Elemental earth is grounding and supportive. In contrast to the other elementals like air, fire and water the earth is stable. The external associations are found in dirt, rocks, caves and the ground which we walk on. The aroma is most prevalent in such pure plant essences as Patchouli, a polarizing fragrance that has become emblematic with the 1960’s.
I was born in the 1960’s in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Thus I have none of the smell associations that many attribute to Patchouli. My introduction to it came in the nineties, I wasn’t fully conscious or much appreciative of it until aromatherapy entered my life. During my induction into aromatherapy, I was surprised to learn that patchouli essential oil is derived from leaves, due to its musky aroma and ability to ground mental energy I had been convinced that it came from roots.
The perennial is native to Asia where the leaves were placed with fabric as an insect repellent with the added benefit of scent. The essential oil is is distilled from the scalded, dried leaves of Pogostemon cablin. Viscous and amber in color the aroma has a rich fragrance, sweet herbal notes weaved with wood, spice, musk and earth. The essence “ages” spectacularly, softening edges and revealing deep balsamic, floral notes.
In aromatherapy as well as natural botanical perfume patchouli is an important essence to have in an aromatic palette. For aromatherapy work the essential oil works on several systems of the body, most importantly offering considerable value for psychological balancing. As our culture has moved into cyber space and places huge worth on mental performance patchouli brings us back to elemental earth, to the here and now. The fragrance not only grounds us but also uplifts and arouses our creative energies.
Although patchouli was part of the Asian pharmacopoeia (defined as a book of medicinal preparations) the distilled herb did not enter into the west until the mid 1800’s. In perfume work, the essence is particularly important to the genre of spicy oriental formulas. The aroma of patchouli provides a valuable affect on other floral essences within a composition and excellent fixative properties.
The natural perfumer is fortunate to now have a variety of patchouli essences to work with. In addition to numerous varieties of the essential oil, we now also have an absolute, a C02 extract and beautiful vintage bouquets featuring a floral note.
Now, just about fifteen years since I was introduced to patchouli, I use the essential oil almost daily in my face oil and under my arms as a deodorant. This vital plant distillate has become a staple in my beauty routine and perfumers palette. I’ve also come to realize, during custom perfume consultations, that if an individual experiences the aroma without “knowing” what it is, they are more apt to not have objections. This is especially true of the aged essential oil.
Patchouli is one of the many earthy elemental essences that were utilized for constructing the natural perfume Terrestre. The journey began with the construction of a “dirt” accord for a client requesting a custom perfume. The accord was further developed during the three hours between the East and West coast of Earth hour with the perfume finally released on Earth day. The word Terrestre is French for “of the Earth”.
Elemental Earth is the home of our connection to the here & now. It is related to the base chakra, the place of manifestation, control & restraint and grounded in experience. Home of the Male, strength and ability to create magic. The spirit medicine of Snake dwells here with the ability to move swiftly, above and below the ground, to shed what no longer serves and be born anew. The lesson of earth requires us to let go and break free of constraints and the compulsion to control. We are asked to be present here within our bodies, feeling our feet upon the ground.
Three hundred sixty five days have brought us back to the day we celebrate Mother Earth. What have the two legged humans learned in that space of time? Have we deepened our awareness of our selves and this planet on which we dwell, or do we still wander in darkness?
Remember, always, the debt we owe to the Earth. Without her we have no home to dwell upon, whether that is the ground beneath us or the physical body that houses our spirit.