Sacred Scents – Addendum (I)

‘ Burning and offering incense was a means of communication between the earthly and divine spheres. Thus it would also serve as a link between the deceased king and the deities in whose company he was believed to travel across the sky every night in eternity, when he himself became part of  cosmos.

This was an idea established at the very beginning of Egyptian civilisation nearly 5000 years ago. We first encounter it in the so-called Pyramid Texts […]

Again we find incense, offered by priests in the mortuary temple, playing a vital part as an intermediary between the dead king and the gods in the sky:

The fire is laid,

The fire is lit.

The incense is placed on the fire.

The incense glows.

Your scent comes to the dead King Unas, oh incense.

The scent of King Unas comes to you, oh incense.

Your scent comes to King Unas, you gods.

King Unas is with you, oh gods.

You are with King Unas, oh God.

You live with King Unas, oh gods.

You love him, oh gods.

Scent was similarly efficient when brought forward in the form of an unguent. By having his body anointed the deceased king would absorb the very body fragrance of the sun god Re, so far removed from the foul odour of death and decay. The unguent had healing properties, for it would restore his body just as the eye of Horus had been healed and restored and made to see again.

I come to you king so-and-so

To anoint you with the unguent which sprang from the eye of Horus.

Anoint yourself with it.


Take its scent that your scent

May become sweet like the scent of Re

 when he rises to the horizon

And the gods of the horizon rejoice with him.

– from Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, Lise Manniche (pg. 35-36)

Quote posted as addendum to Sacred Scents: on the alchemy of scent in Heka and worshipping the Gods.

Relevant post: Words of Power for offering incense

This entry was posted in Books and Resources, Heka, Incense, Sacred Scents, Words of Power and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sacred Scents – Addendum (I)

  1. Kiya Nicoll says:

    I am reminded of the Egyptain pun: “senetjer” is incense; “sen netjer” is ‘brother of the god’.

  2. Jason M says:

    I have an interesting complication where the case of incese and other ungents are concerned: I have a total lack of the olfactory sense. I cannot smell anything. I have been “interested” in some of the Egyptian elements (no pun intended) for some time, but have recently felt a stronger pull towards research and dedication. One of the stumbling blocks I personally have trouble overcoming is this deep-seated need for the odiferous part of ritual/spellwork. My concern is that I have no concept of what is supposed to work together, and what is not, and how this may confuse or disrupt my intentions as this offering is so often connected with the communion with the beings in question. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated as I cannot continue to ignore this call to at least study in particular many of the Jackals and their associations.

    • I’d first like to ask if you’ve had olfactory sense in the past, in which case you could rely on memories of certain scents to trigger a response within a ritual/devotional setting.
      If you’ve always lacked the sense of smell, then it’s a bit trickier but it can still be worked with in a ritual/devotional setting in the sense that even if you personally do not feel them, the Spirits and Deities do and they still trigger spiritual/magical effects. Thorough research can help you finding out ‘what works for who or what purpose’. For example various types of resin blends work well as offerings for many Deities and frankincense and myrrh work well for cleansing sacred space and blessing. These are just examples of course.
      Purely as an idea/food for thought:
      An interesting experiment would be researching the physical/emotional effects certain scents can have on the body, mind and spirit – some are elevating, some are energizing, some are relaxing – and work with the association of scent and that effect: for example if you need do to a home blessing, use a scent which is relaxing and one which is energizing. Or work with the elemental and planetary correspondences of each herb/resin/scent. to bring out a specific magical/spiritual/devotional manifestation (for example if you’re going to honour a Solar Deity use Solar herbs and resins as incense blend).

      Funny enough, I’m working on another addendum for Sacred Scents, one which explores certain scent associations with various Egyptian Deities and specific ritual/devotional needs, so that may help you as well.

      • Jason M says:

        Never had any olfactory sense. In the past I’ve just either taken others at their word and/or ignored that aspect of the work in question. I tend to compensate with colors and occasionally sounds/music whenever possible. I have also used Elemental associations to make-up for the lack by using other materials with the proper other-sense connections. In this case, however, I keep seeing how important this aspect is in dealing with Netjer and the roles many of the scents played in Egyptian daily life. This would make it difficult to replace and still impart the proper respect to both groups.
        The interesting thing to note is that some resins (And i would assume oils, etc.) affect me personally differently than research would suggest. Dragon’s Blood for example, rather than being calming and relaxing actually acts as an almost dangerous stimulant.
        I look forward to any new information which I may be able to incorporate, even if only through mental projection.

  3. Won’t let me do another reply to your comment so I have to put it here separately.
    You said ‘The interesting thing to note is that some resins (And i would assume oils, etc.) affect me personally differently than research would suggest. Dragon’s Blood for example, rather than being calming and relaxing actually acts as an almost dangerous stimulant.’
    Well, I must say I’ve personally never found Dragon’s Blood relaxing, quite far from it.
    And in your case after research, I’d heavily rely on personal experience of what scent affects you how. I believe a lot of experimentation is in order and see how certain scents affect you, even if you can’t smell them. Research is good but personal experience and experimentation counts immensely. As a personal note I’ll say I’ve found many herbs, resins, oils, etc. to have very different effects when I’ve used them than the ones generally listed in resources. My opinion is this comes from our Within – physical (i.e. personal chemistry, senses, the way our brain decodes information received, etc.) and spiritual as well.
    Also, perhaps common sense but I feel obligated to state it, make 100% sure you don’t experiment with potentially hazardous herbs and materials, even if you don’t feel the scent, they can still do a lot of damage and getting injured in any way is not worth it (just like a person who doesn’t feel pain putting their hands in the fire – they wouldn’t feel it but they’d still get burns). Always be aware of the potential hazards, side effects, dosage, etc and experiment with small amounts.
    Always practice safety and discernment.

    • Jason M says:

      Yeah, I’m aware…I work in chemical labs, so I’m used to thinking about what I’m working with beyond scent indicators😀

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