Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hair Care and Aromatics in the Old Testament

Queen of Sheba Kneeling Before King Solomon - Johann Friedrich August Tischbien

In the Old Testament, Judith annointed herself with precious aromatic oils before meeting Holofernes. She also braided her hair and "put a tire on it". It is said that Ancient Jewish men and women were proud of their hair and dreaded baldness as shorn locks, like in many cultures, were a sign of slavery. Josephus says that in ceremonies, King Solomon was preceded by 40 pages who wore shimmering gold dust in their hair which caught the light.

The Queen of Sheba brought spices "in great abundance to the court of Solomon." It makes sense that aromatic spices would be one of her gifts because Sheba (or Sabaea) was the spice center in Arabia. The Sabaeans produced most of the myrrh and frankincense in the Middle East, and also were a major stop on the trade route for spices and gums from India and the Far East. These included sandalwood, incense, vetiver, musks, resins, and flowers of henna, rose, jasmine, and lotus.

Source: Butler, Hilda and Poucher, William Arthur. Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics, and Soaps. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 1923.

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