The Scent of the Egyptian Blue Lotus

If you find yourself in the United States the news here is overwhelming, troubling, and confounding.

So it would be understandable if you missed a small piece of news that emerged out of Egypt in just the last few days. In Saqqara an archeological dig has unearthed 59 mummies each in a colorful sarcophagus.

While there have been plenty of jokes about not opening them in 2020 because who needs an ancient Egyptian curse in this year, there are plenty of good arguments to be made about not opening them at all. But what I wanted to note is less about those who were buried way back in the 26th dynasty (688 BC – 525 BC) and about the figures buried alongside them.

Many of them were of a well known but lesser god named Nefertem.


Nefertem was depicted as the blue lotus flower or water lily but even more precisely he was the scent of the blue lotus flower and in the ancient Egyptian understanding all extractions of the scent of any flower – in perfume, in oil – was the living god Nefertem.

He is the child of Ptah, his father, the eldest creator deity in the Egyptian Pantheon, and his mother was Bastet who was the cat headed goddess of many things but among them was perfume and beautifying ointments. Her very hieroglyphic symbol is of an ointment jar and her name, through Greek, is the root of the word ‘alabaster’ which was used to make apothecary jars to hold salves and ointments.

This is a small thing to notice in these times but as a maker of skincare and a user of essential oils of plants and flowers it was worth noting to me. That there was a time in the world that people understood scent itself to be a god and that the origins of beauty sat in the non-human world.

So it is a thin thread between you, me, the ancient Egyptian pantheon, and Primal Derma…but it is there.

Thanks so much for your ongoing support and having an ear for listening for these things in the world.


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