Speed dating or online matchmaking: These may be the latest romantic trends, but the art of love is ancient and the desire for beauty is something completely primitive. Looking for a mate or trying to seduce a mate was once the work of potions and spells, animal sacrifices and charms. While many of the ancient rituals may seem wildly out of step to contemporary women, there are many ancient practices that can very well initiate attraction and captivate a partner today.
Donkey milk is not a hot commodity in today’s age, but it was once an elixir for preserving youth and beauty. Cleopatra is believed to have deposited a large amount of milk in donkey’s milk and was known to bathe in it not only for the sake of beauty, but because it seemed to have aphrodisiac properties. Ancient physicians, such as Hippocrates, prescribed donkey’s milk to treat poisonings, nosebleeds, and infectious diseases. Donkey milk was also the preferred food of infants until the 20th century. Considered closer to mother’s milk than any other animal’s milk, it was later given to babies in poor health because it seemed to keep them better in many cases. With its distinctive sweet taste, donkey’s milk is most commonly used in France, Italy, and parts of Spain, but its health and beauty secrets date back to ancient times.
The story also reports that Cleopatra added Dead Sea salt to her bath. This is not a far-fetched story, as the ancient women of this region were known to use the salt and minerals of the Dead Sea for medicinal purposes and for general health. Today’s mineral cosmetic industry, for example, owes much to the Dead Sea cosmetic practices of ancient times. Salt from the Dead Sea was believed to have restorative powers. Ten times saltier than the ocean, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth that occurs naturally. The extraordinary composition of its brine and the truly unique composition of its waters have been said to work wonders for people suffering from various health and skin disorders. Tea Bible states that King Solomon gave Dead Sea salts to the Queen of Sheba as a gift. It is also said that Mark Antony gave Cleopatra a deed for the Dead Sea region after he conquered it.
Egyptian cosmetics are almost as old as civilization. Everyone, from the poorest to the royalty, wore them to varying degrees and of varying quality. Women, as denoted by Cleopatra, used black kohl to outline their eyes. Another variation of the eyeliner was using ground green malachite. In Egypt, painting eyes was a widespread practice and women, regardless of their status, were likely to practice the application. To shade the eyes, studies have revealed that ancient Egyptian women painted their eyelids with a mixture of ground serpentine (a green mineral) and water. To paint their lips, women would combine animal fat and red ocher to create a cosmetic layer. The use of cosmetics in ancient Egypt is a testament to their ideals of beauty.
The women of Ancient Egypt were also adept at the art of perfumes. Cleanliness was an essential component of desirability for both genders, but considering the climate, maintaining a pleasant fragrance must have been a challenge for those ancients. However, even without soap, the ancient Egyptians are revered for their perfumes. Oil, lime, and perfume were typically the preferred cleansing ingredients. Balanos oil, a botanical extract, was often chosen because it did not clash with the chosen perfume, which could have been a combination of flowers and spices. Lime was also used to treat acne and oily skin.
The ancient Greeks heavily dabbled in perfumes and incense to create an aura of seduction. Burning resins or wood created pleasant fragrances that were considered attractive to lovers. Various scents were used for certain parts of the body. Roman baths contained shelves of packaged oils and powders that were used to perfume the body with pleasant scents. Some places were also synonymous with certain fragrances. For example, the ancient women of Crete were known for their lovely scents composed of lilies. Middle Eastern women were noted for their fragrance of frankincense and myrrh. The smell was intrinsic to ancient sexuality and, of course, today it does not play a small role either.
Myrrh, prized as a fragrance, was also said to be used by the Queen of Sheba to attract King Solomon. Its ability to enhance seduction was widely known, but it also had many attributes as a beauty tonic. It was used regularly to repair cracked skin and was prescribed to treat eczema-like rashes. It has been in beauty regimes for over four thousand years. Similarly, frankincense was also used in perfumes, but ancient women believed that it helped diminish wrinkles and slow down the aging process.
The use of skin cream composed of crushed and finally ground pearls was an ancient Chinese beauty ritual. The pearl cream is said to illuminate the skin. Even today, Chinese manufacturers add ground pearls to some creams. Pearls may seem too expensive to crush into a beauty paste these days, but bird droppings are essentially free. Japanese women were long used to creating their own creams and cosmetics from natural elements, and nightingale droppings, for example, were a popular additive to face creams. And it worked to restore beauty due to an enzyme within the excrement that contains healing properties. Also, it was much safer than the lead used by ancient Roman women to whiten their faces.
In ancient India Vedic texts reveal that turmeric, a native herb, was an especially important plant for women’s beauty regimes. The turmeric would form into a paste that women would spread over their bodies before bathing. The skin would benefit from deep cleansing and revitalization. Historically, turmeric has been associated with increased longevity, so it is not surprising that it is still a part of beauty regimens for some Asian women today who generally add sandalwood for increased antioxidant power.
Olive oil was the standard hair care product for ancient Greek women. Rejuvenated sun damaged hair and added shine to locks. Olive oil was also used to smooth skin, beautify nails, and repair chapped lips. The olive had many culinary and healthy uses for the ancients, but Greek women held it highly in their beauty rituals. It is not surprising that Greece has many beauty products that contain olive oil today. The Egyptians were also concerned with hair care, although wigs were commonly used. However, both women and men rubbed the resin of fir trees on their scalp in the belief that it could lead to hair growth. In ancient China, extracts of the beautiful butterfly pea, a climbing plant, were used to strengthen hair. Indian women preferred coconut oil to add shine and volume to their hair.
In addition, ornamentation was frequently added to enhance the beauty of the hair. It is said that Cleopatra, who certainly seemed to know all the beauty secrets, wore gems and jewels scattered throughout her hair. Women of other ancient cultures wore carved combs or natural elements such as shells in their hair. Hairstyles could also be elaborated as shown in Egyptian scrolls or other ancient texts. In many cultures, thick, healthy hair was related to a woman’s fertility and general health.
The use of aphrodisiacs appears in almost all cultures. Some edibles were believed to enhance women’s sexuality or increase their fertility. Ginseng, horny goat weed, and vanilla were used frequently by women in many ancient cultures. However, an ancient aphrodisiac is of particular interest. The seeds of the fenugreek plant were consumed by Egyptian, Roman and Greek women in the belief that it increased the size of their breasts. These ancient women also believed that the plant could round out their breasts in a more pleasant way. It was believed that many aphrodisiacs associated with women made them more receptive and enthusiastic about sex.
The women of Morocco, Egypt and Persia discovered that jasmine was an extraordinary aphrodisiac. Bathing in a jasmine-scented bath was known to relieve stress and anger. Women scented with jasmine were said to arouse great passion in men. Jasmine was also used to treat dry or sensitive skin. Although not that intoxicating, rose oil is said to be a similar type of aphrodisiac considered by the ancients. Women hailed its calming effects. Rose oil was also used for skin care. Ancient Roman women were known to favor lavender-scented baths.
While many ancient beauty and seduction rituals are considered outdated today, there are striking similarities between the past and the present. The favored scents, cosmetic needs, matters of seduction are all components of contemporary sexuality, just as they were for the ancients. Skin care, hair care, and many other beauty rituals were important aspects of women’s lives in ancient times just as they are today. Beauty and sexuality often went hand in hand for the ancients; These aspects are also at the heart of today’s civilization.