Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy National Fragrance Day! -Postcard Friendship Friday #112

Today is National Fragrance Day. Though no one knows how the holiday came to exist, it is rumored the perfume industry likely had something to do with it.

Perfumes have been in use for hundreds of years. In the olden days, fragrance was used to hide body odors when frequent bathing was a luxury.  The word perfume comes from the Latin phrase, "per" meaning "through" and "fumus" meaning smoke."  Which makes sense, as the first perfumes were actually incense.

In ancient times, the most celebrated use of perfume was to embalm the dead.  When I think of embalming, and mummies--Egypt comes to mind first.  But as the years went by, perfume came to be used by all Egyptians.  Eventually citizens were commanded by law to perfume themselves at least once a week. They took elaborate baths, soaking their skin in oils which helped to protect their bodies from the drying effects of the hot sun. Egyptians invented many scented creams and emollients for this use.

The Egyptians even created a god they called Nefertem, which translated means, "the lord of the nose."  In ancient hieroglyphs this fellow was pictured with a lotus blossom hovering over his head. 

I think the strangest use of perfume in ancient Egypt, was the custom of making perfumed cones from animal fat, or bees wax, which was scented with the aroma of the lotus flower.  There are hieroglyphs which show what these cones look like.  The aromatic cones were worn perched atop their wigs.  In the heat of the day these cones would melt down to cover their hair and bodies with a wonderful aroma.  It seems to me that style would look a tad peculiar. However, looking back at the styles of the 1980's--one might feel the same way about certain fads then!

Perhaps the most famous ruler of Egypt was Cleopatra. Cleopatra loved perfume—perhaps the fragrance she used was a part of her allure. After the assassination of her lover, Julius Caesar, she left Rome to become the queen of Egypt. There she greeted Mark Antony, a Roman politician, on a ship with perfumed sails. It is said that Cleopatra's arrival was announced by clouds of perfume before her barge came into view. Antony also fell under her spell.  Though the story does not end happily, it is a romantic one.

Have a lovely fragrant day, and Happy Postcard Friendship Friday!

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CraveCute said...

Great history lesson! I would have loved to get a whiff of Cleopatra's perfume. Wonder what it was like?

a.A.a. said...

I'm not at all sure how I'd feel having wax melting in my hair, but it's a fascinating thought.

Sheila @ A Postcard a Day said...

I'm not at all sure how I'd feel having wax melting in my hair, but it's a fascinating thought.

Sorry, I'm away from home and I was in the wrong account for the previous comment -i I'll get used to this tablet one day.

Postcardy said...

I am not a fragrance fan and I didn't know that it was National Fragrance Day, but my post is related to fragrances.

VioletSky said...

I've never been one for fragrances and always avoided the perfume aisle. The headaches and teary eyes were not worth it. Having said that, the history of perfumery has fascinated me for many years.