Vignette: The Mystery of Owls, Oregano, and Courage

Vignette: The Mystery of Owls, Oregano, and Courage

The owl had been watching me before I saw him. I heard the ruffle of wings and looked up. He was perched on a low branch on the path I was on. I had never seen such a big owl so close. As I walked closer slowly. He made motions to move by remained and then flew on a branch ahead and watched me some more. 

Earlier that summer I had seen an owl as I drove up north.  It was merely a sighting, but noteworthy as I rarely see owls.  But in late summer, I came to a dead stop on a forest road to prevent running over an owl. This owl stood calmly in the middle of the road and stared at me with not an ounce of concern or fear. Eventually, it hopped out of my car’s headlights and flew away. 

One of my friends believed that she has a connection to crows.  When she sees crows multiple times, she believes they come with a message. I looked up owls on the internet. I checked the google and found that the Ojibwe see the owl as a harbinger of death. Some feel they are cursed when they see an owl. A dear elderly loved one of mine was undergoing a surgery soon, and I have to admit my mind did immediately race to dark thoughts.

But then I remembered how much I loved to draw owls as a child. They are an animal easily recognized in children’s drawing. They are iconic. I recently read a drawing of an owl was found in early cave drawing in France. And somehow I couldn’t help feeling that the owls appearance in my life was important, but that the meaning would have to be gleamed another way than from the google. 

It got me to think about essentials oils and their effect on our emotional states. Rose Rock for trauma and feeling victimized. Cypress for transitions. Oregano for courage. 

Aromatherapy is going through a transition to becoming professional and this backed by peer review research, double blind tests, and the latest of pharmacology of examining the effect of the essential oil constituents in body and attempting to trace the cascade of events that occur on the cellular or molecular level.  As a trained scientist in academia, I love this.

I wonder what we lose when we try to reduce the complexity of nature to a mechanistic model. How do we measure courage? Where does it come from?  And how did our ancestors decide that oregano reduced fear and bolster courage?

One study has found that oregano oil affects the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Does it calm the TLR2 and 4 gene that is thought to be expressed by chronic unpredictable stress. Others conclude that it is the thymol and carvacrol components in oregano essential oil that decrease inflammation. And at this point, any professionally trained aromatherapist would be wondering why oregano when other essential oils such as thyme have these components. So again my question remains why oregano and courage?

And this is how I felt about my owl sightings. Why harbingers of death? They are predators but so are hawks and wolves.

One clinical aromatherapist wrote that it was nearly impossible to overcome the subconscious personal link we have with aroma, meaning that a negative experience with oregano would make it  very difficult to use it  as a personal ally.

More bluntly, no matter the clinical evidence for an essential oil, a personal bad experience would be difficult to overcome. Aromatics in essential oils trigger the olfactory and affect the subconscious and bring forth memories.

As for owls, that mystery was solved. My loved one sailed through her surgery. It was successful with no complications and brought her a renewal on life. Were the owls incorrect? 

It was in the wee hours one morning when I remembered. I have always been a light sleeper with troubling dreams and nightmares to wake me up. Frost had covered the landscape and people were sharing their experiences on social media. The rime ice was beautiful in the early morning cold light.  I watched the birds outside my window while I drank my tea. And I memory came rushing back in an instant of being five and looking out the window at some hour when I was supposed to be in bed. Behind my house was a farm and in the field was a tree snag. And on it an owl would fluidly land and sit. Like most five-year-olds, I thought the owl was watching me as it looked in my direction. I thought the owl was watching over me, and it brought me courage.