Scented Prayers: Copal & the Day of the Dead

With the success of movies like Coco and The Book of Life, along with the popularity of children’s books like The Dead Family Diaz, it is clear that the English speaking world is more familiar than ever with Día de Muertos (aka Day of the Dead). Overall I think this is a good thing. Latin American…

The Death/Scent Reading List

Over the last year I have had several requests for more information and deeper reads on subjects brought up on the blog. So after banging around my shelves a bit, here is the Death/Scent reading list. Some of them are staples of both olfactive and death literature, others are weird and wonderful deep cuts.  This…

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.

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…

Mummy Powder Incense?

To the modern Westerner, incense is the friend of the pothead teenager and long-time companion of the hippy.  Incense is perhaps the oldest form of human scent manufacturing, however.

Scented Death Customs?

So to inaugurate things on the blog, I’d like to take a moment to go through the different categories and what they will be about. Scented Death Customs is where I will profile different burial customs along with how and why scent altering products are used. We will talk about the belief systems behind these customs as well…