(Sarah Kennedy is a freelance fashion and lifestyle journalist based in NYC. Originally from the U.K, Sarah previously worked in London and Paris as a consumer magazine editor and editorial consultant. https://www.sarahkennedy.me)
Have you ever woken up with a strong sense of a wonderful place or memory in your life story? If so, you probably dreamed of the fragrances associated with those moments, too.
It is unusual but not unfeasible to dream of fragrance, in the same way that our subconscious conjures up people, places and experiences. Just recently I woke with a strong, happy memory of orange blossom wafting through the windows of my teenage bedroom during English summers, even though I was snuggled beneath the duvet in my chilly New York apartment. It is not the first time I’ve dreamed of a fragrance. I recall burying my nose in the jumper of my boyfriend-now husband in a dream, inhaling the aftershave-laundry scent he sometimes had when we first met years ago. Neither of these dreams seemed secret-laden, yet both reinforced the sense that I am where I should be at this moment in my life.
In traditional folk-lore, dreaming of aromas or fragrance has important meanings. A delightful fragrance brings positivity and foretells happy times ahead, an overpowering odour, even if perfumed can mean the dreamer is under mental pressure in real life. Dreaming of an actual bottle of perfume could herald a gift coming your way. The smell of flowers is supposedly an omen that new love is approaching.
Dream deciphering is not a science but psychologist Carl Jung believed dreams serve a purpose beyond what he called individuation, where the conscious and subconscious try to work out the events of each day. Jung believed humans can learn from their dream experiences, breaking negative patterns in real life and seeking out positive energy.
Decoding dreams is a thought-provoking and useful adventure. Most dream analysts agree on the universal meanings of certain imagery; our teeth falling out signifies insecurity about a loss of power or position, stress lies beneath those nightmares about being chased by something dark or scary. Sensory experiences like the memory of a fragrance are entirely personal to the dreamer, though. Keeping a dream journal is a good way of discovering more of what you have dreamed about and recognising personal meanings beyond those stress dreams we all share about turning up to school with no homework! Try scribbling down your first memories of dreams each morning for a month and see if any patterns begin to emerge.
Even though we are more likely to recreate fragrances we have already encountered, we may also invoke an unknown fragrance if it suits our dreamscape. Just as strange people and places appear during sleep, so do sensory experiences including taste, touch and smell. Our dreams are unique to us and precious in that respect. One way to hold on to our unique place in the world is with the personal style signifiers we put into our own stories. Just as we create a physical landscape in our world, we can add to what we say and do with fragrance. Maybe our fragrance can become the stuff of other people’s dreams. Now that would be interesting…..