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Scenting SalvationAncient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination$
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Susan Ashbrook Harvey

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241473

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241473.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Scenting Salvation
Author(s):

Susan Ashbrook Harvey

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520241473.003.0001

Christianity began in a world where smells mattered. They mattered for what they did and what they meant. Smells affected what or whom they touched, rendering them attractive, repulsive, soothing, or dangerous. They revealed things about the object, person, or place from which they drifted. Smells mattered because they were invisible, they were transitory, they were mobile, they lingered, and because of their potency to change substance, experience or meaning. Ancient Christians shared in wide traditions regarding olfactory sensibilities, indications, and practices. Furthermore, there was general agreement across Mediterranean people as to what constituted good and bad smells, enabling the proliferation of olfactory practices that displayed and expressed these associations as cultural codes. These codes were not based on symbolism as a disembodied language, but on the concrete view that smells participated in effecting the processes they represented.

Keywords:   Christianity, smells, Mediterranean, symbolism, cultural codes

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