1.4 Early Odour Research in the West
|Above: Theophrastus, Philosopher & the Father of Modern Botany, also had several extraordinary insights into the mechanics of smell and the nature of odours.|
When the father of modern science attempted an account of the five senses, it was not merely incidental that as great a mind as Aristotle's left smell to the last. In his"De Anima" (On the Soul, ca.350 B.C.) he writes"It is less easy to give a definition of the sense of smell...For it is not clear what sort of quality odour is, in the way that it is clear what sort of quality sound or colour was. The reason is that the sense of smell is not accurate but worse than many animals, for man smells poorly". Researchers ever since have probably found some consolation in Aristotle's difficulties, for the mechanics of olfaction (or smell) have remained elusive, leaving it the last sense to be explained by science. Even when we can identify the physical source of an odour, most of us have less idea than the ancients as to how odours are sensed or of their make up, nor would we consider the possibility of producing a physical image of an odour. But it was not long after Aristotle that one of the most significant early accounts concerning the mechanics of smell came to light. This derived from another great Greek philosopher, Theophrastus of Athens (ca. 372 - ca. 287 BC), often referred to as the "Father of Botany" and the immediate successor of Aristotle in leadership of the Lyceum. While most of his writings deal with the medical qualities and peculiarities of plants (and are unusually accurate, even in the light of present knowledge) his"De Odoribus" contains a section 'Concerning Odours'. Most importantly he believed that every substance has a specific odour which is related to its volatility and solubility. Locke, the 17th century English Philosopher, suggested a similar theory to Theophrastus. But it was not until 1798 that Theophrastus's ancient proposition was transformed into scientific fact by Fourcroy and then Claude Louis Berthollet.
Before the late 18th Century, speculation on the sense of smell had largely degenerated into pseudo-scientific generalisation: The passions were thought to affect individual odour. The smell of gluttons and drunkards, for example, was commonly accepted as reinforcing the traditional view that the stench of a sinner could be 'picked up'. (This was the notion behind Saint Philip Nevi's ability to smell souls who were destined for hell). Some passions operated slowly but profoundly. Thus, people lost their odour when they were sad. Passions that were struck by fits and starts intensified the body's stenches. The smell of breath increased when a person was angry due to the accelerated putrefaction of bile. Terror gave underarm sweat a foul smell and created intolerable wind and stools. The masses had long monitored themselves for smells as symptoms of disease: Midwives and domestic servants particularly in the countryside reported to doctors changes in odours of sweat, stools, urine, sputum, ulcers or linen that had been in contact with invalids' bodies.
According to others, the human organs excretory ducts were always smoking out odour. These odours followed a succession from childhood to old age, from the milky sourness of the suckling, to the sweeter, less acid sourness of senility. Between these two extremes was the fragrance of adolescence which radically transformed the odour of males, and was particularly marked in young girls.
Certain theories even categorised different races of people according the smells that they produced. This idea arose from observations of the foods that each culture tended to consume, which in turn regulated the excreta and therefore the cultural odour.
While some of these inventions make for amusing reading, the fact that common people were paying attention to social odours at all(prior to Pasteur's discoveries) must be marked as significant in the history of olfaction. Unfortunately, those who should have been considering the sense of smell most seriously were paying even less attention to it. "Scientific discourse had been reluctant to address this issue, given the extent to which it is riddled with contradictions: science has oscillated between appreciating and depreciating olfactory phenomena. The baffling poverty of the language, the lack of understanding of the nature of odours and the refusal of some scientists to abandon the Spiritus Rector (guiding spirit) theory all help to explain the abundance of muddled thinking."(1)
There also appeared anthropological reasons to justify the lack of scientific interest in smell. The early anthropologists such as Pere du Tertre, Pere Lafitau, Humboldt and Cook claimed that the sense of smell was more developed in savages than amongst civilised men and was therefore to be regarded as relatively useless in a civilized society. Count Albrecht Von Haller supported this idea: "The sense of smell was less important to [man], for he has destined to walk upright; he was to discover from a distance what might be his food; social life and language were designed to enlighten him about the properties of the things that appeared to him to be edible."(2) These 'scientific' convictions"produced a whole array of taboos on the use of the sense of smell. Sniffing and smelling, a predilection for powerful animal odours, the erotic effect of sexual odours - all became objects of suspicion."(3) The sense of smell seemed destined to figure at the bottom of the hierarchy of the senses. It was from amongst this tangle of confused and contradictory ideas that the first serious scientific research into smell emerged, beginning the long process of re-enstating olfaction as the vanguard of the sense of taste and therefore, self preservation.
A Smelly World
In order to begin to appreciate the modern history of odour research and how scientists perceived the scents around them, it is worth realising that not so long ago, the world was a very smelly place indeed. In many European cities, today symbols of culture and sophistication, the stench was often unbearable. Imagine the smell of the first cities to house large numbers of people, such as Paris and London, well before sewers and sanitation became commonplace in the second half of the 19th century. London had over 100,000 inhabitants in 1600 and the second census of 1811 put the population of London at over one million for the first time. The combined waste of the population was discarded in the same river that provided drinking water, resulting in outbreaks of disease like cholera. Not surprisingly, water was often considered dangerous, and washing was done with great care. Nor is it surprising to discover amongst some of the earliest written legislation in European countries, laws addressing odour nuisance amongst neighbors, regulating smelly activities such as slaughtering and tanning of hides, determining that these should be done outside of the town, or downstream on a river.
Paris, like London, had also grown exponentially, but without any town plan. By 1848 the streets were dark, evil-smelling, polluted with noise and smoke, and appalling to the senses. The city center, inhumanely overpopulated, was a labyrinth of alley-like passages with hundreds of narrow, airless routes clogged with heavy horse driven wagons and carriages, a menace for pedestrians, who were frequently run over. While the majority of these sunless passages, as in Medieval times, depended on streams in the gutters to carry rain, raw sewerage, garbage and all other accumulations to the nearest, hopelessly inadequate underground sewer, more than a quarter of the city's streets had no water conduits at all. Heavy rain caused overflow into ground level buildings, courtyards and cellars and formed deadly cesspools infected with the organic matter of fermented excreta into which pedestrians could fall. One house in five had iron pipes and running water but this luxury, limited to the ground floor, seldom produced clean drinking water. Only the upper economic groups could afford to have drinking water delivered.
Along with the countless rats, fleas and diseases, at the peak of its civic disorganisation, Paris was undoubtedly one of the filthiest, most pestilential and savagely overcrowded cities in the world with the highest death rate in the country. Understandably, the French became obsessed with foul smells believing them to be the source of disease and were eagerly seeking a solution to eradicate them. Public hygiene was the catalyst for the work of Jean-Noel Halle, who was a member of the Societee de Medicine. In 1794 he was the first incumbent of the chair of public hygiene in Paris, France. One of the first tasks assigned to Halle and fellow scientist Boncerf was to record the odours emanating from the city's riverbanks. Their ten kilometre journey started from the Port Neuf.
Moving on from riverbanks, which was probably a wise decision, Halle described the various pathogenic odours that develop in the then olfactory inferno known as the hospital:
What is significant in Halle's descriptions is that, contrary to the derogatory attitudes towards the sense of smell held by many of his contemporaries, Halle views olfaction as a positive and important instrument of vigilance, a detector of potential hidden dangers in the atmosphere. The history of hygiene and public health is rooted in this concept - that unpleasant odours were the source, indeed frequently the cause, of disease and pestilence.* Before 1760, the sense of smell had not being closely involved in scientific assessments of air or the mechanics of infection.
A traveling scientist is shown demonstrating the formation of a vacuum by withdrawing air from a flask containing a white cockatoo, though common birds like sparrows would normally have been used. To study 'airs' with experiments like this was thought to be studying the mechanisms of life and infection. The fashion for pneumatic experiment spread rapidly throughout enlightened circles.
The discoveries of Lavousier in 1783, demonstrating that respiration was essentially a slow combustion of organic material using inhaled oxygen, profoundly changed pneumatic chemistry. This coupled with the scientific conception of air as a medium for disease was to lead to a re-evaluation of the role of the sense of smell in self-preservation. In 18th century France, the health administration of the period even became obsessed with cataloging noxious odours. Authorities sought to locate the networks of miasmas by"...mapping the flux of smells that made up the olfactory texture of the city". (6) The desire to localise odours and to eliminate them so as to ward off disease is conceivably one reason why so many odour classification systems arose during the 18th century, particularly between 1760 and 1780, when scientists began on a project to classify the various categories and stages of fermentation and putrefaction.
It was not until the mid 19th century that a substantial alternative to the 'miasma model' was discovered when Dr Snow traced the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak in London's Soho neighborhood. The statistical analysis of the affected cases showed that the outbreak was not consistent with the prevailing miasma theory and he identified drinking water as the vessel for transmission of the disease. This discovery, together with Louis Pasteur's remarkable breakthroughs in microbiology which confirmed the germ theory, put an end to references of corpses, stench from marshes, stagnant water and carcases being the emanators of disease. Not that the importance of keeping the streets clean and draining swamps was to be dismissed, but the emphasis had changed. Discussions turned to the constructive production of guidelines for the re-ordering of space and the re-orientation away from public towards private space, personal hygiene and the inhabited room"...where the greatest watch of salubriousness has to be kept."(7) Passot summarized the new attitude by declaring,"The wholeness of a large town as the sum of all its private habitations." (8) The revolutionary shift towards sanitisation and the deoderisation of living spaces was underway. **
But for all of the new discoveries, change was relatively slow.
During the summer of 1880 the stench in Paris became so intense that public opinion was roused to revolt. Health authorities were forced to develop plans to move the excreta, build steel cesspools and move the waste through pipes to treatment works. The great network of London sewers were built in the 1860's. Other European cities emulated the model. It was the beginning of a less smelly world.
|Pastueur's Contribution to Wine.
In the summer of 1856, M. Bigot, father of one of Pasteur's students in chemistry, called upon Pasteur [pictured right] to help him overcome difficulties he was having manufacturing alcohol by fermentation of beetroot. Often, instead of alcohol, Bigot's fermentations yielded lactic acid. To better appreciate the discoveries to follow, we should understand what was believed at that time about alcoholic fermentation. Chemistry was emerging as a true science, freed from the pseudoscience of the alchemist. The mysterious chemical processes of living animals were slowly being unraveled in strictly chemical terms. Lavoisier had shown that chemical combustion in living animals was quantitatively identical to that occurring in a furnace. Lavoisier also showed that sugar, the starting product of fermentation, could be broken down to alcohol, CO2 and H2O by simply dropping a sugar solution on heated platinum. Woehler startled the scientific world by synthesizing the organic compound urea, showing for the first time that organic compounds, believed up to then as capable of synthesis only by living animals could be made in a test tube. And due, in no small part to Pasteur's work on crystals, internal structure and analysis of complex organic compounds was becoming routine. In this light, fermentation leading to production of wine, beer and vinegar was believed to be a straightforward chemical breakdown of sugar to the desired molecules. The chemical experts of the day proclaimed that the breakdown of sugar into alcohol during fermentation of sugar to wine and beer was due to the presence of inherent unstabilizing vibrations. One could transfer these unstabilizing vibrations from a vat of finished wine to new grape pressings to start fermentation anew.
Yeast cells were found in the fermenting vats of wine, and were recognized as being live organisms, but they were believed simply to be either a product of fermentation or catalytic agents that provided useful ingredients for fermentation to proceed. Those few biologists who earlier concluded that yeast was the cause of, and not the product of, fermentation were ridiculed by the scientific experts: The deep conviction of the scientific establishment was that chemistry had come too far to allow a vitalistic life force theory to challenge pure chemical explanations of molecular reaction. To attribute such chemical changes to mysterious life forces would represent a major backward step in science. Unfortunately, the "scientific establishment" was not providing much help to the brewers of wine, beer and vinegar. These manufacturers were plagued by serious economic problems related to their fermentations. Yields of alcohol might suddenly fall off; wine might unexpectedly grow ropey or sour or turn to vinegar; vinegar, when desired, might not be formed and lactic acid might appear in its place; the quality and taste of beer might unexpectedly change making quality control a nightmare. All too often the producers would be forced to throw out the resultant batches, start anew, and sadly have no better luck!
Into M. Bigot's factory, microscope in hand, came Pasteur. He quickly found three clues that allowed him to solve the puzzle of alcoholic fermentation. First, when alcohol was produced normally, the yeast cells were plump and budding. But when lactic acid would form instead of alcohol, small rod like microbes were always mixed with the yeast cells. Second, analysis of the batches of alcohol showed that amyl alcohol and other complex organic compounds were being formed during the fermentation. This could not be explained by the simple catalytic breakdown of sugar shown by Lavoisier. Some additional processes must be involved. Third, and this may have been the critical clue to Pasteur, some of these compounds rotated light, that is they were asymmetric. As we said earlier, Pasteur suspected that only living cells produced asymmetrical compounds. He concluded and was able to prove that living cells, the yeast, were responsible for forming alcohol from sugar, and that contaminating microorganisms turned the fermentations sour!
Over the next several years Pasteur identified and isolated the specific microorganisms responsible for normal and abnormal fermentations in production of wine, beer, vinegar. He showed that if he heated wine, beer, milk to moderately high temperatures for a few minutes, he could kill living microorganism and thereby sterilize (pasteurize), the batches and prevent their degradation. If pure cultures of microbes and yeasts were added to sterile mashes uniform, predictable fermentations would follow.
The Cultural Uses of Smell
After taking a mixture of mind-altering drugs one night, a 22-year-old medical student dreamed that he had become a dog and was surrounded by extraordinarily rich, meaningful smells. The dream seemed to continue after he woke up - his world was suddenly filled with pungent odours. Walking into the hospital clinic that morning, "I sniffed like a dog. And in that sniff I recognized, before seeing them, the twenty patients who were there," he later told neurologist Oliver Sacks, who reported the condition in his book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales.' "Each had his own smell-face," the student went on to explain, "far more vivid and evocative than any sight-face." He also recognized local streets and shops by their smell. Some smells gave him pleasure and others disgusted him, but all were so compelling that he could hardly think about anything else. The strange symptoms disappeared after a few weeks. The student was greatly relieved to be normal again, but he also felt a tremendous loss. Years later, as a successful physician, the student still remembered "...that smell-world-so vivid, so real! It was like a visit to another world, a world of pure perception, rich, alive, self-sufficient, and full...I see now what we give up in being civilized and human." (9)
If civilization comes to us sanitised and deoderised, if we have no vital requirement for a sense that primitives must have relied upon, then what are the modern cultural uses for smell? In the West, smell, it seems, has being relegated to the determination of food preferences and the sampling of air quality. Wine and perfume mitigate the situation somewhat. The anthropologist E.T.Hall observed that"In the use of the olfactory apparatus [Westerners] are culturally underdeveloped...The extensive use of deodorants and the suppression of odor in public places results in a land of olfactory blandness and sameness that would be difficult to duplicate anywhere else in the world. This blandness makes for undifferentiated spaces and deprives us of richness and variety in our life. It also obscures memories, because smell evokes much deeper memories than either vision or sound".(10)
But have there ever being cultures which had a more developed sense of smell and in which life was therefore olfactorily richer? A comprehensive answer to this question may never be known. Firstly, anthropologists have possibly misinterpreted some of the peoples they have studied, since historically their emphasis has been to simply "observe" rather than experience other culture's smells, tastes and tactile senses. Secondly, many of the world's primitive cultures have become so Westernised that observation of past practices is difficult or impossible. Our knowledge is based upon reliable ethnographic records or rare acquaintances with communities that have survived without the impact of western culture.
We gain a flash of insight in the form of research by David Howes, a Canadian from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and Anthony Synnott. Howes first spent some months researching native tribes in New Guinea experiencing their smells. He observed that the natives of New Guinea were deeply interested in perfumery, "concerning themselves not with the deodorising qualities of scent, and the need to produce a 'sweet' Western style impression, but rather with the power that lay latent in the scent."As in Western culture, odours that would make a woman's senses swoon were highly sought after (and given the hygiene habits of native tribes, these odours had to be particularly potent). However, unlike Western civilisation, the versatility of odours used to empower and overpower was vast. For example, there are fifteen varieties of ginger in New Guinea and it is highly regarded for its magical properties, most likely because of its penetrating smell and its "hotness" when chewed. A variety of ginger referred to as 'Askawe' is mixed with sage grubs and fed to hunting dogs to make them strong and able to outfight wild pigs. The ginger is also said to act as a magnet drawing the wild pigs to the dog. Different varieties of ginger are rubbed on spear heads and fishing nets - all resulting in a guaranteed harvest. Ginger is also the odour that the natives use to establish an
|A New Guinea tribesman.|
irresistible channel of olfactory signals between sender and recipient. Howes argues that anthropologists have consistently neglected the olfactory aspect of magic, instead focusing on its linguistic aspects, consigning the magic powers to performance utterances. His conclusion was that"olfaction and olfactory phenomena appear to occupy a more central position, and to be attributed more power, in the collective representations of New Guinea societies than they do in our own."*** This was a major point of difference in the study of primitive societies from that of other anthropologists.
Together with Anthony Synott and Constance Classen, Howes went on to examine the ethnographic records of the cultures of Africa, Oceania and South America"to smell what we could smell"as he puts it. They discovered that the power of smell has indeed being put to many different uses in different cultures. In the course of their research, these uses were summarised in the following way:
"It is useful" writes Howes,"for purposes of analysis, to distinguish between three kinds of odour. An odour can be either natural (for example, body odour), manufactured (for example, perfume), or symbolic (for example, the belief that each race has a distinct odour - a scientifically untenable proposition). It is also useful to distinguish between the classificatory and dynamic uses of odour. The term "classificatory" refers to the use of smell as a basis for ordering the world - that is, for distinguishing between different classes of people, animals and things. The term "dynamic" refers to the use of odour in ritual and everyday contexts, often with a view to changing the world, or restoring it to its proper state...
The six most basic uses of odour for classificatory purposes may be summarized as follows:
2) Classifying people, animals and plants by the symbolic odours attributed to them. For example, it is commonly supposed that different races each have a different smell, and even that "the `other' race stinks" - but there is no empirical evidence to support this belief.
3) Classifying groups within a society; for example, men and women, children and adults, by natural and symbolic odours.
4) Classifying space by reference to the environmental odor of different territories.
5) Classifying the cosmos through odour. For example, assigning contrasting symbolic odors to sun and moon (as among the Batek Negrito of Malaysia), or odourizing fundamental cosmic and social principles such as "structure" and "change" (as among the Bororo of Brazil).
6) Establishing a value system based on olfactory symbolism. For example, characterizing certain odours as good or bad and assigning them to different beings or states in order to signify the latter's moral goodness or badness.
As an example of a typical non-Western olfactory classification system, consider the system employed by the Suya of Brazil. The Suya classify the animals by odor, rather than, say, morphology or habitat. The same terms that are used to classify animals are used to classify people, and to a lesser degree, plants. While animals are permanently classified in a given category, human beings have different odors according to sex, stage in the life-cycle, and transition through certain ambiguous states, such as initiation or illness. As Anthony Seeger states in Nature and Society in Central Brazil:"The categorization of the [natural and social] world in terms of odor provides an important system for the interpretation of Suya actions and attitudes."Thus, the most powerful and important animals in the Suya cosmology are all strong smelling, while the less important ones are pungent or bland. Human beings are not all equally social. Men are socialized through initiation and lose their strong-smelling odor. Women, on the other hand, by their very sexuality are strong smelling. Old people are neither as fully social as adult men nor as sexually marked as young women, and old males and females are both pungent.
The level of olfactory consciousness among the Suya is, evidently, much higher than among ourselves. The principal reason for this is that for the Suya smells have meaning; they do not simply provoke reactions of pleasure or disgust, the way they do for us. To put this another way, the Suya think in smell, whereas we only react to smells, because our culture does not provide us with a framework in terms of which to think of odors as symbolic vehicles. Colours can symbolize concepts for us, as in the case of the traffic light system, where red means "stop," green means "go," and so on. Sounds also have meaning for us, for example, the soundtrack of a movie tells us what emotions we should be feeling as the action unfolds. But odors are not coded by our culture (or more likely, the code has been forgotten), which deprives us of any model in terms of which to organize our olfactory experience. Hence, our response to smells can only be measured in terms of relative pleasure. Of course there is nothing stopping our society from re-developing an olfactory code, but this would require a more integrated and totalizing production and marketing strategy on the part of the fragrance industry than exists at present.
The twelve most salient uses of odor for dynamic purposes may be summarized as follows:
2) Communicating messages through odors. For example the use of different sorts of incense to establish channels of communication with different spirits, each spirit being associated with a different scent.
3) Employing odors as a means of attraction, whether of members of the opposite sex, game animals, or spirits.
4) Employing odors as a means of repulsion, whether of enemies, animals or evil spirits.
5) Employing odors to enhance one's chances for success at a particular endeavor, such as in playing games of chance.
6) Employing odors in order to cleanse and purify, both in ritual and practical contexts, either as an alternative to or in conjunction with the use of water.
7) Employing odors to heal, both directly through the administration of curative smells, and indirectly by creating a pleasant olfactory environment for the patient.
8) Employing odors in rituals of transition, such as weddings and funerals.
9) Employing odors as a means of establishing exchange relations with other persons and groups. For example, giving and receiving products with different odors in rituals of exchange, best exemplified in the Desana practice of exchanging ants of different odors.
10) Employing odor to direct experience. For example, using odoriferous substances to inspire particular kinds of dreams, to guide a person through a hallucinogenic trance, or to suppress memories of the deceased at a funeral.
11) Attributing the power of olfaction to plants (as among the Wamira of New Guinea) and inanimate objects (as among the Kwoma, also of New Guinea), or attributing an extremely discerning nose to the gods (as among the Batek Negrito of Malaysia), and explaining misfortune in terms of said plants, objects or gods taking offence at the mixing of odors which results from people engaging in forbidden activities.
12) Employing olfactory metaphors to express abstract concepts and values, such as the idea of an 'odor soul' among the Temiar." (11)
These summaries certainly represent a dizzying array of uses for smells and our olfactory sense which would never even occur to the majority of us. As Howes infers, they literally equate to "thinking in smell".
It is quite clear that other cultures have being, and in some cases still are, intensely aware of the innumerable lines of olfactory communication between objects, plants, animals, people, and their environment.
1. We have quoted extensively here from an outstanding reference work, "The Foul & the Fragrant - Odour & the Social Imagination" written by Alan Corbin (Macmillan, London, 1996). Both encyclopedic and impressionistic, this is a wonderful (though sometimes difficult) exposition of odours and the perception of odours in France from 1750 to the "Pasteurian revolution" of the late nineteenth century. Highly recommended for readers further interested in the subject.
9. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks. Touchstone; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (April 2, 1998) as quoted from in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Article, "The Vivid World of Odors" by Maya Pines.
10. The Hidden Dimension, E.T.Hall, New York: Doubleday 1966
11. The discussion of the uses of smell is carried further in the book, Aroma: The Culture History of Smell, by Constance Classen, David Howes and Anthony Synnott, published by Routledge in 1994. This book takes in the history and sociology as well as anthropology of odour.)
12. Avery Gilbert (ed.), Explorations in Aroma-Chology, 1982-1994. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1995.
* Attitudes towards hygiene and odour are similar today, and manufacturers of soaps, lotions, ointments and cleaning products are well aware of such associations. Some pleasant smelling fragrances, eg lemon, are viewed by the consumer as fresh and healthy, whereas unpleasant smelling agents, eg sulphur, continue to be associated with rot and decay.
** A curious off-shoot of the new attitude was that "The new control of odours that accompanied the increased privacy inside bourgeois dwellings permitted a skillful change in the way women presented themselves. A subtle calculation of bodily messages led to both a reduction in the strength of olfactory signals and an increase in the value assigned them. Because, in the name of decency, woman's bodies were now less on show, the importance of the sense of smell increased astonishingly. 'The woman's atmosphere' became the mysterious element in her sex appeal. However, exaltation of the young girl's virginity and new perceptions of the wife, her role and her virtues, continued to forbid any open advances. To arouse desire without betraying modesty was the basic rule of the game of love. Olfaction played a crucial role in the refinement of the game, and it turned primarily on the new alliance between woman and flowers."
- The Foul & the Fragrant - Odour & the Social Imagination by Alan Corbin, Macmillan, London, 1996.
*** Another researcher, Ross Bowden, observed that there was a prohibition on sexual contact with women prior to a battle : "Men believe that if they went into battle after having sexual intercourse, the aromas of a woman's sexual fluids would still be adhering to their skin." The fear was that the enemy's spears would smell the woman's aroma and, like a laser guided bomb, home in on the target. For a magic spell to work, it must be carried on a smell.