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73. Odour of Sanctity.

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When Swedenborg went through the 142whole process of death and resuscitation, that he might be enabled to speak of it with certainty, the heavenly spirits came to assist at his new birth, and “at the same time an aromatic odour, like that of a body embalmed, diffused itself around; for, on the presence of the celestial angels, that which would otherwise be a cadaverous smell, is changed into such a fragrancy. This, (the translator adds in a note), may serve to explain what many readers have met with, as related by authors of good credit, concerning certain persons of eminent piety, who are said to have died in the odour of sanctity, from the fragrancy that issued from their bodies after death. A truth easily admissible by all who believe an intercourse as subsisting between the spiritual and natural world.”

Treatise concerning Heaven and Hell, No. 449.

The odour of sanctity, from being a figurative expression, soon became an 143outward and sensible sign. This is easily explained; a body which had been embalmed would retain the fragrance of gums and spices when it was dug up to be worshipped, and the saint would have credit for what was done by the embalmer. Dona Luisa de Carvajal procured the quarters of the catholic priests who suffered death in England, anointed them with the strongest spices, and retailed them in presents to her noble friends in Spain[1]: the scent would be perceived by devotees, who would never think of inquiring in what manner the relicks had been prepared. The immediate odour perceived upon the death of saints who certainly never numbered cleanliness among the christian virtues, bears but one explanation;.. no trick is so easy .. and therefore no trick has been so common.

There is an odour of complexion which some saints may, perhaps, have enjoyed, though they cannot have been of the 144school of St. Romuald. Is it Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who says, that his linen always acquired a fragrance something resembling musk? Several similar facts are recorded, but the most remarkable one is mentioned by Barros. He speaks of a race of women called Padaminij, exquisitely well made and beautiful, but chiefly distinguished from all others by the fragrant smell of their bodies, which was imparted to their cloaths. The love of the Rajah Galacarna for one of these women, who was the wife of one of his chief captains, was the occasion of first bringing the Moors from Delhi into Guzarat.

The race was almost extinct in Guzarat when Barros wrote; but many, he says, were still to be found in Orixa.


  1. Southey's Letters from Spain, 3d edit. Vol I.