Smells are Spells! Aromatherapy + Witchcraft
You’ve heard of “aromatics” but what about “aro-magics”?!
As the owner of a shop whose motto is "Come for the Smells, Stay for the Smells" I think about scent a lot. Ever since I started practicing witchcraft in adulthood, I've been drawn to using scent in my magical workings. Nothing helps me get into a particular mood like the right candle or incense. When I was creating our HausCraft Spell kits I made sure to add a scented component to each, since I don’t consider anything material to be more powerful in setting intentions than scent.
The overwhelming majority of commercial scents are meant to replicate a connection with the natural world. Floral, herbal, and woody are all examples of scent families meant to duplicate the realms of nature, of which a lot of witchcraft practices are based in as well. The seasonality of certain scents definitely speaks to a timeless urge for humans to align with the wheel of the year. At HausWitch that means that cozy-making candles like The Witches, Hearth and Hestia sell like gangbusters in the autumn, while sweet, green Soft Island, and the tropical-floral Sirens take the lead in the Spring. By this time of year (in the Northern Hemisphere) we're done with burning wood and baking sugary treats and ready to welcome in freshness and flowers, reflecting the seasonal changes happening around us.
Still, some, (myself included), might roll their eyes at the very mention of “aromatherapy”. The idea has been so co-opted by capitalism that the whole concept seems a little trite. But scent, and its mystical effect on us is something even our most ancient ancestors were fascinated by. When I started digging deeper into the magical properties of scent I realized that there was so much more to my candle addiction than consumerism. I found a few articles that outlined how scent was often conflated with the idea of magic itself in classical history and literature.
“Greeks and Romans of all walks of life believed in magic and used spells ranging from curses to healing magic and garden charms. Magical handbooks from the time show that Greco-Egyptian magicians used fragrance extensively in their rituals, even scented inks, and doctors believed strong-smelling plant species to be more medically effective than others. The gods themselves were thought to smell sweet, and places they touched retained a pleasant odor, making scent a sign of contact with the divine.” 
I started exploring this idea more fully when I was formulating the scents of our Secret Spell candles. What would a spell made only of scent be like? Can you capture a whole feeling, a whole ritual just with scent?
Well, Madea would certainly say yes! In the Greek epic poem Argonautica, Madea is niece to fellow famous mythical witch Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and serves as a priestess to Hecate, (a pretty magical resume if you ask me!) In the poem Madea herself emits an intoxicating aroma, but she also uses perfumed herbs and potions to get major results. I won’t spoil anything but just know that scent itself is the active ingredient in her magic.
There’s plenty to say about scent in real-life history as well. Ancient Sumerians started the still ongoing trend of burning incense as a spiritual offering, both in and of itself and as a cover-up for other, smellier religious rituals. The Egyptians were basically obsessed with smell. From elaborate bathing rituals to architecture, they worked scent into just about every aspect of life. Cleopatra herself had a ship made of fragrant (and insect-repelling) Cedarwood and her walls were covered in nets holding roses. For centuries after that, temples and mosques across cultures would mix scented material into the mortar itself so that it would emit scent when the sun heated the building.
“In a world sayable and lush, where marvels offer themselves up ready for verbal dissection, smells are often right on the tip of our tongues- but no closer- and it gives them a kind of magical distance, a mystery, a power without name, a sacredness” 
Still not convinced that you’re not basic for wanting to smell every candle in every shop? Think about the powerful ways in which scent can provoke feelings and memories. Why am I instantly transported back to a sunny autumn day during my senior year of high school whenever I smell a clove cigarette burning? It’s like I can hear the Smiths playing on my car radio and feel the chill in the air of early fall. Looking at a photo or even hearing the music doesn’t have the same dimension-hopping effect. Or why do realtors bake cookies before open houses in homes they’re trying to sell? Because they’re using smell to help connect potential buyers with feelings of warmth and coziness and ultimately, home. The way that scent can trigger feelings of nostalgia and send you, even for a second, to another place and time feels extremely magical to me. I bet a lot of you can intuit exactly what this candle smells like based on scent memories alone:
Aside from nostalgia, the right types of aromas can also bring comfort. During the early days of C*vid, demand for scented candles went way up even as the world around us felt like it was crumbling down!  Of course, we all wanted our homes to smell nice because we were inside them all the time, but there was more to it than that. Whether you were conjuring coziness or evoking escape, home scent rituals became really important to people throughout the panini. It says a lot that during one of the most harrowing events in recent history, people were reaching for scent magic to help them feel better.
A good friend of mine went thru a traumatic breakup this fall and I literally could not keep up with his candle consumption! He said it was the only thing that helped him feel better when he was suddenly alone in a big apartment by himself. The way the smells could fill up the space made him feel less lonely. Pretty powerful for a completely invisible, totally silent and utterly intangible entity, wouldn’t you say?
“Smell is a startling superpower. You can walk thru someone’s front door and instantly know that she made popcorn. Drive down the street and somehow sense that the neighbors are barbecuing. Intuit, just as a side effect to breathing a bit of air that this sweater has been worn but this one hasn’t. That it’s going to start raining soon, that the grass was trimmed a few hours back. If you weren’t used to it, it would seem like witchcraft.” 
Just for funsies try meditating for a few minutes on what emotional connections you have to specific scents. What does success smell like to you? What about love? Or comfort? Think abstractly- what does the New Moon smell like to you? What about Aries season? Can you use those connections to map out ways to strengthen your spell work practice using scent?
If you're as fascinated by smells as me I've sited some of my resources below! (I know I didn't format my footnotes correctly but I'm not in grad school anymore and just couldn't bring myself to bust out an AMA manual lol) Stay tuned for part two! Smell ya later!
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