Stainton-Moses, William - Letter to The Spiritualist - The ‘odour of sanctity’
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Letter to The Spiritualist newspaper for January 1, 1875
In every circle with which I am acquainted, some means is used for inducing harmonious conditions. This is usually done by means of music or singing. In our circle it has always been done by means of perfumes. From the very first we have been enjoined to stillness, and attempts at conversation have been repressed.
We do not use a musical box, nor has music been asked for. But no seance passes without perfumes being showered upon us or perfumed waves of air being wafted round the circle. These waves of air usually blow over my head, so that by putting up my hand I can feel the cold air blowing over my head twelve or eighteen inches above it. It is not until the waves of scented air come round to me that I detect the presence of perfume, except on rare occasions.
These perfumes are of various kinds, rose, sandal-wood, and verbena, being favourites. Any sweet-scented flowers in the room are utilized and their perfume extracted. This is notably the case in the country.
We have noticed in such cases that the presence of a particular flower in the room would determine the prominent spirit odour; and that particular blossoms would have all the perfume extracted from them for the time, though the odour would return on the following day.
Sometimes, however, a perfectly distinct odour would be extracted from-or, more precisely, be put upon-a particular flower. In this case the flower invariably withered and died in a short time.
It is now some months since I first noticed the presence of a perfumed atmosphere round myself, especially during times when I was suffering pain. I have been liable to neuralgia, and at such times those around me have noticed the presence of perfume of various kinds, such as those we observe during our seances. One evening I was standing at an open window through which the air was blowing, and the perfume of rose was so marked that friends who were present endeavoured to trace it to some definite source. It was found to be localised in a spot no bigger than a shilling at the top of mv head. The spot was perceptibly wet with the perfume, which oozed out more freely on pressure. Since that time we have become familiar with the fact, and have ceased to wonder when the perfume shows itself, if I am suffering pain.
The process is, I am informed, remedial, and I have knowledge of at least one medium now living who has frequently observed a similar phenomenon, though not referable to perfume localised in one spot"
But, indeed, the fact is both new and old. We have not observed it of late years, perhaps because we have not searched for it, but in mediaeval days the fact was perfectly familiar. It is only now that we are beginning to understand the phenomena of mediumship, which showed themselves among the monks, nuns and recluses of the middle ages. They were in many cases powerful mediums, they gave themselves the best conditions-seclusion, prayer, fasting-and the odour of sanctity became a well-known occurrence among them. Only they named it badly. There was no particular sanctity about them or about us now-frequently the reverse. The perfume had nothing to do with sanctity. It was a phenomenon of mediumship which was rife then, and which exists now perhaps more frequently than we know.