Monday, February 2, 2015

Ancient Beauty Perfume Treatment

by Christina Rich

Most of you know that I write Biblical fiction. I love the mysterious intrigue of the era. Yes, things were rough, at times down right gruesomely barbaric. However there is something about the time period that takes my breath away. Perhaps I’m over-romanticizing it a bit; after all, I am a romance writer.
Being a Biblical romance fiction writer means most of my research comes directly from the Bible. When I come across articles, archaeology finds, and/or other historical data that helps shine a bit of light into ancient times I get excited. Unsure of how to share it without getting overly preachy, I’ve been sitting anxiously on my most recent read for quite a while.

But here it is….

You’ve all heard of Queen Esther, right? If not, she has her very own story in the Old Testament. It’s
Queen Ester by Edwin Lon 1878
a beautiful, yet heart-wrenching, story about a young orphan girl who found favor with a king, ended up becoming queen, and saved her people. Beautiful in the sense that God used Esther for such a time as this (that) to rescue His people. Heart-wrenching, because of the hate toward God’s people was so great that there was no second thought at trying to annihilate them from the face of the earth. Sounds familiar, huh?

Anyway, this blog isn’t about the story but rather about the beauty treatment spoken of in Esther 2:12.
Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to King Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for purifying of the women;)  KJV

I came across an article in Historical Stories from the Sands of Time Women of the Bible, called Biblical Beauty Treatments, which quotes the following beauty treatments for Arab women from an unnamed book published in 1868.

“The women have a peculiar method of scenting their bodies and clothes. … In the floor of the tent or hut … a small hole is excavated sufficiently large as to hold … a fire of charcoal … into which the woman about to be scented throws a handful of various drugs (herbs). She then takes off her dress, and crouches naked over the fumes while she arranges her robe to fall as a mantle from her neck to the ground like a tent…”

The article goes on to explain how the woman begins to perspire and as her pores open her body absorbs the scent. The incense permeates the woman and her robe, and as I can only imagine, everything she comes into contact with. According to the author of the 1868 book, when the process was complete, a party of scented women could be “smelt a full hundred yards distant.”

It is guestimated, given that Esther’s story took place in Persia that she went through her ‘six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours’ in this very way. Twelve months of cooking one’s self with incense seems a little excessive to smell pretty, but I guess it was for a good cause.


  1. Very interesting, Christina. I've always wondered about those twelve months of "purifications." Guess it wasn't all fun and games. I can think of many things I'd rather do ((like, anything!) than crouch over burning charcoals in a primitive sauna--even if it did smell nice! Thanks for posting this. (Don't you love coming across great old resources like the 1868 book you found? I know I do!)

  2. Christina, thank you for your fascinating post!

  3. WOW! I don't think I would like that very much. Might get a little hot where its sorter tender. Getting ready for the KING might not be much fun. Course guess they didn't really have a choice. I've always thought that Ester was very brave in trying to save her people, when she could have been killed. Of course we know GOD was with her. She has always been one of my favorite women of the Bible. Maxie >mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  4. How fascinating! I can't imagine these kinds of treatments!

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  5. Wow! That's some way to get perfumed. Makes me thankful for a perfume bottle, or lotion bottle. Very interesting post. Sm. wileygreen1( at)yahoo(dot)com