This post, as should be obvious from the title, is about smell. The "scents" of smell (...and the puns just write themselves!...)
I say"common sense," because sometimes I feel that when it comes to olfactory knowledge, it should be pretty straightforward for us Witches. Many of us try very hard to stick to natural sources when scenting anything, especially in the name of environmentalism. I would say that we divide smells into four categories:
1. Icky odors:
There are just some scents that nobody loves. This is actually a good thing: it's even an evolutionary strategy. Things like rotting vegetation or, worse yet, rotting flesh (bleh!) smells disgusting because it IS disgusting. And by disgusting, I mean "harmful to humans." You can argue all day long how "this-or-that" culture has "such-and-such" a delicacy that also smells "icky" to outsiders, and yes, these are exceptions to the rule: especially where exotic cuisine comes into play (have you ever eaten durian?) But I'm talking about full-on, universal stench. Like vomit. Or sewage. Or stagnant water. We are able to smell these nasty things so that we can avoid them, or worse, we won't inadvertently consume them or the food they have tainted. Ancient humankind had to deal with a lot of nasty stuff, so being able to smell meat that had gone bad or water that was polluted was of paramount importance in order to stay alive and keep yourself in the mating game. So learn to trust your nose... it "nose" what it's talking about! (And... BOOM! Fourth play on words, haha!)
2. Natural smells:
A lot of people enjoy these - some without even thinking about it. Scents like baking bread, fresh-cut grass, a wood-burning fire, a just-peeled orange, the smell of the air right after rain, that pine tree scent during the Holidays, or even the smell of a loved one or furry friend. When you read about or talk about these smells, you can conjure them in your mind like they are in the room with you right then and there. However, how often do you smell things of this nature that you don't acknowledge? Or maybe don't even know that you are smelling? Things like the scent of pages in an old book, or that whiff of leather that your favorite chair gives off. If you think about it hard enough, there are probably even smells you love that you think are weird. I love the smell of burnt cheese. I love the smell of tomato plants (not tomatoes, just the plants.) I even love the smell of my doggie's funky feet. (Despite how endearing this sounds, it's gross, I know.)
3. Naturally made scents:
Usually this brings to mind essential oils, which are made of natural plant matter that has been distilled. Essential oils are natural perfuming agents that can be used to scent just about anything. You can wear them on yourself, warm them in a diffuser, use them in applications throughout the house, etc. Another example of this category of scent can be seen in naturally scented candles (like beeswax), naturally crafted incense, natural perfume waters, and even natural cleaners. There's nothing wrong with adding scent to something when you use natural ingredients. I remember my grandma used to clean copper pots with lemons and then throw the rind down the garbage disposal to freshen up the drain. This was a simple way to use the lemon's natural oils. So easy, right? If only everyone took advantage of the plethora of natural scents around us. And with that, we come to:
4. Unnatural "perfumes":
To me, this category is close enough to the "icky odors" category as to almost make it come full circle. I say "almost" because I don't particularly relish the smell of dead or rotting things. But I'm not gonna lie: some of the perfumed products that are so popular and so widely used in our culture might as well smell like shit as far as I'm concerned, because that's how put off I am by them. One that comes to mind is the dryer sheets that everyone seems to be so fond of. Sometimes, when I walk my dog at night, I smell this wafting off of the houses we go past, and it's not (as least not for me) a welcome scent. To me, it reeks like chemicals and killing the planet. Personal perfume products affect me in a similar way. Sometimes the perfume itself (despite being unnatural) will smell ok, but people usually put SO much on, that I can't take it. And walking past the perfume counters in a department store? UGH. You know there's something wrong when the just the scent of something can give you a headache. Not only that, but perfumes can cause allergic reactions, like respiratory disorders and skin rashes. So why are they found in so many products? For one, they are extremely inexpensive, and two, because they are chemical compositions, they can be patented.
I will say, however, that I have a really developed sense of smell, so I know that different odors affect me far more than they do other people. Every time I buy a scented product, like shampoo or laundry soap, I take off the top and smell it to make sure I like it enough to use it repeatedly. I can't deal if it smells so strong that it's going to gross me out, and this is true of almost everything that uses unnatural perfumes. That "fresh laundry" smell? EWWW.
I'm not immune, though. Those scented holiday candles that come out every year smell awesome to me. So there are exceptions, even for what I like.
Witches use a lot of scented products, like incense, oils, candles, magical washes or perfume waters, salts and soaps for magical baths, potions, flowers, herbs and spices, aromatic foods, smudging materials.... Yikes! It's no wonder I can get overwhelmed, even using all-natural scents! Because of my sensitivity, I have had to compromise on some of my magical practices. I almost always use unscented candles, for example. I also often use a very lightly scented magical spritzer to purify my sacred space, instead of incense. I will talk about some alternatives like this one in a post coming up. But in the mean time, tell me:
What do you think about scent and scented products? What do you like and dislike?