Last weekend I attended the Forcalquier Yoga Festival and discovered a museum and mini university that almost seemed custom designed for me, the Université Européenne des Senteurs & Saveurs.
In the smallest museum ever, I would lose myself for 2 hours in the history of the local ‘Mountain of Lure’, the plants that could be found at varying levels of its altitude, its ancient herbalist families, the pickers and peddlers of the past and a corridor of scents distilled from local plants in the present.
The wide variety of mountain flowers provided many of the inhabitants of the villages of the southern foothills with access to medicinal plants and therefore a living. The history of the pickers and peddlers was recorded as early as 1540 in the village of Lardiers, where many harvesters who gathered the herbs, set off from to sell them in the lower regions of Provence.
Transported by donkey, mule or horseback, the peddlers braved snowstorms, river floods and ‘highwaymen’ in order to supply the ‘apothecaries’ of that era.
In 1778, a re-birth of herbalism occurred, with the creation of the first herbalist diploma at the faculty of Medicine, however sadly in 1945 the profession and it’s qualifications were abolished, coinciding with and allowing the rise of big pharma.
Even if there are currently no official herbalists in France, fortunately today, the profession is in the process of being revived, as people again become interested in the origins and naturally occurring properties of medicinal plants and the collectors of plants and those who’ve retained this knowledge and wish to share it, work towards recognition.
The scent of this cedarwood above was magical, I kept squeezing the rubber air pump to emit the scent, high on a magnificent, sweet, woody, balsamic aroma. Absolutely love it!
According to Gabriel Mojay, teacher and author of my favourite aromatherapy text, Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit:
“Cedarwood can give us immovable strength in times of crisis. Steadying the conscious mind, it helps us resist the sudden events and powerful emotions that threaten to undermine our confidence and morale. It can ‘buck-up’ the ego when we feel alienated or destablised – when we find ourselves, for example, suffering from ‘culture shock’ in a foreign country or in a strange situation.”