twenties, my closest neighbour was the spirit of Roses who dwells at the tomb of Gül Baba in the middle of the old Rose gardens. Gül Baba was a dervish in the 16th century during the Turkish reign in Hungary. He was famed to be kind, to be passionate about poetry and nature, and mostly well-known for the creation of the terraced rose garden on this South-Eastern slope of the Buda hills, apparently just above the house where I happened to live some centuries later. They consider that the name Gül baba, Father of Roses, came from his fragrant garden accomplishments. He was reputed to always wear a rose on his turban and some descriptions refer to his garment and materials which symbolized mystic knowledge.
At this corner of my personal Rose story meeting our global aromatic history, I suggest taking a moment and read again our citation from the beginning of this article. It is a finding of a teacher who I often like to refer to, being grateful for the influential resonance that came through the work of Monsieur Mailhebiau. He mentions that clay tablets from Pylos in North Greece were found to be in use as receipts for the purchase of Rose oil around 1500 BC. Right. Can you now recall the name of Avicenna? Or his Arabic name Ibn Sina, a highly credited Persian alchemist, physician and philosopher. Studying aromatherapy you would learn about the exciting milestone at the turn of the 10th and 11th century AD, when Avicenna started to extract essential oils by inventing the method of steam distillation. More specifically, one of the first extractions that he carried out was from the wonderful Damask Rose flowers. So what exactly happened at the marketplace in Greece circa 1600 years before Avicenna? Were they trading with rose-infused vegetable oils or distilled rose oils? And what about India that claims to be distilling aromatics for thousands of years? History is complicated, and truth is manifold, isn’t it?
Rose oil and therapeutics
Let me continue by offering a short overview on Rose essential oil and speaking my truth from the journey. First, through the windows of the aromatherapy patient and mentored student benefitting from her own pathology as a pristine and immersive case study for a life-time. We are in 2009 when I go truly crazy in spendings, time and money-wise. After all, that’s where it all comes down to working on yourself, taking regular consultations with highly knowledgeable therapists, educating yourself on various subjects, and acquiring a significant repertoire of immaculate essential oils and such valuables. For that includes a rather extensive research of finding genuine, high-quality Rose essential oil as well. (Please note that it is not until a few years later that the landscape of commercially available aromatherapy products changes so incredibly.) Sometimes I found my precious vials directly from Bulgaria, other times from professionally acclaimed, trustworthy local suppliers. Our preference at the time was Rosa damascena essential oil from Bulgaria. The essence was administered in just about every possible way you could take into consideration as aromatic medicine. We are talking about inhalation, dermal/cutaneous, oral, as well as specific topical applications. We are talking about vaginal suppositories. Enjoyable sitz baths and relaxing herbal decoctions. Hand-in-hand with aromatherapy you would certainly use the wisdom of a herbalist too. When Bulgarian rose oil was not available, later I got to explore the beautiful richness of oils from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Afghanistan, and also Iran, the land of the Persian healer and polymath Avicenna. They all did what they were called for in any specific situation.
Why did we use Rose essential oil? Before it gets overlooked, let me emphasise one more time that Rose was one (!) of the many wonderful oils applied synergistically in a series of rather complex and personalised treatment protocols. Included in our use, without hesitation Rose took her throne, as the one not to be missed, powerfully relevant to just about every aspect of that harsh kingdom that rules mind, body and soul with the condition of endometriosis.
Rose is anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial in the first line, on the physical level. Furthermore, Rose is a uterine tonic, haemostatic (think about heavy bleeding!), and astringent. These all tick some major boxes when we think about that uncontrollably proliferating nasty thickening layers of the endometrium, the mucous membrane lining the uterus. We can also call her for being an excellent neurotonic, well-researched if you like. She does not only smell exquisite, but her fragrance comes very calming and uplifting, wisely used for mood swings, anxiety and depression. Offering beauty and health for the skin, and as everybody knows, Rose is softening and strengthening the Heart. We can invite her in as an aphrodisiac, for fertility and invigoration. Healing the Divine Feminine we can say. If we speak the language of yogic traditions and the chakras, Rose has an affinity towards nurturing both the Anahata (4th, Heart chakra) and the sacred second chakra (Svadhishthana, for the records). Her vital force will rise and give circular support all over the body, organs, and the auric field.
Queen Rose is such a star healer for the body and beyond! It has the promise of accompanying the cycle of the Moon. She is our High Priestess plant ally and willing to perform her loving magic. Whether the heart is broken from an old story, one feels in a place of constant violation in the now of current life, or even just a fresh thorn punctured the skin as a primary physical protective layer… the cure is like the hair of the dog that bit you in the first place. Patches of love and scented petals would ease the burning fire, formulate a silky road to find your way back home(ostasis). To the home where the heart can balance and rest.
Hearts and Roses are unquestionable commonplace symbols of love. Now, what kind of love are we talking about? We surely all noticed how self-love has recently been taking over, daringly catching up to be considered and proportionally partake in healing, well-being and simply walking the path of self-alchemy.
Self-alchemy is the Path that I know, teach and promote to walk. In my conversations with clients and friends, searching for the meaning of life is what comes up very often beyond looking for love and harmony. There is a desperate desire to express our creativity, the Divine spark. I also observed that the need for this creative manifestation seems to translate and increasingly includes the act of creating with our own beautiful hands. That is somehow reverse-engineered from the need of escaping from a machine-favoured modern society. As if we could start it all over again in the hope of finding another way. I believe it is worth giving some thoughts about how we human beings (sometimes robots) just trained (brainwashed) ourselves, and we keep going along with up-side-down terms. Shall we just look at the roots of manu-facturing per se? By its very nature, the etymology of the word brings us back to Old French and then to Medieval Latin where manufactura stands for ‘a making by hand’. In our romantic thinking we tend to remember that, as well as still associate hand-made as high-quality, artisanal products with excellent, genuine quality. On the other hand, what do we find to be the first explanation for the very same word ‘manufacturing’ explained in the dictionary? To produce goods in large numbers, usually in a factory using machines. You agree that history is complicated… and truth is manifold?
When I started to walk my path as an aromatherapist, I enjoyed getting so close to the idea of manu-facturing with my highest quality of base materials. And I never actually walked my path as an aromatherapist only. I found myself teaching the beautiful art of life. The aromatic life that I lived, the secrets of plants that I experienced. The herbal wisdom that I never stop studying and researching through many lifetimes. Working with plants and genuine plant material is beyond words, being in the moment, in that complete flow. You taste the love of going out in the wild, and you don’t mind coming back having your skin scratched by thistle and bramble, or receiving a burning kiss from the sun. It’s also very natural – and completely alright – to have your abode full of bugs from baskets of foraged herbs. These are not frightening side-effects. These are empowering gifts and benefits as from letting your mind wander in awe of nature, allowing your body to be used and stretched, and your heart connected in the most divine way.
Distilling aromatic plants
When I started distilling aromatic plants, once again I went through thorns and challenges, but you may understand by now they are not necessarily just bad. And anyway, I could not do else but continue with the same principle as before, following my heart. I experienced one more profound realisation: distilling yourself authentically as an aromatherapeutically-educated small-scale distiller has a potent, remarkable and truly significant aspect: Distilling Your True Self. Bringing various healing arts and a pocketful of science together, my artisan distillations came to be a continuous source of inspiration, an experiential school, a small lab and research centre. I found plant distillations are co-creative opportunities and hugely transformative journeys where deepening our understanding on aromatherapy, plants, nature and reciprocal laws of life are some of the essential distillates, next to the physical products such as etheric oils and hydrosols.
I distilled a couple of dozens of magical plants and did brave experiments. With each and every batch I have also distilled myself fine-tuning my senses and expanding my awareness. In the old tales the Hero/Heroine needs to go through magic, mystery and self-mastery before finding the Holy Grail. In my fragrant fairy-tale I said to myself “I actually have the holy copper cup”. Also, I came to understand long years before that about The Journey being the Destination itself, and for a lifetime of private insurance I got deeply engaged with Nature. From this was born our wedding invitation for you to receive:
Walking in Nature is healing.
Expressing your creativity is healing.
Decomposing past traumas is healing.
Demystifying old limiting beliefs is healing.
Igniting your inner fire is healing.
Nurturing your soul is healing.
Giving the gift of love is healing.
And a couple of questions to answer at the altar:
- Who are you engaged to?
- Are you dedicated to your own self?
- Are you able to receive Love and Divine guidance?
And what a journey it has been with the Plants! Both memorable and visionary where I was growing infinitely… Despite the abundance of creations, I still had the next thing on my wish-list and in my prayers. After all, I am a spiritual being having a human experience here. I was looking for my other half to share this magical life. Being very selective to say the least, I carried on with performing my distillations and I did share my life with the most amazing companions. Kitchen herbs like Bay leaf, Rosemary, Sage, Marjoram, Thyme, Winter savory and Oregano that Crete is so well known for, and all the possible citrus fruits with uplifting nature. More wild growing classics such as Lavender, Yarrow, Helichrysum, Wild carrot, and of course, Cistus. Florals of the most fragrant nature from Rose geranium, Myrtle, Neroli and Jasmine. The list is long and truly extraordinary, and with each and every batch I am also distilling myself in order to serve better in my role as a Plant Alchemist.
Endemics saved me in pandemics, offering an enchanting and healing companion to my wanderous nature. During isolated times, the sensitive and blossoming wild woman in me reached out for emotional and mental support. In addition, I connected with colleagues and fellow healers for distance healing and conversational maintenance. One dear client who became my healer, we did an exchange at this time, made me draw roses in order to bring that special energy of love into my life. And when the student is ready the teacher will appear. One fine summer day when I was on A Journey Home collecting Yarrow in my birth country, the first messages with the promise of new blossoms started to show up. As in the Plant world, you need to allow Nature to do her genuine cycles. There came fall, winter and then spring with the big opening.
By early summer in 2022, after a long journey with many adventures across the aromatic fields in Crete, I find myself picking majestic roses of the most special kinds. I previously had a few years of hands-on practices in my garden where I had learnt lots of things about how to take care of Roses. From one bush of a large local red to some fields of a few thousands, it was quite a move though! The blossoming fields of Damask Roses where I happened to land that year belong to Yiannis Psillos – a teacher of homoeopathy, therapist and farmer – whose love for roses came to manifest about a decade ago when he started planting roses on his family land. The decade for Yiannis had also brought devastating life experiences with elements of birth, death, and revival, and his Rose journey proved to be his own therapy to mend his heart. The gift of his commitment and passion, his dedication to stay resilient in the ever-changing phases of life is admirable, just as his wisdom and capacity for love, joy and appreciation of life. Yiannis can move mountains with his hand, as well as with his beautiful heart energy. As you could guess, he moved me, and we now continue to take care and harvest the wonderful Damask Roses together, and cultivate the talents of his budding 8-year-old young Alchemist by our sides.
And that is how you find me distilling the most exquisite Roses into the finest aromatic hydrosol on Crete. My partner Yiannis and I both deeply believe that life is more than sheer luck, and few things happen by accident. Immensely grateful for each other, and for our shared passion being in Nature, co-creating with Plants, and teaching their therapeutic gifts. Just within a year that actually feels like a lifetime together we have extended the land into a working apothecary garden with somewhere around 70 species of aromatic and medicinal plants, many endemic to Crete. We also share our field classroom with those who want to deepen their relationship with the empowering magic of the plants, or take time to breathe, to heal, to recharge.
Conclusions from the Alchemist
I had many visionary dreams in my life, and walking through meadows with wildflowers was amongst the vivid ones. I came to walk my aromatic path on Crete 10 years ago, and unfolding chapter by chapter, those dreams were magically coming true. I made them come true by following my heart with a crazy amount of love, dedication, co-creating with the Universe, and a great deal of dancing with the unknown. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the image of a fragrant rose hill would be part of my physical reality. With perseverance, trust and constant humbleness, and with a small batch of useless ideas to let go, I have all along been working on a master blend. Creating a secret garden that holds you to be a true expression of love. That mothering place where you feel being loved, where you unquestionably know that your original constitution is love. A harmonious habitat for joyful explorations where you vigorously and full-heartedly are able to act from the place of love. Evaporating in the air the sweet smell of your authentic true-self dissolved in the essence of your Divine family. A highly volatile composition which requires special care, but will remain the true accompanying gift of a modern Alchemist. May you find that secret garden and have your dreams come true!
The article was originally written for and published in the issue 2023/3 of Aromatika Magazin, an online publication to support holistic living, the practice and professional education of aromatherapy, phytotherapy, naturopathy and related subjects. My special thanks and gratitude goes to Gergely Hollódi, editor-in-chief of this beautifully constructed aromatherapy periodical, and for his always encouraging support. Hope you would enjoy this post here. The original copy of the electronic magazine is available for download from the website of Aromatika Magazin.
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