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For the United States Navy ship, see USS Pomander (SP-702).
Venetian woman with a pomander

A pomander, from French pomme d'ambre, i.e. apple of amber, is a ball made of perfumes, such as ambergris (whence the name), musk, or civet.[1] The pomander was worn or carried in a vase, also known by the same name, as a protection against infection in times of pestilence or merely as a useful article to modify bad smells.[1] The globular cases which contained the pomanders were hung from a neck-chain or belt, or attached to the girdle, and were usually perforated in a variety of openwork techniques, and made of gold or silver.[1] Sometimes they contained several partitions, in each of which was placed a different perfume.[1]

The term “pomander” can be for the actual scented material itself or for the container that contains the scented material.[2][3][4] The container could have been made of gold or silver. Pomander can be a bag containing fragrant herbs. Pomanders were an early form of aromatherapy.


Pomanders were first mentioned in literature in the mid-thirteenth century.[5] They were used in the late Middle Ages through the 17th century.[6] Also a version of the pomander with oranges, cloves, oils and a golden ribbon can be used as a recovery charm in witchcraft. [7] [8][9] [10]


A pomander is worn by Rosemary Woodhouse, in Roman Polanski's 1968 film, Rosemary's Baby. It figures as a central part of the plot development.

Of making Pomanders[edit]


The first uses for making a pomander was to carry a religious keepsake.[11]


The Archaeological Journal, Volume 31 of 1874 on page 339 describes a formula for making a 1584 pomander that was also written up and published by Frederic Madden in his 1831 history book Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eighth, afterwards Queen Mary on page 257.

The ingredients were to be:

These above items were to be ground up into a powder. Then they were to be dissolved in rose water and put into a cooking pan. A fire to be put under the concoction to cook together. The concoction was then to be removed from the fire and the complete mixture was to be blended and rolled together into a shape like an apple and powdered with a mixture of cinnamon, sweet sanders, and cloves. These last three items all were to rubbed on and everything completely blended together.

After this three grains each of ambergris, deer musk, and civet musk were to be concocted. The ambergris was first to be dissolved and the deer musk and the civet musk mixed in later. Then the "apple" ball was to be rolled through the musk concoction, blending in these ingredients also. You were to knead the mixture until it was all mixed up and put back into the ball shape of an apple.[12][13]


Michel de Nostredame had a similar method and formula using about the same ingredients as above. His method for making aromatic balls:

The very first step was to make "rose tablets" by gathering a pound of roses without the flower heads, and seven ounces of ground benzoin. You were to put the roses soaking in deer musk water for a night. Then remove those roses afterwards and thoroughly squeeze out the water. Then grind them with the benzoin. And when grinding, put it with a quarter of ambergris and another of civet musk. After they were ground, you make tablets and put each one between two rose petals. Then you dry the tablets away from the sun.[14]

The next major step was to take two ounces of the purest labdanum, an ounce each of Styrax calamites and benzoin, half an ounce of the previously made "rose tablets", one ounce of violet powder, and half a dram each ambergris and musk.[14]

Next step Nostradmus says is to grind it all into a powder. Then knead it together with the rose-mixture mentioned just above for an hour and you will have an aromatic ball of the most supreme perfume, and the longest-lasting that can be made anywhere in the world.[14]

Orange studded with cloves


One modern form of pomander is made by studding an orange or other fruit with whole dried cloves and letting it cure dry, after which it may last several years. The modern pomander serves the functions of perfuming and freshening the air and of keeping drawers of clothing and linens fresh, pleasant smelling, and moth-free.


Other ingredients in the process of making pomanders are:


Medieval pomander paste formulas usually contained ambergris. From this came "pomme ambre" (amber apple) and from there the word pomander was developed.[6] Other names for the pomander are Ambraapfel, Bisamapfel, Bisamknopf, Bisambüchse, balsam apple, Desmerknopf, musk ball Desmerapfel, Oldanokapsel, Pisambüchse, and smelling apple.

See also[edit]

Gallery of pomanders[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911, p. 46.
  2. ^ Medieval & Renaissance Material Culture - Pomanders
  4. ^ Corine Schleif and Volker Schier, Katerina's Windows: Donation and Devotion, Art and Music, as Heard and Seen Through the Writings of a Birgittine Nun, University Park: Penn State Press, 2009, pp. 237, 242-244
  5. ^ Perfumes and perfume-making in the Celestina
  6. ^ a b Groom, p. 274
  7. ^ http://hearth-n-home.blogspot.com/2011/12/pomander-recovery-spell-and-charm.html
  8. ^ http://begumafreedaali.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-magical-pomander.html
  9. ^ http://witcheslore.com/bookofshadows/rituals-spell-casting/magic-and-spell-casting/2537/
  10. ^ http://www.spellsofmagic.com/coven_spells.html?coven=6&slist=7
  11. ^ Jewelry of the middle ages
  12. ^ Longman, p. 339
  13. ^ Madden, p. 257
  14. ^ a b c Boeser (chapter 11)


  • Boeser, Knut, The elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' original recipes for elixirs, scented water, beauty potions, and sweetmeats, Moyer Bell, 1996; ISBN 1-55921-155-5
  • Groom, Nigel, The new perfume handbook, Springer, 1997, ISBN 0-7514-0403-9
  • Longman, Rrown, The Archaeological journal, Volume 31, Green and Longman 1874
  • Madden, Frederic, Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eighth, afterwards Queen Mary, W. Pickering 1831
  • Schleif, Corine and Volker Schier, Katerina's Windows: Donation and Devotion, Art and Music, as Heard and Seen Through the Writings of a Birgittine Nun, University Park: Penn State Press, 2009, 237, 242-244, ISBN 978-0-271-03369-3

External links[edit]