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Perfume History Essay Research Paper The human

Perfume History Essay, Research Paper The human use of scents, aromas and fragrances has its origins lost in ancient times. Why, when and how people first started to prepare them may never be

Perfume History Essay, Research Paper

The human use of scents, aromas and fragrances has its origins lost in ancient

times. Why, when and how people first started to prepare them may never be

known, but archeological findings, early written texts and oral tradition show

that the history of aromas goes deep back in time. Early civilizations offered

scent flowers, herbs and resins in worship of their Gods. When burned, some

plants released stronger aromas and scented smoke fires became part of religious

rituals, a mystical mean of communication between heaven and earth, a tradition

followed by many religions until present day. When looking back into history,

many agree that the Egyptians, during Queen Sheba’s rule, were the first to

incorporate perfume into their culture. From the religious ceremonies involving

the burning of incense to the embalming of the dead, perfume was an integral

part of Egyptian life. Even scents like myrrh were considered more valuable than

gold. In the Bible, one of the Three Wise Men brought this as a gift to the

newborn Christ. But perfume did not only linger in spiritual ceremonies: the

Egyptians were also the first to anoint their bodies with the scents of cinnamon

and honey. Depicted on the walls of the temple of Edfu, one can also see the

depiction of the art of floral extraction as perfume is distilled from the

flowers of the white Madonna lily. This "essential accessory" was

reserved mostly for the powerful and the wealthy. Both men and women alike wore

the precious scents. With the death of the mystical Cleopatra, so also died the

Egyptian grandeur and appreciation of beauty. For thousands of years perfumes

had been used widely as an integral part of their culture even though almost all

of the herbs and flowers were from abroad, from Palestine, Persia, India, and

Arabia. In Persia, perfume was also a sign of rank. In the palaces one could see

kings with crowns of myrrh and of labyzuz and smell the aromas of sweetly

smelling scents drifting in the air of their apartments. In the backyards of

homes belonging to the wealthy, one could find exquisite gardens holding

jasmine, lilacs, violets, and the famous red rose. This rose whose petals

covered the floor when Cleopatra first met Mark Antony and that would become the

symbol of the House of Lancaster during the War of the Roses, was known all over

the world for its perfume which increased in intensity as the petals dried. The

Persians began to master the art of preservation by placing the rose buds in

sealed jars to be later opened for a special occasion. Persians also used

perfumes after bathing. It was not until after Alexander the Great, with his

desire for conquest, defeated Darius III of Persia and moved to Egypt that he

adopted the use of perfumes. It is said that his floors were sprinkled with

scented waters and that his clothes were imprinted the perfumes of fragrant

resins and myrrh. But the perfume found its magic in the folds of ancient Greek

religion. The Greeks believed the Gods were perfume’s inventors and it was said

that the visit of a God or Goddess was marked with the sweet smell as a token of

their presence. They held a special place in ceremonies. It is interesting that

the first "gold medal" in the Olympic Games was a piece of art in the

shape of a golden violet. Perfume was an integral part of Greek society, even

though some of the greatest philosophers like Socrates found them

"effeminate". However Greeks also made their mark on the world of

perfume. They played an important role in the science of perfume by categorizing

them by the part of the plant from which they were made and documenting their

compositions. The Romans first celebrated scent around 750 B.C. in religious

ceremonies to celebrate the Goddess of Flora. Each year the ceremonies would be

held to celebrate the first flowers of the season. Later, the ceremony was held

each year on April 28, four days before May Calend (this ceremony was adopted by

the British and is now known as May Day). The Romans were also known for their

gardens, but the flowers were mainly used for garlands to be worn in their

maiden’s hair. When the Roman’s began their world conquest they began to adopt

the use of perfume into their own culture. Greek influence was especially

prominent in the use of perfume in religious ceremonies. As the Roman culture

began to adopt these scents, one could see its effect everywhere. In fact, it

was Constantine the Great who brought the use of scents into the Christian

church. He had oils and incense burned in the church of St. John-in-Latrine,

which was home to the early Popes for thousands of years. Even today, one can

see the continuing of this ceremony as the Pope gives his annual blessing of the

Golden Rose. It is clear how perfume has played a significant role in religion.

But this did not just belong to the cultures described above. Mohammed centers

his religion on the enjoyment of material pleasures, including perfume. He

promised his believers the Garden of Paradise where the most exotic perfumes

could be found. The Koran speaks of those who make the journey across the

razor-edge thin bridge of Al Sirat will drink form the waters that are

"whiter than milk, more perfumed than musk". It was an Arabian doctor,

Avicenna, who was the first to obtain the oil from flowers, known as attar, by

distillation. Before this revelation, perfumes were derived from the bark of

twigs and shrubs in the form of resins. Visitors of Arabian homes would be

sprinkled with rose water as a mark of esteem. Their coffees would be flavored

with roses. A bowl of charcoal would be passes around after the meal and

sprinkled with incense in which the guests’ garments would be wrapped. When the

guest left, they would have their beards and garments sprinkled with incense as

a parting gesture. In India, perfumes also play a major role in their culture.

Plants have always abounded in their country and the Hindu have adapted their

scents into religion. The flames meant for sacrifices would be sending out

aromatic scents of ointments and herbs. In Hindu marriages the bride is rubbed

with scents by her handmaid and later the married couple will sit beneath a silk

canopy enveloped by the smells of sandalwood and other delicious scents. The god

of love, Kama, is always shown carrying his cupids bow and his five arrows that

are each tipped with a fragrant blossom. The scent of patchouli, which

personally reminds me of my hippie roommate from freshman year and still makes

me feel nauseous to this day (patchouli, not my roommate!), was used later to

scents Indian shawls. In China, incense is also used in religious ceremonies

such as the death of a family member. The body would be washed and perfumed and

incense would be lit in the room. The mourners would carry lighted sticks

scented with incense during the processional. Chinese women wore their hair in

buns that were wrapped with flowers whose fragrances would last for quite some

time. Appreciation of scents such as sandalwood spread also to Japan. The

Japanese religion Shinto uses the burning of incense and other gums during

ceremonial occasions. Now, in modern times perfumes, scents, and fragrances have

continued to become part of virtually everyone’s lives. You can find the scents

of numerous plants and flowers in so many different perfumes and colognes. Like

the ancient peoples who used the natural aromas of plants and flowers, we too in

modern times, seek the comfort or soothing effect of aromas. More recently

however, aromatherapy has become highly popular in the American culture. Using

natural herbs, plants and flowers, it has been found that these aromas have

various effects on people, from a natural aphrodisiac to a relaxing calming

effect. Listed below are several common plants and flowers used today in

aromatherapy. Peppermint, Mentha piperita It has been said that Peppermint has

been known to relieve headaches. Just one drop of Peppermint in a teaspoon of

cream or unscented oil (sweet almond or jojoba) rubbed gently onto your neck can

actually help soothe a throbbing headache. Another way in which peppermint can

help is by using its healing qualities with nausea (maybe I’ll try it next time

I smell patchouli!). Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis "Rosemary is for

remembrance." This unique oil has said to "awaken the mind and

stimulate memory". Many report that Rosemary helps to retain more

information and perform well on exams. It also can be very nourishing to hair

and can be added to shampoo to add nutrients to stimulate hair growth.

Calendula, Calendula officinalis This is a common marigold and has bright

orange, yellow, and deep brown flowers. It is grown mainly for its medicinal

qualities. Therapeutically, calendula oils are known for its ability to soothe

rough, dry, injured or cracked skin. We like to use it combined with the

herbally infused oils of arnica and St. John’s Wort. Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea

This can be used for several purposes, the first of which is stress, something

that millions of Americans experience every day. If you have high blood

pressure, diffusing clary sage into the room or bath may help. It also has been

known to help people with asthma or respiratory problems. Geranium, Pelargonium

graveolens This can help many people feel emotionally uplifted. It is also known

to reduce swelling, especially fluid retention and adema of the ankles.

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia Lavender is the oil of "balance". It

provides relief for a multiple of problems including headaches, muscle aches,

insomnia, skin problems, digestive disorders, and stress. It can also help to

soothe a bee sting or bug bite. It is evident that the use of herbs, flowers and

plants in scents varies throughout different cultures and times, but the basic

purpose remains the same- to provide people with a natural way to express

themselves and as in the case of modern aromatherapy, to provide natural

alternatives or solutions to common problems.

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