Solstice Pomander Newsletter
Etymology: Middle English, modification of Anglo-French pomme de ambre, literally, apple or ball of amber
Date: 15th century
Meaning 1: a mixture of aromatic substances enclosed in a perforated bag or box and used to scent clothes and linens or formerly carried as a guard against infection; also : a clove-studded orange or apple used for the same purposes
Meaning 2: a box or hollow fruit-shaped ball for holding pomander
The perfume theme for the is month of December is Pomander. Many of you may have made the classic orange-studded-with-cloves holiday pomander at different times of your lives. My mom and I use to make them for the winter holiday fairs in Nevada City where we would sell them along with botanical wreaths that we created from wild harvested botanicals that grew in the mountains around us, as well as from many organically grown dried flowers which came from our 1/2 acre of land which we cultivated near Camptonville near the north fork of the Yuba River.
In the quiet of our renovated turn of the century home we would sit surrounded by the wonderful and sublime beauty of nature, with our oranges before us, a pick to puncture holes in them, and bags of aromatic cloves to insert into the wholes. It was a labor intensive but enjoyable work to totally cover the oranges with the cloves, and then role them into our special blend of powdered orris root, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice. They were then set to dry, and during this time released their delectable perfume throughout the house.
This type of pomander is of relatively recent introduction, appearing first in England during the 17th and 18th century:
"By the 17th and 18th century the decorated orange stuck with cloves was often mentioned as a Christmas or New Year’s custom. In his Christmas masque, Ben Jonson wrote, “He has an Orange and rosemary, but not a clove to stick in it.” A later description of New Year’s in England mentions children carrying pippins and oranges stuck with cloves in order to crave a blessing for their godfathers and godmothers."
see Pomanders: Golden Apples of the Sun
The tradition of making the orange/clove pomanders migrated to the United States from England during Colonial Times and as oranges were rare and expensive items when available at all, apples, which were readily available were substituted for them with a simi liar effect.
This tradition of holiday pomanders inspired this recipe for Solstice Pomander Perfume.
1 ounce Sweet Orange Essence EO
1/2 ounce Lime Essence EO
1/2 ounce Tangerine Essence EO
1/2 ounce Lemon Essence EO
1/16th ounce Cinnamon Bark CO2
1/8th ounce Allspice CO2 Total
1/8th ounce Ginger CO2 Select
1/8th ounce Clove Bud Absolute
1/8th ounce Orris Root CO2
Please note that the recipe is a perfume blend, not a preparation to be taken internally.
History of Pomanders
But the history of pomanders in Europe stretches back into Medieval and Renaissance times. The ingredients used in pomanders were created from a wider range of aromatic substances than the more modern orange/clove pomander. They were melded together into solid mass through heat, with various gums and resins being the cementing agent. These aromatic concoctions where then placed inside hollow perforated metal cases that were hung from the neck or from the waist. Some of these vessels were made of gold or silver and were elaborate of design. The scent radiating from these pomanders served the purpose of masking body odor(when regular bathing was not in vogue) or even preventing disease. Pomanders were used by individuals for disease prevention during the Great Plague:
"And as he spoke, he tore open the porter's shirt, and a silver ball, about as large as a pigeon's egg, fell to the ground. Leonard picked it up, and found it so hot that he could scarcely hold it.
"Here is the terrible carbuncle," he cried, with a laugh, in which all the party, except Blaize, joined.
"It's my pomander-box," said the latter. "I filled it with a mixture of citron-peel, angelica seed, zedoary, yellow saunders, aloes, benzoin, camphor, and gum-tragacanth, moistened with spirit of roses; and after placing it on the chafing-dish to heat it, hung it by a string round my neck, next my dried toad. I suppose, by some means or other, it dropped through my doublet, and found its way to my side. I felt a dreadful burning there, and that made me fancy I was attacked by the plague."
--from Old Saint Paul's A Tale of the Plague and the Fire by William Harrison Ainsworth
Materials commonly used in pomanders (Medieval and Renaissance):
* Benzoin (Benjamin)
* Storax (Styrax)
* Gum Traganth (Gumdragon), usually in Rosewater
* Gum arabic
* Labdanum (resin of the rock rose)
* Calamus (Sweet Flag) Root
* Orris Root
* Nutmeg & Mace
* Lavender, oil of lavender (spike)
* Otto of roses, Rosewater
* Lignum Aloes
'A Comfortable Pomander for the Brain'
Take Labdanum, one ounce, Benjamin and Storax of each two drams, Damaske powder finely searced, one Dram, Cloves and Mace of each a little, a Nutmeg and a little Camphire, Musk and Civet a little. First heate your morter and pestle with coales, then make them verie cleane and put in your labdanum, beate it till it waxe softe, put to it two or three drops oil of spike, and so labor them a while; then put in all the rest finely to powder, and work them till all be incorporated, then take it out, anoynting your hands with Civet, roll it up and with a Bodkin pierce a hole thorow it."
Ram's Little Dodoen, 1606. [Quoted in Jeanne Rose's Herbal Body Book]
"To make Pomanders, take two penny-worth of Labdanum, two penny-worth of Storax liquid, one penny-worth of calamus Aromaticus, as much Balm, half a quarter of a pound of fine wax, of Cloves and Mace two penny-worth and of Musk four grains: beat all these exceedingly together, till they come to a perfect substance , then mould it in any fashion you please, and dry it."
--from The English Housewife by Gervase Markham (see Pomanders)
Pomander in Literature
She said that after the disappearance of the old watch-dog nothing particular happened for a month or two. Her husband was much as usual: she did not remember any special incident. But one evening a peddler woman came to the castle and was selling trinkets to the maids. She had no heart for trinkets, but she stood looking on while the women made their choice. And then, she did not know how, but the peddler coaxed her into buying for herself an odd pear-shaped pomander with a strong scent in it -- she had once seen something of the kind on a gypsy woman. She had no desire for the pomander, and did not know why she had bought it. The peddler said that whoever wore it had the power to read the future; but she did not really believe that, or care much either. However, she bought the thing and took it up to her room, where she sat turning it about in her hand. Then the strange scent attracted her and she began to wonder what kind of spice was in the box. She opened it and found a gray bean rolled in a strip of paper; and on the paper she saw a sign she knew, and a message from Herve de Lanrivain, saying that he was at home again and would be at the door in the court that night after the moon had set. . .
by Edith Wharton
"Aunt Grizel knows of my coming. She has given me this pomander of spices." She touched a trinket which hung from her neck by a gold chain. David struggled to salve his conscience by energy in dissuasion, and though his heart cried for her presence it was torn too by fear for her safety. He commanded, pled, expostulated, but she only turned a smiling face. She sat down before the peat fire and stretched out her feet to the hot ashes.
--from Witch Wood by John Buchan
We are at Button’s—the well-known sign of the “Turk’s Head.” The crowd of periwigged heads at the windows—the swearing chairmen round the steps (the blazoned and coronalled panels of whose vehicles denote the lofty rank of their owners),—the throng of embroidered beaux entering or departing, and rendering the air fragrant with the odors of pulvillio and pomander, proclaim the celebrated resort of London’s Wit and Fashion. It is the corner of Regent Street. Carlton House has not yet been taken down.
--from Burlesques by William Makepeace Thackeray