“Odor, oftener than any other sense impression, delivers a memory to consciousness little impaired by lapse of time, stripped of irrelevancies of the moment or of the intervening years, apparently alive and all but convincing. Not vision, not hearing, touch, nor even taste – so nearly akin to smell – none other, only the nose calls up from the vasty deep with such verity those sham, cinematic materialisations we call memories.”
– Roy Bedichek: The Sense of Smell
Smell is the most powerful of our senses because it is the fastest route to the part of the brain that deals with emotions and memory. An odor can evoke the details and mood of an old experience as if no time had passed.
Smelling is automatic – we do it as we breathe – and while our sense of smell is powerful, it is not always accurate without the help of other senses, such as sight.
We are often unable to find language and context even to the most familiar smells when they are separated from their source. Blind smelling perfumes and being able to separate different notes in your head is an art that requires practice.
While our sense of smell is poor compared to that enjoyed by many other animals, through times, our noses have helped us find food, and detect bad food and danger.
Scent is also deeply connected to intimacy and sexuality. People we like, love and are attracted to smell good to us. An emotional link is formed, though often unconsciously.
In Elizabethan times, a woman in love would place a peeled apple in her armpit to saturate it with her scent. This ‘love apple’ would then be presented to his lover as a token of her desire.
Whether we like it or not, scents that are arousing to us, are actually reminiscent of the smell of sweat and of the hairy regions of the human body. Quite animal we are still.
Because of this primal, instinctive animal in us, some people smell bad to us. This has less to do with personal hygiene and more to do with our brilliant inner guidance system of finding a partner.
The de-odorized world we live in has made it more difficult to sniff our way to that perfect match though, since we work so hard to cover and do away with most natural smells.
We seem to be more and more disturbed by the word ‘smell’. Like a smell is something primitive and dirty and the only appropriate scents are those that come from a bottle in the form of perfumes, deodorants, and cleansing products.
Stopping showering is not the answer, but changing our scent palette into a more natural one might just be. By doing that, while our scent landscape gets cleansed, it also gets more sensual, interesting and healthy.
A natural essence is made up of dozens of molecules. It is a secret recipe that Mother Nature put together. For example lemon oil contains approximately 20 different molecules, rose oil more than 100.
A synthetic chemical mimicking these scents is often just a single molecule. However strong the scent might be, it is flat. It is not dynamic and complex.
To surround yourself with lifeforce, surround yourself with living things.
If you are curious about natural scents, aromatherapy and the history of perfumes, Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel is a beautiful book to begin with.