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The perfume that appeals to the afterlife and the dawn of the niche perfume

by Paolo Fadelli

Who knows if divinities really love perfumes, it is certain that we believe it. We can say that there is no ceremony aimed at the afterlife that does not include the burning or sprinkling of a perfume. So it is that incense, myrrh and precious resins have always accompanied our hatreds to heaven. Perhaps, between fumes and pro-fumes, man is under the illusion of being able to confuse the waters, and make his earthly misdeeds less evident when he is called in the presence of God. That the latter falls into it, however, is something to be demonstrated.

The fact is that the custom of diffusing perfumes in sacred rites is very ancient and dates back to three thousand years before Christ. The Egyptians did it, a civilization that grew up on the banks of the Nile and lasted something like four thousand years. Since the beginning of their history, the Egyptians offered perfumed sacrifices to the gods, but they also used to perfume the corpses in funeral rites, anointing them with resins when the mummies were embalmed. They also came to empty the bodies, fill them with aromas and burn them to offer them to the gods.

We do not know why they did it, whether out of devotion, or to cover up the bad smells of decaying corpses or, more likely - for both reasons.
What seems certain is that before the living people began to perfume the dead.

Queen Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC) was the first to perfume herself when she was alive, for reasons of vanity. In love with perfumes, the sovereign organized
an expedition of ships bound for the land of Punt (probably a territory that today would include Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan), in search of perfumed essences. They returned loaded with aromas and fragrant plants that the sovereign had transplanted to Egypt to always have them available. There is trace of this journey in a bas-relief in a temple in Thebes, the Egyptian city located right along the Nile.

It was no less the people of Israel, who already 1400 years before Christ told how God ordered Moses to get Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon, Cassia, Fragrant rush and olive oil, to compose a perfumed ointment for the ceremony. This perfume - the Eternal Father warned - should have been used only for the sacred rite and man should never have used it to perfume himself. In short, at the time, the art of perfume was really reserved for a few. We were at the dawn of the Profumo di Nicchia.

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2 answers

  1. Intriguing that the perfume was also born to "communicate" with the divinity. As if man wanted to offer what is good on earth to make him rise up to heaven thanks to the air, together with the sounds of his own words of prayer. Nice reflections, thank you!

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