Since January of 2013, I have lost several significant family members, human and animal alike. As Halloween 2013 approached, my thoughts turned to our altar and a means of honoring and celebrating all of them.
Pagan lore holds the October 31st holiday we know as Halloween to be the turning point of the Wheel of the Year, a kind of New Year’s Eve. On that night, known as Samhain, the veil between the worlds grows thin, making it possible for heartfelt messages to come–and go–more freely between you and the ones you’ve lost for the following day and evening. November 1st, All Saint’s Day for Catholics, has a similar (but much less occult!) association. Finally, many Hispanic cultures immerse themselves in Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations involving elaborate altars covered in photographs of lost loved ones, calendula flowers, sugar skulls, and sweet bread and colorful parades with elaborate face painting. Día de los Muertos is often celebrated on November 1st or, more commonly, 2nd. Obviously, the time between October 31st and November 2nd is considered auspicious.
In these days, messages and gifts carried “on the wind” (like incense) are among those most effective at reaching our beloved departed.
To honor those no longer walking this world with us, I created a fragrant oil blend of Cypress, Rosemary, Sweet Marjoram, Sandalwood, and Neroli to diffuse in our home. Each of these oils carries significance in honoring and celebrating a loved one (while putting attention to the feelings of those of us “left behind”). Several of them have been used in conjunction with funeral rites for centuries.
Cypress imparts the ability for us–and our departed–to accept and make change, creating a grounding energy in the face of uncertainty.
Said to comfort those mourning a loved one, it helps us to stand tall, like the Cypress tree. Said to clear and purify a space, it can facilitate freedom from oppressive thoughts following the unexpected death of a family member.
Rosemary has long been incorporated in funeral rites where mourners of old threw Rosemary stalks on top of the coffin as it was being lowered, a promise to “never forget.”
Indeed, Rosemary holds particularly strong association with memory; it has sometimes been called the “forget-me-not” herb.
Sweet Marjoram is said to restore happiness to those who are grieving, making it possible for individuals to return with their full spectrum energy to the demands of life after suffering sorrow from the loss of a loved one.
It, too, is a cleansing herb that facilitates our loved ones continued journey into the ever after.
Sandalwood promotes a grounded sense of well-being, that all is as it should be in this world and beyond.
It helps to cut past ties and supports our moving through and past grief. Sandalwood also adds warmth, compassion, and forgiveness to our blend.
Neroli serves to elevate our courage and lift our spirits.
It imparts the energy to creatively greet one’s new circumstances with optimism and delight. Not inconveniently, it is also a powerful antidepressant.
Our “altar” offering can be blended and used in a diffuser or used to soak incense “blanks” and burned as incense sticks. Since our wood stove was hard at work warming our home, we simply placed a few drops of the oil into the open tea kettle we have sitting atop the stove; the oils slowly fragranced our home, carrying our messages to the departed in our thoughts.
Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Aromatherapy Altar Blend
For a diffuser stock blend:
- 4 drops Cypress
- 4 drops Rosemary ct. verbenone
- 3 drops Sweet Marjoram
- 2 drops Sandalwood
- 1 drop Neroli
Use as little as 1-2 drops (no more! too strong!) of the resulting stock blend in your diffuser.
To craft approximately 4-5 incense blanks:
- 20 drops Cypress
- 20 drops Rosemary ct. verbenone
- 15 drops Sweet Marjoram
- 10 drops Sandalwood
- 5 drops Neroli
Though quite strong when smelled from the bottle, this blend is more subtle–and beautiful–when diffused or burned. Neroli in particular likes to appear in small quantities in order to impart her subtle energies. (Good thing since true Neroli essential oil is pricey!)
(If you are actively experiencing grief from a personal loss, I send you blessings and wishes for love and comfort. Consider that this might not be the right exercise for you if your emotions are too raw. Perhaps some aromatics for grief and loss might be a better beginning point?)
Bless and blessed be!