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[CIS 3.

2 (2007) 133-144] Comparative Islamic Studies (print) ISSN 1740-7125


doi: 10.1558/cis.v3i2.133 Comparative Islamic Studies {onWne) ISSN 1743-1638

Odors of Sanctity: Distinctions of the Holy in Early


Christianity and Islam
MARYTHURKILL
University of Mississippi

Medieval scholars and cultural historians have recently turned their attention
to the question of "smells " and what olfactory sensations reveal about society
in general and perceptions of holiness in particular. In this paper, I examine
how early Christians and Muslims linked notions of the "sweet smell of
sanctity " with ideas of the body and sexuality. I demonstrate that early Chris-
tians associated the body's sweet smells with salvation and spiritual transfor-
mation usually linked with asceticism. Christian bodies, even riddled with
decay and decomposition through harsh asceticism, or transformed through
virginity, wafted the sweet smell of sanctity. Early Muslims associated the
body's odors with sanctity with purity. The use of perfumes and scent provided
a glimpse into the pleasures of Paradise. Both traditions, in different ways,
warned against the power of scent associated with women and female sexuality
because they function to tempt and distract men from God.

Several medieval scholars and cultural historians have recently turned their
attention to the question of smells and what olfactory sensations reveal about
society in general and perceptions of holiness in particular.' These studies have
all agreed on one very important point: members of the modem world fail to
appreciate the importance odors once played in daily life, religious epistemol-
ogy, and ritual. Compared with our fairly sanitized lives, we might imagine the
medieval olfactory landscape to be filled with the stench of human excrement,
refuse, and disease accompanied with soothing floral scents and perfumes. The
wealthy enjoyed the more luxurious scented oils, incense, and unguents. In late
antiquity and the early Middle Ages, smells defined how a person encountered
the Divine and oftentimes informed how individuals located themselves in
society. Smells—both fragrant and foul—permeated the environment, trans-
gressing boundaries of private/public and sacred/secular.
Many scholars also agree that odors are particularly potent within religious
ritual and ceremony because they are at once radically individual (recalling
personal memories and emotions more powerfully than any other sensory stimu-
lus) and communal (binding a group together through a shared sensory experi-
ence).- Distinctive odors can mark the transition between certain cognitive
categories such as sacred and profane space; salvation and damnation; or his-
torical time and eternity.^ In religious rituals, specific smells oftentimes indicate

© Equinox Publishing Ltd 2009, Unit 6. The Village. 101 Amies Street. London SWl I 2JW.
¡34 Mary Thurkill

liminality—the transitional place betwixt and between known structures. Both


Christian and Muslim traditions, for example, identify the "holy" with the
paradisiacal, sweet fragrances of flowers and exotic spices. The effusive smell
of roses wafting from a Christian corpse confirms the saint's location between
heaven and earth: the corporal form still bound to this world while the spirit is
present in Paradise. Both Christian and Muslim audiences recognize the bodies
of martyrs and saints—tied to both this world and the next—after smelling
glorious odors symbolic of their virtue and sanctity.
In this paper, 1 will link these notions of odor—associated with passage and
liminality—to an understanding of the body within early Christianity and Islam.
In late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, Christians viewed the body with
profound ambivalence and sometimes disgust. The body was at once the temple
of God and also the source of temptation; Gal. 5.17 declared that "... what the
ftesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to
the ftesh." Yet humanity encountered God through the body's senses, seeing
and even smelling the fragrance of God and His creation. Augustine (d. 430)
described his sensual encounter with the Divine in his Confessions:
You called me; you cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness.
You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me; you put my blindness to
flight. You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for
your sweet odour. I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You touched
me, and I am inflamed with love of your peaee.''
This encounter between the supplicant and the fragrant God requires a salvific
experience—initiated by God—that successfully transforms the body, trans-
muting the sinful to the spiritual, including the senses.
Sensory inversion oftentimes accompanies this spiritual transformation,
making the foul fragrant and the fragrant foul. The fifth-century Syriac saint
Symeon Stylite's harsh austerity left him with a worm-infested waist decayed
from a tightly wound rope, yet his body wafted the "sweet smells of asceti-
cism."5 God transformed the body, even in various states of decomposition, into
a fragrant sacrifice. In contrast, when a group of Christian Syrian villagers
converted to Islam in the eighth century, they were identified by their odor:
But they [the converts] grew different from the faithful people in both per-
son and name; in person, because their once happy appearance became
repugnant, in such a way that they were recognized by the intelligent ones
through their persons, odor and the look of their eyes... instead of a sweet
odor of the holy myron a stinking and fetid smell emanated from them."*
Hagiographers related the transformed, Christian body with sweet-smelling
aromas and the apostates, formerly fragrant believers, with stench. This signaled
the Christians' status as heirs to Paradise and eternal life and the unbelievers as
doomed to death and decay.

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Odors of Sanctity 135

In Islamic texts, on the other hand, God does not require such a transforma-
tion through asceticism or belief in Christ's salvific act because the body, com-
plete with all its senses, is not the locus of sin in need of spiritual renovation.
According to Muslim theology, human beings encounter God and enjoy His
creation through their senses. The flesh and sensual pleasures, far from being
associated with primeval sin or obligatory redemption, number among God's
creation and, therefore. His wondrous gifts. Instead of focusing on the wretched
sinful body transformed through Christ, Muslim authors concentrate on human-
ity's constant slippage from purity to impurity and back again; throughout the
day, legal pollution occurs via biological functions of elimination, excretion, or
emissions. After ritualized cleansing (either wudü, lesser ablutions, or ghiisl,
complete lustration), the body returns to its pure state, again able to commune
with God. Paradise promises an existence filled with sensual pleasure without
the constant threat of pollution. Odors of sanctity do not signify a body's spiri-
tual transformation as in Christianity but a body perfected in its purity.

Odors of Antiquity

Before moving to an explanation of both Christian and Muslim discussions of


the body and sensuality, however, 1 must first survey the popular fragrances
found throughout the Mediterranean world and some of their uses. Because of
active Arabo-Roman trade routes, Jewish, Greco-Roman, and early Christian
communities shared many popular smells with the Middle East. Southern
Arabia and India furnished exotic spices and resins; the Romans stripped Judea
of its balsam and fragrant woods; and Syria produced spices such as cinnamon
and cassia.'
Two major trade routes existed to supply the Mediterranean world with its
spices and perfumes. An overland trade route funneled spices from India by
sea, with a stop at southern Yemen, across western Arabia using pack-animals,
and finally stopping at Gaza as the terminus point. Mediterranean audiences
coveted Indian spices including cinnamon, pepper, cardamon, and sandalwood
as well as frankincense and myrrh grown along the southern Arabian coast.* A
second route, mostly by sea, collected Indian spices and Arabian incense at the
major Yemeni port, Qana', and then transported them to Roman Egypt for
distribution.' Incense and spices found a competitive market, especially from
ca. second century B.C.E. to the second century C.E., as they provided most of
the key ingredients for both domestic and distinctly sacred aromatic recipes.
For more domestic/secular occasions, both men and women used fragrances
to anoint their bodies, the hair and breasts in particular. Perfumed unguents
were generally applied to the skin and perfumed oil to the hair. Herodotus, a
fifth-century B.C.E. Greek historian, links sweet smells with sexuality; he notes
that wealthy Babylonians sat over burning incense to scent their bodies before

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J36 Mary Thurkill

sex.i» Pre-Islamic poet Imru al-Qays identified his various lovers by the smells
of musk and cloves." As an ancient form of aromatherapy, people from all
social classes understood fragrance to brighten dreams, heal the soul.'^ and
according to Prov. 27.9, "...make the heart glad." Romans anointed their
bodies at the unctarium located at the Roman baths, and incensed their homes
as a form of exorcism.'^ Romans also anointed their homes' entryways with
perfumed unguents. Middle Easterners burned frankincense to fumigate both
homes and clothes. In these domestic circumstances, odor marked the transition
from public to private as the guest entered a fragrant home, oftentimes distin-
guished as wealthy or poor by the quality of incense/unguents used.
Fragrance and incense also inundated sacred space throughout the ancient
Mediterranean world. Greco-Romans sacrificed both animals and incense to
their deities; while many spices and perfumes were reserved for the wealthy,
frankincense came fairly cheaply because everyone used it in offerings. Romans
even scented the gods' statues and temple walls for the divinities' pleasure.'"
Jewish sacred texts described temple sacrifice replete with complicated formu-
lae for incense offerings (Exod. 30.7-8), anointing oils (Exod. 30.7-8), and
frankincense used with grain offerings (Lev. 2.1,14). An incense altar stood in
front ofthe Holy of Holies, the most sacred area ofthe Jewish tabernacle/
temple, and priests burned the sacrifices twice a day (morning and evening).'^
In both systems, the sweet smell of sanctity delineated sacred space from the
mundane and comprised a pleasing offering to the god/gods via the sacrificial
smoke rising from the altars into the heavens.
In imitation ofthe odoriferous offering in Jerusalem, Jews in the Diaspora
(post-70 C.E., when Romans destroyed the temple) correlated virtuous lives and
even ascetic acts (e.g., chastity and fasting) to incense offerings. The living
constituted sweet "odors of sanctity" instead ofthe formerly required temple
sacrifices."* Displaying an evolving interest in a resurrection after death, many
Diaspora Jews also disinterred their dead, stripped the bones of remaining flesh,
sprinkled them with herbs and incense, and returned the remains to Israel for
second burial.'' Even if lost in transit, the bones qualified as a sweet odor to
God, assuring their final retrieval from a liminal existence after death to an
eschatological reconstitution in the restored Israel.'*
Both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures associated fragrance and
sweet smells with Divine presence and sacrificial offerings. Evolving within
those cultures, eariy Christians and Muslims assimilated these sensory cues
within their own cultic practices while also adapting them to their unique theo-
logical and hagiographical purpose. Early Christians most readily associated
odors of sanctity with the body's radical transformation; Muslims identified
sublime smells with consummate purity and union with the Divine.

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Odors of Sanctity ¡37

Christianity and Transformation

Christianity allowed the ritual use of incense only after Constantine's Edict of
Milan in the fourth century which legalized the religion. Until that time Chris-
tian theologians associated fragranee with polytheistic rituals, particularly
emperor worship, and condemned its use. As Christianity evolved into a state
cult, it integrated incense into the liturgy perhaps as a way to compete with its
various pagan counterparts. In a custom easily recognizable by most Romans,
incense identified the church as sacred space and the mass as a sacred offering.
Church officials also utilized the same basic components in sacred incense and
perfumes as those found in most medicines. The basilica's sublime smells
probably held various positive associations for their ancient audience: fra-
grances used to censer the mass and anoint priests, altars, and newly baptized
Christians resonated with healing smells, odors prescribed to cure both mind
and body,"
The scented mass also resembled Jewish temple sacrifice: just as the Jewish
priest yielded the burnt offering upon the altar "., ,by fire of pleasing odor to the
Lord" (Lev, 1,9) the Christian priest recreated Christ's sacrifice as he trans-
formed the Eucharistie bread into the mystical body. The liturgical use of
incense mimicked the sacrificial victim's "pleasing odor" rising to the heavens
outlined in Jewish ritual. More importantly, however, incense identified the
moment of sublime transformation also reminiscent of Jewish animal sacrifice.
The Jewish priests did not bum the offerings upon the altar; they "turned the
whole offering into smoke" (Lev. 1.9), The particular verbal form used herein
emphasizes that the priest did not simply immolate the offering, but "trans-
formed it into smoke" so that it could rise to God, In like manner, the incense
marked the Eucharistie transformation from mundane/bread to sacred/body, an
act of sweet sacrifice wafting to the heavens,
God replicated the sublime transformation ofthe Eucharist among human
participants who traded their mundane lives for a spiritual existence. By partak-
ing of Christ's body as food, Christians joined the mystical body of Christ, the
Church (1 Cor, 12,12-31), Just as the mass celebrated Christ's physical sacri-
fice, Christians sought to transform their own bodies as a spiritual sacrifice. The
apostle Paul compared such spiritual creatures, triumphant in Christ, with sacri-
ficial odors. In 2 Cor, 2.14-15, he writes:
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal proces-
sion, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from
knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are
being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance
from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

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138 Mary Thurkill

Paul's correlation between triumphant Christians and fragrance might allude to


the Roman imperial processions almost always shrouded in incense; but, it
might also simply recall how holy odors signal Divine presence. By either
analogy, Christian bodies transformed by God into sacrificial incense drift not
only to the heavens but among their pagan counterparts as well.
Early church fathers also identified the transformed, spiritual body with
fragrance after unanimously condemning secular uses of perfumes (especially
among women) as sinful. In his Second Letter to Virgins, Athanasius (d. 373)
wrote:
.. .consider other women—how their senses have turned foolish so that they
take delight in myrrh and pleasant fragrances that certainly are not "the
sweet fragrance of Christ" (2 Cor. 2.15). It is morefittingfor them to be in
sackcloth and ashes so that they might preserve their virginity without
danger.-"
Ambrose (d. 397) boasts that while married women practice deception by
applying perfume and make-up to alter their true form, virgins display authentic
beauty through their modesty and chastity. Both Ambrose and Jerome (d. 429)
even directed holy women to avoid the baths; attending to such sensual pleas-
ures could only lead to sin.
Yet Ambrose compares virginal bodies, transformed through asceticism, to
the Song of Songs' "garden enclosed":
A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna
with nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of fran-
kincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices. (Song 12.12-14)
According to Ambrose, virgins who live "fenced in by the wall of the Spirit,"
which included a modest life spent within their homes, became like the "garden
enclosed," protected from the outside world.'' The transformed virginal body
then exuded the sweet garden smells:
See what progress thou settest forth, O Virgin. Thy first odor is above all
spices, which were used upon the burying of the Savior, and the fragrance
arises from the mortified motions of the body, and the perishing of the
delights of the members. The second odour, like the odour of Lebanon,
exhales the incorruption of the Lord's body, the flower of virginal
chastity."
The physical body's transformation resulted in fragrant odors, imitating Christ's
own burial ointment, that signaled the virgins sanctity. As Ambrose said,
"blessed virgins.. .emit a fragrance through divine grace as gardens do through
fiowers, temples through religion, altars through the priest.""

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Odors of Sanctity ¡39

Islam and Perfected Purity

Islamic texts describing the body and sensual encounters with the Divine never
require such a radical spiritual transformation negotiated through sacrifice or
asceticism; instead, earthly sensual gratification may be seen as merely a
glimpse of paradisiacal delights. The prophet Muhammad, viewed by Muslims
as an exemplary guide in piety and virtue, said in one of his most famous
statements that "God has made dear to me from your world women, and fra-
grance, and joy of my eyes in prayer.''^" Tradition confirms Muhammad's love
of women in very literal terms; hadith equate the Prophet's sexual prowess,
always within legal parameters, to that of thirty to forty men.-' With such sexual
stamina, tradition says, Muhammad satisfied his numerous wives without fail.
The Prophet also advised his community about the appropriate use of fra-
grance: men should bathe and perfume themselves for the Friday sermon
[khtitba] at the mosque;-^ and, both men and women could use fragrance for
sexual encounters with their marriage partners. According to al-Suyuti
(d. 1505), the Prophet even encouraged women to wear musk—a hot scent—
which would increase the husbands desire and the chance of pregnancy.-' The
Prophet chastised women who wore scent to the mosque, however, because it
attracted men's attention. He compared women who used perfume for public
notice to prostitutes and their prayers remained unheard until they returned
home and performed complete lustration [ghusl].-' The Prophet encouraged
women to wear perfume but only within their domestic domain, usually as an
additional sensual pleasure during sexual intimacy. Ironically, several hadith
transmitters describe Muhammad himself as possessing the most beautiful
scent ever encountered. According to various reports, the Prophet smelled
sweeter than musk, his skin was softer than silk, and perfumers collected his
sweat and mixed it with other fragrances to create a superior perfume."
Ibn al-Arabi, the twelfth-century Sufi master, offered a more spiritual inter-
pretation of Muhammad's three great loves. According to Ibn al-Arabi, the
Prophet's esteem for women, fragrance, and prayer mimics a great cosmic truth
also expressed as a triad: God as the Essence [dhat, a feminine noun]; Adam
(masculine); and women [nisä', feminine]. Adam, the masculine, stands
between two feminine forces—God's Essence which attracts Adam/Man to
Himself because he was created in the Divine's own image; and the female,
generated from man. In this triad, Adam exists as both the servant of God and
the master of woman; as both the passive and the active principle. As such,
Adam/Man worships God most fully via his relationship with woman, wherein
he is both active (in his love for woman) and passive (in his submission of
God). Ibn al-Arabi explains that Muhammad loved "women" because of this
cosmic completion:

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140 Mary Thiirkill

the Apostle loved women by reason of [the possibility of] perfect contem-
plation of the Reality in them... The best and most perfect kind is the
contemplation of God in women. The greatest union is that between man
and woman... Thus it is that Muhammad's love for women derives from
the divine love...'"
In the Prophet's declaration of his three great loves, "perfume" is placed in a
similar position as Adam/Man in Ibn al-Arabi's cosmic triad. Perfume [tlb, a
masculine noun also associated with goodness] exists between women (femi-
nine) and prayer [salat, also feminine]. Perfume, when viewed as the natural
aroma of women, entices Man's soul into his beloved's embrace; perfume, seen
as God's goodness or His own sweet-smells, pulls the soul to God, the Eternal
Beloved, through prayer. Perfume maintains a kind of liminal position, located
between the corporal attraction to women and the spiritual attraction to God.
The body's sensual delights also take on a curiously spiritual connotation in
Islamic depictions of Paradise. On one level, the Quran and hadith depict
Paradise as a feast of physical pleasures; earthly amusements, both sensual and
sexual, are merely a shadow of what awaits in Heaven. According to tradition,
the soil of Paradise is composed of musk; the winds are scented with perfume;
and, the rivers are mixed with water, milk, honey, and wine." The famed 70
houris, or black-eyed virgins, awaiting every pious male are composed of
fragrance: musk from feet to knee; amber from knee to breast; and camphor
from breast to head.^- Even bodies of the blessed sweat a musk-like scent."
Most importantly, however, all sensual pleasures are perfected by the lack of
pollution.
In Paradise, sensual delights certainly abound: pleasures of taste (eating deli-
cious foods, without gaining weight!); sexual pleasures (uninterrupted orgasm
with perfect partners); and pleasures of smell and sight (a lush terrain filled with
musk, exotic spices, gems). Yet, none of these pleasures lead to impurity; prac-
tically, this means there is no physical evacuation, emission (including semen
during intercourse), or menstruation that would require ritual cleansing.^" The
Islamic vision of Heaven perfects the body in its sensual desires by curing it of
pollution.
This traditional view of the Muslim Paradise resides within a larger rhetoric
concerned for spiritual purity. Even though the blessed residents of Paradise
fulfill themselves in every way imaginable, those experiences pale in compari-
son to the Beatific Vision of God.^' The body's senses, its desires, its pleasures,
the sumptuousness of Paradise itself, for many, appear negligible in God's
presence; they fail to satisfy. Al-Ghazali, a twelfth-century mystic, described
the inhabitants of Paradise:
those closer to God are ever present in His Presence, ever gazing at His
Presence, holding in contempt the bliss of the gardens... This is why the

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Odors of Sanctity ¡41

Apostle of God, may God's praise be upon him, said: The majority of
dwellers in Paradise are simpletons [al-biiluhy-
The simpletons, according to al-Ghazali's exegesis, remain enmeshed in the
blissful pleasures of Paradise, while the truly pious lose themselves in the
ecstasy of God's presence alone.

Conclusion

Fragrance in the ancient worid filled a variety of functions with multivalent


symbolism. Smells, unique among the senses, transgress boundaries: the ancient
and early medieval use of fragrance and spices re-enforced and sometimes
blurred lines between private/public, sacred/profane, and purity/pollution. Both
men and women enjoyed incense and perfume within their domestic routines
and sacred rituals. An examination of what these odors generally signified
reveals how both Christians and Muslims viewed the body and holiness.
Early Christian authors carefully transformed the body into a spiritual form,
finally free from corporal limits, through identification with Christ's salvifie act
and the performance of ascetic feats. Christian bodies, even riddled with decay
and decomposition through harsh asceticism, wafted the sweet smell of sanc-
tity. Augustine described his fragrant encounter with God during his spiritual
transformation, and Ambrose explained that holy virgins' scent of holiness
transcended Roman women's vain use of perfumes. The naturally sweet smells
of myrrh, roses, and perfumes identified the sanctified and virtuous Christian in
this life with the promise of Paradise in the next.
Islamic views of holiness, however, required no such salvifie experience or
ascetic heroism. Muhammad himself testified to the beauties of women,
perfume, and prayer in this life, which only foreshadow the pleasures of
Paradise. The hadith encourage the use of perfumes and scent within marriage,
suggesting that the senses (and the body) can lead to knowledge of God, a
theme explored by mystic Ibn al-'Arabi. Once in Paradise, however, sensual
pleasure—free from any ritual impurity—pales in comparison to God's
presence.
Both traditions, in different ways, are concerned for the power of scent asso-
ciated with women. Christian theologians and Muslim hadith warn men against
sweet-smelling women because they tempt and distract. Holy women (sans
bath) should avoid the "false" perfumes of vain women and rely upon their
odor of sanctity. Muslim women should don fragrance to heighten marital
pleasure but must otherwise avoid its use, particularly at the mosque. Men, on
the other hand, were encouraged to use it at any time. Such directives, from two
patriarchal systems, reveal a shared fear of female sexuality that further
complicates Islamic and Christian ideals ofthe body and holiness.

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142 Mary Thurkill

Notes
1, See, among others, the works of Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Scenting Salvation:
Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (Berkeley: University of
Califomia Press, 2006) and "On Holy Stench: When the Odor of Sanctity
Sickens," Studia Patristica: Papers Presented to the International Conference
on Patristic Studies 35 ( 1998): 90-101 ; Suzanne Evans, "The Seent of a Martyr,"
Numen: International Reviewfor the History of Religions 49, no, 2 (2002): 193-
211 ; A, Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A Consideration of Muslim Paradise
Narratives," Journal of Arabic Literature 26, no, 3 ( 1995): 215-31 ; and. Marcel
Détienne, Gardens of Adonis: Spices in Greek Mythology (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1994),
2, See, particularly, Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott, eds,.
Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell Ç^QWJ York: Routledge, 1994), Introduc-
tion,
3, See David Howes, "Olfaction and Transition," in The Varieties of Sensory
Experience: A Sourcebook in the Anthropology ofthe Senses, ed, David Howes
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), 128-47,
4, Augustine, Confessions, trans, R, S, Pine-Coffin (New York: Penguin Books,
1961), X,27,p, 232,
5, Harvey, "On Holy Stench," 94,
6, Chronicle ofZuquin (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1999), Pt,
4 (769-70), trans, Harrak, 324-25, Discussed in Harvey, Scenting Salvation,
126-27,
7, Beatrice Caseau, Euodia: The Use and Meaning of Fragrances in the Ancient
World and their Christianization (100-900 AD), Ph,D, diss, (Princeton Univer-
sity, 1994), 29,
8, Frankincense and myrrh are harvested from balsam trees in the Burseraceae
family, known as Boswellia (frankincense) and Commiphora (myrrh). Tradition-
ally (and even today), the trees' bark is stripped in a small area, and the resin is
collected. There are more than 25 different species of frankincense trees, with
each producing various grades of resin,
9, See the archeological survey ofthe incense trade, focusing on Yemen, in David
Peacock and David Williams, eá?,.. Food for the Gods: New Light on the Ancient
Incense Trade (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2007),
10, Herodotus, Histories, trans, George Rawlinson (London: Wordsworth Classics,
1996), Book l,ch, 198,
11, See Early Arabic Poetry, II: Select Odes, trans, Alan Jones (Reading: Published
by Ithaca for the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University, 1992);
discussed in G, J, H, van Gelder, "Four Perfumes of Arabia," Parfums d'orient
11 (1998): 203-12,
12, Classen, Howes, and Synnott, Aroma, 15,
13, Classen, Howes, and Synnoit, Aroma, 16—21,
14, Saara Lilja, The Treatment of Odours in the Poetry of Late Antiquity (Helsinki:
Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1972), 34-35; Also, see Classen, Howes, and
Synnott, Aroma, 18, 46,

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Odors of Sanctity 143

15. A particular fragrance was reserved for YHWH, requiring a special combination
of incense items. This signals a special sacred space, marking YHWH'S own
dwelling. See C. Houtman, "On the Function of the Holy Incense (Exodus XXX
34-8) and the Sacred Anointing Oil (Exodus XXX 22-33)," Vetus Testamentum
42 (1992): 458-65.
16. See Lionel Rothkrug's description of Rabbinic Judaism's view of incense
offering and the dead in "The Odour of Sanctity and the Hebrew Origins of
Christian Relic Vénération" Historical Reflections 8, no. 2 (1981): 95-142.
17. Rothkrug, "The Odour of Sanctity and the Hebrew Origins of Christian Relic
Veneration," 1 0 3 ^ .
18. See Ezekiel 37. Some scholars regard Ezekiel's discussion of the animation of
"dry bones" as an early allusion to an eschatologieal gathering of Israelites (a
form of resurrection?).
19. Caseau, Euodia, 7; see also Irene Jacob and Walter Jacob, eds.. The Healing
Past: Pharmaceuticals in the Biblical Rabbinic World (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1993).
20. Athanasius, Second Letter to Virgins, 18; trans. David Brakke in Athanasius and
the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).
21. Ambrose, Concerning Virgins 1 9. 45-46; NPNF 111. 19, 370.
22. Ambrose, Concerning Virgins I 7.39; NPNF III. 19, 369.
23. Ambrose, Concerning Virgins II 2.18; NPNF 111.19, 376.
24. al-Nasa'i, Kitab 'ishrat an-nisa '. p. 16; Tabaqat Ibn Sa 'd, 1.398.
25. See the various sources discussed in Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A
Consideration of Muslim Paradise Narratives," 223.
26. SahihBukhari, 13.8.
27. See van Gelder, "Four Perfumes of Arabia," 208. He provides a translation of al-
Suyuti's Al-Maqama al-miskiyya, a charming literary debate between the per-
sonifications of 4 scents: musk, ambergris, saffron, and civet. A "judge" ranks
them according to their intrinsic values.
28. Abu Dawud, 33.4162.
29. Sahih Muslim, 30.5761; Sahih Bukhari, 56.761.
30. Ibn al-Arabi, Fustis al-Hikam, or. The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R. W. J. Austin
(New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 275-76.
31. Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A Consideration of Muslim Paradise
Narratives," 222.
32. Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A Consideration of Muslim Paradise Narra-
tives," 227; Boudiba, Sexuality in Islam (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1985), 75.
33. Sahih Bukhari, 54.468; Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A Consideration of
Muslim Paradise Narratives," 223.
34. Sahih Muslim, 40.6798.
35. Sahih Muslim, 40.6780. Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A Consideration of
Muslim Paradise Narratives," 228.
36. Al-Ghazali, Mahabba, 81-82 as quoted in Alazmeh, "Rhetoric for the Senses: A
Consideration of Muslim Paradise Narratives," 231.

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144 Mary Thurkitl

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