dragon’s spittle

by theuglyearring

Whale oil is, of course, why most whales were killed in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Not only any old whale oil was useful but in particular sperm oil, from the head of the sperm whale, which contains spermaceti, “brilliant white crystals that are hard but oily to the touch, and are devoid of taste or smell, making it very useful as an ingredient in cosmetics, leatherworking, and lubricants.”  Sperm whales also produce ambergris, a very special and mysterious substance which the whales secret in their stomachs to ease the passage of hard objects (like giant squid beaks):

“Ambergris has been mostly known for its use in creating perfume and fragrance much like musk. While perfumes can still be found with ambergris around the world, …It was banned from use in many countries in the 1970s, including the United States, because its precursor originates from the sperm whale, which is an endangered species. However it has been legal since 2005 due to strict monitoring of distributors who ensure that only ambergris that has been naturally washed to shore is sold. Ancient Egyptians burned ambergris as incense …The ancient Chinese called the substance ‘dragon’s spittle fragrance.’ During the Black Death in Europe, people believed that carrying a ball of ambergris could help prevent them from getting the plague. This was because the fragrance covered the smell of the air which was believed to be the cause of plague … some people consider it an aphrodisiac. During the Middle Ages, Europeans used ambergris as a medication for headaches, colds, epilepsy, and other ailments.” [wiki]

(from a whale of a read: here)

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