With this message we celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine, a Christian martyr said to have wed those banned from doing so in Ancient Rome, and, while thinking of the various forms of union, reflect on Saffron, from the Persian zarparan meaning gold string, and the ways that we are woven together through desire, and the deepest devotion.
Saffron—or crocus sativus—is not only the most expensive spice in the world, but an olfactory material (derived from the dried stigma of the autumn bloom) that has been used for over 4000 years in sacred applications, to induce visions, and to stimulate desire. The scent of the dried saffron has a fatty-herbaceous undertone that follows a truly unique, hotly sweet and spicy odor.
Its incorporations in mild doses elevates floral-driven perfumes or more musky odors to the level of the Mystical.
Originating from Western Asia, Asia Minor, and countries of the eastern Mediterranean area, saffron is the autumn flowering cousin of the popular garden crocus. It is obtained from the three-branch stylus in the flower, and these flowers are native to woodland, scrub and meadows that span from sea level all the way up to the alpine tundra. Harvested saffron typically originates from Spain, Turkey, Greece, India, and Iran, with the latter considered to be the center of saffron production.
When dried, saffron presents a truly distinct, fervently sweet, spicy and floral-aldehydic odor with a mildly fatty-herbaceous undertone.
The historical significance of saffron cannot be overstated, with its presence undermarking essential parts and turning points in aromatic history. It has been the most pharmacologically active and potent medicine known or recorded for nearly four millennia. Cultivation and harvesting of crocus sativus for saffron was first documented on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean, but its origin is unclear, with many points indicating that it was first found in Iran. Frescos dating back to 1650 BC found on the Aegean island of Santorini depict this cultivation, and it was not only an important part of the economy and culture, but played a sacred role in its use as a psychoactive drug and food additive.
It was embraced by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a single-note perfume, a cosmetic, and an ingredient in Helenium (a body lotion).
In ancient as well as modern Arabic cultures, saffron was (and is) used as a single-note perfume as well, and in combination with agarwood, rose, jasmine, sandalwood and henna flower. In Iran, it was used in the Regalium formula for a perfume used by the Kings of Parthia, and in India, the scent was incorporated in general-use perfumes, but particularly in the erotic tantric Rite of the Five Essentials, where it was applied to the feet. It was thought to be used in embalming in Egypt. It was introduced to the British by the Romans, where it was used as a dyestuff. It was mentioned in medieval and later herbals, one of the earliest being the Tractatus de Herbis (14th century). Saffron is mentioned in the Song of Songs, in the Old Testament, and in the Iliad:
But at the hour when the star of morning goeth forth to herald light over the face of the earth—the star after which followeth saffron-robed Dawn and spreadeth over the sea—even then grew the burning faint, and the flame thereof died down.
In this month traced out by Cupid’s arrow, and cleaved by the elusive Aquarius and the emotive Pisces, apply Saffron to heighten the presence of mystery and ardor, a combination that would warm the coldest of hearts in February weather.
Featured LVNEA Products Containing Saffron: