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Let your mind slowly drift and picture yourself in an era many years ago..in the 1st century B.C. in Egypt. Cleopatra was setting sail on the Nile with her entourage, her handmaidens busily scenting her sails with jasmine to announce her presence to her adoring multitudes. Of course, any prospective suitors she might encounter along the way would be intoxicated by the luxurious aromas wafting through the air. Cleopatra and other members of the royal family had their own priest perfumers, who deigned the exclusive right to create scent for rituals, religious events, lovemaking, childbirth and remedies for various maladies. Since Cleopatra felt was above all that, and she also created her own scents and cosmetics too. Since she was Cleopatra, they did not cause friction and they let her go and create her own perfumes.
Perfume to her was sacred, but it was also one of her main tools used to ensnare and entrap everyone from lovers to confidantes and servants. It was her preferred method of seduction. She oozed self confidence and power, and the fragrances she wore enhanced that sexual power even more.
The Latin word for perfume is actually “per-fumem”, translated as “through smoke”. One of the most famous incenses of all time was the Egyptian Kyphi, which came in many forms and was used for centuries as “per-fumem”. In this era scent was based on the burning of macerated plant and flower essences as an offering to the Gods. It was also used in a cone shaped mixture of beef tallow and essences called a “kit” to wear as a perfume on top of your wig, to be melted down with the hot Egyptian sun or a night of dancing and frivolity.
Cleopatra had land that was bequeathed to her by Marc Anthony by the Dead Sea, a place fittingly called “En Bouquet”. It was there she had her own perfume and cosmetics factory, using the rich bounty of flowers and plants from the region including the olive tress and Dead Sea salts. She also had here minions scouring the far reaches of the globe to find exotic and unusual plants and oils for her to use in her elixirs.
One of the legends of when Cleopatra met Julius Caesar for the first time is steeped in scent. She knew that she had to win Caesar over in order to keep her dominion over her precious Egypt, instead of her letting the power got to her evil younger brother, who was also her husband. This was often done in ancient times to control the bloodline. Caesar was in the harbor waiting to figure out the impending doom, while Cleo silently plotted away. She created a potion so powerful that no one could resist it, even the most powerful man in the world. As Cleopatra was not known as a great beauty, she was known as the most seductive and cunning woman of her day. She was said to have a rather large proboscis, which would explain her other highly attuned sense of smell. She used all of her assets to get the job done. She then applied this potion all over her body and hair in copious quantities. She also donned her most suggestive and alluring gown, custom made for the occasion. Then she chose a tapestry of the most exquisite detail and beauty imported from Persia, and had her manservant wrap her delicately in it and prepare to go to the boat and offer herself to Caesar. When her aide guided her by boat to the harbor, Caesar was astounded at the magnanimous gift. As the servant slowly unfurled the carpet he felt himself become dizzy with scent..besotted. And he was even more chagrined when Cleopatra herself; catlike…slowly was released from the offering festooned with ribbons of scent. He was amused but also enchanted by this sorceress, and so did one of the greatest love stories of all time begin. That is of course until Marc Anthony hit the scene!
Cleopatra’s Love Elixir
However some of them like Blue Lotus are extremely rare, but can be found if willing to pay the price. This can be made in a base of perfumer’s alcohol, or in an unscented jojoba to be used as a perfume oil. If using as a body oil cut the recipe to only 15% of what is listed below, or divide each of the ingredients by 6. This is for a 1 ounce bottle at a 15% solution, an eau de parfum strength.
Blood Orange 50 drops
Lemon 25 drops
Opoponax ( Cassie) 13 drops
Jasmine Sambac 18 drops
Ylang Ylang 7 drops
Rose Absolute 13 drops
Blue Lotus 5 drops
Myrtle 11 drops
Cinnamon 8 drops
Vanilla 12 drops
Here is a love poem from that era, heralding the virtues of scent. From Sacred Luxuries by Lise Manniche
“If you go to the room of the beloved
She being alone and without another
You can do what you wish with the latch
The door hangings flutter
When the sky comes down in the wind
But it does not carry it away, her fragrance,
When she brings you an abundance of scent
Intoxicating those present……”
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