September 27, 2014
NAHA Conference Banner with Roxana Illuminated Solid Perfume
Ladies and gentlemen from around the globe amassed for the 7th International Conference of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Titled Beyond Aromatics, the soiree was held at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington from September 12th-14th, 2014.
Bastyr garden, fever few plant Photo by Roxana Villa
Appropriately coined "the Harvard of natural medicine" by author Gabriel Mojay, the University is located within a tranquil forest park near Seattle. The site, with its gorgeous organic herb and vegetable garden, was the perfect setting for a gathering of devotees of nature and wholistic healing.
Lotus illustration for the World of Aromatherapy Conference 2000 ©Roxana Villa
In 1996, while still working fulltime as a freelance illustrator and beginning my journey into aromatic medicine, I attended the 1st NAHA conference held at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Afterward I became a member of the organization and began professional studies of aromatherapy with my mentor Jade Shutes.
Lavender photo, ©Roxana Villa
The congregation in Seattle felt very heartfelt and intimate with a range of speakers and attendees including distillers, health practitioners and educators. I arrived Thursday afternoon with my husband, artist Greg Spalenka. We were housed in the uber green student village lined with lavender hedges. Each morning I would rise early and take a leisurely walk through the vast garden on my way to the communal breakfast in the cafeteria. Presentations began Friday morning opening with an insightful view of the global landscape of Aromatherapy delivered by Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, who had us all chuckling as he retold the creation story from the perspective of aromatic molecules. The oration was compelling and mind expansive as he pointed out how corporate science limits our perspective of the effects of essential oils.
David Crow photo by Roxana Villa
David Crow, my first teacher of aromatics, enchanted us with a dialogue on Cosmic Chemistry challenging us to a collective awakening with an intention of creating a sustainable spiritual culture. In the presentation he included footage of growers and distillers of Helichrysum italicum that he has been working with in Corsica. Although the region is known for abundant amounts of the golden flowering shrub the plant is suffering due to ecological factors.
Proceediings book for the conference which was available for sale
On Saturday afternoon I presented “The Tree of Life: A Mystical Approach to the Art of Botanical Perfumery” a rather esoteric impression on art, alchemy and perfume, offering an alternate perspective on learning. I began with the history of botanical perfume, going all the way back to the 1st scent molecules produced by the conifers progressing to todays modern botanical perfumers which holds the seeds of aromatherapy, art, herbalism and alchemy.
Roxana Villa and Greg Spalenka Photo: Gergely Hollodi
(The Tree of Life: A Mystical Approach to the Art of Botanical Perfumery lecture presented at the Beyond Aromatics conference at Bastyr University in September 2014 for NAHA, The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy.Greg Spalenka)
The tree, with its abundant use in spiritual and philosophical doctrines became the anchor emblem as I took the audience on a Delphic journey. The piece was somewhat theatrical in its delivery with a moving feast of imagery orchestrated by Greg.
Roxana Villa after her presentation discussing the the principals in the creation of Greenwitch perfume: Photo Gabriel Mojay
Following the lecture I shared my process on how to create a botanical perfume using the systems highlighted in the slide show.
Jade Shutes Aromatherapy and Ayurvedic Principals
On Sunday, the last day of the conference, I was able to catch two morning presentations. The first was “Staying Healthy through the Seasons with Aromatherapy and Ayurvedic Principals” with Jade Shutes. The interaction workshop began with an introduction to the Five Element Theory of Ayurveda followed by a four page questionnaire to ascertain our particular dosha. Most of us were a combination of two, such as Vata/Pitta. Of all the wonderous information gathered through out the conference this workshop was the most practical for me, which I continue apply daily with new insights about the current season, myself and beneficial practices.
Gabriel Mojay photo, Roxana Villa
Next was one of my personal favorite authors in the field of Aromatherapy, Gabriel Mojay with Aromasophia: The Symbolic Meanings and Traditional Medicinal Uses of Key Aromatic Plants; The Aromatherapeutic Value of Such Study. Gabriel took us on a very in depth overview of the herb Rosemary and the flower Rose from the arcane to the scientific, with gorgeous imagery to accompany his voice.
Cathy Skipper, Photo: Gergely Holliday
There were a total of fourteen lectures and six workshops during the three days, along with an exhibitor area and lots of opportunities for conversation. On Monday, following the conference Cathy Skipper from France led a post conference workshop titled “Looking at the way essential oil’s different layers of action help to heal the ‘whole’ person.” which had students in the evergreen forest that lines the campus of Bastyr.
Essential Oil Bottles given to attendees, photo Roxana Villa
Each attendee of the conference was given a organic hemp shopping bag containing a variety of goodies including essential oils, hydrosols and a plethora of wonderful bath and body products. My personal favorite has been the Rasayana Body.
Oil by Lady of the Lotus.
The fragrance industry is a vast, dynamic landscape of products labeled as perfume, articulated by variances in the raw materials being utilized and how the scented items are formulated. Adding more complexity is a varied spectrum of business models from large fragrance houses (some of which have existed over one hundred years) to the uber niche perfumers hand making items in their kitchens. Never before, in the history of the field of fragrance, have we had such a range.
Tree of Life, collage by Roxana Villa
Aromatherapy is a branch of the Tree of Herbalism aligned with those practicing botanical perfume, a segment of fragrance makers consciously choosing to work with a restricted palette of whole ingredients without isolates and/or animal product.
Valerie Cooksley and Roxana Villa, photo by Gergely Hollodi
The Beyond Aromatics conference was such a powerful yet sweet event, compromised of healers and those working directly with plants. I feel so extremely grateful to have been part of this community and the opportunity to share what I have gleaned as an artist and promoter of nature. It was also a thrill to be amongst my peers and many authors I’ve admired since 1996 (such as Valerie Cooksley, pictured in the photo).
Many thanks to Michelyn and to ÇaFleureBon for their continued support of the botanical perfumery community and for giving me a platform to publish this article.
In the spirit of sharing, I am offering a US reader their choice of one gram of either Q or Hedera Helix, which are both part of my Tree Orgham series. To be eligible please let me know what you found interesting about my the Beyond Aromatics Conference. Draw closes September 30, 2014
Editor's Note: I encourgage you to spend 16 minutes and watch Roxana’s multi media presentation on the history of perfume, alchemy and our intrinsic connection with nature. It is a stunningly beautiful and mesmerizing film that Greg created after the conference; a sensorial feast for the eyes and for the spirit -MC