Ever since I can remember scents were always important; they would work on my imagination and carry me off. I never thought about it because it has always been such a vital part of who I am, but lately I have looked at what scents do to me. (Mind you, scents can even be smells or stinks…it doesn’t matter, I make no difference.)
When I think of scents, there is a whole world opening up in me; scents are the embodiment of history, every single story told and untold. They evoke mystery and adventure, they are the whiff of faraway lands, dreams and colors, displaying a whole array of emotions and music within. Scents are truly Grace.
I believe scents have not changed that much through history; lavender probably smells the same as it did centuries ago, so we might actually have the same experience now as was had then…scents span time. A story from the bible tells of Maria Magdalene rubbing Jesus’ feet with the oil of Spikenarde (Nardostachys jatamansi). I love that oil with its fresh, deep and musky scent. Knowing the properties of the oil (calming, grounding…) makes the story so much more interesting. I can rub my feet with Spikenarde and have the same experience 2000 yrs later – mind-boggling! Look at ancient poetry and you will find that the herbs, plants and oils haven’t changed. The poems speak of rose, jasmine, sandalwood, aloeswood, rosemary and thyme…
In the bible, poems and other written work through history we can find recipes for perfumes and scents that were used at the time. By recreating them we get an idea of the evolution of perfumery. Every century had its own “scent-fashion” and it has changed over time. Some of the perfumes, or scents, from ancient times would not be very popular today. At the time much of the known perfumes were connected to religious ceremony since scented matter oftentimes was costly and difficult to come by. By offering these expensive and evocative perfumes to the God(s), people hoped that the gods would be benevolent towards them.
The earliest perfumes were usually made from resins and woods, mixed into fat and then burned or anointed. Little by little, over time, the art of securing the evocative and fleeting scent of flowers was found and has been perfected ever since. Today lots of synthetics and alcohol is used in perfumes which somewhat takes away the “heady emotional reaction” to a scent, though the pleasure of it is always there. Everybody reacts on scents in some way, even anosmic people. Scents evoke memories, even long-buried ones, to be brought forth in vivid detail; matter might desist, but scents remain forever.