Aroma Therapy Part Four – Perfume and other Aromatics

A few years ago, growing amongst some old fashioned, lemony-scented yellow irises, arose this voluptuous beauty, unbelievably purple-black,
with a delicate beard, and a numinous, intoxicating aroma.
I’m not even sure where I acquired it, perhaps a piece of rhizome that found it’s way into my weed bucket working in someone else’s garden?
Quite possible. I would marry this flower, I love it so much.
The ancient art of perfumery
 has been practiced in one form or another for perhaps 25,000 years.
 The word “perfume” comes from the Latin words per fumum, meaning by or through smoke, and perfume initially referred to incense.
 Quite often, scented products were reserved for religious rituals.
 By offering pleasant odors to the gods – by burning incense – the use of aroma to induce altered states of consciousness became incorporated into rituals and religious ceremonies the world over.  By inhaling the burning fumes of sacred plants, incense is thought to inspire one’s mind to devotion.
The ancient Hebrews burned incense in honor of Astarte, Queen of Heaven.
 Myrrh was burned at the Greek festival honoring the handsome youth Adonis, said to have been born of a myrrh tree.
 According to Mrs. M. Grieve in A MODERN HERBAL, the ancient Greeks wrote of anointing all the parts of the body with different scents,
such as mint on the arms, cinnamon, rose or palm oil on the jaws and chest, and almond oil on the hands and feet.
 Indeed, the first gifts to the infant Jesus were incense, and He was later anointed Christos with precious, scented oils, some say by Mary Magdalene.
 Also known as olibanum, frankincense has historically been burned to drive out negativity, and is still used in some rites of the Catholic Church.  Myrrh, once used as a preservative in wine, also purifies the environment.
The most renowned perfumers in history were the Egyptians,
whose complicated and mysterious incense known as Kyphi is said to be intoxicating, bringing on religious ecstasy.
 The Egyptian Goddess-Queen Cleopatra, a serious perfume devotee, was said to have met her lover Marc Antony on a barge made of fragrant cedar and perfumed sails, her palace floors spread knee-deep with rose petals.
 Many ancient temples and palaces were built of fragrant cedarwood, partly because it is a natural insect repellent.
 Islamic mosques had rose water and musk incorporated into the building mortar.
Another aromatic wood used for buildings and for making ritual accoutrements is sandalwood, or santal, of which there is a red and a yellow or white variety; each are said to possess very high spiritual vibrations.

This post is adapted from a chapter in my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary.

©  Doreen Shababy