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AlphabeThursday K is for Kohl and the Kama Sutra

January 30, 2014


In the late 1950s and early 1960s I was beginning to experiment with makeup; rummaging through my mum’s makeup bag or the top drawer of her dressing table. Covering my face with weird concoctions thinking I looked the bees knees.

Not much later when I had pocket money and discovered Woolworths I was able to buy more suitable products such as eye shadow, mascara and kohl. Feeling very grown up not thinking too much about the history of such sophistication.

Until now; In Roman times a young girl decorated her face for special occasions; she may have tried charcoal to draw round her eyes, until she found Kohl, an alchemic metal, that was kinder to skin, which remains a useful cosmetic to this day.

The word kohl comes from the Arabic kahala meaning to stain the eyes. In Europe we use it as an ornament but in Asia it is used as spiritual protection to charm away demons  or it is used as medicinally when treating conditions such as conjunctivitis. Taliban soldiers might wear kohl around their eyes  to indicate that llah was looking after them.

Although I have read some of the Kama Sutra in  Sanskrit I wasn’t aware that among the pieces of advice for lovers there is a recipe for the ultimate in mascara.  

First the bone of a camel is dipped into the juice of the Eclipta prostrata (also known as the tattoo plant because it secrets a dark blue dye) and then burning it.  The black pigment is stored in a box also made of camel bone; it is applied to the eyelashes with a camel-bone pencil..  As a result the love manual says will be ‘very pure and wholesome for the eyes’ and goes on to say it ‘also serves as a means of subjugating others to the person who uses it’

mmmm I haven’t found that my mascara has had this effect …. maybe its the lack of camel bone?

alphabet thursday

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2014 10:54 am

    Hello yet another blog post teaching me something thank you.
    I remember my mum having a narrow light blue box it had a small Brussels and over time I worked out that was How she put eye makeup on. I tried made a huge mess then panicked because I couldn’t get rid of it , mum was due home ,I got caught.

  2. January 30, 2014 1:07 pm

    hope those camels were already dead. Now, I’ve never heard of kohl before. Thought it was something to eat! Thanks for the info! Love the illustration {:-Deb

    • January 30, 2014 2:04 pm

      Most of the cosmetic companies do a kohl stick; it is a bit smudgy. The Illustration was difficult to find; because are a little erotic! or alot!

  3. January 30, 2014 1:28 pm

    Good luck with the subjugating others!!!! Have you tried Chanel mascara it’s slightly easier to source than the camels?!
    Wren x

  4. January 30, 2014 9:16 pm

    That’s kinda funny that mascara anything can be found in the Kama Sutra. What does make up have to do with sex?

    • January 30, 2014 10:05 pm

      Even more strange that soldiers wore it so show their allegiance to god!

  5. January 31, 2014 8:27 pm

    A rather fascinating post!


  6. February 13, 2014 6:07 am

    Kohl is used for a lot of interesting reasons… I only knew of it’s use as a general cosmetic tool!

    Keep the fascinating facts coming please!

    Thanks for linking to the letter “K”.


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