t h e • s c e n t • o f
S E X + D E A T H
Paperwhites have marked the nearing of the Solstice and the New Year for as long as I can recall. My mother planted dozens of them each year to place around our home and to give as gifts. My family does not have many traditions, so this small gesture is one I have carried with me since leaving home; each white bloom a cause for celebration.
A few days ago, I shared my delight in its widening blossoms with my Apprentices. Their reaction to its scent--which to me is heavenly--was surprising. One wrinkled her nose, saying that the flowers smelled of decay, of death. The other spoke of childhood memories, of Springtime in Missippi and new blossoms that scented the air.
This smell--interpreted through the lens of both Life and Death--is found in other plants as well, the Hawthorn in particular comes to mind, and Datura in her own way. It is a smell of birth and decay, of sex and of death. It is a perfume most appropriate for this Season, when the light is waning and the Earth has returned to itself; the time when we await the return of our Beloved Sun. I am drawn to these medicines, these flowers which communicate the Fullness of both Life and Death; for it true that each is contained within the other and through embracing this mystery that both can be honored and appreciated fully. Long live the Paperwhite, sentinel of the cyclical way of the world.