Saturday, September 19, 2015

SCENTS & AROMAS

The sense of smell may seem less relevant in comparison to the other senses. Yet, it is unimaginable not being able to smell the sweet scents of blooming flowers or perfumes, the musky salty sea air that invigorates the inner self, the mysterious scent of dense forests on rainy days, freshly mowed grass, and yummy, the aromas of hot steamy food that fill the air!  I feel truly blessed being able to enjoy life’s benevolence to the utmost. 

Today my story relates to scents, setting the stage for two most favoured flowers – the rose and jasmine, and my impressions of them.

ROSE – the flower of the Heavens
The rose takes me back in time to the innocent childhood years.  Flashes of rose shrubs meticulously lined the garden of my grandfather’s home, came into my mind. The garden was filled with sweet scents oozing from the roses and jasmines. How curious I was to touch the rose, and later regretted when the thorns pierced my little fingers.

I remember on many occasions, seeing my mother and aunties, with hairs beautified with roses.  The day I saw myself in the mirror with a red rose pinned to my hair, the agonizing pricked-finger incident instantly disappeared. Thereon, the rose became my favourite flower!

Roses come in many colours, but I love red roses the most. To me, roses really look their best when adorned in the gardens, where they are left to bloom and whither naturally.  What a shame to cut them off from their natural environment, coz they dry up quickly.  Roses satisfy the sense of smell, and sight. The sweet aroma  is invigorating, it generates clean, and positive auras to the environment.

As everyone knows, roses symbolize love and affection. A bouquet of roses delivered to the doorstep conveys unspoken love and affection in the most unassuming way, in any relationship. No word is needed to express one’s feelings - the rose speaks for itself.

I see the rose as a mysterious flower – beautiful, delicate, sweet, but dangerous. It must be handled carefully, or the thorns can hurt.  When mishandled, the petals drop, and it no longer looks desirable. Roses remind me of what a beautiful, and sensitive woman can be.  Like the rose that’s handled lovingly, she rewards the one she loves with contentment, and everlasting happiness!

Lets take a break and listen to Bobby Vinton with his red roses -  a 1962 nostalgia!



Spiritual and other uses
I learnt much from my grandfather, and great grandfather, who were both proficient in medicines, both contemporary and spiritual. I was told that in ancient times, roses were referred to, as the “Flower of the Heavens”.

Roses were often used for spiritual purposes by many Eastern cultures. Rose petals immersed in water, sanctified with prayers, were used to cleanse the body of negative energies and impurities, to ward away charms, and evil eyes. In the absence of fresh roses, the house can be filled with its scent from burning incense. It is believed that the incense can drive away evil spirits.

Roses of different colours were often used to decorate bridal suites.  The petals were scattered over the bed, and around the room, to induce a conducive ambience for the bridal couple on their wedding night.

The rose has its own unique scent and flavour. Its aroma is often extracted, liquefied, and consumed for various purposes. Rose oil is commonly used for aromatherapy, and in perfumes. The scent of rose perfume, mingled with the body’s natural perspiration, create a unique and mysterious smell that cannot be duplicated by any other user. Rose water when added to bakeries, in particular cookies, provide added floral smell, with an unusual taste that’s loved by many.

How to make your own rose perfume
I learnt to make my own rose perfume during my teens.  It is simple, and if you are really enthusiastic, keep experimenting until you find the right strength of the aroma that you like. You can use water or oil as the base.

Most importantly, the roses selected, regardless of the colours, must be really fresh, and preferably direct from the garden or fresh from the florist.  You need to experiment a few times, to either let the mixture stand for a longer or shorter period. You can make your own floral perfume from other flowers as well. When you’re done experimenting, and know exactly what you like - bingo, you’ve made your very own brand of floral perfume!  Keep your homemade floral perfume in a cool, dry shelf in your own bedroom.

Rose perfume – water base
Choose the roses that are not too fully bloomed, preferably those that are about to open.  Remove the petals individually, and place them into a container. Crush the petals with a spoon. Cover the container, and let the mixture stand for a few hours. Pour the content (minus the crushed petals) into a glass perfume container, and you are ready to spray! This is a fast and simple method. You can also use this water to add the rose aroma to your cookies.

Rose perfume – oil base
Fill an air-tight glass jar with odourless oil.  Remove the petals and drop them altogether into the jar and close the lid quickly. Leave the jar in a cool dry place for 7 days. Pour the oil, minus the residues into an empty perfume bottle. Don’t touch the contents with your hands.  Spray – hurray, your rose perfume is now ready!

JASMINE – the mysterious flower
This flower is common within the Asian communities, especially among the Indians.  Jasmine flowers are often used to create garlands for weddings, and wreathes for funerals, etc. Unlike the rose, this flower does not symbolize love.

In ancient times, it was common for women to braid and entwine their hairs with jasmine flowers. The sweet scent of jasmine would last for days. Today, jasmine oil and incense stick are also used to enhance spiritual vibrations of homes.

Here’s a peculiar, but interesting story.  Previously, the jasmine scent gave me the creeps. It was probably because in the old days, Malay movies often associated jasmine scents with ghosts. Pontianak (female ghost) would adorn herself with jasmine flowers. The scent would indicate her presence, as she waited for her preys, under a jasmine tree, where she dwelled. In addition to those movies, a sadistic auntie used to frighten 4-year old me with ghost stories, and thought that it was hilarious. She would point at the jasmine tree in our garden, and said that a female ghost was waving at me.

Could these horror stories originate from the fact that jasmine flowers bloom at night? These horror stories put fears into me.  Subconsciously, some residual uneasiness lingered awhile in my growing years. I was later taught that should I sense uninvited presence from a jasmine visitor, how best to appease her – ha ha!

Ironically, jasmine flowers are often used to make funeral wreathes. Does jasmine ward away evil or entice evil? Incidentally, I often see on TV a public figure in Myanmar perpetually decorates her hair with jasmine flowers at every function she attends, even abroad. Is there some significance to this?  I wonder!

Many uses of Jasmine 
Jasmine flowers have been used for Centuries for health and beauty. In comparison, it has many more uses than the rose. It is claimed to have therapeutic benefits and is today widely used for medicinal purposes, beautification, and spiritual purposes.
Jasmine oils are used for aromatherapy, and in perfumes. Jasmine tea is regularly consumed worldwide. Dried jasmine flowers are often used as potpourri.

Jasmine flavoured tea
I’ve tried to make my own jasmine flavoured tea.  It is simple, and you can try it out, if you like.  Firstly, be sure that the jasmine flower that you choose is not poisonous, since there are many varieties, and some are definitely poisonous.

How to make your own jasmine flavoured tea
Take a small clean dry towel, preferably white and place it on a flat surface.  Pluck several fresh jasmine buds in the early morning. Arrange them together with some fresh tea leaves. Cover the contents with the same towel. Within a few hours, the tea will begin to absorb the jasmine scent.  In the evening the buds will open and the fragrance will be fully released. Remove all the flowers, and your jasmine flavoured tea is ready!

In conclusion
Although jasmine is still not my favourite flower, I’m no longer prejudiced.

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