Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Love Poetry and Perfumery

For the ancient Egyptians, perfumery and cosmetics pervaded all aspects of daily life, from the religious to the secular. Fragrance is often mentioned in love poetry, usually from the point of view of a man describing the beautiful aroma of the woman he adores.

“I wish I were her laundryman,

Just for a single month.

Then I would flourish by donning her garment

And be close to her body.

I would wash away the unguent from her clothes

And wipe my body in her dress.”

Unguent, an ointment made with fat and fragrant materials, was considered personal and intimate, much like a perfume oil would be today – something that you would have to be in close contact with the wearer in order to smell. Perfume, along with intoxicating beverages, created the perfect romantic scene for two lovers to meet - kind of like today!

“If you go to the room of the beloved,

She being alone and without another,

You can do what you wish with the latch.

The door hangings flutter

When the sky comes down in the wind,

But it does not carry it away, her fragrance,

When she brings you an abundance of scent,

Intoxicating those present…”

So when you dab a little perfume on your skin before meeting someone special, remember that using the power of scent to excite and attract someone goes back a very long way!

Source: Manniche, Lise. Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy & Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt. Ithaca, New York, 1999. p. 91 - 92.

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