Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Perfume of the Pharoahs

 VS sez: here's one from the archives today, revised a bit...
Warrior of the Nile is my second paranormal romance set in Ancient Egypt, Dancer of the Nile is my third and the fourth -  Magic of the Nile - will be out in March.. Since I knew I would be doing a post here on the Paranormal Romantics blog this week, I was scanning through the manuscripts last night, to see what might inspire me as a topic to write about, and I came up with – perfume!
The Egyptians loved and treasured perfume, starting with the scent of the blue Nile lotus, which they
wore in garlands, as wreaths, and carried singly or in bouquets. Curiously the flower was not often used as an ingredient for actual perfume. Perhaps the Egyptian belief that a strong scent of lotus in the air meant a Great One was present kept the mere mortals from usurping the concentrated lotus essence for themselves.
 Khenet, the warrior in my book's title, has several encounters with the goddess Nepthys during the novel, none of them very comfortable. He does indeed learn to watch out for that overwhelming perfume as a sign she’s near. Here’s the first time they meet, deep in the inner sanctum of her temple:
“Do you find me attractive, warrior?” she asked, her voice husky, honey sweet and low pitched. Not waiting for an answer, she swayed across the chamber to confront him, one hand on her hip. “It’s been many centuries since I took a human lover.”
Lotus perfume surrounded him, making him dizzy. Choosing his words very carefully, Khenet couldn’t help thinking the situation felt like a trap. “With all due respect, Great One, such radiant splendor is too much for a mortal man to experience.”
Nephthys laughed. “Well spoken, I see Pharaoh has sent me a diplomat disguised as a rough soldier.”
He opted for silence. Yeah I learned a lot in my years at Court, especially how great ladies like to be complimented.
 Perfume was so important to the Ancient Egyptians that there was even a special deity, Nefertum, assigned to be “…guardian and protector of the perfume and oil makers, protector and god of the sacred lotus. Osiris is the body of the plants, Nefertum is the soul of the plants, the plants purified. The divine perfume belongs to Nefertum living forever.”*
He was usually depicted as a very handsome young man, with a crown of lotus flowers. Some legends say his tears at the dawn of time became the human race. Egyptians often carried small amulets depicting him as good luck charms… and that was about the extent of Nefertum’s responsibilities. Watching over the all important perfume was a full time job apparently!
Just as we have our favorite brands of perfume today, expecting every bottle of Chanel No 5 to smell exactly the same, the Egyptians had detailed recipes for their favorite scents, including Susinum (lilies, myrrh & more), Cyprinum (henna) and Mendesian (myrrh, cassia, resins & more). They conducted an international trade in this luxury. To signify his dominion over Egypt, which was so identified with the perfume industry, Julius Caesar is said to have scattered alabaster perfume bottles to the crowds at his triumphal parades in Rome.
We’re barely scratching the surface of this topic and I’m already out of space but I’ll take it up again another day…there’s still the tale to tell of the sunken cargo ship carrying blue glass, fragrant materials and a golden scarab bearing the cartouche of Nefertiti…were they bringing exotic ingredients to be made into a special scent just for her? 
Always more mysteries and questions when it comes to Ancient Egypt – thank goodness!
What's your favorite scent? Currently I alternate between Very Hollywood by Michael Kors and  Tresor by Lancome....
 See you next month…

ABOUT Warrior of the Nile:
RT Book Reviews sez: “4 Stars HOT…you’re in for the most romantic desert story since Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra…”
*Hymn to Nefertem, 18th dynasty
Steve Van Toller, G. H. Todd: Fragrance: Psychology and Biology of Perfume, 1992 Springer, p.290

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