1: Hatshepsut, Egypt’s First Female Pharaoh

Series 1: Eleven Women Who Used Essential Oil Therapy to Heal Their Bodies

1: Hatshepsut, Egypt’s First Female Pharaoh

It was more wonderful to look at her; her beauty and form were exquisite; she was a maiden, beautiful and blooming.-HATSHEPSUT’S OBELISK INSCRIPTION.

CONSIDER STROLLING ALONG A lovely stone terrace with a gentle breeze brushing your cheek, bringing the exciting aroma of an earthy, deep base note with a tinge of bitter orange originating from a series of trees planted on the terrace. 

You feel grounded and exalted as you gaze at the Nile River and its serpentine shore, the pale blue morning sky, and the silhouettes of graceful birds in flight. This is how Hatshepsut, Queen of Egypt, felt as she went down the avenue of myrrh trees in daily meditation. 

Hatshepsut is an excellent illustration of how to live gracefully with aromatics infiltrating every facet of existence, owing to her unique character, status, and inner life. She enjoyed her olfactory sense because it gave her enticing smells every day. She used her position as queen and pharaoh to demonstrate calm integrity, intelligent invention, and form beauty 3,500 years ago, at the pinnacle of Egyptian culture. 

Hatshepsut was the eldest daughter of Tuthmosis I and Ahmose (crown princess and sister to Amenophis I), a joyful and congenial royal couple that ruled Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty. Hatshepsut descended from a line of famous kings. Her great-grandfather, King Ahmose, successfully reunited northern and southern Egypt around 1550 BC. 

He became one of Egypt’s greatest kings and the Eighteenth Dynasty’s founder. Amenhotep I, Hatshepsut’s grandfather, built temples in Thebes dedicated to the god Amum. Thutmose I, her father, erected two obelisks, each sixty-four feet tall and etched with scenes from his combat wins. Egypt created a foreign province on the Euphrates River during the Eighteenth Dynasty. The architecture was at its pinnacle, with massive and spectacular structures all around Thebes, such as the temples of Luxor and Karnak. Hatshepsut’s father established the custom of interment in the Valley of the Kings.

During the fantastic Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt also reached a height of religious and artistic expression. This civilization developed nearly completely formed around 4500 BC with Sumerian influences and ended around 100 AD with Cleopatra VII, who is discussed in the coming Series 3. The rich valley that was the foundation of this culture soil to grow grain, vegetables, herbs, and trees was produced by the Nile River, which went south to north across the desert to its delta at the Mediterranean Sea. Aromatherapy, which arose due to the fragrant plants, became an essential part of Egyptian culture.

King Narmer united the Nile River’s inhabitants for the first time around 3100 BC. His successors, known as pharaohs, were considered gods; thus, the thirty-one dynasties started. “In the history of ancient Egypt, eras when the who lands (northern and southern Egypt) were united, were times of prosperity that produced great cultural achievement,” writes Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh. They pioneered family life, education, law, writing, and the beginnings of science and engineering. They also pioneered using tables and chairs, metal tools and weaponry, traditional painting, bathing, and the first aromatherapy treatments. These are fantastic contributions!

Hatshepsut was her father’s favorite, and she possessed beauty, a fast mind, and a lot of healthy energy. We know what she looked like because of several states and paintings saved by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She had light brown skin, dark brown oval eyes, and wavy black hair, and she was small. Her lovely golden skin was fragrant with all of Egypt’s exquisite oils. The fragrance was an essential and significant part of her life. ‘(Her) Majesty herself, applied with her own hand’s oil of ani on all of her limbs,’ reads an inscription on her obelisk.

Her aroma was like a beautiful breath reaching Punt. Hatshepsut grew up in a palace with several apartments and many half-royal siblings born to harem women. “The rooms were scented with fresh flowers and the heavy Oriental perfumes… with the odor of myrrh dominating, which would become Hatshepsut’s favorite,” Evelyn Wells writes. The royal family was not the only one who recognized the value of essential oils. Oils were employed in hygiene, healing, and ceremonial observance in Egyptian society, as they had done for millennia.

The Egyptians invented aromatherapy, specifically Imhotep, the builder and physician of the Third Dynasty (2650-2600 BC), who utilized scented oils in massage and reflexology. This pioneering application earned him the moniker “the grandfather of aromatherapy.”The Egyptians considered scented body oils a vital necessity in Hatshepsut’s day, making over thirty distinct types. Aromatic oils were mixed with a base of animal fat or vegetable oil, such as olive, almond, or sesame oil; those with less money used castor or palm oil. Fragrant resins, spices, and flowers provided a pleasant aroma. Afterward, the fragrant oils were utilized in baths, massages, anointing, and cosmetics.

Bathing was a healing practice that originated in Egypt. Egyptians made the bath one of the most appealing rooms in any fine house out of care for aesthetic appearance and hygiene. Women bathed in exotic scents before using balm in the following massage room.

“The use of oils and ointments was prevalent, then as now, to protect the face and body from sun, dust, and the dryness of the Eastern climate,” writes Michal Dayagi-Mendel in Perfumes and Cosmetics in the Ancient World. These fragrant oils were not considered a luxury and were used by men and women from all social classes.”

After bathing, they sensuously anointed the body with oils. One of the many murals in Hatshepsut’s beautiful temple at Deir el-Bahri depicts “a lady of the court going through her daily routine of using the toilet.” She is accompanied by four maidens, two of whom pour scented oil over her body, the third of whom rubs her shoulder with one hand while holding up a Lotus flower for her to smell.”

Cosmetics were widely used throughout Hatshepsut’s reign, and essential oils were included in several potions. Women had lovely wooden boxes with exquisite decorations engraved on them. There were jars of henna to massage on their cheeks for a rosy glow, bottles of black kohl to highlight the beauty of their eyes, and alabaster jars of blended scents to spread all over the body inside the boxes. Archaeologists have discovered personal items bearing Hatshepsut’s name, such as gold bracelets and an alabaster eye cosmetics bottle with a bronze applicator. She was not only a human female but also a semi-divine Egyptian pharaoh.

Archaeologists discovered a turquoise-colored perfume bottle with Hatshepsut’s name carved on the neck near Thebes, the oldest find of its kind, showing that perfume bottling began during her reign. The Egyptians utilized opaque glass tinted with metallic oxides during the period. Furthermore, exquisite receptacles made of granite, diorite, and notably alabaster in gorgeous animal or lotus shapes were carved to keep the perfumed oils cool.

Women had an odd custom at the nightly royal court’s large feasts. They were dressed in cone-shaped cakes of lard combined with oil, perfume, and herbs. These cakes were made using two different techniques. Because the Egyptians lacked the alembic condenser Avicenna invented in 1000 AD, their essential oils were plant extracts. One approach was the enfleurage extraction technology, mainly used for fragile flowers like jasmine, lotus, and rose.

The petals were stretched between two boards over a layer of animal fat; the fat usually absorbed the smell of the flowers within one day. Every day for six to twelve weeks, new petals replaced the old. The result of this lengthy process was perfumed pomade. This process is still used today to extract Tuberose (Polyanthes tuberose) (for example, in India). However, similar to the modern solvent extraction technique, the pomade is now rinsed with alcohol and filtered.

Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician who roamed the ancient world with the Roman army in 1 AD, describes a second method of extracting plant oil. Dioscorides explains in his classic de Materia Medica, a treatise on seven hundred plant medicines that has remained a standard for centuries: “To prepare perfumed cow fat, remove any blood and skin from the fat, Pour some old smelling wine over it.

Cook over low heat until the fat has lost its original aroma and has taken on the aroma of the wine. Then, in an earthenware saucepan, combine 2 pints of pure fat. Mix Cyperus (a rhizome) and Balsam wood, finely mashed palm shoots, a sweet flag, and 1 cup of old wine to thicken. Bring to a boil three times, remove from heat, and cool for 24 hours. Melt once more and strain into a clean saucepan through clean linen. “Seal and keep.”

After that, the ox tallow was molded into a cone and attached to a wig or placed on the crown of the head. The cones melted in the steamy banquet rooms, and “the fragrant oil bedewed heads and shoulders to smell sweet and provoke erotic (Jasmine) desires.”

This habit may appear weird to modern Western women, but it was a lovely way to obtain an aromatherapy massage for emotional inspiration and moisturized skin. Certain Bedouin tribal members still practice the fragrant-cone habit nowadays.

The Egyptians are role models for us in their pursuit of spiritual advancement. The aroma was related to the search for god in Egyptian religious observances.

Each god in their pantheon has a distinct aroma associated with his or her persona. Myrrh was Amun’s Perfume. Hatshepsut worshiped Amun-Re, a combination of two deities: Amun, the world’s creator, and Re (meaning “sun”), the world’s king. Like other intellectuals of her day, Hatshepsut believed in the holiness of all that lived.

This underlying faith provided her reign with a sense of calm and fearless certainty about her future life. Hatshepsut’s mother instilled in her daughter a strong sense of religion as she repeated numerous prayers, performed ceremonies, and enjoyed dancing before the altar. The inscription on one of her obelisks at Karnak emphasizes her love and gratitude: “I have made this with a loving heart for my father (Amun)… I have not forgotten any projects he has divinely decreed.”

He is the one who directs and guides me.”

The perfumers were usually priests who created elevating perfumes for temple worship, rites, and ceremonies. Recipes for fragrant oils and incense were discovered on the walls of unique smell rooms attached to temples throughout Egypt. As a state homage, aromatic perfumes were provided to select temples. The Egyptians believed that if their prayers were wafted by the fragrant blue smoke that slowly ascended to heaven, they would reach the gods more quickly.

William Kaufman writes in Perfume, “The (English) word perfume means ‘through the smoke.

Incense was burned at funerals, religious rituals, and pharaoh crownings. Another indication of the importance of scent in ancient Egyptian religion is the presence of the deity of Perfume, Nefertum, who inspired priests to manufacture sacred perfumes.

My buddy, archaeologist and modern aromatherapist John Steele, tells how the priests understood the value of the biochemical response the human body and mind achieved by breathing Fragrances (Boswellia carteri). They hoped the transforming aroma would invigorate Egyptian folk emotionally and spiritually at large gatherings.

Every day at noon, the Egyptians burned Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) as part of their sun worship ritual. This fragrance has a refreshing, anti-apathy emotional effect.

Heightening spiritual awareness while also grounding. The resinoid regulates the thyroid gland and has additional antiviral and hormone-like properties. Myrrh was applied to the soles of Queen Hatshepsut’s feet to emit a pleasing scent for herself and others everywhere she walked. Her heels were protected from splitting in the sweltering sun by the antibacterial ointment the oil provided for her feet.

Her circulation was invaded by myrrh molecules, which boosted her immune system by producing white blood cells or lymphocytes. The oil encouraged her need for trust in those around her and energized her spirituality.

Because it made Hatshepsut think of her god, Amun, and because it infused her with life, she adored myrrh. The Egyptians also employed essential oils to prepare their corpses. They believed in the transmigration of the soul (the “Ka”) and were preoccupied with the idea of life continuing beyond death.

Preserving human likeness through mummification was crucial to unite the Ka and the body and resume enjoying life. What would be required in the afterlife was carefully considered in the tomb. The primary source of employment in Thebes was related to the ceremonies around death. Coffins, furniture, goblets, and alabaster vases with unguent were among the products made by artisans who spent their entire lives working in shops.

The exquisite craftsmanship and beauty of their work, as shown in the objects found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb, indicate their conviction that human consciousness continues to develop even after death.

Due to the high cost of the vast quantities of essential fragrant ointments, mummification was primarily reserved for the affluent. First, cedarwood oil (Cedrus atlantica or Cedrus libani) was put into the skull after the embalmers removed the brain through the nose. The stomach cavity was then filled with myrrh and Cassia (Cassia marilandica), closed, and the intestines were removed using an incision made with a sharp blade in the side. For seventy days, the body was submerged in natron, a seisquicarbonate of soda that may be found in the desert.

“The body was anointed with oils and fats, scented with myrrh and cedarwood, as the melted resin was poured over the entire body to close the pores,” writes Janet Butttles in the Queen of Egypt. Following that, the body was covered in yards of linen strips and fragrant ointments, whose potent antibacterial properties helped preserve the ancient tissues up to the current day.

Because of its astringent and drying effects on human tissue, cedarwood proved particularly beneficial for this use. The American cedarwood, Juniperus virginiana, possesses characteristics comparable to those of the European and Middle Eastern cedars, Cedrus atlantica and Cedrus libani.

Additionally, cedarwood would have a pleasant, calming effect as the deceased person made their final journey to the afterlife and would eliminate all illnesses, including fungus.

The living also used it as a tonic for persistent ailments or suffering. It was notably beneficial for bronchitis and coughing. A bath infused with cedarwood may provide arthritis relief and a sense of calm peace. Additionally, it improves the person’s relationship with God and instills a feeling of harmony and control.

The Egyptians utilized cedarwood for substantial wooden objects like coffins, temple doors, and ships. The cedarwood coffin was custom-made to accommodate the mummified body’s size and shape.

Coptic alabaster jars were filled with fragrant oils, sealed for later use, and buried with the mummified body of a revered Egyptian. The jars contained the heart, lungs, liver, and gallbladder. The aroma of myrrh and spikenard filled the air when archaeologists unlocked the famous King Tutankhamun’s tomb, further adding to their sense of wonder and amazement.

Twelve-year-old Hatshepsut was raised to be queen consort of Egypt, a position her father had prepared her for. Hatshepsut preferred “God’s wife” because pharaohs were considered semi-divine beings. She emerged from the women’s palace after her father’s death to marry her half-brother, Tuthmosis II.

According to Evelyn Wells, Hatshepsut made a vow when she wed Tuthmosis II to be “feminine to a divine degree, to exude fragrance as she walked, and speak in tones that filled the palace with music.”11 Hatshepsut was an innovator like her father.

To prepare for the moment when she would become queen, historians theorize that Tuthmosis I brought his little daughter on the royal barge to travel the Nile and introduce her to authorities in significant cities. As the barge moved north, she heard tales that interested her and made her dream about a river that connected the eastern branch of the Nile to the inland sea and the land of Punt (now known as Somalia).

The smell of her favorite incense came from the citrus-scented Myrrh trees that flourished in Punt, and this crimson area also had the “touch of gold and ivory, the voices of strange animals, and the odor of her favorite incense.”Tuthmosis II succumbed to smallpox a few years into his rule. Hatshepsut became the first woman to rule Egypt alone upon his death. She continued her father’s love of order in governmental structures, architectural design, and interpersonal interactions.

She rose from being the sovereign regent of Egypt to the pharaoh, a position she held for 22 years, despite having to contend with male relatives to keep her power. Instead of destroying and conquering during her reign, she made the decision that she wanted to construct and explore.

This has typically been the reaction to the power displayed by female rulers throughout history, especially those who possessed a knowledge of essential oils. On the walls of her temple in Deir el-Bahri, the fabled account of Hatshepsut’s rise to power is depicted: “Her human father, Tuthmosis I, introduces her to the royal court, nominates her, and has her recognized as heir.

After revealing her literature, she goes through one more purifying ritual (with myrrh).”

14 A living myrrh tree, which was impossible to find in Egypt, was requested to be returned by Neshi, one of Hatshepsut’s administrators in charge of the expedition. The trees’ balled-up roots were to be replanted at Deir el-Bahari’s Amun garden. Amun had a pungent aroma that reminded one of Punt. The ships brought back myrrh resin, the trees, ebony, oxen, apes, silver, gold, lapis lazuli, and malachite. Hatshepsut’s temple bears an inscription that reads, “Never were brought such things to any king since the world was.”

15 A king was traditionally a guy. As the intermediary between the Egyptian people and their gods, the Egyptian pharaoh was a god on Earth. Following her coronation, Hatshepsut abandoned the fashionable women’s clothes of the day and dressed like a male monarch, donning a short kilt, an oversized collar, a head cloth or crown, and a false beard.

Although she is seated and wearing a kilt and headcloth in an early statue, it is evident that she has the gentle, subtle contours of a young woman. She wears men’s attire and looks to have a man’s body in several later representations and monuments. She must have believed that wearing the conventional masculine dress would make her more appealing to her priests and citizens as the first female pharaoh.

Except for the one statue depicting her as the young queen, she was also represented as a sphinx and a deity in addition to the bearded king.

Senemut, a well-known architect from modest origins, was chosen by Hatshepsut to assist with construction tasks. He had a mind as brilliant and a personality as strong as hers. She commissioned him to create and install two obelisks at the Karnak temple of Amun-Re.

Their twin tips shimmered in the harsh Egyptian sun’s rays because they were covered in gold foil. They were engineering marvels that Hatshepsut had extensively inscribed with text about her life.

Her funerary temple was her tallest structure. A masterwork of architecture, Djeser-Djeseru blends seamlessly into its surroundings. The main novelty of her complex resided in its organization into a sequence of terraces, which combine with the natural amphitheater of the cliffs, according to Eduard Naville’s description of the XVIII Dynasty Temple of Deir El-Bahri.

16 The first rock-cut temple in recorded history was the lovely temple made of white stone that stood out against rose-colored cliffs. It’s an astounding, enormous building that nonetheless has a modern aesthetic.

Hatshepsut’s disappearance from history remains a mystery. Many portraits and monuments were renamed. She was forgotten for approximately 2,000 years. The 1923–1928 Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian expedition found many Hatshepsut and Senemut statues in two enormous depressions before her temple. Archaeologists believe her jealous stepson and successor, Tuthmosis III, placed the figures there and removed her name from other monuments and statues to erase his genius aunt and stepmother from Egyptian history.

Despite not finding her body, historians think she died in 1458 BC and was buried in the Valley of the Kings. Her legacy survived Tuthmosis III. Her temple at Deir el-Bahri still has her magnificent inscriptions. Visitors there might easily imagine this gracious and intelligent pharaoh going about her daily duties and smelling the ever-present Myrrh that gave her a balanced yet inspired sensation, helped her create, and earned her admirers.

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