memory & smell

For the last semester, one of our Sunday p.m. small groups has been studying the Book of Enoch in conjunction with Genesis & Revelation- we’ve gotten through Enoch’s 1st vision (Chapters 1-36.)

One of the things that has stood out the most to me is the mention of how things smell – specifically of incense & other rich, deep, good smells, esp. associated with the presence & throne-room of God. We had quite the discussion about how smell is very closely tied to memory… & Michael O passed on the tidbit that the sense of smell is the only sense that bypasses the normal ‘central processing relay-stuff’ & goes straight to the brain. Which, in turn, makes for some very vivid & clear memory making… & at the next ‘smell’ of that scent, a person can be ‘taken back’ in memory to when they’ve smelled it before.

This drove me to the Scriptures & their mention of incense & fragrance in the context of the Tabernacle, the presence of God, & of royalty (more on that later.) What I found really blew me away – in the instructions that the LORD Adonai gave to Moses for worship were included an altar from which incense was to be burned all the time – (Exodus 30). And the incense burned on the holy altar was to be made of a special blend that was not for private use – only for the presence of God.

Another sweet smelling perfume was mixed in with the anointing oil applied to kings…

If you’re interested in finding out more, click HERE to be taken to Bible Gateway…

At the same time as I’ve been studying incense & fragrance in the Scriptures, I’ve been reading a book called Sitting At the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Its a book that brings understanding to what living as a disciple (talmid) of Jesus would have been like within the culture of 1st century Judaism – with the nuances of Hebrew culture, language, belief, & practice. Good book.

One of the chapters talks about fragrance as well – referring to the John 12 account of Mary from Bethany anointing Jesus’ feet with “an expensive perfume” made of “pure nard” (which I’d recommend you reading about HERE )

The authors mentioned that this anointing event, using this potent & sweet smelling perfume, would have caused the sweet smell to linger around Jesus for a long time – & would have been very apparent even during His betrayal, trial, scourging & crucifixion.

This has made me even more curious – & I am in the process of doing some ‘experiments’ with smell, fragrance, & incense… theBean is not nearly as excited about this as I am…

In my attempts to experiment with incense & the like, I have found through my searching locally that that the only places that I’ve been able to find incense (cone or sticks) or oil for burning have been in the ‘head’ shops, &/or shops that are catering to a pagan, wiccan, or new age clientele… Hmmm. Interesting.

So, resourceful me went to eBay & purchased some incense cones & a little tiny censer to burn the incense in. My package arrived & I wasted no time lighting my first cone of incense… in the kitchen. Ooops.

My experiment was quickly relegated to the garage… turns out that a reason that theBean wasn’t as excited as me about the incense is that she had a negative experience with it – where as a youngster, she & her family went to dinner at someone’s house – & the house was filled with an ‘incense’ smell (you know the smell – no matter what flavor or scent of incense you get, its a smell common to burning the cones…) I asked her about it & she described in minute detail what the house looked like inside, the people, & even what they ate for dinner. How’s that for a 30 year old memory?

I got excited about that… & told theBean that she just proved what I was trying to discover & describe about smells, incense, & fragrance. I must say, though, that theBean remains not amused.

But I am. :)

6 thoughts on “memory & smell

  1. i like the smell of incense and pipes. i don’t usually have memories triggered by smell… but i do think i like the smell of a pipe because my pepere(grandpa in french) used to smoke one.
    this is a very interesting topic because some people’s sense of smell is so good that it can literally cause like a deja vu moment like with joni but i on the other hand have really never had specific memories triggered from smells. weird.

  2. Back in the day I knew a pastor who ordered ingredients from Israel and attempted to duplicate the fragrance that was devoted to God . . . He used it to annoint people and such . . .

    I must admit that even though I know we live in the “age of Grace” it always made me nervous (thanks Exodus 30:38) and I only let him use it on me once . . .

    I’m not going to hell now, am I? :-)

  3. up to this point, the only thing i can associate with incense is when my parents would burn it in the 1970’s. when i think of incense, i think of led zeppelin and cream playing in the background followed by a burning weed smell.

  4. i really am still having a hard time believing that people ever burn incense when they aren’t smoking weed. it’s so horrible, trying to cover the smell of something worse/that will cause you to get into trouble is the only reason i could think of to burn it.

  5. I too am reading the book, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, I would encourage all to read this great informative, and enlightening book. I am praparing a sermon for easter and find myself interested in finding out more about the lasting smell that Jesus’ tormenters would have smelled(symbol of royalty)as they beat and crucified Him. You have to read this book!!

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