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glossary of terms
folklore, legend, fairies, dragons and more
Adults and children alike
can suffer from insomnia or nightmares. The frantic pace of the modern world
means that all too often we go to bed with our heads whirling, our thoughts
racing with lists of unfinished chores and anticipating the day ahead. Late
night television and computer games can over stimulate the mind. The
transition from sleep to wake, marked in pre-television days by cocoa round
the fire and quiet conversation is now often a final frantic dash to get
everything completed, followed by collapsing into bed.
Fragrances are a natural way to restore the gentle
transition time into sleep and dreams, whether in baths, as sleep pillows or by
burning scented oils or candles in the bedroom prior to sleep. We can also as
people have done for thousands of years find answers to problems or questions in
our dreams, by creating just before bedtime an aromatic pathway into the world
of unconscious knowledge.
Long before commercial herbal
bath preparations were invented or indeed bathrooms became common in ordinary
homes, men and women would add herbs, lavender heads or rose petals to the tub
to bring quiet sleep or place chamomile in a fractious child’s bath.
Modern plumbing means that you cannot add your
herbs or petals directly to the bath without clogging up the pipes. But there
are still ways you can enjoy the floral and herbal mixes tried and loved by our
Supermarkets, pharmacies, health and beauty stores
have a huge range or herbal and aroma bath products. If you read the labels a
number contain only natural products.
If you are busy, ready made bath essences mean
that you can instantly release the power inherent in the scents; the rituals I
suggest do work well whatever the source of the bath product. The other
advantage of buying bath foams and oils is that good quality products will not
irritate even delicate skin as they are carefully tested, the best brands
without using animals.
Look out also for school and church fetes,
farmers’ markets and country fairs or a large regular market in a city or large
town where stall holders come from miles around. My own favourite source is the
Sunday market in Rouen in France where there is stall after stall selling
wonderful fresh herbs and flowers from the gardens as well as bath products
prepared according to old family recipes. My favourite is an acacia and honey
mix, the original tree cutting brought back to France from India in the 1930s.
My local supermarket on the Isle of Wight does a version that is almost as
However, you can create home made herbal sachets
in advance and keep them in airtight jars. Making aromatic mixes can in itself
be very therapeutic.
If you have had a stressful or frantic few days
or just want some self time, make your pre-sleep bath a special occasion,
undisturbed by phone calls, family demands and noise. Lock the door so no one
can pop into the bathroom to chat, moan, comment on your cellulite, ask to
borrow money for a night out or suggest they share your bath (whether toddler,
the dog or amorous lover!).
Light small scented candles in rose, ylang ylang,
peach or orange in safe places around the bathroom and check the bathroom is
Make sure there are plenty of fluffy towels and
your bath robe is ready. If you have a family as I do, most towels end up on
bedroom floors in soggy heaps or mouldering in sports bags!
Play gentle dolphin or ocean music on a
waterproof battery-operated CD player
Run the bath and add your herbs, foam, oils or
When the bath is ready, turn off the taps and
lie in the water, swirling the fragrant pools of light, symbolically pushing
away in them any worries or negativity left from the day.
Through half closed eyes allow the light and
patterns of foam or oils on the surface of the water to make beautiful images.
Let these pictures to flow in and out of your
mind without analysing them and then push away even these pleasant thoughts,
finally emptying your mind of all but the fragrance, the music and the light.
When you are ready, get out of the bath and wrap
yourself in warm towels, pulling out the plug and allowing the water to run
away, saying softly `Sorrow, sadness/stress, flow from me, to the rivers
and the sea, leaving only harmony.’
Pour a few drops of pine or tea tree essential
oil down the plughole to make sure only positive energies remain
Blow out each of the candles one by one, either
making a wish for each or sending blessings or healing to someone or a place
that needs it.
Leave the last candle alight and carefully carry
it to your bedroom.
Do not read or watch television in bed but sit
quietly gazing into the fragrant candle flame, allowing pictures and stories
to come, perhaps ones you saw in your bath, that will lead you into your
If you share your bed, talk softly to your sleep
companion, not about domestic or work concerns and carry the other person into
your quiet world between waking and sleep.
Finally blow out the candle and ask that the
light protects you, your family and home while you sleep.
Making Herbal bath Sachets
The following herbs and flowers are especially
good for inducing relaxation and peaceful sleep.
Chamomile flowers, carnation petals, catnip
(small quantity only), elecampane, elder flowers, eucalyptus (surprisingly
relaxing), fennel seeds, jasmine flowers, hop flowers, hyssop, lavender, lemon
balm, lemon verbena, lilac, linden blossoms, marjoram (sweet), dried orange
peel, orange blossoms, passionflower, peppermint, rosemary, rose petals,
skullcap leaves, slippery elm bark, olive blossoms, valerian root
These are just some suggestions and you can add
your own favourite flowers and herbs as long as they are not toxic. If in doubt
check in a herb book.Commercially prepared mixtures tend to be a good guide to
what works. Indeed you may like to buy some natural herbal baths to see which
fragrances suit you best before making your own.
Making herbal bath sachets is a
very soothing activity and family members can join in preparing or mixing the
herbs. In the past these making and talking sessions helped to
harmonise relationships between different generations living in close proximity.
As you talk abut the different properties of the
herbs and flowers, it creates a quiet space for people to share worries, fears,
hopes and dreams or just to be together in companionable silence.
If you ask your grandmother, your mother or one of
your older in laws they may well recall herbal recipes from their childhood and
the recollection can help to establish bonds of affection, especially if you can
work together creating family sleep sachets.
Step, foster or adopted children may feel able to
talk about their birth family’s favourite flower or perfume as they make bath
But even working alone you can tap into the shared
experiences of women who throughout the ages gathered and prepared fragrant
herbs. If you write your favourite recipes in your journal you can pass on your
insights to future generations.
How to prepare your bath sachets
You can use a single herb or
flower or mix them in sachets and as infusions.
Experiment with two or three different kinds of
flowers and herbs and note your favourite combinations.
Many culinary herbs are excellent in baths and
you can also buy dried flower petals, powdered roots and herbs from health
stores and old-fashioned grocers to store in airtight glass jars. The same
chamomile with which you make tea can serve as a soothing bath.
Make a herb bath sachet by filling a small bag
of muslin, cheesecloth or similar porous material with your favourite herbs
and flower petals.
You can make a bag from a rectangle of cloth
approximately 15cms by 20cms.
Fold it in half across the width of the muslin
to make the bag. However the leg from a pair of tights or a nylon stocking can
be filled with herbs and knotted at the top. The kind of fine meshed nets put
on soft fruits can also be adapted or any small net bag whose colour will not
If you are making the bag sew the sides in
running stitch, picturing light and peace entering every stitch.
As you add herbs to the bag, state the purpose
for which you are making the sachet. For example,
`I ask that these jasmine flowers and
orange blossom petals in this sachet will bring my daughter Melody quiet
sleep and peaceful dreams that she may wake refreshed and able to cope with
her examination tomorrow.’
`One knot that Melody will have faith in
herself, two that she may not panic, three that she will draw on the love of
the family for support and not shut herself away with her worries.’
Set the sachet in the bottom of the bath, making
sure the water is warm, around 98 degrees Fahrenheit, just below body
temperature as any hotter will exhaust you and much cooler will be too
As the water runs in, the herbal fragrance will
infuse the water.
Leave the bag of herbs in the water for five
minutes before getting into the bath and then for a further five minutes. Then
squeeze the last of the infusion from the herbs and remove the sachet from the
Alternatively hang the bag just below the hot
and cold taps and let the water run through it while filling the bath.
Making herbal infusions for the
If you prefer, you can make a
herbal infusion or decoction and add it to the bath water. You can also use
fragrant herbal infusions for protective floor washes or sprinkled in rooms that
seem unfriendly or dark.
Place 60 grams (2 oz) of fresh herbs or flowers
in a bowl or jug. With dried herbs use 40 grams. Wash fresh petals and herbs
Add 500 ml, (a pint) of boiling water this is
slightly stronger than the kind of infusion you make for teas (which is one
teaspoon of dried herbs or three of fresh to a cup of hot water).
For children and people with delicate skins
use the weaker infusion.
Stir the infusion, naming the herbs or flowers
and their purpose, for example `Lavender brings me dreams of love and
fertility that I may rise above my present loneliness.’
Cover the infusion and leave it to stand for
about ten minutes, stirring occasionally and repeat the chant. If the matter
is important enchant the infusion.
After this time has elapsed, strain the
infusion, discard the herbs and petals and either pour the infusion into the
bath or store it in dark glass bottles with a screw top lid or cork. It will
keep in the fridge for a week or more if it is cool.
A decoction is a method of extracting the goodness
from roots and barks.
The roots etc should be powdered, crushed in a
pestle, finely chopped or bought ready chopped. This preparation provides a
chance to declare the purpose of the bath mix as a slow repetitive chant.
You can also mix ready bought roots and bark,
for example: `Valerian, valerian brings sleep to my sister Mary who lies
awake every night, worrying needlessly.’
Add one ounce (30 grams) to a pint (500mls) of
cold water or larger quantities in that proportion. Some decoctions are better
if left to stand overnight before brewing.
The mixture should then be simmered until the
amount of water is reduced by half.
Strain before using and squeeze the herb to get
all the liquid. Discard the herbs as with an infusion.
Store as with an infusion or add to the bath
Oil dream baths
Another option is to add essential oils to the
bath after running it, about 10 drops per bath, less of citrus oils such as
orange or potent oils such as peppermint. You can use the oil versions of some
of the flowers and herbs I have suggested above. In addition, clary sage,
mimosa, rosewood and sandalwood are very soothing sleep oils and most often
found in essential oil form.
Sleeping on a dream pillow is a
traditional way of inducing peaceful sleep, reducing insomnia, nightmares and
creating happy dreams. They are still sold at country fairs, in rural gift
stores and by mail order (and in the modern world have appeared in microwaveable
Dream pillows are very easy to make. But if you
are short of time you can buy a small cushion cover with a zip or Velcro and
inside it put an even smaller Velcro fastened openwork cushion cover to hold the
herbs or flowers. Buy a really cheap inner cover as they are seldom worth
refilling. Car boot sales are a good source of old small pillows and cushions
form which you can cannibalise the covers.
Children who suffer from night terrors, nightmares
or fears of the dark may benefit from one of the commercially available lavender
or rose filled bears or if you are good at sewing you could make your own with
an inner pillow and a washable, maybe towelling, cover. Make sure the child
cannot open it and chew the herbs.
You can use any of the herbs or flowers listed for
bath sachets, though for children chamomile, lavender and rose petals are best
as they are very mild. Dried herbs and flower petals are best in dream pillows.
The following herbs are especially associated
with pleasant dreams:
Angelica is good for out of body dreams and also
for healing dreams
Anise in very small quantities will keep away
Chamomile will bring quiet sleep when you are
exhausted or over anxious (the best herb for curing insomnia)
Cloves (again just a few) will bring dreams of
childhood and of old friends and family members who are absent or who have
Hops will bring peaceful sleep. They are not
very fragrant so use with other ingredients
Lavender for gentle dreams of love or of the
Lilac for dreams of home when you are far away
Mullein to prevent recurring nightmares
Peppermint (a small amount) for dreams of the
future and other lands.
Rose for healing in dreams and for past life
Rosemary (in small quantities so not to
overwhelm other fragrances) to drive away night terrors and overcome fears of
the dark or sleeping alone at any age
St John’s Wort for dreams of future marriages or
long lasting love and for taking away grief while you sleep
Sweet marjoram for happy dreams when life is sad
Valerian for gentle dreams and for banishing
The following oils are also associated with
Frankincense for dreams of magical places and
Myrrh for past life and for healing dreams
Orange for dreams of happy relationships and
banishing the regrets of the day
Sandalwood for dreams of passion and for past
Ylang ylang for dreams of love and for psychic
Add a drop or two of these to your sleep pillow
herbs to increase the fragrance, but do not use in children’s pillows (see
Making a dream pillow
Your dream pillow need not be large (about 15 cm
square). You can make it in the same way you created your bath sachet.
This time use a natural fabric such as cotton
that is not too thick
Make a second smaller pillow to fit snugly
inside and hold the herbs that you can replace when the herbs lose their
fragrance (or throw away the cushion which psychically and practically if not
economically is better)
You can use muslin, mesh or fine curtain net
for the inner bag that will actually hold the herbs.
First decide the herbs and flowers you are
going to use, experimenting by mixing two or three herbs or flowers to get
the right mix for your needs. Set the chosen flowers/herbs in a glass or
ceramic bowl so that you can inhale the aroma as you work.
If you are using ready made cushion covers,
place them close to the bowl and light a fragrant beeswax or yellow candle
in pink or lilac to empower them or place them in a pool of sunlight or
moonlight. You can empower them further by holding them before filling them
and visualising fields of flowers in which you drift gently into sleep.
Sew the bags on three sides, picturing light
entering the stitches. Work either in sunlight or by moon or candlelight and
visualise whoever you are making the pillow for (maybe yourself) in a field
filled with the herbs and flowers, then falling asleep on a bed of
Next begin to mix the herbs and flowers with a
wooden or ceramic spoon. Add two or three drops of your chosen essential
oil, remembering you are aiming for a subtle soothing mix to lull you to
This time do not chant but work in silence,
imagining light continuing to pour into the bowl. The light may take on the
colour of the plants or flowers you are mixing, green, pink or purple. You
can use a single fragrance such as rose, chamomile or lavender but still mix
You will sense when the herbs are ready. You
may detect a faint aura of light round the bowl or in your mind.
At this point hold your hands palms downwards
over the bowl, but do not move them. Your fingers will vibrate slightly –
hold them still.
`May sleep come swiftly and
gently. May Mother Night carry you/me into sweet dreams. May angels keep
away all harm and fear and in the morning with joy and renewal wake
Fill the inner pillow, so that the herbs can
move around and then fasten/sew it, if you wish using Velcro.
Finally slip this into the outer cover and
leave the completed pillow in any remaining sun, moon or candlelight till
the candle is burned through.
When the herbs lose their fragrance, tip the
herbs out and scatter them to the winds or bury them beneath a fruit or nut
-bearing tree. Some people prefer to create a new inner bag when they
empower new herbs.
One of the most effective ways
to drive away fears and ensure quiet sleep is by lighting a scented night light
or small aromatic candle.
If you use a deep glass container with coloured
sand inside, the candle will be safe even if you drift off to sleep, though it
is better to extinguish the candle.
Insomniac or frightened children can benefit from
an apple blossom, chamomile, jasmine, lavender, mimosa, rose, sandalwood or
ylang ylang fragranced candle burned in the bedroom before sleep.
This is much gentler than incense and safer than
You can get the child to visualise the light of
the candle by closing his or her eyes and imagining seeing the burning candle in
the darkness. Then when the room is fragranced, you can together blow out the
candle and get the child to lie down with his or her eyes closed, still
picturing the light as the fragrance lingers.
For a child who is frightened of the dark, light
five small scented night lights. Then one at a time blow out the nightlights,
but tell the child to sit with eyes open and picture the extinguished light as
if it was still burning. Describe the extinguished light as a fragrance fairy or
angel who will shine a magical protective light all night.
Gradually though the room gets physically darker
the child can still see the five light fairy/angels, even when it is
totally dark and call on them during the night if he or she wakes.
Creating Meaningful Perfumed
Perfume dream incubation or creation can be
practised nightly for a week and thereafter when needed. This will rapidly
harmonise sleep patterns if you are an insomniac or help you to rest if you have
experienced a particularly pressurised few weeks.
You will also find that answers to questions that
trouble you may appear quite spontaneously in a fragrance induced dream.
Even if you have no specific questions or issues
to which you would like answers in your dreams, this method will create a
beautiful sleep experience from which you will wake relaxed and refreshed.
Set the phone to silent answer, switch off fax
machines and do not check your e-mails just before getting ready for bed. It
is all too easy to slip back into social or work mode.
Have a scented bath or shower, with night lights
illuminating the bathroom.
Afterwards, when you are wrapped up warmly in
your dressing robe, have an herbal or milky drink while you sit in
semi-darkness listening to gentle music.
When you are totally relaxed, light a small
candle or night light in a safe place in your bedroom and sit on the bed
facing it, well propped up on pillows.
In the semi-darkness gently smell either a
bottle of rose or lavender essential oil or rose or lavender cologne or your
favourite gentle fragrance.
Imagine yourself in a beautiful rose garden or
field of lavender or some other flowery place.
Finally sprinkle just a drop or two of the scent
on your pillow to transfer the experience to the realms of sleep.
Blow out the candle and close your eyes, in your
imagination stepping through the flowers, field upon field, until at last you
sink down among the fragrant blossoms into the world of dreams.
For psychic dreams of past worlds or for glimpses
into the future light a candle scented with sandalwood, frankincense or myrrh.
This time allow a question to formulate quite
spontaneously in your mind. The choice may surprise you. Repeat this question
in your mind slower and slower until your inner voice becomes silent.
Blow out the candle so the lingering fragrance
can continue to work as you all asleep.
Now whisper the question over and over again
until you drift into sleep.
Your dream will contain scenes or symbols that
when you wake will fill your mind with optimism and creative opportunities or
solutions to problems. If in doubt about the meaning of the dream smell the
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