Lavender is one of my favorite flowers. I love the color, the look of the flowers, and of course, the smell of lavender has the power to soothe us to sleep with little trouble. Since the days of the ancient Egyptians, lavender has been used for medicinal and healthful purposes. It was also a “miracle plant” during the Middle Ages. So there is little wonder that I used lavender extensively in my medieval novel Time Enough to Love.
The scent of lavender has been associated with medicinal uses for centuries. The ancient Romans used it in their baths, the Middle Ages saw it used to help ward off plague, and our culture uses it today in a variety of ways, but especially. I’ve noticed, in laundry detergents and fabric softeners. In fact, I must confess that I use a lavender/sweet cotton scented fabric softener for my laundry.
Early on in Betrothal, Book 1 of Time Enough to Love, the hero, Sir Geoffrey Longford, remarks on the scent of lavender that surrounds the heroine, Lady Alyse de Courcy:
“He reached out to capture a tendril of her hair. Rubbing his face against it, he inhaled deeply. “You smell so sweetly. ’Tis like flowers in summertime all about you. Even your hair smells like the meadows near my home.”
Alyse smiled at that, her breath coming more normally. “’Tis lavender, my lord. My mother has it cut in our fields, and dries it to make sachets to keep the clothes and linens fresh. She says it gives us good health.” With a shy glance at him she continued, “I do bathe in it too, for it calms and soothes the soul.” She gave a rueful chuckle. “I fear I will require such a bath when I return to my room.”
I wanted to have this olfactory marker for Alyse so I could play with its use in several ways throughout the course of the novel. Not only does Alyse have this scent clinging to her, but she gives Geoffrey a token, a small bag with a lock of her hair in it. The bag smells of lavender because it’s made of part of an old gown of hers that’s permeated with the scent. I also have Geoffrey send Alyse a sprig of lavender as a token of remembrance.
One thing I was excited to discover is that lavender is also used as an insect repellent. Its use as a sachet tucked into linens and clothing helps repel fleas, the major carrier of the Bubonic plague. So the fact that Alyse and Geoffrey have so much contact with lavender explains why they are protected, to an extent, from the plague. Ever since I published this novel, I have used lavender sachets as my signature piece of author swag. In fact, I’m making them right now for my upcoming author signing at the Romancing Williamsburg reader event March 18-21 in Williamsburg, VA.
I hope they give everyone sweet dreams!
If anyone is interested in attending the Romancing Williamsburg as a reader, I believe tickets are still available here.