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Cedar Chest Newsletter

Cedar Chest Perfume

For this newsletter we have created a natural perfume which I call , Cedar Chest . The word "cedar" is applied to a wide range of coniferous trees growing in different parts of the world and includes the genus's of Chamaecyparis, Thuja, Cedrus and Juniperus. The heartwood of all these trees have their own distinct olfactory characteristics but include in their bouquet a rich, warm, dry, resinous-precious woods aroma while the woodcedar chest itself is renowned for its beauty and longevity when used for a wide variety of sacred and secular purposes by the cultures in the countries where the trees grew naturally. The Phoenicians, Egyptians, Tibetans, Japanese, Chinese, Indians(Native American and East Indian), Hebrews, Syrians, Romans and many other cultures cherished the tree, its wood and its scent. It was used for such diverse purposes building ships, constructing temples, mummification, incense, coffers, caskets etc. One of its outstanding virtues was that both the fragrant wood resisted decay and hence could be used in all applications, symbolic and practical where this quality was appreciated. It is because of this quality that the tree and its wood came to be associated with royalty, immortality, purity, fortitude and courage.

In the Western world cedar wood was adapted for its own unique uses and took on the form on special chests in which treasured possession of family significance were stored. This tradition arose in Europe when during the 15th and 16th century when the Italians evolved the construction of furniture into a high art form, which was included the making of elaborate chests that were prized family possessions. Other European cultures adopted the furniture style embodied in the chest and designs became more or less elaborate according to the purpose for which it was intended.

When European immigrants began coming to America they brought with them the chests that were family heirlooms containing remembrances of their life in the old country along with practical goods for their life in the new country. Already a tradition had evolved amongst certain cultures of providing a girl growing into womanhood with a special chest in which her family placed clothes and other items which would be useful when she got married. These were called "hope" chests. In America there was an abundance of Western Red Cedar/Juniperus virginiana and this wood was found ideal for the making of such chests both for its beauty and the scent of the wood which prevented insect infestation of the blankets, clothes and other items placed therein.

For a couple of hundred years this tradition was quite predominant in many communities in the USA and this creation of simple but beautiful cedar chests was an important industry in the USA particularly on the East Coast where Juniperus virginiana grew in abundance. Even where the cedar wood chest did not play the role of a hope chest for brides to be, it became popular as a storage chest for blankets, clothes and precious objects and this use further advanced its role in American life. Literature contains many lovely references to people opening the cedar chests in which were contained a whole history of their ancestors in the form of family mementos. It was in this way that the smell of cedar became associated with precious memories and experiences.

In creating the Cedar Chest Essence it was my hope to draw people into the magical world contained in a cedar chest where one might open it up and find there special treasures and mementos that transport one into a time and place quite different than the present. Aromas have a particular ability to open charmed casements in the heart, bringing to life dear and precious experiences which give life a special glow and vibrancy.

 

Cedar Chest Perfume recipe

2 ounces Bergamot Eo
1 ounce Geranium Eo
1 ounce White Ginger Lily Flower Abs
2 ounces Virginia cedarwood Eo
1/2 ounce Patchouli eo
1 ounce Muhuhu eo
1/2 ounce Vetiver eo
1/4 ounce Black Musk Attar
1/2 ounce Balsam Peru eo
1/4 ounce Cassia CO2
 

Cedar Chest in Literature

"In a distant corner was the old cedar chest, heavily carved. She pulled it out into the light, her cheeks glowing with quiet happiness, and sat down on the floor beside it. It was evidently Miss Hathaway's treasure box, put away in the attic when spinsterhood was confirmed by the fleeting years.

On top, folded carefully in a sheet, was a gown of white brocade, short-waisted and quaint, trimmed with pearl passementerie. The neck was square, cut modestly low, and filled in with lace of a delicate, frosty pattern--Point d'Alencon. Underneath the gown lay piles of lingerie, all of the finest linen, daintily made by hand. Some of it was trimmed with real lace, some with crocheted edging, and the rest with hemstitched ruffles and feather-stitching.

There was another gown, much worn, of soft blue cashmere, some sea-shells, a necklace of uncut turquoises, the colour changed to green, a prayer-book, a little hymnal, and a bundle of letters, tied with a faded blue ribbon, which she did not touch. There was but one picture--an ambrotype, in an ornate case, of a handsome young man, with that dashing, dare-devil look in his eyes which has ever been attractive to women."

-- from Lavender and Old Lace
by Myrtle Reed

"Upon opening this latter (which we did quite easily), we arrived at a third case, also coffin-shaped, and varying from the second one in no particular, except in that of its material, which was cedar, and still emitted the peculiar and highly aromatic odor of that wood. Between the second and the third case there was no interval—the one fitting accurately within the other."

--from Tales of Science
by Edgar Allan Poe

"THE CEDAR CHEST

Her mind is like her cedar chest
Wherein in quietness do rest
The wistful dreamings of her heart
In fragrant folds all laid apart.

There, put away in sprigs of rhyme
Until her life's full blossom-time,
Flutter (like tremulous little birds)
Her small and sweet maternal words."

--from Songs for a Little House
by Christopher Morley

 

HER GRANDFATHER was a Dakota 'medicine man.' Among the Indians of his day he was widely known for his successful healing work. He was one of the leading men of the tribe and came to Washington, D. C., with one of the first delegations relative to affairs concerning the Indian people and the United States government.

His was the first band of the Great Sioux Nation to make treaties with the government in the hope of bringing about an amicable arrangement between the red and white Americans. The journey to the nation's capital was made almost entirely on pony-back, there being no railroads, and the Sioux delegation was beset with many hardships on the trail. His visit to Washington, in behalf of peace among men, proved to be his last earthly mission. From a sudden illness, he died and was buried here.

When his small granddaughter grew up she learned the white man's tongue, and followed in the footsteps of her grandfather to the very seat of government to carry on his humanitarian work. Though her days were filled with problems for welfare work among her people, she had a strange dream one night during her stay in Washington. The dream was this: Returning from an afternoon out, she found a large cedar chest had been delivered to her home in her absence. She sniffed the sweet perfume of the red wood, which reminded her of the breath of the forest, – and admired the box so neatly made, without trimmings. It looked so clean, strong and durable in its native genuineness. With elation, she took the tag in her hand and read her name aloud. 'Who sent me this cedar chest?' she asked, and was told it came from her grandfather. Wondering what gift it could be her grandfather wished now to confer upon her, wholly disregarding his death years ago, she was all eagerness to open the mystery chest. She remembered her childhood days and the stories she loved to hear about the unusual powers of her grandfather, – recalled how she, the wee girl, had coveted the medicine bags, beaded and embroidered in porcupine quills, in symbols designed by the great 'medicine man,' her grandfather. Well did she remember her merited rebuke that such things were never made for relics. Treasures came in due time to those ready to receive them.

In great expectancy, she lifted the heavy lid of the cedar chest. 'Oh!' she exclaimed, with a note of disappointment, seeing no beaded Indian regalia or trinkets. 'Why does my grandfather send such a light gift in a heavy, large box?' She was mystified and much perplexed. The gift was a fantastic thing, of texture far more delicate than a spider's filmy web. It was a vision! A picture of an Indian camp, not
painted on canvas nor yet written. It was dream-stuff, suspended in the thin air, filling the inclosure of the cedar wood container. As she looked upon it, the picture grew more and more real, exceeding the proportions of the chest. It was all so illusive a breath might have blown it away; yet there it was, real as life, – a circular camp of white cone-shaped tepees, astir with Indian people. The village crier, with flowing head-dress of eagle plumes, mounted on a prancing white pony, rode within the arena. Indian men, women and children stopped in groups and clusters, while bright painted faces peered out of tepee doors, to listen to the chieftain's crier.

At this point, she, too, heard the full melodious voice. She heard distinctly the Dakota words he proclaimed to the people. 'Be glad! Rejoice! Look up, and see the new day dawning! Help is near! Hear me, every one.' She caught the glad tidings and was thrilled with new hope for her people."

--"A dream of her grandfather", from American Indian Stories
by Zitkala-Sa

" 'That,' said I, 'is from the cedar chest our clothes are packed in.'

Just as we reached the group at the top of the hill she answered, 'Oh, cedar! So it is.'
As she spoke, a little toddlekins, three or four years old, came running to me, exclaiming, 'Cedar, can't I ride on the 'bog-gan?"'

That settled it! My Brook Farm name was thenceforth Cedar, and would be Cedar, still, were there any of my companions left to remember it. I never had any other nickname, save that of late years some dear and intimate friends have made syllables of my initials and called me Jay
Vee."

--from My Friends at Brook Farm
by John Van Der Zee Sears

"A stairway he climbed came out delightfully in a garret musical with rain and the plaintive chirping of wet birds huddled under dripping eaves. Unlike the rooms he had left below it was swept and clean. There were trunks in one corner, a great many, and a cedar chest. There should be a cedar chest. It was as essential to an old garret like this as violets in spring or sweetness in a girl's face. The chest was open. With a low whistle of delight Kenny peered inside and thought of the ferryman in her quaint brocade. The chest was full to the brim of old-time gowns, glints of faded satin and yellowed lace, buckled slippers and old brocade."

--from Kenny
by Leona Dalrymple

" 'These are the oldest of all—' Margot was kneeling and tugging at a carved cedar chest that was under the bed, 'These are the things that belonged to the first one of you, the things that belonged to Prudence Langhorne.' She dragged the chest triumphantly to the girl's side. 'On top,—' the odor of the cedar was wafted out into the room like the odor of the pine plains through which Felice had been driving yesterday, 'here, these are things she had when she came to live in this house that was built for her—plain enough, eh?' She spread the gray stuffs and brown linsey woolseys out scornfully. Their voluminous skirts and long tight sleeves and queer flat yellowed collars were stupid enough in the midst of all the splendor about them. 'But look, now look, what she wore after she came—' "

--from Little Miss By-The-Day
by Lucille Van Slyke

Links
Those who wish to explore the role of the Cedar Chest in American life may do so at the following links:

http://johnscedarcrafts.homestead.com/History.html
http://www.vahistorical.org/publications/historycorner_lane.htm
http://hightechimpact.com/furniture/?cat=12
http://www.archive.org/stream/cedarchestshowto00windiala#page/n7/mode/2up

(Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation for treatment of disease)