The Redolent Plague Doctor?

We’ve all seen him. A dark figure, robed in black, carrying his long examining stick like a scythe. A pale beak glimpsing out from beyond his broad-brimmed hat. A carrion crow turned man. Such nightmare fuel could only spring forth from the fever dreams of a Dark Age mind, right? His beak stuffed with aromatic…

The Rise of Miasma

This post is part of the Scented History of the Plague series. If you are not familiar with the history of the plague in Europe, you may want to pop over to our primer first. In this post, we’re discussing the rise of Miasma Theory during the Second Pandemic and how it impacted European olfactive…

More Spooktacular Fragrance Pairings for Halloween

Spooky season has descended upon us once again and with it the age-old quest for the perfect Halloween costume. Personally, I’ve been oscillating between Dolly Parton and Pugsley Addams this year. That’s right boys, get you a girl who can pull off both Dolly and Pugsley! All this mulling has led me back to one…

The Perfumed Mummy (Egypt Part IV)

Now we reach the intersection of material culture, belief systems, and death with the physical preparation of the body, which used many aromatic ingredients. The creation of the archetypical Egyptian mummy was a complex evolution that embraced the olfactive elements of the putrid and the divine.

The Body as Art: Bone Shields (Scent the Scene)

In this series, we examine aspects of death and bereavement through art, olfaction, and imaginative thinking. Feel free to follow along at home and leave your take on this scented death meditation below.  This Week’s Muse This month we are going to be examining human remains used in artistic pieces. Some of these works serve…

Turning the Bones Part II: Endangered Customs

This is Part II of our two-part look at Famadihana. Read Part I here While forces have been at work for some time trying to kill the lively and joyous practice of Famadihana, they have done little to dampen the practice in the highlands; what may prove the death nail, however, is the pneumonic plague.

Turning the Bones Part I: Dance with the Perfumed Dead

Places have souls; you experience them through their scents. What does Madagascar’s soul smell like? Mango and lemon chutney, recently plucked limes and papaya, fresh green coffee pods, and newly ground cocoa powder. It’s in homemade cinnamon-infused rum mixed with coconut milk (a Punch Coco), carved Rosewood figures rubbed with nutty Baobab oil, wild ylang-ylang…

The Chemistry of Death and Desire

What does fleshy tuberose, cooked Brussel sprouts, chocolate, the musk of human sex, faeces, and a decomposing body all have in common?