This post is a personal, creative exploration of the alchemical processes as outlined in coursework I’m taking through AromaGnosis. It is not intended as medical or psychological advice, treatment, or mitigation of physical or emotional issues whatsoever. Please see your licensed healthcare professional and/or mental healthcare professional for serious or chronic issues immediately. See important note at the bottom of this post for domestic abuse assistance.
Also, this post refers to alchemical processes as realized for personal transformation, not actual chemical transformation, though some chemical transformative processes may be alluded to as metaphor.
“Don’t be angry.”
How many times have we heard this in our lifetime? Don’t get upset. Don’t be mad. Simmer down.
Maybe my foundations are like yours. I was raised in a very polite, white, Anglo-American, protestant family. Fiery emotions were not encouraged nor were they displayed. We were not one to speak up or out. Though my family loved to have a good time, raised voices in anger was as foreign to us as spicy ethnic dishes for dinner. I remember my mother cursing once, when she and my dad attempted to erect a metal shed on a windy day. One utterance of shit and I feared the end of sheltered family bliss as I knew it. I admire the restraint my parents had on their emotions around us as children, on some level, but I wonder, was it healthy?
Calcinatio is the alchemical process by which a reaction is manifested upon the heating of a substance, ultimately changing the chemical and/or physical structure of the substance. The word Calcinatio comes from the Latin, calcinare, which according to Dr. Florian Birkmayer of AromaGnosis, refers to the process Romans used to heat limestone, relatively useless to them, into quicklime (a substance in concrete), which proved more useful for their needs. When imagining this transformative heating process, I think of artisans turning sand into beautiful, colorful blown-glass vessels, bubbles, and figures. I imagine the controlled burns many national parks must conduct to help maintain safe levels of growth and soil health. I see blacksmiths shaping red hot swords with heavy steel hammers over an open flame.
In working through Calcinatio for our own personal transformation, however, we’re dealing with an emotional born fire by which our unconscious is heated and brought to awareness like bubbles rising to the surface of a hot springs pool.
Feeling our fire can be painful and messy. It can be surprising and alarming in its quick, expansive power. It is hot and uncomfortable. But it can also provide a certain liberation and fortification.
In my coursework, Aromatherapy and Medicine for the Soul with AromaGnosis, Calcinatio was described by therapist and author Sharon Martin as the following, from “The Alchemy of Anger” (Jung Society of Atlanta, Spring 2012):
Anger corresponds to the alchemical stage calcinatio and the element associated with it is fire. Calcinatio images are of fire and heat, which are associated with erotic love, as well as the suffering connected with primitive anger, fury, and frustration, which are usually triggered in love relationships. The calcinatio represents being burned up or consumed by the fires of one’s unmet desires, blocked instincts, passions and rages, in other words, one’s own personal hell. If this intense affect can be endured, it can have a refining and consolidating effect, for it is also associated with the flames of the funeral pyre, which signify transformation.
Martin continues with the important reminder, “In this psychic space the issue is not so much to “get the anger out” as it is to learn to trust oneself enough to be able to contain such powerful feelings. In rage lie the seeds of considerable strength of will and survival capacity.”
Martin suggests we are the trustworthy vessels of our emotions. All of them. So, in effect, we are our own safe space, our own fire-proof cauldron to hold and manage our intense heat. Interestingly, I learned through this course that the chakra associated with Calcinatio is not the solar plexus, manipura, (as I had assumed with its fire association), but the root, muladhara, which is most commonly associated with the earth element – not the earth as we might immediately think, the rich soil we sink our knuckles into when we need to feel grounded and connected to stability, but the hot core of the planet Earth, the place where magma forms, the place that still burns from the collision and creation of itself.
When discussing emotions with those interested in using aromatherapy as an ally for self-balance, I’m most often met with confessions of anxiety or depression. Only occasionally will a person name their issue as anger, and even fewer can source the root of their anger, only that they have seemingly uncontrollable eruptions of heated emotions they feel need managed. Managed is a good word to attach to anger, as in Anger Management. The anger we feel bubble to the surface as the symptom of our unconscious feelings and frustrations is not something to immediately extinguish, hide or feel shameful of. Just as a fever is symptomatic of infection in the physical body, anger is a messenger from the deepest, most primitive part of our being that needs to be heard and given a safe container to burn within, completely, in order for the healing work to be done.
Fire transforms whatever is in its path. It burns away what isn’t meant to last. It is not an energy to fear but an element to respect, so long as there is proper containment. When used skillfully, fire gives shape, beauty, and strength to what endures.
For your exploration
Have you considered exploring heated emotions through art? Whatever your medium: paint and canvas, paper and oil pastels, music, writing, dance, pottery, etc., exploring our personal fire through art can offer insight, revelations, and release.
Essential oils to welcome you back from the fire
Rose otto (Rosa damascena): According to Gabriel Mojay (Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit), rose is “cool and moist in nature.” Known for its ability to address excess inflammation in the body, rose also comes to our aid when our emotions feel our flame. Rose’s calming embrace reassures that we are wonderfully loved and supported, no matter what.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum): Helichrysum encourages acceptance and transformation. Valerie Ann Worwood writes in Aromatherapy for the Soul, helichrysum is for “the walking wounded” – “those who cannot reminisce for fear of painful emotions that may be remembered.” So as helichrysum encourages the healing of scars, even those the body has long known, so too might it encourage the healing of our emotional wounds so that we may move on.
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis): Sweet orange is known as the “Anger Management” oil in aromatherapy. Like most citrus, sweet orange aids our digestive processes, stimulates stagnant energy, and helps us to lighten up, energetically. You’ll notice sweet orange in many synergistic blends for sleep support. As the old saying goes, it’s best not to go to bed angry.
Important notice: You are never responsible for how others choose to express their anger. If you are in a relationship where your partner or spouse’s anger is expressed in harmful, violent ways mentally or physically to you, your children, or to elders, please seek help immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline confidentially at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to learn more about resources available to you.
If you feel your anger is harmful to yourself, your spouse, your children, or to elders, please call the National Violence Hotline for help at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to learn more about resources available to you.