Friday, May 30, 2008

Honey: Perfume and Aphrodisia

To explain the history of aphrodisiacs, one must return to caveman days when "you made me do it" could suffice as the reasoning for most human behaviors. Where would we be today without the visual aid of Venus of Willendorf, the ancient fertility goddess doll that preceded today's pornographic girly rags (I'd much rather see statuettes than photos of real people)? Surely, mankind would have utterly become extinct without people being able to procreate without their help.


(Image: Venus (of Willendorf) by Marcus DeVito, Oil pastel
on black cotton paper 40" x 30", www.marcusdevito.com, (c)Marcus DeVito
2005-2008. All Rights Reserved))


Likewise, what's a love potion but a little magic to make people do what they normally wouldn't do, like fall in love with anyone of your choosing? In a world where people feared nature, people attempted to control nature. Aphrodisiacs have included eating foods that resembled phallic and yanic symbols, to spreading ginger paste to one's scrotum and anus (did that work like Lip Venom?) or drinking strange and often dangerous potions (read more at this link: Sex Science Timeline at Men's Journal (Health and Fitness: Sex Special: Beyond Viagra, August 1998 by Joseph Hooper).

Honey has been considered an aphrodisiac in many parts of the world throughout history. The word "honeymoon" (lune de miel) comes from an old English tradition to supply a newly married couple with enough mead (fermented alcoholic beverage made of honey, water, and yeast) for a month, ensuring fertility. As Wikipedia states, mead goes back to ancient Vedic tradition and Hinduism. As you may find at this article on aphrodisiacs at 1st-in-aphrodisiacs.com), "...in arranged marriages between Hindus, parents placed a bowl of honey beside the couple in the hope of attracting love and romance to the relationship. Honey has an acclaimed place in Indian mythology, and a chain of bees forms the bowstring of (the love god) Kama" (of Kama Sutra, the maxim for gentlemen in its day, 5th century BCE). This honey drink mentioned in the Kama Sutra preceded Ancient Greece where honey came to be revered as the nectar of Aphrodite. Hippocrates prescribed honey for sexual vigor and mead was Aristotle's favorite drink (but did it help his love life? And no, I don't really care to know).

Why was honey considered an aphrodisiac, anyway? Honey is rich in B vitamins needed for testosterone production, but could people have known that in ancient times? Could it be that the scent of honey resembled the smell of urine due to the presence of phenylacetic acid in both, and that smell of urine just so happened to bring to people's minds images of genitalia? Bois de Jasmin's Victoria writes: "Phenylacetic acid in extremely low concentrations has a luscious honey and animalic malt odour; however, in large dozes, it becomes distinctly urinous" (Read the full article on Serge Lutens Miel de Bois at this link). If the smell of urine itself can be considered an aphrodisiac because of the mental association with the vagina, that might explain the use of honey in a perfume such as Schiaparelli Shocking! that was reportedly made to smell like a vagina in the first place (honey is used in a similar way to how rose is used in perfume, I'd imagine--have you smelled a rose perfume on dry down?). For some reason, I'm also thinking of Chanel No.5 which to me smells like Russian Leather, leather perfume being by and large a honey blend. Is that the secret of the success of No.5--could its aphrodisiac quality extend long past its reputation of being "a blonde perfume"?

Urinous or not, I'm actually a fan of a handful of honey perfumes including Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, Parfums DelRae Amoureuse and Guerlain L'Instant. Honey perfumes that don't agree with me include Schiaparelli Shocking!, Estée Lauder Knowing, Cassini by Oleg Cassini, L'Occitane Honey & Lemon, and Serge Lutens Miel de Bois. But very recently, I decided to be brave and tested Miel de Bois again (my quarantined 1ml sample has lasted forever), and even as a mere dot of scent applied with the vial applicator on the back of my hand brought on a gag reflex, I was surprised to find that there was an aspect of it I liked: a hypersweet, rich floral tone similar to that of Creed Tubereuse Indiana (not that this is my favorite scent, either). If I could learn to like as many leather perfumes as I have this past week, I may still grow accustomed to Miel de Bois--though I wouldn't even touch the vial before stepping outside, since the urinous perception might not "only be in my nose" after all.

Read more about aphrodisiacs:
Love Potion #9: Aphrodisiacs Through the Ages by Victoria Nelson

"For women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time." --Isabel Allende

(Just a random PSA, nothing to do with the topic of aphrodisiacs or fertility potions: Honey is associated with infant botulism and should never be given to infants under one year old.)