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Marsilio Ficino

Planets Within

All herbs, flowers, trees and fruits have an odour, even though you often do not notice it. By this odour they restore and invigorate you on all sides, as if by the breath and spirit of the life of the world.


Who was Marsilio 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. 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 letters and in his playing of an Orphic lyre.

Why Ficino inspires 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 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.


Materials I respond with


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.

In the skin serum and cream I have included Borage that Pliny the Elder wrote as being a treatment for melancholia.