Perfume: Born in Smoke

The welcome discovery and use of perfume go back

more than l5,000 years. Greeks believed that perfume was

created by the gods. Egyptians believed that it gave perfection to all

parts of the human body. They used it widely,

especially in preparing the dead for their journey to an


Mohammed observed that the three things he enjoyed most

in the world were women, children and perfumes. Thus, the

paradise envisioned for Moslems, is filled with aromas of

fantastic variety and high quality: musk and rose, cinnamon

and sandalwood, lilac and lemon, sweet spicy smells…to

arouse desire…to pacify the mind. Heaven, indeed!

On a more earthy plane, a wag once defined perfume as

“any smell used to drown out a worse one!” Unexpectedly,

this flip statement is more accurate than many might think.

Perfume was first used in religious ceremonies, and was more

the concern of priests, than of beauticians and seducers.

Early people believed that the way to honor and pacify the

gods were to feed them! A variety of animals were routinely

prepared, slaughtered and burned on an altar, as an essential

part of the worship rituals. The stench was robust and often

repugnant. To dilute and camouflage the unpleasant odors,

various substances were burned as incense and wafted through

the air. In Latin, “per fume” means “through the smoke,” a

testimony to its origin. Gradually, the pleasant odors took

on value by themselves and were considered as pleasing to the

gods, in part, I am sure, because they were pleasing to the



Copyright March 1985-2019 All Rights Reserved


Leave a Comment