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.