Esther, The Persian Queen Who Saved the Jews

Series 2: Eleven Women Who Used Essential Oil Therapy to Heal Their Bodies

Esther, The Persian Queen Who Saved the Jews

Every action is global. 14th Dalai Lama

Visualize yourself a 500 BC celebration, eating and talking in the noonday sun. Before this banquet, you bathed in your favorite aromatic, Fragrancense (Boswellia carteri). Your lingering aroma enables you to tell your truth. Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) and Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) in a linen bag around your neck give you the courage to publicly ask the monarch for a challenging request and expose your secret heritage. Esther felt this when she informed the monarch that his prime minister was endangering her people.

Esther’s story is particularly poignant in aromatherapy history since essential oils played an important role in her life. Only the book of Esther in the Old Testament contains a biblical account of her life. Most researchers assume she lived in Persia circa 500 BC. She played a heroic part in the story of her people, the Jews. King Ahasuerus, who ruled over 127 provinces extending from India to Ethiopia, sat on his imperial seat in the Shushan palace.

Some historians believe he was also known as Xerxes I, a king who spent his youth subduing Egypt and Greece. His realm was at peace and abundance during his time with Esther. He enjoyed feasts, some lasting up to 180 days. “curtains of white and blue tapestries… fastened with purple cords of fine linen to silver rings on marble pillars” adorned one of his garden court feasts. “Gold and silver couches were set on an alabaster, white marble, mother of pearl, and black marble pavement.”1 The king requested Queen Vashti’s appearance to display her beauty in front of the people. She declined, defying his commands. The king became enraged.

In the past, men had full power over everything a woman did. In the fourth century BC, the Jewish thinkers of the time were represented by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He said, “The male is by nature superior, and the female is by nature inferior, and the one rules and the other is ruled.”

The wise people in the court told the king to find a new queen. They thought that Queen Vashti was a terrible example for all the women in the country. Under the watch of Hegai, the head eunuch in charge of the king’s harem, a search began for beautiful virgins and oils that made women look better.

A group of Jews forced to leave Jerusalem lived in the Shushan kingdom of Persia. Among them was a man named Mordecai. Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah, had no family when she was young, so he took her in and raised her. She had a pretty face and a nice body. When Mordecai heard that the king was looking for a new queen, he sent Esther to the king’s home in Hegai, where women from all over the country were waiting to be picked.

Hegai immediately liked Esther because she was beautiful, intelligent, and had a good personality. He gave her seven good maids and the best place to live in the harem. As her Uncle Mordecai had told her, she did not say where she was from or what her country was.

Esther got the same treatment as the other girls: six months of oil of myrrh and attar of rose (Rosa damascena) and then six months of balm and perfume of spikenard (Nardostachys grandiflora), aloe (Aloe vera), sandalwood (Santalum album), and especially frankincense. These treatments aimed to clean up the women and make them suitable, as the law required. In the first century AD, the Jewish philosopher Philo wrote, “The soul has a home, with some rooms for women and some for men.”

Now, there is a place for men where their masculine thoughts should live. These thoughts are wise, sound, just, prudent, religious, full of freedom and boldness, and related to knowledge. And female sex is irrational and similar to animal emotions like fear, sorrow, pleasure, and desire, which lead to diseases that can’t be explained or cured.

The essential oils utilized in the year-long treatment were used for interior cleansing, emotional cleansing, and skin beautification. Women were also regarded as filthy because of their regular menstruation. Baths and massages were offered to them, and “it was the custom of the women to carry beneath their clothes a small linen bag containing Myrrh and other fragrant substances.”

This was frequently draped from a chain around the neck and hung between the breasts. Here, the hardened Myrrh would emit its aroma from the warmth of the body, which would be enjoyed by both the wearer and those in close proximity.”4 Burseraceac Frankincense purified all mucous membranes, whether in the mouth, lungs, or uterus. Frankincense oil is extracted from the tree’s gum in the form of brittle, spherical droplets or tears. Frankincense, like Myrrh, flourished in the rocky hillsides and sandy ravines of southern Arabia.

Its worth was comparable to gold, as shown in the well-known account of the three kings from the east who presented baby Jesus with presents of Myrrh, Frankincense, and gold. When heated, Frankincense had a rich, balsamic odor but was harsh to the taste.

It was used as a uterine tonic and to regulate all discharges. Like the Egyptians, Persian women used it to renew skin, smooth wrinkles, and relieve inflammation. It helped Persia’s “flighty” women by slowing their breathing and calming their minds.

As used in Egyptian temples and the Catholic Church today, Frankincense raised the mind to the higher self and emotionally dissolved obsessional ties with the past.

Moses and Solomon set a precedent for using fragrant oils in Hebrew history. In the wilderness, Moses was given instructions for creating holy anointing oil. In Egypt, he had learned about oils.

“The Lord told Moses to take the fine spices:… liquid Myrrh, half as much fragrant cinnamon, fragrant cane cassia, and olive oil.” “Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer.'”

As described in the narrative of the Queen of Sheba, King Solomon extensively traded in spices. The aromatic flowers, herbs, and trees that bloomed in Israel circa 1000 BC are beautifully described in the Song of Solomon.

A garden you are, my sister, my bride.
   a garden walled in, a fountain well sealed;

A pomegranate orchard with precious fruits,
   a garden of henna with spikenard,
   spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
   with all the trees of Frankincense, Myrrh, 
       and aloes, and the chief spices.

You are a garden fountain, a well of living water
   flowing streams from Lebanon.

Perfumes in Palestine were often made with an olive oil basis. The finished fragrant essence was created using pressing, enfleurage, and hot steeping.

The herbs or plant material were chopped and combined with olive oil before being placed on a folded fabric with loops at both ends for pressing. A rod was placed in each circle. Two people twisted The cloth in opposite directions, gripping one of the rods and pushing the contents. The method was only partly successful because much of the plant material was not exuded.

Enfleurage with animal fat to extract the scent is described in “Hatshepsut, the First Female Pharaoh of Egypt.” “Atar of Rose” originated in Persia and was mass-produced in the sixth century BC. Skilled perfumers working in the royal women’s quarters’ cosmetics department used Hegai’s approach of combining Attar of Roses with Myrrh. They also utilized his technique to mix fragrant herbal concoctions with honey, then knead the liquid (oils) into a sticky yet snowy-white mass of the best hog fat. “Applying this perfumed grease to the skin made it as soft and supple as silk.”

The most popular procedure was hot steeping (maceration). The oil was prepared with an astringent solution, such as lime before being combined with wine or water in which the plant parts and resin had soaked. A Theban tomb artwork depicting a perfumer’s method initially displays the grinding of aromatic ingredients with a mortar and pestle. In a vast basin, the components are mixed with the oil, and the liquid is heated to 149F in vats of boiling water (the double-boiler method).

The fragrant molecules would have evaporated if they had used an open flame. After letting the heated liquid sit for a few days, the blossoms were stained off, and new ones were applied. When the aroma was strong enough, it was strained again and decanted into containers. Beautiful jars were made of glass, ivory, and metals like copper; alabaster was chosen to keep the oil cold. The scent was then kept in an excellent, shaded location.

After twelve months of consecrating their souls and adorning their looks and bodies with essential oil treatments, the girls returned to the Shushan palace for the king’s approval. “When the turn came for Esther… to go to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the women, suggested, and Esther won the hearts of all who saw her… the king felt more love for Esther than for all the women,” according to the Modern Language version of The Layman’s Parallel Bible. He showed her more affection and kindness than the other girls, so he placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti.

Mordecai sat outside the royal gate, watching Esther’s progress. One day, he overheard two guards preparing to kill the king. Mordecai informed Esther of the plot, and she told King Ahasuerus, who ordered the two guards to be hanged.

The king had elevated Haman, Hammedatha’s son, above all the princes. Haman always wore a three-cornered prime minister’s cap. He passed by Mordecai one day, who refused to bow to him, stating, “I am a Jew.” “I only bow to God.”

I’m furious at the lack of respect. Humans began plotting to exterminate the Jews. “There is a race scattered and dispersed among the peoples in your realm who… do not observe the king’s laws, so it is not expedient for your majesty to tolerate them,” he told the king.

10 The king agreed to go after Haman’s nefarious scheme. His first step was to issue royal letters to all provincial governors, instructing them to execute all Jews, young and old, children, and women alike. He drew the number 14 from a hat and decreed that the fourteenth day of Adar (late February or early March) would be the day of retribution. The Jews were in deep sadness and crying.

The startling news was delivered to Queen Esther by her ladies. She sent a messenger to Mordecai, stating she hadn’t seen the king in thirty days and requesting that all Shushen Jews fast for three days and three nights. She deliberated on her next move. She understood that only the monarch could save her people, but approaching him took a lot of guts. No one, not even the queen, could call the king without his prior request. Esther showered and got an essential oil massage (no doubt included Frankincense and Rose), dressed in royal grandeur, and was led to the inner court of the king’s palace. When the king observed Esther standing in the court, he extended the golden scepter toward her. Esther moved closer and touched the scepter’s tip. “‘What is your wish,’ the king inquired.

If it were half the kingdom, it would be granted to you.’ ‘If it pleases, your majesty, then let the king and Human attend the meal I have prepared for the king,’ Esther said.11 The king decided to attend because he was pleased.

Humans created 75-foot-high gallows to hang his adversary, Mordecai. Meanwhile, the king found that Mordecai was the one who protected him from the assassination plot of the guards. At Human’s suggestion, he decides to honor the man who covertly saved him by having him ride a horse in a regal gown in front of the entire city.

The Human was shocked to find that the man being recognized was Mordecai. The king invited Esther to speak her petition again at the supper. “Queen Esther replied, ‘If I have won young favor, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, then may my life be granted me at my petition and my people at my request; because we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, killed, and obliterated.'”

She mustered the courage to confess her ancestry and speak up for her persecuted people. Her perfumed bath before the feast had undoubtedly energized her.

Esther may have utilized the refreshing scent of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), a member of the Lauraceae family that was part of the old spice trade from India and China to the West. The tree’s leaves and bark produced an aromatic essential oil that was used to restore heat to the body, enhance circulation, stimulate digestion, and calm intestinal spasms.

The ancient Jews recognized the antibacterial properties of cinnamon, and the oil was used to cure colds, flu, and other infectious disorders. They frequently used it to fumigate their bedclothes in arid countries when washing with water was impractical. It assisted in overcoming emotions of weakness and fragility and strengthening the central nervous system in preparation for stress-related problems.

“King Ahasuerus raised his voice. ‘Who is he, and where is this person who dared to think such a thing?’ he asked Queen Esther.

‘An oppressor, an enemy, this vile Haman!’ Esther answered.

The king became enraged and had Haman hanged on the same gallows as Mordecai. On the same day, King Ahasuerus handed Haman’s residence to Queen Esther, and Mordecai was appointed the king’s right-hand man, his viceroy. Esther addressed the king again, fell at his knees, and implored him with tears to foil Haman’s evil plot: “For how could I look on, while disaster strikes my people…?”

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