Australian Sandalwood (santalum spicatum) – The Cinderella (or “Ugly Duckling”) of Aromatherapy

I had a very profound, very emotional interaction with Australian Sandalwood (santalum spicatum) essential oil last evening at the Aromatherapy Meet Up group I host in Santa Fe, NM. The topic of the evening was the spiritual and intuitive use of essential oils, and one of the experiences we shared was the exploration of inter-species communication, with the plants and trees (via their essence) as the species of choice. Each person picked an the essence out of the 20 I had brought, to commune with, in most cases, allowing the essence to pick them (i.e., just choosing an essence without looking at the label).

My instructions were as follows: “If you are familiar with your essential oil, ask her to share something with you that you don’t already know. If you are unfamiliar with your essential oil, ask what purposes she serves, and what, in particular, she has to share with you.” People could smell their essence, apply several drops, just hold the bottle…whatever they felt called to do. Then, they were to just sit in communion with the energy and spirit of that essence for 5 minutes.

When it came time to share what had happened during this “excercise”, many felt that they just didn’t have words, at that point, to describe their experience. I had had a profound experience with Sandalwood (Aus.), which I shared with the Meet Up group, and that I wish to share here.

sandalwood treeI had brought both Australian and Indian Sandalwood (santalum album) essential oils to the aromatherapy meeting; the essence that chose me was the Australian Sandalwood. My first “act” was to read the label, to see the country of origin, so that I would know which Sandalwood I was holding. In general, Australian Sandalwood is considered somewhat of a “step sister” to Indian Sandalwood, the latter being the “mother” essence, the ancient one, the sacred one, the known one. Australian Sandalwood has been cultivated to offer an additional source ofSandalwood essential oil, as there is such high demand for the pure essence, and India will not always be able to meet that demand. Also, the “premium” Indian Sandalwood is very costly…our (Wisdom of the Earth’s) pure medicinal grade is $90 for a 5 ml bottle, compared to $68 for the Australian…so there has also been a desire to provide a lower cost, but still pure and effective, option for aromatherapists and perfumists. All of this is background for what happened next.

As I beheld Sandalwood, and took that fateful glance at the area of the label thatsandalwood berries indicates country of origin, the thought flitted thorugh my mind “Oh, I got Australian (not Indian) Sandalwood”, the implication being, I got the “second best” essence, and a little wave of disappointment went through me. She felt it. I put several drops of Sandalwood on my third eye and over my heart…and then I was flooded with the memory of my sister and I, still small children, each of us holding one of my dad’s hands. We were standing in line at the bank, and a fellow customer had struck up a conversation with my dad. “Oh, are those your little girls?” he asked? My dad said yes…and then the gentleman said, “do you have any sons?” No….my dad said. “Oh, that’s too bad”, the gentleman said, disappointment clear in his voice and his face. I don’t remember what my dad said, if anything. I honestly couldn’t hear, still smarting from the sting of this stranger’s comment. And he wasn’t the first, nor the last to comment on my father’s lack of sons in my presence. So, deeply, I knew, have known, and know what it feels like to be considered “less than”, “not as good as”, etc., because of my gender.

Sandalwood now entered the picture. “I am for all of those who have been made to feel ‘less than’ or ‘not good enough’ because of who they are. I support them in shining their light SO BRIGHT that they cannot be denied. It is not about being in competition with anyone else, or trying to be better than them because of how you have been made to feel. It is about being your true, authentic, best self, and letting that speak more loudly than any disparagement, any slight ever could.” I pondered that for a while, going back and forth with Australian Sandalwood in a silent, deep emotional exchange.

I then asked her if she was a wound healer. “Ahh”, she said. “I am for unseen wounds…wounds of the heart, of the spirit. While they don’t show on the surface of the body, they need healing attention as much as any cut or scrape. I help to heal those wounds that you carry– silently, painfully– so that you can be strongly and fully in the power of who you truly are.”

And so…Australian Sandalwood…often seen as the lesser of the two Sandalwoods most commonly known, has taken that diminishing label and used it to offer great healing to those also diminished by society, their families, or their colleagues, for some perceived failing, whether it be the color of their skin, their country of origin, their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, their gender, the college they attended, their physical abilities, etc.

Australian Sandalwood, I honor you for your courage and your beauty, and I deeply apologize for my slight…so very unconscious to me, but so very apparent to you.

Shared with love,

Audre Gutierrez

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