The Spikenard Experiment
By Karen Pereczes
As appeared in Kindred Spirit magazine. Copyright Karen Pereczes & Kindred Spirit 2005.
Spikenard, or nard as it is also known, is the plant Nardostachys jatamansi (or Nardostachys grandiflora) of the Valerian family. This plant - indigenous to India, China and Nepal - produces an earthy, musky-scented oil that is spiritually believed to be one of the highest vibrating substances on the planet.
Mary Magdalene, also known as Mary of Bethany, famously anointed Jesus with spikenard oil, in what is probably the most evocative image in the Bible:
'Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly,
and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair;
the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.' (John - Chapter 12: 3)
The Beloved Community
James Twyman is an internationally renowned author, singer and 'spiritual peacemaker', whose peace projects inspire millions of people worldwide. James is also the founder of the present day Beloved Community: "But," he explains, "I'm certainly not the founder of this lineage, which is an extension of the 1st century Community of the Beloved Disciple, founded by both St. John and Mary Magdalene. At that time, it was essentially the feminine expression of the early Christian community, where there was no go-between between the individual and God - it was all about personal experience." Though it has its roots in esoteric Christianity, the Beloved Community strives to honour all paths to God, especially as they relate to inner and world peace.
Earlier this year, the Beloved Community invited people to take part in a unique experiment with spikenard... the first time in history that nard had been tested for its spiritual and psychological benefits.13,000 people from all over the world responded.
Says James: "We sent a certain amount of spikenard oil to each person, asking them to use the oil for 28 days - to meditate with it, to maybe anoint themselves with it before they go to sleep, and perhaps come up with their own creative new experiments. The results were then recorded by a questionnaire on our website."
The money from the project went to fund a new peace and meditation centre in Jerusalem, where spiritual leaders can gather to share ideas and offer creative solutions.
Scents of Knowing
Jack Chaitman and Joana Johnston from 'Scents of Knowing' in Hawaii helped to secure the oil and set up specific parameters for the distillation apparatus for the project, involving a unique process based on ancient methods called hydro-distillation. This unorthodox method has led Jack to be called 'the pirate distiller': "The plant material is placed in water as opposed to steam passing through it. It's a very gentle distillation process that takes time."
They also supply the Beloved Community with a special blend - combining spikenard essential oil, organic jojoba oil, Maui beeswax and the natural waxes of flowers. Jack's knowledge of essential oils comes from thousands of hours of direct experience with them, and their effects on others: "The plants, like people, work a little bit differently with each person. Generally speaking, I feel that spikenard helps clear doubts in the heart area. Especially if you feel like you don't deserve love, of spirit or of another person. It will help clear those self-doubts and bring you to a place where you can receive that love."
Jack and Joana have sustainability and organic projects taking place all over the world - as plants must be distilled in their country of origin. In India, for every fifty kilos of spikenard that they take out of the ground they're planting one hundred.
The 'Anointed One'
Long believed to be a reformed prostitute and 'sinner', Mary Magdalene is now being accepted as one of Jesus' disciples. This, believes Lynn Picknett - author of 'Mary Magdalene: Christianity's Hidden Goddess' - goes nowhere near far enough. Lynn believes that the 'apostle of apostles' was arguably the most important woman in history. The anointing ritual with spikenard is one of especially sacred and important significance as, says Lynn: "The major point is that 'Christ' means 'Anointed One' - yet there is only one anointing in the New Testament... and it's performed by Mary Magdalene."
The disciples were outraged by what they considered 'a waste of the ointment', as it was exceptionally expensive - estimated to cost a year's wages for the average worker in 1st century Israel. Jesus' reply was this:
"Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on me.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could:
she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this gospel shall be preached
throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done
be spoken of for a memorial of her."
(Mark - Chapter 14: 4-9)
Lynn explains: "It cost so much because it had to be imported from India - home of the sacred sexual art of tantrism, in which it was reserved for the anointing of the feet and hair, thus raising interesting suggestions about what Mary's anointing was really for. Spikenard was also linked to preparation for burial. But clearly the ritual of anointing was completely beyond the understanding of the male disciples. Not for the first time do they come over as rather dim and not in on Jesus' secrets. But only by reading the Gnostic Gospels do we find out why... Mary Magdalene was his second-in-command and chosen successor, and not St. Peter."
Indeed, after the crucifixion, St. Peter's teachings became the foundation for a patriarchal church. Says James: "Each of the apostles who had had personal experience with Jesus taught the gospel according to their understanding of it. St. Peter's teaching was much more masculine - it was all about setting up a hierarchy, priesthood and a go-between - separating the individual and god, where women were not given the same prestige as men."
The Return of the Divine Feminine
Says Joana: "The rejected feminine is being recognised more so now than at any other time in history. This is something that has been talked of for many years, especially in the time of what was politically called feminism. Today we're more environmentally aware of how we've rejected the earth and the feminine. For me, the renewed interest in the mysteries that the Magdalene is a part of represents the return of the goddess. During the time of patriarchy she remained alive and now, like an underground stream that emerges, she is making herself known in different ways - from the esoteric work of James Twyman to the writing of Dan Brown - whose best-seller 'The Da Vinci Code' is reaching the mainstream popular novel-reading culture."
The return of the divine feminine aspect of Christ-consciousness has long been prophesised. Explains James: "The prophecy essentially came about when two things happened. Firstly, Jesus gave the care of his mother to St. John when he was being crucified. That was symbolic of his community holding on to, or caring for, that divine feminine energy. Secondly, he had told John that he and his disciples would see the Second Coming, which they believed would mean the release of the Divine Feminine into the world. Although many of them believed they would see it during their lifetime, I think that what Jesus meant was that this community, or this aspect of his message being the feminine aspect, would continue for many generations in different forms, until the time would come when the world would be ready to bring balance between that masculine and feminine energy. What we basically believe in the Beloved Community is that that time is right now."
The Song of Solomon
The anointing with spikenard is associated with the sacred marriage or divine union - an ancient pagan sexual rite known as the 'hieros gamos' in ancient texts. Many theologians believe that this indicates an intimate connection between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, since the people of the time would have recognised it as a ritual wherein the bride of the king anoints her husband. This is suggested in the Old Testament in the 'Song of Solomon', when the 'Beloved' says:
the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell
thereof.' (Song of Solomon 1: 12)
In the Gnostic gospels of the Nag Hammadi, discovered in Egypt in 1945, it is confirmed:
...the companion of the Saviour is Mary Magdalene. But Christ loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on the mouth. The rest of the disciples were offended... They said to him, 'Why do you love her more than all of us?'
Gospel of Thomas).
In the Nag Hammadi and other Gnostic texts, Jesus referred to Mary Magdalene as 'The All' and 'The Woman Who Knows All', which suggests that either she alone intimately knew his innermost secrets or that she had secret knowledge of her own. Interestingly, Isis - the Egyptian goddess of love - was also known as 'The All'.
St. Sarah and the Indigo Children
James Twyman is the executive producer and writer of the award winning film Indigo - co-written and starring Neale Donald Walsch - author of the Conversations With God series of books, and produced by Stephen Simon - producer of What Dreams May Come and Somewhere in Time.
Indigo is a film about loneliness, redemption and the healing powers of the new generation of psychic and gifted children being born into the world. Says James: "The term 'Indigo children' came about because of the colour of their auras. They are aware of their mission on the planet, are perfectly balanced between their masculine and feminine energies and are finding creative ways to extend that out into the world to heal and bless. One could say that most of the children being born today are Indigo children."
James explains how his projects - the spikenard experiment and Indigo film - are connected: "One of the legends about Mary Magdalene and Jesus is that together they had a child - a little girl whose name was Sarah. Mary brought Sarah to France when she was thirteen, where she was called St. Sarah. In a way, one could say that Sarah represents the combination of both the Divine Masculine and Feminine energies. So, symbolically, Sarah is the patron saint of Indigo children because she is the combination of everything that these children are about. Some of these children have profound psychic or healing powers, others have strong intuition or great wisdom. In a way, this is the natural result of evolution... we should only expect that our children are going to come into the world at a slightly higher vibration than we did."
The Magdalene Priestess
Says Jack: "Priests and Priestesses had been using these plant oils for a long time. They knew how powerful they are and were well versed their uses... there are recipes on temple walls in Egypt. We know distillation in China is 6,000 years old and 5,000 years old in India - certainly before the Biblical story actually took place. These were the most highly honoured and valuable substances on earth at that time - frankincense was worth more than its weight in gold."
Priests and Priestesses had great knowledge of using these oils in different emotional situations. The fact that Mary knew which oil to use reveals her wisdom.
Jack explains: "Only a Priestess would know if there was something going on in the heart area that needed to be cleared - that's what she would have used... the spikenard, or a blend of spikenard."
"I think that the Magdalene and Jesus were teachers together. She knew precisely which oil to put on him for whatever he was going through - just as Jack will know to apply a certain oil on me accordingly," agrees Joana.
The Spikenard Effect
Many who took part in the experiment with spikenard reported its beneficial healing properties - inspiring devotion and resulting in a new level and depth of trust in their lives, as well as a heightened awareness of the connection between all living things. Reveals James: "There is a certain remembrance that comes up in me whenever I use the oil. It is so familiar and also so grounding that it just seems to bring me to a very deep place within myself. I use it before I go to sleep every night and have definitely felt it affect my dreams. One of the wonderful things about spikenard and how it was used in the past is that it was used to clear doubt. I have felt that, in my own life as well, it has helped to make me stronger and to resolve some of the doubts I've had. It has been a very sacred tool for me."
James found this particularly useful when, on March 16th, he led a group of spiritual leaders from around the globe to Iraq - offering one of the most important ceremonies of peace in history. At the National Theatre in Baghdad, on March 20th - the anniversary of the war - religious leaders joined together in prayers of peace. Those who took part in the experiment were encouraged to join together as one heart and mind to activate this energy around the globe.
"Going into Iraq is definitely one of those trips that does bring up some doubts," smiles James. "Using the spikenard oil has helped to bring me to a very simple, grounded place in making proper decisions. Not getting worried or afraid... just trusting that everything is in divine order."
Spikenard's Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses
Spikenard is perfect for tension and stress, as it soothes anxiety and installs a great sense of calm - harmonising the physical, emotional and spiritual. It calms the heart and assists people in letting go of fear and old emotional wounds. Nard rejuvenates the skin and is helpful for allergies and rashes of all kinds. It is useful for migraine and insomnia, and can also contribute to the relief of digestive orders - particularly nervous indigestion.
Suggestions for use
All of the points made by Lynn Picknett are explored in depth in her books: 'Mary Magdalene: Christianity's Hidden Goddess' (2003). 'The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ' (1997) is co-authored by Clive Prince and is one of the source books mentioned in Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code'.