Anointing for the Journey

Last rites have been performed as a ceremony of anointing for thousands of years, and as a method of preparing one to let go of the body and transcend the human experience. There is an inherent remembrance in our soul of the fragrances that have been used to assist us in preparing for this sacred journey, and the mere aroma of some of the ancient sacred oils, can help the body relax and bring peace to the body, mind and soul.

The traditional oils used for Last Rites, sometimes called Extreme Unction, are frankincense and myrrh, with frankincense being used because of its ability to help us transcend our consciousness and reach into altered states of perception, or higher states of awareness. I have witnessed many loved ones as they begin to experience the presence of angels, or other loved ones who have passed on, standing by their sides awaiting the time when their escort is required for the journey. The essential oils help bring an awareness of this rarefied consciousness to the departing soul.

On the 11th of November, an auspicious date for many, I had the honor and privilege of assisting my dear sweet Aunt in leaving her body. Not only am I a licensed minister, but a loving niece and so the perfect person to assist in her labor of dying. I got the call from hospice in the morning that she was entering into a state of transition, so I prepared a blend of frankincense, myrrh and spikenard and hurried to her side. Frankincense has the psychoactive properties necessary to help and assist the mind in opening up to other states of awareness, the ability to see beyond the grave so to speak. Myrrh has traditionally been used to preserve the body in preparation for burial, and spikenard has been used in a similar manner as frankincense and in fact, has been written about extensively in the Bible, and was used most notably by Mary Magdalene to anoint the feet of Jesus.

So anointing blend in hand, I arrived to find my Aunt in a labored stage of breathing. Death comes like birth, through labor. Having attended both birth and death before, I have found the two so similar, it’s almost uncanny. My Aunt seemed to be struggling with her breath, so I immediately anointed her head, her third eye, her heart, her palms and the soles of her feet, and softly began to chant the primal sound of OM, breathing deeply and loudly. I held the oils in front of her nose and watched as her body began to soften and relax.

My family of love was there with me, holding space and energy to assist my Aunt in her letting go, giving her permission to leave, and thanking her for all she had been to us, and the magnificence of who she was on this Earth. For the one making their transition out of the body, it is extremely helpful to be surrounded with loved ones who have reconciled the departing and give the soul permission to leave. When we release our loved ones in such a loving and forgiving manner, the soul feels freed to make the journey without attachment.

While my Aunt appeared to be unconscious, her breath began to regulate its self to mine, mimicking the deep rhythmic pattern I set for her. I focused attention on my exhale, knowing that with an exhalation, the soul begins its journey out of the body, just as a newborn begins its journey into the body with an inhalation.

For hours, I sat with her, massaging the oils into her spine and allowing the central nervous system to relax, to become more rhythmic and balanced. The labor softened, and she made her release at 12:12 AM. I am eternally grateful that I could be by her side, and prepare her, aid and assist in helping her body to pass gracefully and peacefully.

The art of conscious dying is greatly enhanced using the ancient oils that have been traditionally used for thousands of years for great reason. I am astonished each time I have the privilege of attending a passing and get to use essential oils to anoint the body, how powerful the effects can be on the body and soul of the dying. Anointing with essential oils is truly one of the most powerful tools we can have in our tool kit for consciously assisting our loved ones in all manners and rites of passage.