Ancient Perfumery and Theofrastus: an interview to Giuseppe Squillace

It happened like this. My passion for ancient cultures met some studies, and after reading this papers, I managed to meet the person who wrote them and to interview him…

His name is Giuseppe Squillace and he actually teaches Greek History at the History Department of the Calabria University.

Elena: I have always had a passion for ancient times (it began studying philosophy at University) and when I read your books, one of my question was “How did you begin to study this subject?”

Giuseppe: often it happens like this, just by chance. I have always had an interest in olfactive perception. Passing from contemporary to ancient times happened by chance: I was studying ancient healers, and I found a new paper. I was reading the “De natura” written by Theofrastus and in the english volume after the text I found some additional papers, and one of them was “De odoribus”, the text about perfumes.

I had already read some articles about it but we did not have an italian translation; I thought to translate it and to try to publish it. It did not happen immediately, and so I added some new parts, and than I found a publisher.

In the parts that I added, surely the most important are by Ateneo and Plinius.

E: your studies now are published in three books about perfume.

G: yes, I first published the translation of the “De odoribus” by Theofrastus, and than two books, “Saffo’s Garden” and “Tears of Myrrh” (not yet translated in english). In this last book I put something new, a geography of perfumes. “Geography of perfumes” means a map of places where perfumes and raw materials were produced.

Historically we can see that the most important perfume centres changed accordingly to political events and moments, and in time there is a “geography” of perfumers and materials that show us this.

Ancient Perfumery and Spices

E: and about geography, they had some behaviours that we can recognize today too…like choosing high quality raw materials in some specific places.

G: yes sure! They chose materials selecting places of origin; for example Iris from Illiria, and not from Macedonia because it was considered of less value. Also the Rose from Cirene was famous and very valued, and other roses were not so appreciated.

Theofrastus says this very clearly: plant power depend on places where they grow, quality of the soil, exposition to sunlight etc.

E: and at that time there was in indissoluble connection between healing uses and perfumery uses…

G: yes…for example Rose oil was intended for many uses; perfumes and spices were used by Hyppocrates, Galen, etc. Aromatic materials were used widely for healing purposes. They used cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, rose, myrrh, incense, saffron, etc. They were expensive ingredients, available only to people who can afford them.

They took care of the ingredients, their differencies, their duration: Galen for example tell us about fresh cinnamon, how it can give very different effects from an old one (he found a very old cinnamon among other items in the emperor’s storehouse, while he was preparing an antidote).

And also about “cinnamomum”, where are not sure that it was really what we intend nowadays for “cinnamon”.

E: I have the feeling that in ancient cultures we can find a huge amount of knowledge…and this bounty is not easily accessible. I am trying to put people in touch with these worlds, we have still to learn a lot from them. Thank you for your work!

*

And so our interview ended; Giuseppe Squillace is now presenting his last book, “Le lacrime di Mirra”, and his work as historian continues – we will invite him in Rome, at our Perfumed Literary Cafè – we will give notice as soon as we set the date.

You can find an english translation of the “De odoribus” of Theofrastus here.

 

Olfaction and Consciousness: a Path toward Awareness using Essential Oils and Botanical Perfumes

To educate your sense of smell is not only a practice that improves the perception of one of our most ancient and fundamental senses, but trains ourselves to develop new inner qualities and a new awareness.

The sense of smell is particularly connected to our imaginative and creative abilities. When you smell a perfume, a scent, you receive immediately some images in your mind, images that are memories but also insights. It happens to everyone, immediately. These images are stored in us, and they emerge thanks to the perfume or to the scent we smell.

Smell has a great evocative strength. This evocative strength is not only a naive tool to have nostalgic memories of old times; it is an effective tool for letting new creative potentials (that are somewhere hidden in us) emerge.

Aromatherapy and Botanical Perfumery Courses

Educating our sense of smell let us glean abilities from ourselves that are almost totally unused – to begin to train our smell let us recover a part of our sensibility and intelligence. Because of this I created a Method for learning Aromatherapy and Olfactory Creativity (a Botanical Perfumery for the Soul). To experience accords, synergies, and single raw materials is not only a technical thing; educating our olfaction means training our mind and soul, let a deep part of us to emerge, in a new way, and finally find our true nature and our “olfactory voice” – our special gifts and how to express them through scents and through our life.

When a substance reach our nose it is perceived by our physical channels but it perceived also by our mind and our soul. This means that “to smell” is not a passive act, but it has a passive moment (receiving the smell) and an active one (true perception, when we create our emotional and intellectual response to that). To smell is not a passive act. To feel is not a passive act. We always create our experience, and the path of Olfactive Creativity is a path of rediscovering ourselves, our abilities, our emotions, and our inner self.

 

Cardamom and Rose, Essential Oils for the Heart and Breath

In these days I am smelling Cardamom essential oil, in all its beauty and power. This spice is very common in oriental and middle east cultures, and it is known mostly for its digestive effect.

The essential oil present a mixed olfactory profile, with a sweet part, a balsamic note, and a green herbal note with an “earthy” background. When you smell it, you breath better, and although it is mostly known for its antispasmodic and carminative effects, personally I find it very interesting for its respiratory benefits.

Rose essential oil

Its smell can be added to Rosa Damascena essential oil, obtaining a special heart synergy. Cardamom brings a feeling of opening (an opening that is in some way restrained, because the feeling is of something liberating but with composure) while Rose with all its floral beauty, elevates the blend and the final smell is more “round” and appealing.

Rose and Cardamom together can be a synergy to diffuse in your environment, or they can be a first step for blending a personal perfume. When we use these notes, we obtain a synergy that opens the breath and the heart, leaving a sense of stability and presence.

If you feel stressed, or with low inner energy, this synergy can support you, giving you energy and soul stamina…the power and stability of the spice added to the floral and rich Rose energy will give you support when “heart energy” and breath are needed.

[This synergy is indicated to people without respiratory problems.]

 

Aromatherapy and Space Clearing: Essential oils for Cleaning Spaces in and around You

Space Clearing is a process, with whom we can create Space, at home, or at the office, and making this clearing, we understand our gestures are symbolic, and so we are not only clearing a place, or making order, but we are clearing and making order letting go something inside us.

This awareness makes the difference, and let us appreciate these moments, that are not always easy.

Aromatherapy and Space clearing

We are full of things in our homes, of every shape and valute…Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by things…and maybe we throw all these things in a storage closet – and don’t open it very often.We amass, and we don’t notice it. Actually all this stuff only fill our places, and moreover, this stuff fill our mind and our lives.

So one day we awake and by clearing our spaces we feel a sense of breathing and wellbeing…

If you resonate with all this, here you have some steps to follow:

1- Choose a place that you want to clear;

2- Take all your time for doing this: it is an inner exercise;

3- During you clearing you can use also this aromatic recipe

100 ml distilled water

10 drops Lavender essential oil

10 drops Mint essential oil

5 drops Sweet Orange essential oil

and use it on shelves, drawers, and where you want to clean, using also a clean rag. Essential oils are not dissolving in water, so shake the product a little before using it.

4- You don’t have to throw everything away – it is an exercise for understanding what is for you really important;

5- Let memories emerge, and go ahead…

6- For the emotional aspect of clearing you can use also this recipe:

5 drops Mint essential oil

5 drops Tangerine essential oil

5 drops Lemon essential oil

7. Don’t worry…be happy! Clearing spaces in you and around you, you are letting the Universe to give you something more and new…!

If you apply these steps, let me know how it goes…I am making Space too!

 

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue: a glimpse of Bliss

I’m walking around in Milan. Beautiful day, a slight breeze, lot of light, and is warm enough. I step in front of a fragrance shop window, and I think…let’s go inside! And so I turn and make my way to the front door. Oh my God, it is full of people here …while I am walking among various stands, I arrive to the Guerlain stand. I see the new fragrance, Petit Robe Noir, I ask to smell it on a mouillette. Well… in a few moments I ask to smell L’Heure Bleue. And when I spray it on the mouillette, and I smell it, I think there is an abyss between the two perfumes, and the victory, should there be one, go to this masterpiece of 1912, beating his great-grandson in 2012  (a bit as it happens at the Olympic Games, when you see the first one running so far from the second one that he seems to be flying and you wonder what that guy has in his legs… or whether he has asked for help from some winged being to run so fast).

Yes, because L’Heure Bleue flies . On the official website of the house of Guerlain we read that this fragrance is designed for the moment when the sun is down and the night still has not yet arrived, permeating the horizon of a color which is difficult to define precisely, And so here it is: L’Heure Bleue – a perfume inspired by the Impressionist painters that Jacques Guerlain collected. I can well believe it: this is pure impressionism .

Monet and L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain
Monet…and L’Heure Bleue

The notes of anise, neroli, bergamot open a door then you can no longer close, and you wonder if you will ever close it again . Then comes the body, which is composed of many elements, such as rose, neroli, clove, violet, ylang … a kind of earthly paradise. At this point you are already happy, and you get a closure that looks like a symphony: iris, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood … and more.

It is a description of an earthly paradise, an uncommon sensitivity and an inspired talent. If I had to read it from the point of view of aromatherapy , considering the part of this perfume that is made ​​- or was – by real essential oils, I would say that is a remedy for the mind and the heart.

The beauty of smell of flowers is maximized by other nuances giving to the perfume even more ethereal effects; while you feel yourself in a garden, this garden becomes lighter, and the deep notes are only there to tell you “fly, fly, I won’t let you fall “ . Maybe l’Heure Bleue could be symbolically the scent of Trust and Faith; the scent of something that brings you to the top and while you might be afraid, it supports you and reassures you. As in the time of day indicated by Jacques Guerlain, in which the arrival of the evening promises to be something subtle, ethereal: evening is a sunrise, not a sunset – nothing “sets”, in reality, but the sun going down ath the same time opens a new scenario, and it is not where the day ends, but where inspiration begins .

 

Aromatherapy and Scents
L’Heure Bleue

 

This sense of inspiration is even more beautiful because in my opinion is “true” inspiration: not imagination, not a play of the mind, but pure, true, visionary inspiration that lasts, like its scent.It is a horizon that opens .

In this scent we can catch a glimpse of something at its beginning, a path to something beautiful. Here you have the beginning of something, that sweeps up, and that brings with it a counterweight that allows us to fly without fear and without fear of the “return”. This because “the return” are the basic notes, sandalwood, vanilla, benzoin… the return is sweet, it welcomes you. It’s a coming home embracing yourself.

For me, this is a fragrance is a tribute and a olfactory photo of a time of day that brings in itself something magical, but it is also a symbol of a special moment in your soul. In short, we could say it is an archetype, the archetype of inspiration, faith, and the return to yourself without pain, but finding yourself in a safe environment . If  we need an image for this place to return to, I would see a bunch of soft pillows waiting for us to relax on. 

PS: if you love vintage perfumes, please check the Osmotheque collection in Versailles, France.

In the midst of a perfumed cloud at Esxence in Milano, Italy

I am in the midst of a perfumed cloud, it0s a bit overwhelming.

I think about botanical perfumery  as an inner search, as a channel of personal expression using raw materials that are integral expression of the fullness of nature. What does it mean to extract the molecules from this perfection to create something entirely new? As I see it now, it seems to me as a possiblity, isolating the components from a whole in order to obtain a ‘better nuance’. As we were using highly evolved pastels. Are there any chemicals that can really give us something more than natural creation? And this “more” what would it be? The choice of some molecules within a natural setting can be intriguing, a bit as strenghtening a tone. Chemistry at the end is an analytical tool that can give you the ability to use brushes with fine tip. On the contrary the reconstruction of molecules with the aim of recreating cheap smells of  great impact and intensity starts from a false premise and  in my opinion cannot have a positive impact.Perfume is a song that can not be issued laying aside voice, body, health and wholeness . Scent is a song that deserves respect, a voice that must be returned to everyone, as a birthright … the soul has so many ways to express itself and scent is one of them.

The Incense Route: history of one of the most used resins in Antiquity for its fragrance.

We have a whole cultural horizon talking about Incense; there isn’t only one incense resin type, but many types of Boswellia, resins which have a bond with Sacred and Antiquity.
Incense is one of the most valuable product from Boswellia Sacra, coming from Oman area, which has always been the most excellent producer. Oman was a starting departure for caravans which have to get the Mediterranean and trade with India and the East too. The Boswellia sacra grows also in Somalia and Ethiopia, but the great tradition of incense route starts from Dhofar Area in Oman. There are also other trees of Boswellia whom are used to produce the incense, like Boswellia frereana, Boswellia, rivae etc…

Olibanum resin Aromatherapy and Botanical Perfumery
Olibanum resin

 

We are mistaken considering there wasn’t a great trade at the time : before Christ ‘s birth international trade already existed and covered also considerable distances through difficult territories. For example, carrying  the incense from Oman to the Mediterranean required a journey in blasted lands, in some areas even with hills and mountains; the payment of “customs” were imposed and this made rich cities on the route.

Incense has always been connected to the rituals; emperors and pharaohs made an extensive use of it.

Aromatherapy and Botanical Perfumery with Incense resin
Boswellia Sacra, Oman, by Mauro Raffaelli

 

Boswellia sacra is a resin which is collected by the trees, or by spontaneous production, or through an incision on the trunk. The essential oil is distilled by steam distillation.

The olfactory profile of incense is varied: a note of lemon, together with a tip of freshness and a feeling of dryness, that returns a feeling of elevation and opening upwards, toward intuition and inspiration.
In my opinion this essential oil is very good to diffuse in the environment, infact it “elevates” the space in which we are immersed, cleans it (this essence is antiseptic and cleans also on the energetic level). I consider it good in massage and bath for destressing purpose. Clearly it is considered an excellent component of perfumes, its energy connects perfectly with the old idea of “per-fumum”, a fumigation through which you might elevate , moving toward the top of the consciousness.

Incense essential oils are associated with different spices in perfumery; together they form attractive synergies that give character to the so-called oriental perfumes.

The tradition also reserves to incense cosmetic functions: the essential oil is definitely healing, and you can combine a natural cream base with incense essential oil to improve skin tone.

If you like incense, you can view the site on the area of Dhofar , which is one of the assets under the protection of UNESCO.

 

Cristina’s passion for Perfumes and Spices: a journey into spiced Aromatherapy and Perfumery

Today I propose to you an interview with Cristina, a journalist, who participated in the Online Course of Aromatherapy and Perfumery on Spices- She tells us about her experience, and her discoveries “in the spicy world”.

- Dear Cristina, how did you start your journey before arriving at my scented Course on Spices?

I almost knew spices by name and mostly as flavorings, and did not know that essential oils of spices  existed. Now I have started to use them, beginning with a little fear because I am hypersensitive to everything and I always need to  find “my” doses. One day, walking around the house, I felt the scent of cinnamon everywhere, as if I had put into the diffuser. And I was thinking of mixing the powdered spices to see what fragrance they recall together, before working on essential oils. To my own surprise, I feel I need not be hasty in creating perfumes, and I need to let spices “talk to me” for a while.

- What questions did you have before signin up, and what do you think about the course, now that you have followed the entire training?

The online courses are often considered inferior to presential courses, but in reality I have become increasingly convinced that the online course is not the little brother of the coursein presence. Of course, the olfactory experience can be transmitted online only intuitively, and the energy and synergy of the group is always stimulating. But doing an online course – especially enjoying the lessons, as I did, in the silence of the night – can mean a more concentrated listening. This allows you to take in all the intensity of some messages you want to convey.

When, for example, you exhorts the aspiring perfumer, if you pass me the expression, to try and to be a little artis, and to put in place the subtle alchemy of essences and scents that only through a clever use of intuition can create a work of art. Or that  it can happen to create a fragrance that we do not like but that others appreciate. It gives a thrill to think about how much truth and beauty are enclosed in this concept. Becoming capable of accommodating emotional and perceptive diversity of others, to be more open to others… If the process of creating a perfume can lead to this, that a great teacher is the scent!

Curcuma zedoaria | Corso di Aromaterapia e Ayurveda

- What are your favorite spices, and what do you do now with spices after completing the course?

After listening to one of the lessons I went immediately to buy turmeric and saffron. Mrs. Patrizia of Tea Time Trieste gave me an Iranian saffron. I can’t explain what happened inside me when I put the jar in my canvas bag, pulling on the string … it’s as if it was an initiation. Not to mention the wonderful smell of warm and golden turmeric, with which I now use for making infusions. I drink also ​​pure Arabic coffee flavored with cardamom. The aroma of cardamom is very special, I also bought the essential oil. Another day I bought the ginger, to try green tea with ginger and coriander, which has a wonderful scent. It makes me think of rosemary and incense, something mystical and mysterious .

- What insights did you have along the way?

I thought the work of preparation behind the course, the generosity with which you offer your whole experience, the sweetness with which you encourage your students to start down the road of creating perfumes, learning to face and overcome difficulties. When one enrolls in a course, one often expects to receive receive receive. As for me everything is always connected, what I received was also an enrichment for my job, for my writing. I am beginning to use the words as if they were spices and essential oils …

- How do you feel now?

Sometimes I say, “Good morning, you finally woke up.” I came up with a dream of a few years ago I was in a room full of shelves with countless bottles of glass, in which there was a colored liquid, red, green, blue, etc., and at one point, whenI passed by them, all began to vibrate in unison. It is just the feeling I have now.

- What inner meaning you caught in the study of natural scents?

The perfumer Emilio Raccagni interviewed by you, said natural scent “is a world full of sensitivity” . It is true, I found out following your training, and it was a revelation. Expand your olfactory horizon means to expand your mental  and intellectual horizon. Talking with the language of perfumes, I would say that this course seems an invitation to perceive in every experience of life its base note, its middle note and its top note. Three notes that, of course, there are also in your training.

***

Coriander essential oil in Aromatherapy and Ayurveda

Coriander is a seed of a nice scented plant, which has always been known in Ayurveda for its beneficial properties. It is distilled from the Coriander seeds: essential oil scent remininds of lemon or citronella … and it’s it, Coriander, which seems to have inspired the use of carnival confetti!

Aromatherapy and coriander essential oil
Coriander…

This spice (above in one of the images of Koehler) has ancient roots, and we can find traces of its use in Egypt, in Greece, and it is mentioned in the Bible, in the texts of Exodus and Numbers.

In Ayurveda it is considered pungent and bitter, and having cooling effect. It is often used for its carminative and diuretic properties.

The use of coriander infusion is useful to people with digestive problems.

The essential oil extracted from the seeds has many properties, including :

– Tonic and stimulant;

– Euphoric;

– Bactericidal;

– Analgesic;

and therefore it can be a valuable aid, diluted in a vegetable oil, for local applications in case of:

– Arthritis;

-Weak digestion, flatulence;

– Fatigue, nervous exhaustion.

There is also a distillation of the leaves of coriander, which contain different chemical components, in fact it has different properties, ie it is a sedative and anti-inflammatory. This distillation is rare to find, so when you buy the essential oil of coriander, it will always be one of the seeds.

Its olfactory profile is varied , with sweet, spicy, some reminiscent of lime background, and bitter and a “rounding” bitter sweet aspect that mitigates its power base.

Its stimulating properties for the nervous system make it suitable also in small doses in massage, and in self massage of the feet in the morning, to begin the day with energy.

Warning: it smells very intense,use it carefully!

Curry recipes contain Coriander, and there are hundreds of recipes Eastern and Middle Eastern containing it.

A book inspired by this beautiful spice is “Damascus, taste of a city” written by Marie Fadel and Rafik Scham.

Happy reading … and happy carnival with Coriander (in Italy carnival confetti are known as “carnival corianders”) !