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This article has been published in: Ocula 23, Flowers of the soul: The symbolism of flowers in the religious imagination

author: Jenny Ponzo (Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, University of Turin (IT))

The floral smell of sanctity and the semiotics of the halo

language: english

publication date: July 2020

abstract: The hagiographic discourse often uses floral metaphors to describe spiritual qualities. This is the case for instance with Thérèse of Lisieux’s autobiography, in which the saint compares herself to humble flowers, and in particular to the violet, which is not evident for her shape, but attracts the attention thanks to her scent. The same metaphor is developed by Pius XII in the discourse he pronounced in occasion of the beatification of Frère Bénilde in 1948. The violet is also one of the flowers the scent of which is connected to the charisma of the osmogenesis, which Catholic tradition describes as a particular gift of the saints consisting in being surrounded by an extremely good scent, which remains in the places where they go, on the objects that they touch, and sometimes emanates from the body even after death. The floral scent works in this case as an indexical sign. The osmogenesis can be compared with the concept of aura present in many cultures: the representation of a halo of fragrance can be interpreted as an alternative to a more frequent figurativization of the aura consisting in the representation of a luminous and coloured halo around the human body. The halo, both in its olfactory and visual variants, works as a particular semiotic system, entailing both spatial and temporal features.

keywords: osmogenesis, halo, sanctity, charisma, flowers, body, olfaction, scent, aura

OCULA-23-PONZO-The-floral-smell-of-sanctity-and-the-semiotics-of-the-halo.pdf ➞ PDF [377Kb]

DOI: 10.12977/ocula2020-31

citation information: Jenny Ponzo, The floral smell of sanctity and the semiotics of the halo, "Ocula", vol.21, n.23, pp.109-123, July 2020. DOI: 10.12977/ocula2020-31


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