History of Essential Oils or Attars
- Published: 12 February 2016
Essential Oils or Attars were used for thousands of years in the Indian Subcontinent
Attars as they are commonly known in the Indian Subcontinent, are Essential oils that have been in existence since time immemorial. A walk down a market street in India, on any typical day, will take you through a myriad of smells of everyday living, ranging from rose petals to sandalwood incense sticks coming from temples or homes to woody, fresh coconut oil to frying of turmeric in kitchens to fresh marigolds.
It’s truly an invasion of olfactory experiences.
As anyone who has visited the Subcontinent for the first time can attest, the array of smells is overwhelming. The memory of it lingers on long after one has left the place, such is the power of aromas.
The word 'attar', 'ittar' or 'othr' is essentially from Arabic meaning 'scent'; It has been believed to have been derived from the Persian word atr, meaning ‘fragrance'
Some of the first lovers of Attars were the Muslim invaders of India. Jasmine was a favourite perfume of the Nizams of the Hyderabad Royalty. Traditionally in the Eastern world, it was a customary practice of nobility to offer Attar to their guests at the time of their departure. The Attar are traditionally stored in beautifully cut crystal glass bottles called as Itardans.
This tradition of giving a scent to one's guests in weddings and at festivals and religious ritual ceremonies continues even in current times.
Among Sufi worshippers the use of Attars during meditation circles and dances is quite common. So are the use of it by ascetics in India.
Its extensive use for centuries by Saints, spiritual aspirants and priests to gain clarity and enlightenment is well-known.
Archaeological evidence shows the earliest inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent held plants of all kinds in great reverence. Ayurveda, is an ancient system of health and healing through extensive and very specific use of herbs. The properties of plant extracts and herbs are matched to one’s body type and one’s Astrological chart.
Ayurveda is part of Atharveda, which in turn is one of the four Vedas. Vedanta or Vedas are the oldest canonical works hailing from ancient India. Remaining three parts of Veda are the Rigveda, SamaVeda and Yajurveda.
There are references of use of essential oils in Ayurveda for treating a wide variety of human conditions, whether it be to energize oneself or for better focus and concentration at tasks or cure the heartache over a lover’s tiff or depression and melancholy. ‘Gandhashastra’, a branch of Ayurveda, is the science of aromas, and deals with cosmetics and fragrances. The natural fragrance ingredients mentioned therein are also said to possess medicinal properties.
There are references to Essential Oils or Attars by Varāhamihira, in his magnum opus Brihat Samahita.
Varāhamihira was an Indian Astronomer, Astrologer and Mathematician who lived in the historic city of Ujjain and he was one of the celebrated ‘nine jewels’ in the court of the legendary ruler Yashodharman Vikramaditya of Malwa ca. 575 CE.
His Pañcasiddhāntikā is another body of work dealing with lost Astronomical knowledge, as well as Vedanga Jyotisha (which is Vedic Astrology, as we know today).
In his works, Varāhamihira came up with Ghandayuktií, a practical art of blending fragrant ingredients to prepare valuable fragrances that are stable for long periods. Ghandayuktií describes a method of manufacturing a large number of fragrances utilizing only a few standardized, basic aromatic ingredients and changing their relative proportions in the final fragrance formulation. It discusses all technicalities of perfumery and fragrance creation. Sanskrit texts written during the Mauryan rule also describe the method of fragrance preparation and its development.
For example, it says that sandalwood is grated on a wet stone and mixed with grounded spices to get a paste. The paste obtained is further crushed along with fragrant flowers and leaves and mixed well with oil. The oil so obtained is applied all over the body to keep it pleasant smelling.
Technically Attar are distillates of flowers, herbs, spices and other natural materials, such as mitti or baked soil over sandalwood oil or liquid paraffin’s, using hydro distillation technique. With the passage of time, scented oils were extracted by pressing, pulverizing or distilling aromatic vegetable and animal produce. Being natural, highly concentrated and aged anywhere from a year to 10 years, preserving them enhances their value and smell.
Hence the problems faced in the West by perfume lovers are irrelevant to most in the East.
Early indications of the activity of the distillation process of Essential oils or Attars are available from the perfume jars and terracotta containers discovered in the ruins of the Indus Valley civilization. Archaeological work has revealed around copper stills called degs, used for the distillation process that are at least five-thousand years old!
Legend has it that the perfume city of Kannauj, got its reputation for being the Attar capital, because for centuries Hermits, Ascetics, Yogis and Tantriks (Practitioners of Tantra) would burn scented wood to facilitate their meditations and rituals.
The fragrance lingered on fusing with the smell of the soil and earth. Business minded individuals became fascinated with these smells and wanted to capture these aromas. Even today, the same process exists. It is carried out in copper stills called ‘ Degs’, just as it was done centuries ago. The fires are created from wood and cow-dung cakes heating the stills with capacities that can range from 10-160 kilos of floral/herbal materials.
Following the seasons of the flowers, traditional ittar makers, with their degs, travelled all over India to make their fresh attars on-the-spot. Their equipment has changed little, if at all. The apparatus manufacture of attar is light, flexible, easy to repair with a fair degree of efficiency.
Use of Kasturi (Deer Musk) is prized not just in Ayurveda, but world wide in perfumes. The oil perfume is extracted from the glands of the male musk deer found in the Himalayan regions, has been used for centuries to heal neurological and mental disorders. Although it has now become one of the most endangered species.
Similarly, the Mysore Sandalwood Oil is a perfume oil extracted from ‘Royal tree’ of Sandalwood, found in Mysore region of Karnataka, India. Being one of the best varieties of Sandalwood found in the world, its exquisite aroma is said to heal a lot of spiritual and physical ailments. In India, traditionally its used in practically everything, from religious rites to cosmetics and soaps.
When the Muslims invaded India, Ali-Ibn Sana (popularly known as Avicenna) lived from 980 -1037 A.D. He was a scholar, and a scientist. He was a well-educated physician by the age of 12. He wrote extensively on the properties of 800 plants and their effects on the human body. He is also credited for being the first person to discover and record the method of distilling essential oils. His methods are still in use. In lot of ways he is the father of Aromatherapy. Further expansions by Muslim invaders to Southern Europe all the way to Spain, were responsible for passing on knowledge of herbal medicines that they learned in the East, throughout Western Europe. Thus, began knowledge of distillation and consequently ‘Aromatherapy’, and the Art and Science of perfumes began in Europe!
In 1653 Nicholas Culpeper wrote his “The Complete Herbal” which still stands as a valuable reference. His book describes herbal remedies that have a lot in common to Ayurveda and Eastern Traditional Medicine.
Use of Essential Oils is certainly not an idle romanticizing ideal concocted by perfume makers and poets.
Scientifically, we now know smell receptors are certainly connected to the limbic system, that is the most primordial and primitive part of human brain. And it is the birthplace of emotion. Long before the mind can identify and cognitively ‘name’ a smell, the emotional responses are already triggered by the human brain. They have a powerful influence on not just our wellbeing on an outre level but on a much deeper internal one.
Using in depth knowledge of Astrology, Planets and their influences on the human psyche, combined with the nature of Essential Oils and the basic principles of Aromatherapy, Circle of Divine Essences began in 2014.
To put it in perspective, if one is ruled by Mars or the element of fire is strong in the birth chart, one can have a fiery temperament. It follows that this needs ‘soothing’ and ‘cooling’ from time to time. Oils of Rose, Sandalwood and Lavender certainly assist in the process.
Thus, keeping this in view, the twelve signs are all ruled by one or two of the nine planets (Luminaries Sun and Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Rahu/Ketu).
Each of them have unique characteristics properties and is ruled by an element. So, if you are a Pisces, either a Moon sign or a Sun in Pisces, you possess strong Jupiter qualities and being a water sign, the element of water will be strong. Jupiter’s qualities are expansion, seeking new spiritual frontiers, higher learning. It has depth and breadth to the vision of Jupiter ruled people. Strong Jupiter will also incline you towards a joyous disposition, but occasionally that can run into trouble! That’s when Oils like Melissa, which is the signature oil for Pisces, will uplift it. Combined with other Jupiter oils like Spikenard, Hyssop, Marjoram etc. that are warming and uplifting when the joie de vivre runs into trouble.
The Twelve Astrological Signs
Aries (Birth in March or April)
If you have Sun, Moon or Ascendant / rising in the sign of Aries, then the planet Mars comes into play. Mars energy is hot, heady, strong, fire element is strong and is of active nature and temperament. In Ayurveda it may be termed as pitta kind of personality.
The Oils for these are Rosemary, Bergamot, Black-Pepper, Bay Laurel, Grapefruit, Geranium, Pine, Orange, Clove and Sandalwood.
Taurus (Birth in May or June)
If you have Sun, Moon or Ascendant in Taurus, you are ruled by Venus. Venus epitomizes material well-being, sensuality, relationships and all the earth elements. Physical pleasure, enjoyment is its prime most concern. Venus needs balancing and it needs to bring out the pursuit for knowledge, mystical arts and learning and not just pleasure seeking covetous nature. Its signature oils are Lemongrass, Pure Rose
Violet leaf, Palma rose, Ylang-Ylang, Helichrysum, Verbena.
Venus is strongly a water element planet hence needs to be balanced with element of fire and earth.
Gemini (Birth in June or July)
Gemini is ruled by Mercury, (Hermes in the Greco-Roman Mythology, Goddess Sarasvati in the Hindu Myth or Lord Vishnu)
As its ruled by Mercury, you have an active alive mind. It’s an air sign, and often needs calming and focusing of thoughts. They are very much in their head and can get too pre-occupied in the intellectual and thinking realm.
If you have Sun, Moon of Ascendant in this sign, you may have mercurial temperament. It likes to be in the realm of ideas often needs grounding and stability in their thoughts.
The signature oils for Mercury Gemini is Fennel, Mandarin, Basil, peppermint, spearmint. Essentially all the fresh, aromatic green herbs will enrich Gemini. The Gemini Oils also has Lavender, Vetiver, Benzoin, Palma Rosa, Nutmeg to compliment fennel, Basil and peppermint.
Cancer (Birth in July or August)
If you have sun, Moon and Ascendant in Cancer, then you are born with the planetary influence of the Moon very strong. Moon ruled people can be surprisingly stable with their emotions, especially if you have Moon in Cancer, that is its own home sign. Yet being a watery planet, it needs calming, stabilizing. Its needs are towards feelings of security and nurturing. It needs to feel at home wherever they go. Its signature oils are Roman Chamomile, Blue Chamomile, Hyssop and Ginger accompanied by Lavender, Thyme, Lemon, Melissa, Ylang-Ylang and Frankincense.
Leo (Birth in August or September)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Leo, your ruling planet is Sun. Its fiery in nature and the element of fire is strong. It rules inspiration and vision in all things. Its signature oils are Jasmine and Neroli. Accompanied with Jasmine and Neroli to balance is Ginger, Rose, Black-Pepper, Elemi and Mandarin.
Virgo (Birth in September or October)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Virgo, your ruling planet is Mercury. This differs from Gemini, in that unlike Gemini, this is an earthy sign. Its precise and organized and likes order in all things. Like its symbol, the Virgin, it needs to cleanse and purify all things in pristine shape and form. But before manifesting such perfection, it has to go through disorder and disarray and upheaval. So, calm and decluttering of thoughts is of great importance. Signature oils are Myrtle, Petit Grain, Thyme and Basil. Balanced with Neroli, Cedarwood, Rose-Geranium and Sage.
Libra (Birth in October or November)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Libra you are ruled by the Watery Venus. But unlike Taurus, which is earthy, Libra has a strong air element, so the realm of thoughts, ideas and discriminating are of prime most importance. Venus loves its comforts and material wellbeing, so all sorts of commercial ventures will be very much for Libra.
Its signature oils are Rose, Geranium and Ylang-Ylang. Cardamom is a great favourite. This oils balance and harmonize the side of Venus that helps Libra keep with its creative and productive ventures.
Scorpio (Birth in November or December)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Scorpio you are ruled by Mars. Mars is the natural night ‘home’ of Scorpio. It rules two signs, Aries, which is fire element, while in Scorpio, the water element is strong and hence it’s a night ruler of Scorpio. Pluto is another of the Western Tropical Astrology rulers. Crisis, death and transformations are some of the key themes in the life of Scorpio. It has intensity and there is always a battle to be fought either at a spiritual level or in actual. The signature oils are Patchouli and cypress that resonates with the fierceness and intense emotionality of Scorpios. Patchouli blends well with Lemongrass to uplift the spirits, Pine, Orange and ginger. With Melissa giving it a depth.
Sagittarius (Birth in December or January)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Sagittarius, you are ruled by Jupiter. The Guru. It is the most benefic of the planets and spiritual too. It deals with expansion of all kinds, and more than anything, Jupiter is happiest when it is deeply connected to all things spiritual and seeking divine knowledge of the cosmos. Its signature oils are Rosewood, Frankincense and Myrrh. These combine very well with Myrtle, Hyssop, Orange, Palma Rosa and Black-Pepper.
Capricorn (Birth in January or February)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Capricorn, you are ruled by Saturn. In the Hindu Myth, Saturn is the serious, morose son of Surya or Sun and there is a huge difference between their worlds and domains. Sun is bright, shining and its hallmark is optimism, while Saturn ruled people will have a touch of somber to their personalities. They will be far more serious minded too. Saturn is a dry, cold and lead-like energy and hence it often needs uplifting. Vetivert and Himalayan Cedarwood are its signature oils and it blends very well with Juniper, Lime, Cajaput, Sandalwood and Marjoram.
Aquarius (Birth in February or March)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Aquarius, then you have two rulers, Saturn the old ruler and by Western Tropical Astrology, secondary ruler is Uranus or if using Sidereal Hindu Astrology, it is Rahu. Both secondary rulers whether its Uranus or Rahu, add a touch of anxiety, unpredictability and maverick like quality to Aquarius. Being an air sign, you will have a delicate nervous system and would do well to meditate and spend time in quite retreat in deep meditation and yoga. That will recharge you and balance the nervous energy which can go awry from time to time. Its signature oils are Neroli and that blends well with Cedarwood, Pine, Sandalwood, Violet leaf, Lime and Ylang-Ylang.
Pisces (Birth in March or April)
If you have Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Pisces you are ruled by two planets. Traditional ruler for you is Jupiter, secondary ruler by Western Tropical Astrology is Neptune or if using Sidereal Hindu Astrology, it is Ketu. All of the rulers add a deep sense of spirituality and other worldliness. The tour de force of this sign is always to seek spiritual knowledge, ancient wisdom from scriptures and spiritual books/manuscripts, retreats, meditative states and the hidden treasures in the form of knowledge buried under oceans. Being the last sign of the zodiac, it is very much to do with breaking boundaries and going beyond limitations of all kinds and also very much to do with completions of Karma. Highly evolved and in touch with other levels of consciousness, it can ‘feel’ its way into alternate realities. Its signature oil is Melissa. It blends well with Cypress, Hyssop, Pine, Ylang-Ylang and Geranium. Moss is also a good oil that can put them deeply in touch with the oceanic energy.
Planetary Body Oils 7 Days of the Week.
These are a special blend of Planetary Body Oils. These are quite unique in their approach to health and wellbeing. It goes as follows: In Hindu (Vedic) Astrology, the day you are born has a planet that strongly resonates with it. This planet that rules the day you are born on has a role to play in your energy and wellbeing. Each day of the week is assigned a Planetary ruler.
So, Sunday is Ravi Vaar thus ruled by Ravi or Sun.
Similarly, Monday is Soma Vaar thus ruled by Soma or Moon.
Tuesday is Mangal Vaar ruled by Mars or Mangal and Ketu)
Wednesday is Budh Vaar ruled by Budh or Mercury.
Thursday is Guru Vaar ruled by Guru or Jupiter.
Friday is Shukra Vaar ruled by Shukra or Venus.
Saturday is Shani Vaar ruled by Shani or Shukra.
Saturday is also has Rahu as its co ruler.
The planet assigned to the day of the week you are born on will control your day to day energy levels and your wellbeing in a very significant manner. You certainly want to appease and keep this planet happy!
The Scorpio Oil : The Intimate Care Oil
An ancient, eastern way of taking care of the hidden and extremely private part of you.
This is for the exclusive use of the most private parts of your body.
Highly recommended daily after a shower or a bath. It is a massage oil that is highly therapeutic with only natural anti-fungal,
anti-bacterial oil blends. This is not a lubricant.
Lingam Oil - Men's Special 'Scorpio in you' Oil for the intimate part of men
This is the oil after a shower or bath, to care for the most intimate part of you. It will feel nourished, hydrated and extremely nurtured.
With Base oils, such as sweet almond, sesame, coconut, jojoba, soybean oil black seed oil and helichrysum italicum (Oil Immortelle) that are very high in their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties. This is the most natural way of ensuring all round health
in your most intimate area.
Essential oils of soothing Lavender, refreshing bitter orange, therapeutic rosemary, deep niaouli, nourishing myrrh, antibacterial tea-tree, Indian sandalwood, vetiver, juniper and sage.
Yoni Oil - Women's Special 'Scorpio in you'
Oil for the intimate part of women
This is the oil after a shower or bath, to care for the most intimate part of you. It will feel nourished, hydrated and extremely nurtured.
With Base oils, such as sweet almond, sesame, coconut, jojoba, soybean oil black seed oil and helichrysum italicum (Oil Immortelle) that are very high in their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties. This is the most natural way of ensuring all round health in your most intimate area. With essential oils of anti-bacterial tea-tree, warming clove, deeply nourishing rose marc, relaxing lavender, soothing rose geranium and calming and anti-fungal blue-chamomile, you will wonder how you had gone so long without it.