The perfume Lunae Signa et Stellas is a phrase taken from one of Ficino’s works and means ‘Signs of the Moon and Stars’. In this perfume I have sought to paint an aromatic portrait of Ficino and the planets, plants and places that were medicine for his soul: night-scented gardens, the opening and closing of heliotropic plants as the followed the sun, the resinous tears of trees, the fleeting beauty of spirit and the dazzle of a gemstone.
So who was Ficino?
Marsilio Ficino [1433-1499] was a philosopher, physician and priest who lived in Florence in the 1400s. In many ways Ficino catalysed the artistic outpourings of the renaissance age. catalysed the creativity of the renaissance age. He inspired many creative minds including the symbolism Botticelli invoked in his painting Primavera. Artists, scholars and alchemists studied at his feet. Under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici and on down to his grandson Lorenzo ‘the great’, Ficino seeded the Neoplatonic movement via his translations of the texts of Plato, Plotinus and others from Greek into Latin for the first time. He also translated the Hermetica, the works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.
The "hermetic tradition" refers to alchemy, magic, astrology and related subjects such as herbalism, all of which Ficino was expert. He was also a skilled musician and would play 'the music of the spheres as a form of astrological music therapy for his patients. He embodied the hermetic idea of seeing ourselves as a microcosm of the macrocosm.
In many ways one could describe Ficino as a renaissance ecotherapist. His approach to the care of body and soul was deeply rooted in our relationship with nature and cosmos. Planetary aspects, gemstones, plants, landscape, art and music were all prescribed parts of his treatment plans.
Clearly brilliant, Ficino was also prone to deep melancholia and said that he suffered from ‘too much of Saturn’s influence’ in his chart. This melancholy found its voice in his writings, including the profound work ‘Three Books on Life’, his ardent letters and in his playing of an Orphic lyre.
How did I decide to respond to Ficino with aromatics?
The materials I choose to respond to Ficino with are all informed by his astrological and medical writings. I have identified plants and the astrological correlations to Ficino’s own natal chart, plotting his connections to nature and cosmos in the same way he would do for his patients. It was this astrological mapping of a person that Ficino saw as the starting place of deeply understanding their needs; and so I too feel it is the starting place to select materials that are inspired by him.
I also take note of his writings on nature as part of his therapy. For example, he spoke of the benefits of walking at night in scented gardens and so I have selected narcotic notes of plants such as jasmine, honeysuckle and ylang ylang. Saturn in his chart is referenced in tree essences and resins and Jupiter, that planet of expansive thinking is signified by other aromatics.
“As the power of our soul is always applied through the spirit, so the power of the World Soul is diffused in all things through the quintessence, which flourishes everywhere as spirit within the World Body.
We can absorb it through more frequent use of things rich in it – things exceptionally pure, like choice wine and vinegar, balsam and gold, precious stones, myrobalan; things which smell sweet and glitter, especially things with a subtle essence, things warm, moist and clear; not only wine but especially gold or the fragrance of cinnamon and roses.”
—MARSILIO FICINO [1433-1499]
How does Ficino influence me?
It was the 15th Century alchemist Paracelsus who first led me to Ficino because I had read somewhere that Ficino had influenced him and I was curious to know more. When I read Ficino’s Three Books on Life I was hooked. In particular, I found that Ficino’s melancholy touched me, and his descriptions of our relationship with nature and cosmos resonated throughout my soul and my work. I felt like he was touching my shoulder and asking me to carry on where he had left off.
For a number of years now, he has influenced my work with clients, especially people I coach or support as they face their own mortality. Sometimes this involves simply reading from his works, and at others he helps me convey my own feelings about how our relationship with nature and our understanding of planetary influences can help us make sense of our life, can light a spark for our own creativity and give us ways to navigate life, and the end of life.
His ideas around the importance of art, colour and music to our wellbeing is wonderful and I have spent considerable time exploring and working with his sense of how art, amulets, gemstones and plants can help us draw down the influences we need from the heavens. He sees each person in a truly holistic way and has helped me do the same.
I must also thank Ficino for leading me on to another wonderful physician of the soul, the author and former monk Thomas Moore. While Thomas is better known for his bestselling book Care of the Soul, it was his book about Ficino, The Planets Within that I read first and that I adore. You can listen to a conversation Thomas and I had about Ficino and caring for the soul at the end of life here.
There is a branch of astrology called synastry which provides a way of seeing how two people may influence each other. I was curious and looked at our charts together. It turns out there was generous inspiration on both sides and planetary notes of deep friendship and loving encouragement.
He has reached down through the ages and helped me in so many ways. This perfume is a way of offering thanks and gratitude and enabling the essence of the man and his mind to be absorbed into the body and energy of others.