Having found lists of obscure/obsolete color names and rounded out the alphabet with a few simply-charming-to-me colors, each day, I’ll introduce a color and a swatch I’ve painted and then write about whatever comes to mind as I muse about the day’s color. Fair warning, my mind is a non-linear traveler, so who knows where my contemplations will take us.
D is for… damask – red/gray color
Damask has two other definitions, and I was curious about whether the color name came from either of those. Damask is a woven fabric pattern, likely first developed in China (possibly as early as 300 BCE), and then became a major weaving technique in the Middle Ages. The name comes from the city of Damascus, which was a major trading port on the silk road. The other common definition of Damask is the common name for Rosa x damascene. Unfortunately, I can find no direct connection to either of these that would explain a red/gray color.
I do find it a lovely color, though, and having experimented quite a bit while painting my swatch, I’ve fallen in love with it even more. Damask roses are more known as pink or white roses, but I’d certainly be delighted to have some varieties in this color.
I’m a rosarian at heart – someone who loves roses, although I can also claim love for a great many other varieties of flowers. But my love of roses is deep and wide, covering the physical and the spiritual and all the gardens between.
As I mention in my post yesterday, I have a great fondness for creation tales, and roses, from the Greek perspective, is one of my favorites.
Chloris, the Greek goddess of flowers (perhaps known to you more familiarly in her Roman guise as Flora), came upon the body of a nymph in the woods one day. Saddened, she decided to bring her back to life as a flower. She called upon the Three Graces who bestowed upon the flower brightness, joy, and charm. Aphrodite gave the flower beauty. Dionysus, the god of wine, added a special nectar that created the beautiful intoxicating fragrance. Chloris called upon Zephyrus, her husband and the god of the west wind, to blow away the clouds so that Apollo might allow the Sun’s rays to open the flower’s petals. When done, they all agreed it was truly the Queen of Flowers. Aphrodite named it Rose and dedicated it to her son, Eros, the god of love. To celebrate the Rose more widely, Aphrodite invited Iris and Eos to help announce this creation. Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, adopted the rosy color as part of her wardrobe, and Eos, the goddess of dawn, painted the morning sky with the rosy color. Lovely story, isn’t it, for such a lovely flower?
Far from being just ornamental, roses have been used by many cultures for their medicinal and culinary properties. Leaves, petals, and fruit (rose hips) are all utilized, both in their whole forms and in some way extracted. Rose water is lovely and subtle, and then there are the essential oils, concretes, and absolutes, all extracted from the flowers and used extensively.
Essential oils are primarily made from two species of roses. The Damask rose which is widely grown in Syria, Bulgaria, Turkey, Russia, India, Uzbekistan, Iran, and China; the Rosa centifolia is more commonly grown in Morocco, France, and Egypt.
I’ve been working on a many-layered rose project for well over a year now, wearing my hat as an aromatherapist and natural perfumer, with expectations at some point donning my artist’s hat. But for now, I’ve been doing extensive blending, and much to my continuing delight, have been led down many garden paths and rabbit holes in the process. Many people don’t realize with oils the vast and sometimes subtle differences in scent that are the result of things such as the type of rose, where it is grown, and the conditions under which it grew. That’s part of the joy of being a perfumer or working with oils – I’ve gathered a rather extensive library of different rose oils. I appreciate not only the difference in scents but also the difference in energetics. Blending is a very dynamic and infinitely intuitive art.
Of course, flowers speak to us differently, and my sacred walk with roses may very well be on a different path than others. I think that it matters not at all. Everything around us has things to teach us, but we are fully responsible for how we integrate what we receive and what we offer in return.
One of the lessons Roses have taught me is beautifully described by Rumi: “Stop learning – Start knowing – The rose opens – And opens – And when it falls – Falls outward.”
I love that so much and find it so meaningful, I had it engraved on one of the bangles I always wear, so it’s there, always reminding me.
What about you? If you had to choose the definition you prefer for Damask, would it be as the color, the patterned fabric, or the rose? Is there a flower you especially enjoy for its scent? Do tell – you know I’d love to hear.
Had not previously thought of damask as a color. Interesting observations about the environmental sources of flower scent.
Yes, the obscurity of the definition as a color is what interested me, to begin with. I love finding obsolete and obscure words – it’s like discovering a lost treasure. Thanks for coming by!
What an interesting story. I learn so much from you, Deborah! I like this color red.
I think it’s a lovely color too, Janet. One of the things I enjoy most about April is that by month’s end; I feel like I’ve learned so many things and been exposed to so much; I always imagine my brain had to grow a ton of new cells just to hold it all.
I had only known Damask as the fabric until a friend who grew many roses added a Damask rose to her garden collection – it was a colour closest to what I would call puce, having a blue-purple hint in its deep pink. I suspect that that colour as pigment arose from an interpretation of the rose… and also suspect there may be many variations in that, just as not all roses smell alike. None of which matters. All are beautiful! YAM xx
You won’t find me disagreeing Yamini. I’ve never met a rose I didn’t love.
I had only heard damask regarding the fabric and didn’t realize it was a color. I like it best as that because it seems more wide-ranging. I can’t grow roses but I love rose gardens; I sniff all of them and the scents are so wide-ranging: from nothing to spicy to very floral. There’s such a wide variety.
Rose gardens can be such a sensory treat for our eyes and noses. I smile a bit when someone says they can’t stand the scent of roses and think they just haven’t found the right one.
It’s not so much a pretty color as an elegant one. That rose is gorgeous…
That’s perfect, John – it IS an elegant color.
We used to live in St. Albans UK where the Gardens of the Rose test all new varieties for growability by ordinary gardeners. Needless to say it is a fabulous collection of all different types of roses…
I love the scent of the brown boronia (an Australian native plant). The scent is strong in the night time. I have tried to grow it twice but it is notoriously hard to keep alive. I love roses but only grow a small red one which must be tough to survive in our overgrown garden.
I know the scent of boronia as an essential oil and quite like it. But enjoying it in a garden would be lovely. Too bad it wouldn’t cooperate for you.
I have rose bushes that my brother planted for my mother more than 70 years ago, and one I planted probably 60 years ago. I often save the petals on the fireplace mantel.
That’s so lovely on all levels Beth!
I enjoy roses, and with damask being a dusky shade of red, I was smiling and nodding through this entire post.
For some reason, the fragrance of roses is one of the rare floral scents that does NOT give me headaches, so on occasion I’ve been lucky enough to receive rose bouquets and keep them in the house. On my skin, however, rose scents do not work at all. My body chemistry and rose water do not get along!
Oh, that’s unfortunate you’re not able to comfortably enjoy a broader range of flowers, but having to limit yourself, roses are a rather lucky pick – so many different possibilities. Scent and skin chemistry are a curious mystery, but I truly am intrigued by our individual differences.
If I had to pick one damask I’d go with the fabric weave. Such a cool combination of artistry, math, science, beauty, history, and practical considerations.
It really is incredibly amazing – and I’ve seen some really beautiful ones.
Damask as fabric and Damascus as the country is known to me, and I do know of the Damask rose too, but its also a name for a color that was new for me, Deborah.
Particularly loved the tale of how the rose was born. Oh, how the mythologies delight, and you seem to have a treasure trove of them.
I love the rose for its delicate fragrance and gorgeous colors. I have the desi or local version of this beauty in my terrace garden and its a deep burgundy color. All four bushes are laden and the perfume that wafts around is just so so yummy.
I would love to go through your library of oils- aromatherapy is another interest of mine and I am in awe of your range of interests and expertise.
Oh, your roses sound fabulous, Shalini – I can almost smell them. I do love mythologies, especially origin stories. There’s something profoundly heart-warming to me, realizing people have always strived to understand and make sense of things.
I suppose it does seem like I have a myriad of interests, but in truth, everything seems somehow connected to me. I often feel like I’m simply following threads in a vast tapestry and being delighted by what I see as I travel the path.
Wow, that story is interesting! I wonder if it is ancient Greek, or if it is one of those Greek “myths” that were invented later… (I ran into a bunch of those last year when researching gemstone stories).
The Multicolored Diary
I’m absolutely willing to believe it was a later construction. When have so many Greek gods ever cooperated on a project they had no vested interest in?! Still find it a delightful story.
I love the color damask, but the word always automatically takes me to roses. I too love flowers. I think the scent I love most is lilacs and look forward to their flowering (in May here in northeastern Poland) every year.
Oh, I love lilacs as well. Their blooming season is one of my favorite times, and I have a large bush in my backyard. Whether it’s blooming or not, it’s a favorite hiding spot for a neighborhood bunny to hide underneath, which makes it a double treasure to me.