Posted on February 20, 2010 0
By Kris Wrede
Travel an exotic journey steeped in aromatic ritual
Let your mind slowly drift and picture yourself in an era many years ago...in the 1st century B.C. in Egypt. Cleopatra was setting sail on the Nile with her entourage, her handmaidens busily scenting her sails with jasmine to announce her presence to her adoring multitudes. Of course, any prospective suitors she might encounter along the way would be intoxicated by the luxurious aromas wafting through the air. Cleopatra and other members of the royal family had their own priest perfumers, who deigned the exclusive right to create scent for rituals, religious events, lovemaking, childbirth and remedies for various maladies. Since Cleopatra felt she was above all that, she also created her own scents and cosmetics. Because she was the Queen, they did not cause friction by trying to stop her. For her, perfume was sacred, but it was also one of her main tools used to ensnare and entrap everyone from lovers to confidantes and servants. It was her preferred method of seduction. She oozed self confidence and power, and the fragrances she wore enhanced that sexual power even more.
The Latin word for perfume is actually "per-fumem", translated as "through smoke". One of the most famous incenses of all time was the Egyptian Kyphi, which came in many forms and was used for centuries as "per-fumem". In this era scent was based on the burning of macerated plant and flower essences as an offering to the Gods. It was also used in a cone shaped mixture of beef tallow and essences called a "kit" which was worn as a perfume on top of the wig, the aroma released as the fat melted in the heat of the Egyptian sun or a night of dancing and frivolity.
Cleopatra had land along the Dead Sea that was bequeathed to her by Marc Anthony, a place fittingly called "En Bouquet". There she had her own perfume and cosmetics factory, using the rich bounty of flowers and plants from the region including the olive trees and Dead Sea salts. From here, she sent her minions out to scour the far reaches of the globe to find exotic and unusual plants and oils for her to use in her elixirs.
One of the legends of when Cleopatra met Julius Caesar for the first time centers on scent. She knew that she had to win Caesar over in order to keep her dominion over her precious Egypt, instead of her letting the power go to her evil younger brother, who was also her husband. The practice of marrying a sibling was often done in ancient times to control the bloodline. Caesar was in the harbor waiting to figure out her impending doom, while Cleo silently plotted away. Cleopatra was not known as a great beauty, but she was known as the most seductive and cunning woman of her day. She was said to have a rather large proboscis, which would explain her highly attuned sense of smell. She used this to create a potion so powerful that no one could resist it, even the most powerful man in the world. Using this important asset to get the job done, she applied this potion all over her body and hair in copious quantities. She also donned her most suggestive and alluring gown, custom made for the occasion. Then she chose a tapestry of the most exquisite detail and beauty imported from Persia, and had her manservant wrap her delicately in it and prepare to go to the boat and offer herself to Caesar. When her aide guided her by boat to the harbor, Caesar was astounded at the magnanimous gift. As the servant slowly unfurled the carpet he felt himself become dizzy with scent.. And he was even more besotted when Cleopatra herself, catlike, slowly emerged from the offering festooned with more ribbons of scent. He was amused but also enchanted by this sorceress, and so one of the greatest love stories of all time began. That is of course until Marc Anthony hit the scene!
Cleopatra's Love Elixir
This is a recipe that I devised that has many of the ingredients that were used in the time of Cleopatra; all of them available today. However some of ingredients, like Blue Lotus, are extremely rare, but can be found if one is willing to pay the price. This blend can be made in a base of perfumer's alcohol or in an unscented jojoba to be used as a perfume oil. If using it as a body oil cut the recipe to only 15% of what is listed below, or divide each of the ingredients by 6. This recipe is for a 1 ounce bottle at a 15% solution, an eau de parfum strength.
For topical use only. Keep out of reach of children and pets.
- Blood Orange (Citrus sinensis) 50 drops
- Lemon (Citrus limon) 25 drops
- Opoponax (Cassie)(Acacia farnesiana) 13 drops
- Jasmine Sambac Absolute (Jasmin sambac) 18 drops
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) 7 drops
- Rose Absolute (Rosa damascena) 13 drops
- Blue Lotus(Nelumbo nucifera) 5 drops
- Myrtle (Myrtus communis) 11 drops
- Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) 8 drops
- Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) 12 drops
A poem inspired by Cleopatra's time heralding the virtues of scent.
From the book Sacred Luxuries by Lise Manniche:
"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..."
About Kris Wrede: The use of plant and flower essences for therapy of mind and body and spirit were once considered the exclusive provenance of Egyptian Priests. Unlock this ancient knowledge with Kris Wrede, Aromatic Alchemist, Natural Perfumer, and Corporate Consultant. Kris has been practicing aromatic alchemy and perfumery since 1990 and is a dedicated teacher and researcher.
Her knowledge of essential oils is enhanced by a passion for their history. Allow Kris to share her wisdom with you, let her lead you through the world and imagine the possibilities aromatherapy may play in your life.
Kismet Potions practices the traditional perfumer's art using top, middle and base notes in each blend. Over the years we have developed numerous aromatic product lines and custom fragrances based on the tenets of perfumery for a wide variety of exclusive corporate and individual clients. Some of our clients include W Magazine, Jones New York, Mirage Hotel Las Vegas, Treasure Island Hotel Las Vegas, Urban Oasis Spas Chicago, and Epicuren Discovery.
Constant research and practical application of aromatherapy and perfumery in product development and training has given Kris the background to teach the secrets of this ancient and potent art and science. Kris has worked in the cosmetics field and fashion industry for over 25 years, bringing that expertise into corporate product development. By keeping a watchful eye on the current trends and by continually researching products, retailers and consumers, she can assess future market needs.
From 1994 to 1996 Kris received certification in aromatherapy and teacher training from the Michael Scholes School of Aromatic Studies. In 1997 she received advanced training in the chemistry of essential oils and aromatherapy from Purdue University's International Training Program in Essential Oils. In 1998 she completed the advanced aromatherapy course through the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy with Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt. In 1999 she received advanced training in natural perfumery and aromatherapy from Master Perfumer Kathryn Degraff. Kris continues to advance her education at conferences and seminars regularly.
Kris's classroom approach stems from her extensive research into the mystical rituals of ancient cultures, her philosophy of perfume as medicine, and the miraculous healing energy apparent in the diverse methods available for essential oil use.
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