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Smell & Tell | Sacred Scents Across Abrahamic Traditions


Thursday January 23, 2020: 6:30pm to 8:45pm


Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room


The ritual use of incense and perfumes is linked across Abrahamic traditions. You can literally smell it. Sacred scents occupy the space between liminality and the numinous, which is why describing a smell is challenging. Is it possible to break through this cloud of unknowing? The answer is yes and it requires an understanding of science, self and a sensorial leap of faith.

We can’t see smells. Even when we “see” the source of an aroma the lived experience of smelling is guided by emotion and memory. Western sensory hierarchy values vision over other senses so “seeing” gets in the way of understanding the essence of a thing. The antidote to this cultural bias is engaging “inner vision” and conquering implicit bias related to smell and culture.

Discover the olfactory tapestry of relational unity that weaves its way through Judaism, Christianity and Islam via sacred scents. Attendees will learn how to transcend the abstract nature of scent into articulated lived experience via Scent Mapping, a sensory evaluation technique inspired by professional perfumery training.

The scent flight for this program includes: Tibetan Deer Musk tinctured in vintage Mysore Sandalwood, Myrrh (Somalia), Frankincense (Oman), Laudate Chrism (United States), Greek Orthodox Jasmine Incense, Spikenard (Nepal), Bakhoor (Saudi Arabia), and Besamim (Judaic Spice Blend).

The Smell and Tell series of art+science programming is led by Michelle Krell Kydd, a trained nose in flavors and fragrance who shares her passion for gastronomy and the perfume arts on Glass Petal Smoke. Smell & Tell builds community through interactions with flavor, fragrance and storytelling. The unique and popular series celebrates its seventh anniversary year at the Ann Arbor District Library and is ongoing.