Scent is evocative in more ways than one. We tend to focus a lot on the sense of sight, but scent can bring up memories and feelings far more easily and intensely than any of our other senses. Everyone has a scent and we respond to that, even if it’s not noticeable on a conscious level. It’s also an ancient practice to add to that scent through the usage of perfumes and oils, altering what message we are sending out into the world. We make our homes smell a certain way and our ritual space and it’s not just to cover up less pleasant smells, but to inspire in us a certain reaction and instill a powerful memory.
In ritual, we use scent primarily through the burning of incense. The smoke and smell of the incense not only helps create a useful ritual atmosphere—allowing us to more easily “trance out” and be in the proper state of mind—but can actually draw spirits and Gods to us. It sends out a message that we are here and ready to have contact with the Divine. In the past, some Gods even had particular incenses or scented oils that were attached to Them and used in Their honor. They responded to the scent and were drawn to it, just as we might respond to the scent of another person.
Incense, perfumes, and oils can be used in other ways, as well. On a personal level, we can use a particular scent for outside of ritual and a particular scent for inside of ritual, creating a trigger for us that its time to step into our ritual selves. We can make use of varied incenses in ritual for the times of the year or for different purposes, such as healing or divination. If everyone in a coven or magickal working group decides to use the same oil for ritual anointing, it can create a strong sense of bonding, one that resonates on an unconscious level.
For all of these are messages and ways to create and later evoke familiar memories. We smell the oil or perfume we have known before in ritual and know we are stepping into circle or about to perform a healing. We smell the incense and instinctively know what season it is or what God or Goddess we’re about to call upon. We can even step into that ritual mode in our mundane lives as needed by deciding to put on an oil that is based on a familiar incense such as frankincense, myrrh, or patchouli.
We are always interacting and bonding with others on the level of scent and, through using oils, perfumes, and incense, we can make deliberate choices about what that ritual and that group means to us. We can instill feelings and create memory and awaken it once again, reliving the time and place and raw emotion of the past, of our experiences, whether with each other or with the Divine.
copyright © 2010, Veronica Cummer, all rights reserved