PERFUME IN ANCIENT EGYPT
NEFERTUM, God of Perfumers and Aromatherapists
by Creezy Courtoy
Nefertum (Nefertem, Nefertemu) was an ancient god, the God of Perfumers and Aromatherapists ( at this time perfumers were all aromatherapists ) mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2350 BC), but became more prominent during the New Kingdom (1539 - c. 1075 BC) and later.
Nefertum was the son of Ptah and Sekhmet.
Ptah, his father, was the creator God and the Patron of artisans.
His mother, Sekhmet, was the Goddess with a dragon head who protected Egypt from its enemies but she was also the Goddess of plants and herbs and the Patron of medical and alchemist distillation. Nefertum ruled over ointments and perfumed oils.
In Ancient Egypt, fragrances were considered as the essence of materialization of all things. Nefertum was thus considered the spirit of life.
He represented beauty in its perfection and was associated with purification and youthfulness. His symbol and representation was the blue lotus flower, the sacred flower of Egypt through which the sun rose.
Nefertum was the god of the lotus blossom who emerged from the primeaval waters at the beginning of time, and a god of perfume and aromatherapy.
Nefertum was the god of healing, medicine and beauty and strongly associated with the lotus and often depicted in Egyptian art with a large lotus blossom forming his crown. The lotus was the only flowering plant in Egypt that bloomed nonstop throughout the year. Held by gods and goddesses near the nose of royal kings, queens and pharaohs as its scent, this flower was believed to be restorative and protective.
Nefertum was seen as the sun god and the grandson of the sun god.
He was not originally worshipped in temples, but was an important aspect of the sun god, who was later discovered as the grandson of the sun god.
For the people in Egypt, he was their protector and their healer.
Nefertum was linked both to the pleasant scent of the lotus flower and to its medical properties which were well known to the ancient Egyptians.
He was also associated with a number of the Egyptians favorite flowers, such as rose, geranium and cornflower. In fact, he could be described as the archetypal aromatherapist.
According to one legend, he brought a bouquet of beautiful lotuses to the aging Ra to ease his suffering. As a result, he was described in the Pyramid Texts as "the lotus blossom which is before the nose of Ra". He may have originally been considered to be an aspect of Atum. According to one version of the creation story of the Ennead in Heliopolis, Nefertum (translated as beautiful Atum, or perfect Atum) was born from a blue lotus bud which emerged from the waters of Nun at the beginning of creation.
Atum represented the sun and so Nefertum represented the sunrise. He cried because he was alone and his tears created humanity. It was thought that he was born with every sunrise, matured into Atum during the day before passing into the world of the dead every sunset. The cycle of birth in the morning and death every evening (as the sun travelled through the underworld) represented the daily struggle between Chaos and Order (Ma´at). When Atum was absorbed by Ra (Atum-Ra), Nefertum came to be considered as a seperate deity, still closely associated with the newborn sun. Then Ptah was promoted to the chief national god and proclaimed the ultimate creator, and Nefertum was described as his son by either Sekhmet or Bast (both "Daughters of Ra"). However, as the son of Ptah, he also became patron of the perfume and healing arts derived from flowers. Thus, Nefertum was seen as both an aspect of the sun god, and also his grandson. He was also linked to rebirth, both as a personification of the newborn sun and as the patron of many of the necessary ingredients of the mummification process. A passage of the Book of the Dead says the blessed dead will
"Rise like Nefertum from the lotus, to the nostrils of Ra, and come forth upon the horizon each day".
The Egyptian pantheon is particularly huge and fluid, with a wide variety of deities entering and exiting each other's myths.
Nefertum used to be depicted as a beautiful young man wearing a lotus headdress, sometimes standing on the back of a lion.
Occasionally he wears a headdress with two feathers and two necklace weights that were fertility symbols associated with Hathor (who in turn was closely associated with the two goddesses described as his mother, Sekhmet and Bast).
He was sometimes depicted as a man with the head of a lion or as a reclining lion or cat. In this form, he was associated with the lion god Maahes, who may have been his brother, but may also have been an aspect of Nefertum. Like the newborn sun, he was generally depicted as a beautiful baby sitting on a lotus bud. Sometimes his body was shown wrapped like a mummy, with his arms and face unbound. He also had a lion or cat shape, attributed to his mother. He was also depicted as a human head emerging from a large water lily.
For the ancient Egyptians, however, with their holistic understanding of the universe, fragrances and perfumes were not only beautiful, but were also spiritual and therapeutic.
The Blue Lotus
The lotus flower flourishes on the banks of the Nile. It opens its large petals with the rising of the sun. To the ancient Egyptians it represented the sun because it banished darkness. Blue Lotus played a unique and important role in Ancient Egyptian culture. The plant was widely popular for its mood enhancing and mild psychedelic properties. Used both recreational and for spiritual effects, they often made a concoction out of Blue Lotus and wine.
This flower has even been placed alongside the deceased in ancient tombs. The plant is often depicted on walls and paintings as well, often depicted together with wine.
The Blue Lotus was even the symbol for the union of Upper and Lower Egypt. Commonly used in art as a symbol of Upper Egypt. It was often shown with its long stems intertwined with papyrus reeds (a symbol of Lower Egypt) as a representation of the unification of the two lands.
For the Ancient Egyptians, The Blue Lotus represented how the sky greeted the sun. Just as the sun rises above the horizon to start the day, the flower opens in the morning. Then just when the sun is setting, the flower closes itself at dusk. And because of this, the Egyptians coined the Blue Lotus the sacred flower of the sun and sun gods.
As this symbol means also the creation and rebirth, the lotus is a fixed part of tomb and coffin decoration, often in combination with the scarab, which has similar symbolic meaning.
If you want to learn more about national flowers visit my blog
Aromatic Journal of an Olfaction Trainer
by Maria Rodriguez Genna
One of the exercises during Creezy Courtoy’s olfactory training course was to be fully conscious of our sense of smell and to note our progression everyday. It was an interesting experience being purposely smelling everything to train my nose.
First day: What I recognized is the smell of skin. Clean skin, dirty skin, also my little daughter received a vaccine so I smelled her arm and I noticed a change in her natural scent, not long afterwards, but it was more noticeable the next day. On the street I smelled the salty air, the fresh green aroma of the trees, the gasoline obnoxious scents from the traffic.
Second day: I tried smelling ice, although it just smells like water, practically inodorous, the cool feeling has an effect on the nose. This cold scent is difficult to describe. It’s fresh, cold, sharp, almost metallic or even gassy like smelling nitrogen or helium. I didn’t go out for many days because my daughter became ill with fever for days due to the vaccine and I had to stay home to take care of her. So I did experiments with what I had around me at home, like laundry, cleaning items, medicines, etc.
Third day: I did a different exercise, I used imagery to recall or remember how a scent smelled. Like the sea and the beach, or for example amber notes, how a cake would smell,etc.
I also used images like paintings and tried to imagine how colors would relate to scents, for examples amber notes, the color already tells us of possibly resinous, heavy notes or even honeyed, white can be powdery, heady aromas, narcotic. So it was like trying to smell a painting.
Fourth day: I tried imagining what notes would have a perfume I’d like to create, and if they would harmonize. When I imagined the notes, the scents came to mind, like a faint sketch of a drawing, with colors and scents. I would need materia prima for experimenting with these notes and to corroborate if my imagination was correct and they are harmonious or not.
Fifth day: I quickly went to pick a package to the post office but with masks it’s difficult to smell much, only this cottony artificial scent it has, very unpleasant. They smell a lot like hospital sanitizer. It’s an interesting observation, how if we are very distracted with chores or if we go out but are thinking about something while we walk, we tend to lose the scents, because our attention is overpowered by thoughts and our other senses. This is something I’m trying to train myself to, because very easily my other senses overpower my nose, unless of course I close my eyes or try to consciously smell, with intention and full attention.
Last day: Noses can get accustomed to some smells, that is an observation.
I need to focus on something different for a few minutes, then I can revisit certain smells to be able to analyze them. My dry allergic nose doesn’t help either. So much pollen in the air, it can be smelled and it makes the throat and nose powdery and itchy. I will keep training because I’m very used to daily scents, that they disappear into the background. Usually opening a window helps, I notice it moves scents around and that makes my brain perceive them better.
I’m trying to train my nose to human skin odor. Just like I can recognize my little daughter’s natural skin scent, I’m trying to consciously remember or discreetly smell people close to me,to see if I can learn their unique aroma. It would be like taking an aromatic photograph to remember them. So far, I’m being successful with people that are very close to me.
The challenge is to smell different people and without them noticing -hahaha- but it’s an interesting anthropologic experiment. There’s someone I know, a really good friend, that smells incredibly good and it’s not perfume but natural scent. So all this research made by Creezy Courtoy about gorillas is starting to make sense, how they can recognize each other by scent, chose healthy future partners, etc. For someone in this field it is normal musings, but for the rest of the world it is politically incorrect so I have to be cautious if I will be training with human species. Gorillas would appreciate me getting to know them by scent much more!
Biodynamics, Wine and Whole Ingredient Perfumery
by RACHEL BINDER
For years I worked in the culinary world- as a server, a sommelier, as a manager. One thing that has always been a professional standard is that you don’t wear perfume while working near food and wine. In fact, if you wear scent during your sommelier exam you automatically fail the service portion of your test.
What grows together grows together
One spring I was lucky enough to have a Barolo tasting that changed my life. It was spring and the patio we were tasting on was covered in jasmine- that pink sweet jasmine that takes over my home town of Venice Beach at certain times a year. The Barolo just seemed to taste and smell with more beauty and nuance with that aromatic addition of (the jasmine) nature!
Especially notable since jasmine grows so beautifully in Italy where the Nebbiolo grapes of Barolo grow.
It was an aha moment for me because I realized that if you follow the guiding principles of wine pairing you understand that what grows together grows together. So why do we not do perfume and wine pairings? Often that is because synthetic scents don’t grow with nebbiolo grapes, pinot noir grapes or anything else. They are isolated in a lab even if they had a natural beginning. They no longer contain that beating heart of nature but there is also a more assertive sillage to molecules made in a lab (even “natural” isolates) that prevents ones ability to fully smell and taste food and wine to its fullest capacity.
Why does that “beating heart of nature” matter when it comes to perfume and wine?
For me it goes back to the principals of Rudolph Steiner (who began the modern biodynamics movement in regenerative farming) and biodynamics. As someone who tasted wine and also directed wine tastings and winemaker dinners for years I have experienced on so many occasions how the biodynamic calendar and its “fruit and flowers days” (which are based on the moon and the tides) can fully impact a tasting and how people experience scent and taste. Even the most hardened not natural seeming sommeliers will pull up the biodynamic calendar to see how their wine is going to show on a given day.
This works with wine because it is still a living, evolving whole ingredient ageable aromatic of nature. These principals do not work with items or ingredients that are so processed they no longer belong to this living cycle- a traditional designer fragrance is the same day after day. It does not evolve in time nor does it have the energetic imprint that is offered with a truly natural perfume. For this reason I started doing perfume and wine pairings with natural perfume and ingredients to help demonstrate to people the living difference that is possible with truly natural perfume.
A society whose noses have been dulled by a false sense of smell
There is something remarkable that happens when you pair a hydrosdistilled jasmine with a rose wine that has a floral component. First you smell and then you taste so many different levels of what these incredible gifts of nature have to offer. It becomes crystal clear that something different is happening with a natural perfume than we have learned to expect from a synthetic when we allow it to be experienced with retronasal olfaction (nose and taste buds). There are layers of scent and taste that are unlocked that can entirely bewitch and help shift ones appreciation of these natural beauties.
So many products that people use are scented with synthetics that are louder than our natural environment. Before someone even applies a synthetic scent they have quite literally been nose blinded by all of the other products they have applied to their bodies (shampoo, body lotion, cleaning products, fabric softener). It has led to a society whose noses have been dulled by a false sense of smell. Many of us have forgotten what real flowers or soil smells like because the idea of the fake one has taken over.
Go to the farmers market
So here is my pairing challenge! Go to the farmers market (if you have one nearby) and pick out some fruit that is in season, your favorite whole ingredient natural perfume or essential oil and grab some rose wine. Sit down and breathe in each of the aromatics, drink the wine and eat that beautiful fruit. I find it to be transcendent to experience these things together. From a sensory point of view this is a great tool of education on the possibilities of returning to the beauty that was one experienced with all perfume before they were taken from the earth and rebirthed in a lab.
All over the world people are finding ways to help combat global warming with regenerative farming but I think the natural perfume world has an opportunity to help people remember what it is we are fighting for: the native plants uncommonly utilized, the beauty of biodiversity, and the possibility of a rebirth of how we experience and share aromatics.
Black Tea and Rose Rose Sangria.
It’s rose (wine) season and so many are being released this time of year!
I recommend trying this with a deeper rose (think Bordeaux varietals, or an Italian, Spanish or Chilean rose).
All sangrias or punches may work differently depending on wine choice - a little citrus like a splash of blood orange always works great!
Workshops are organised by Vennie Chou, IPF certified Natural Beauty Product Specialist, Skin Care Expert, Histology Immunology Marker Expert and Member of the Teacher's Academy.
Students will receive a certificate of accomplishment from the International Perfume Foundation.
APRIL 27-28 2019 (SATURDAY, SUNDAY)
NATURAL SKINCARE WORKSHOP Study of Creams & Lotions in Natural Skincare:
Learn the key components that go into making natural, organic and non-toxic creams/lotions for yourself, family and friends. Products used will be simple natural ingredients to make gentle, yet effective skincare moisturisers.
Cost: $280 ( non- member) $155 (member).
MAY 5 - 2019 (SUNDAY)
NATURAL SOY CANDLE & INCENSE WORKSHOPStudents will learn the basics of making soy tea-light candles and votive candles, using essential oils and natural plant dyes. In addition, students will learn to make cone incense using all plant materials.
Cost: $195 ( non-member) $100 ( IPF member)
MAY 19 - 2019 (SUNDAY)
INDIGO DYEING WORKSHOP, THE BASICSStudents will learn different ways of making Indigo Vats. Students will build a collection of Indigo dyed linen, wool and silk samples, including indigo over-dyed samples.
Each student will have a silk scarf to experiment simple Shibori techniques for dyeing.
Cost: $195 ( non- member) $100 ( IPF member).
JUNE 22-23 2019 (SATURDAY AND SUNDAY)
SOAP MAKING WORKSHOP WITH NATURAL DYES:
This is an intensive soap making workshop. Students will learn to make bar soaps and various decorative techniques using Natural dyes. Different techniques including Hand Milling, Impression, Embedding, and Marbling. On Day 2, students will learn to make liquid and foam soap. Formulas will be provided that you can use to build your own soap recipes.
Cost: $345 (non-member) $225 (IPF member).
Consumer behavior is changing. Consumers are starting to ask questions about what they purchase for fragrances, the same way they have for healthier foods and beverages. They are beginning to look for new perfumers, custom perfumes, and natural perfumes. The world of perfume is changing: in the past there were around 10 perfume houses making perfumes for hundreds of brands. Today there are thousands of perfumers, and thousands brands worldwide.
Are we living in a new era for the perfume industry? Is this a revolution driven by consumers or is this a normal cyclical evolution leading perfumers to come back to what perfume used to be in the past?
Since ancient times, fragrances and perfumes were used for healing purposes and at the same time perfumers were healers. They studied perfumery to learn the beneficial power of plants, created their own little healing gardens, used enfleurage, maceration, and distillation techniques and start making their own perfumes while thinking about people’s wellbeing. Thanks to flower fields, perfumers also made sure that bees did their part in preserving flowers and plants for the future. Perfumes were precious, made with 95% flowers and plants and 5 % alcohol.
Today, what challenge does the perfume industry have to face?
How can major brands adapt to changing consumer behaviors and meet the growing demand for natural? How can they enter this New Luxury Market, respecting the New Luxury Code?
Do we need to change the curriculum of perfumery courses to reflect the changing marketplace and tomorrow’s perfumes? What is the purpose of a perfume? Shouldn’t it be more than just self-satisfaction for a perfumer? Will this be enough to satisfy the inevitable changing consumer demand for natural products?
What major changes already in place will continue to form a very new picture of the perfume industry and its exciting future?
All of these questions and more will be covered by a panel composed of the following Certified Experts and Members of the Teachers-Academy: Rodney Hughes, IPF Certified Natural Perfumer, Françoise Rapp, Expert in Essential Oils and Aromatherapy and Ruth Ruane, Director of the IPF Certified Natural Perfume Academy
Join us at Cosmoprof Bologna for this important conference about the Future of Perfumery
Enroll in an IPF Certified Perfumery School