"Every part of the earth is sacred to my people... every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every light mist in the dark forest, every clearing... and every winged creature is sacred to my people. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The fragrant flowers areour sisters; the deer and mighty eagle are our brothers; the rocky peak, the fertile meadows,all things are connected like the blood that unites a family."
Attributed to Chief Seattle, Duwamish, 1854
I hope that each day is bringing you many new avenues of discovery and awakening. It is a fine time of year as the earth comes to life and shares her many facted botanical gems with us. Myriads of colors, textures and scents invite one to explore her treasured realm. If one becomes very small, one can slip into that sublime place where one sees things from inside out instead of outside in. If even for a moment we see the world from that perspective it can brighten up our hearts considerably.
Today I will endeavor to share a few thoughts about some of the grand evergreen beauties of the USA in Canada. If all goes well a few newsletters will be dedicated to Thuja, Spruce, and Fir. We will start with Thuja which is also called as Arbor Vitae or the Tree of Life. Thuja plicata is referred to as Western Red Cedar and Thuja orientalis is know as White Cedar. These are the two main species of Thuja which are extracted for absolutes and distilled for essential oils. They have played a major role in the life of the Native American peoples and hopefully we can enter their world and see things from the vantage point of folks who lived in close association with nature for thousands of years and deeply appreciated and respected the world around them. The beautiful absolutes and essential oils of the Cedar, Spruce and Fir when inhaled can act as an open sesame into the world inhabited by these ancient people in a way that few other things can. The invisible influence of the charged molecules can activate our creative imagination.
Before starting you will find a few updates-
Here are few nifty things to investigate in terms of new arrivals or restocked items.
All prices can be found posted on the web site
Black Spruce(organic)/Picea mariana/Canada
Fir Balsam(organic)/Abies balsamea/Canada
Star Anise/Illicium verum/China
Oregano Linalool Type/Origanum dubium var. linalool/Turkey
Bay Rum Leaf Oil/Pimenta racemosa-West Indies
Lemon Balm(organic)/Mellisa offficinalis-South Africa
Helichyrsum italicum(certified organic)-ItalySage(organic)/Salvia officinalis-Italy
Juniper Berry(certified organic)/Juniperus communis-Italy
Verbena, wild/Lippia javanica(wild harvested)/South Africa
Thyme Linalol(conventional)/Thymus vulgaris "linalol type" Please note that the Certified Organic Thyme Linalol is out of stock until September
Clary Sage Concrete/Salvia sclarea-South Africa-wonderful buttery concrete with fantastic smooth sweet herbaceous bouquet
Cedar Leaf, WhiteAbsolute/Thuja orientalis/Canada
Fir Balsam Absolute/Abies balsamea/Canada
Spruce, Blue Absolute/Picea pungens/Canada
Frankincense/Boswellia carterii/ Somalia
Grapefruit Non-sprayed/South Africa
Spearmint Cert.organic/South Africa
Rosewood(wild harvest) South America
Peru Balsam(wild harvest) South America
Lavender Haute Provence Fine Population High Altitude(conventional)
Cedarwood Atlas(wild harvest)/Cedrus atlantica/Morocco
Ylang Complete(certified organic)/Cananga odorata var.genuina/Madagasar
Sugandh kokila(wild harvested0/Cinnamomum cecidodaphne/India
Tomar Seed(wild harvested)/Zanthoxylum alatum/India
Cedar in Native American Culture (Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation for treatment of disease)
The explorations of cultures that are deeply embedded in a reverential interaction with the natural world plays an important part in the consciousness of what it means to be a human in the highest sense of the word. As most of us are well aware, we are for the most part not as dependent on nature as people who lived in past times. When people are relying on nature to provide food, medicine, clothes, shelter and aesthetic enhancement of life, there is a very good chance that an inner feeling gets awakened towards the animate world that is more difficult to manifest when living in environments which are human created .
Yet nature always provides some means of keeping us sensitive to her radiant beauty .Even for those of us living in the midst of congested cities it is possible to cast off the visible and invisible forces which constrict our finer inner self by exploring the sublime wonders of aromatic essences. There is part of the human mind which registers experience beyond what is remembered with the rational mind. It remembers feeling, emotions and experiences that are not even part of the current life we are living. It is a sure thing that fragrance acts like a magical key to those domains. Those short ingresses into a kinder, gentler more loving awareness via aroma can help us rethink our lives and slowly orient ourselves towards lifestyles that inspire and rejuvanate us.
It is a great blessing that we have parks and wild places to retreat too. There we can be amidst plant communities that tell us wonderful stories which give us hope, courage and inspiration. Many times the plants have played a major role in the lives of people that we may have never known but with whom we an connect if we put aside our conditioned mental behaviour for some time. People in other times and places have often used the trees, herbs, shrubs, vines, etc that we are seeing on a day-to-day basis. Their aromas may have given them aesthetic delight but the roots, bark, branches, leaves, heartwood, fruits, seeds, etc may have given them many other useful items for their physical, emotional and mental well being. The type of knowledge that comes from viewing the plant world in such a resourceful way creates in that person a unique perception of the animate world. The mind of such a person does not function like our minds do. They perceive a mysterious force working in all things and they know that to live in relationship with that force they need to live and act in a certain way. When they are able to do this they experience a world that is vibrant and humming with life. All the plants, animals, birds, insects, the rivers, oceans, mountains, stars, planets, speak to them in a special language filling their hearts with wonder, wisdom and delight. Then rather than demanding the universe to conform their small desires they offer prayers of thanks and gratitude to each and every particle of the creation for allowing themselves to be used for the betterment of others.
The odors themselves also speak to us of an ancient world which is associated with the very roots of an ancient culture that existed long before people came from Europe to this country. The native American culture had well established roots in the land for thousands of years and during the course of that time they had developed a total relationship with the plant world around them. Because they had made their hearts sensitive to the voice of nature the plants communicated to them a wealth of inner and outer knowledge that gave life to body, mind and spirit.
There is an opening poem and prayer to the Cedar Tree that I think captures this feeling very beautifully. In looking at the various writings regarding the Tree of Life which was applied to both Thuja plicata and Thuja orientalis I think we can begin to feel what it is to walk the path of beauty which so many Native American poets have spoken of. We too can make that path of beauty in our hearts which allows us to join with all the people of the world both in the past, living now and who will live in the future in walking on that quiet way.
Oh, the cedar tree!
If mankind in his infancy
had prayed for the perfect substance
for all material and aesthetic needs,
an indulgent god could have provided
Cedar Bark Prayer
"Look at me, friend! I come to ask for your dress for you have come to take pity on us; for there is nothing for which you can
not be used, because it is your way that there is nothing for which we can not use you, for you are willing to give us your
dress. I come to beg you for this, long-life maker, for I am going to make a basket for lily root out of you. I pray you, friend,
not to feel angry with me on account of what I am going to do to you; and I beg you, friend to tell our friend! Keep sickness
away from me, so that I may not be killed by sickness or in war, O friend!"
The world of conifers, which includes Pines, Cedars, Firs, Cypress, etc has a deep natural resonance with many of us growing up in North America and Europe. These benign denizens of the botanical realm have filled our hearts and minds with their eloquent and stately images from our childhood on. Many of us have sweet memories going to forests to gain a sense of comfort and depth which we sometimes find lacking in our everyday lives. When standing amidst these tall and silent beauties inhaling the elixir exhuded from their resinous trunks, needles, bark and cones one finds their breathing pattern naturally slowing down and the eyes begin to sparkle with a natural radiance which comes from feeling at one with the world around one.
This is a grand gift that the evergreen trees offer to those who enter their domain with even a little humility and gratitude in their hearts.
My association with the conifer forests of America began when a child of 4 or 5 growing up in the deserts of New Mexico(up to that time my life had been spent near the jungles in Panama which has its own sense of mystery about it). Occassionally we had family outings to Cloudcroft to the east of Carlsbad where I spent several years of my early life. The feeling of exhiliration that came when beginning our ascent into the mountains remains vivid to this day. The air became sweet and charged with the lilting aromatic melody of the conifer forests.
When very young the human heart and mind is more malable in the hands of nature and so essential information is communicated without the interfering aparatus of the rational mind which segments and compartmentalizes the experiences that come from the world around. Innocence and openess is a great assett in seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting clearly and often when one is in that state of natural receptivity they perceive an essence which is to grand to be put into words. This is the magic of the universe. And if one happens to be in that state then one begins to feel the totality of what is around them-a sort of synthesis of all the senses in one. Children often have this feeling intact if they have grown up with a healthy exposure to the outdoors.
The sense of smell is a wonderous experience when in that state. The invisible currents of aroma ebb and flow in and through one providing a rare and intoxicating olfactory delight. This very experience is something that we can all recapture later on in life as well when we weary of the synthetic human made contrivances which overstimulate us and leave us weary and sad. It may be one of the reasons why the symphony of natural essences in the form of essential oils, CO2 extracts, etc beckons to us. We once again feel the doors of childhood opening leading us closer to that feeling of communion which makes our lives glow with meaning.
Since then there have been many opportunities to be amids the pine, cedar and fir forests both here and abroad. The awareness of their sublime and beneficial influence continues to expand. The appreciation of their beauty of their refreshing, revitalizing aromas has deepened with exposure to a greater range of well distilled oils and extracted absolutes. These aromatic gems give one a strong sense of the individual characters of the trees in the mixed forests from which they come.
Etymology for Thuja arborvitae
The name Thuja is a latinized form of a Greek word meaning 'to fumigate,' or thuo ('to sacrifice'), for the fragrant wood was burnt by the ancients with sacrifices.
From New Latin arbor vtae, tree of life : Latin arbor, tree + Latin vtae, genitive of
vta, life; see vital.
superb images of Thuja
Creatures who love Thuja
Mammals: White-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, and porcupines heavily browse the
foliage. One of the best winter browse species for deer, it is often overbrowsed.
Overbrowsing can retard growth and even kill a tree if it is less than 7' tall. A high
browse line is frequently evident on larger trees. Moose browse only when other
food is scarce. Stands provide thermal cover for white-tailed deer, moose, and black
Birds: Pileated woodpeckers feed on carpenter ants that, in turn, nest in and feed on the heartwood. Other birds abundant in White Cedar forests include White Throat
Sparrow, Golden Crown Kinglet, Yellow Belly Flycatcher, Ovenbird, Northern
Parula, Winter Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and numerous other warblers.
Historical and Cultural Uses (Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation for treatment of disease)
Called “the tree of life” by the Kwakwaka’wakw of the central coast of British Columbia, it surely was for Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. The myriad uses are too many to name them all. Some of the more famous uses included the construction of canoes (hence “canoe cedar”), lodges and totem poles. Lodges were usually about 20’ wide and 40’ long, and the cedar boards used to construct them were about 2” thick and 2’-5’ wide. The wood was split in planks from living trees, using antler and pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) wedges, and then the lodge timber construction was held together with rope made from cedar bark. The red cedar canoes were such amazing vessels that about 1900, J.C. Voss bought an average 38’ dugout red cedar canoe from Vancouver Island Indians, and with the addition of 3 masts and a cabin, he used it to sail around the world. Native Americans also used the fiber of the bark to make clothes, raingear, mats, ropes, and was so soft that it was used in baby diapers. The smaller, younger roots, and narrow withes were used in basketry and to make fishing nets and traps. Other various uses include: wood for arrow and spear shafts, bark fibers for tinder and wicks, wood for ceremonial carving, rattles and toilet sticks (prior to the introduction of paper), and the low smoke, aromatic fire from red cedar was favored for smoking salmon. It should also be mentioned that Thuja plicata is the official tree of British Columbia. Up until 1900, one could still see the stumps near Orofino Idaho, of the western red cedars that the Lewis and Clark expedition felled to make their canoes for the western half of the Corps of Discovery.
An infant child was placed in a cradle made of red-cedar boards and lined with yellow-cedar bark and sphagnum moss. The blanket, mattress and pillow were made of yellow-cedar bark, pounded until soft and fluffy.
In the spring, young girls went with their mothers and grandmothers to the forest to collect the bark. They searched for a tree about 40 cm (16 in.) in diameter, that was straight and tall, and had few lower branches. When they found the tree they wanted, they would stand under it and say a prayer, such as this one, said many years ago by a Kwakwaka'wakw woman:
Look at me friend!
I come to ask for your dress,
For you have pity on us;
For there is nothing for which you cannot be used...
For you are really willing to give us your dress,
I come to beg you for this,
For I am going to make a basket for lily-roots out of you.
To strip the bark from the tree, the women made a horizontal cut in the bark, several feet from the ground, for a third of the circumference of the tree. Then they inserted an adze under all the layers of bark and slowly, taking care not to split it, pulled upward and outward until it came free of the tree leaving a long V-shaped scar. They separated the soft, pliable inner bark from the brittle outer bark and then rolled it up, sap side in, and took it home and hung it up to dry for later use. The dried bark was separated into layers and then cut into strips ready for making articles such as baskets, rope or mats. Preparation of yellow-cedar bark was more time consuming: it had to be soaked and boiled to remove the pitch. Woven robes, hats and capes made from the fine, soft yellow-cedar bark repelled water and protected people from the rain.
In more open areas, women pulled up cedar roots from the ground beyond the overhanging branches of a tree where the roots were new and pliable. They removed the outer bark from these roots and split them lengthwise in preparation for weaving baskets and cradles. By watching her elders, a young woman would learn how to weave storage and heavy-burden baskets. Women also used the long, slender red-cedar branches or withes to make rope, binding material and open-weave baskets. They heated the withes over an open fire until the sap steamed. This loosened the bark so that it could be removed by squeezing the withes through wooden tongs. The women twisted the warm withes and stored them until they were needed.
Cedar was also an important part of everyday life for men. At a young age a male learned how to select a tree to make a house post, a totem pole or a canoe. He and his kin ventured into the forest, often kilometres from home, to find the right tree. To make a canoe, the men selected a straight, tall tree with even growth. They cut a small hole into it to"feel the heart" and to judge its soundness. Then they prayed, "do not fall too heavily, else you, great magician will be broken". After felling the tree, the men roughly shaped it to lessen its weight. Then they dragged the preformed canoe to the nearest water and towed it back to their village for completion. Canoes could be small enough to suit one person or large enough for thirty people.
Young men learned how to split planks off standing trees, a technique that kept the trees alive. The Kwakwaka'wakw called these planks "begged from" cedars. Planks were used for many purposes including bent wood containers, house siding and
roofing. Bent wood boxes had many uses, from cooking to storage of ceremonial regalia.
Ojibwa Indians are said to have made soup from the inner bark of the young twigs. The twigs were used to make teas, perhaps more medicinal than culinary. Speaking of the gums, Captain John Smith said, "We tryed conclusions to extract it out of the wood, but nature afforded more gums than our arts." (Erichsen-Brown, 1979). Potawatomi rolled up the bark into wads which served as torches. Deer browse the young shoots. Sometimes grown as a Christmas tree, e.g. in India. Attractive for hedges and windbreaks. The timbers were used to make the ribs in the
Indians' birchbark canoes (Erichsen-Brown, 1979). Valuable timber tree today, the heartwood lightweight and decay resistant. Used for poles shakes, shingles, and
It was considered by these people to be bad luck to fell a tree so they removed planks by driving antler wedges into the living tree along the grain to split off planks. When a whole tree was required to make a canoe or a longhouse pole, then either a naturally fallen tree was used or there would have to be offerings made to the Gods before a tree could be cut. The power of the Thuja was said to be so strong that a person could receive spiritual healing by simply by standing with their back against a tree, and one myth suggests that the Great Spirit created Thuja in honour of a man who was always helping others: "When he dies and where he is buried, a cedar tree shall grow and be useful to the people - for baskets, for clothing and for shelter". The inner cambium layer of the bark was even eaten in times of famine as a survival food. The Thuja was used for many medicinal purposes as well. The green immature cones were chewed and the juice swallowed as a contraceptive for women to prevent implantation of the egg. The smoke of the smouldering branches was used as a traditional 'smudge' to ward off evil spirits and to cleanse sick rooms. Similarly, the green branches were used tosplash water on the stones during the traditional 'sweat lodge' ceremony. The branches were also used in the form of a strong tea to wash rheumatic limbs.
"In addition to these medicinal uses, the leaves and limbs of cedar are used for scouring the body in bathing, both for ordinary purposes and in preparation for ceremonial occasions. This was mentioned by Swan and also by present-day informants. Among the Lummi, a boy takes the boughs he has used to rub himself before a guardian spirit quest and fastens them to the top of a cedar tree. Whalers put piles of cedar branches under their beds to make themselves ready for the hunt and to ward off bad luck. There is a strong association between cedar and death. Lummi men, burying a corpse, chew cedar tips to avoid nausea. Cedar limbs, singed, were used by the Lummi as a broom to sweep off the walls of a house after the removal of the corpse. The Skagit burned cedar
limbs at night and waved them through the house to scare the ghost after death" (Gunther 1945).
True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Some Junipers (Juniperus genus) are also called "cedar", thus complicating things some. Some Juniper varieties are cleansing herbs, especially J. monosperma, or Desert White Cedar. But for smudging, the best is Western Red Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and California Incense Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens). Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit (Usen', the Source -- also known to Plains nations as Wakan Tanka) in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy in your direction. It is usually available in herb stores in chipped form, which must be sprinkled over a charcoal in a brazier. I like a piece of charcoaled mesquite for this purpose, rather than the commercial charcoal cake.