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Light in Perfume

Chanukah 2019 Pooja Lamp
Chanukah has flown by: a week-long celebration and opportunity for meditation on light. In recent years, I would have have been writing about olive oil or other kinds of oils to commemorate the holiday on SmellyBlog. This year I meant to talk about light the whole holiday, and am only getting around it now that it's just about gone.

The concept of light in perfume is an abstract and obscure one, which I find extremely fascinating yet not so much spoken of. You'll mostly see the word Light in perfume pertaining to weight, as in the French Légère, and not to any kind of illumination. There is a "Light" or "Lite" version of many fragrances, typically introduced for the summer  months as limited editions. After screening out all these types of weightless fragrances, and perfumes with the word "Delight" in them, about a dozen surround the phrase "Moonlight", some relating to "Dawn", others to "Sunset" (including my own Sunset Beach), several to "Twilight" and ones pertaining to the very particular natural phenomenon of Northern LightsAurora Borealis - we are left with a few interesting names that actually include light in them as a concept. Among them stand out perfume names such as Bolt of Lightning (JAR), Twilight Shimmer (Michael Kors), Twilight Woods (Bath & Body Works), Light My Fire (Killian),  The Night the Lights Went Out (Southern Comforts) Love's True Bluish Light (Ava Luxe) and Ray of Light (April Aromatics), as a few of the interesting ones name-wise. And then there is Moonshine, whose name perhaps originated from the state of mind created by methanol-laced homemade alcohol distillates, and in any case is only technically related to perfume via their shared medium, spirit.

When aldehydes first became popular with the, and were still considered "modern" (that was almost 100 years ago, when No. 5 by Chanel just came out), they were described as adding a "sparkle" to a perfume, which is a decidedly light-related word. It alluded to their abstract and modern quality, and an effect that was so new and different at the time. But it is really "sparkle" that they add, or is it diffusiveness? Is it a certain light-like quality, or it is more of a texture? Surely now there are other aroma chemicals that create a far more "sparkling" quality than those fatty, skin-like aldehydes ever did.

Otherwise, the concept of light is generally quite foreign to perfume jargon. Recent ad copies for perfume have been different though, often mentioning the obscure term "solar" to describe a range of quite different notes, from musk to amber to flowers. This trend began with Narciso Rodriguez For Her, touted as sporting a "solar musk note". Mind you, their much later fragrance NARCISO is far more sunny-smelling to me, but this time its theme is amber rather than musk. Very little explanation was provided at the time but the term stuck and can now be found in dozens of ad copies for millennial fragrances. I suppose in the same way we can say that sunflowers are "solar" in their shape, colour and behaviour - these notes add a quality of warm light, which is diffuse and soft - rather than the sharp and bright, broad-daylight sunniness of, say, an orange or a mandarin. When I think of analogues from my own natural palette, Roman chamomile essential oil comes to mind - a floral note that is warm, honeyed, fruity, sunny, yet soft and very diffuse. Using it definitely creates a solar energy so to speak in a perfume, and indeed, I have used this ingredient in both my Leo Zodiac Perfume Oil, and in the Sun Incense Pastilles. I am quite certain that nobody in the mainstream perfume industry thinks of chamomile, sunflowers or calendula when they are talking about "Solar Flowers" though. It is definitely something that is achieved by manmade synthetics, ones that I know next to nothing about.

Komorebi
The quest for very specific light-related terms has been occupying my mind for a few years now, since around the same time when I created Komorebi and learned of this unique Japanese term for the light filtering through the leaves, or more accurately, the interplay of light and foliage. Another interesting optical phenomenon pertaining to trees that garnered an English word of its own, is Sylvanshine: light retroreflected beams of lights (such as car headlights) from waxy leaves covered in dew-drops, which creates an illusion of snow in a midsummer night. 

Lightree/Komorebi

Foliage is not the only medium providing playing grounds for light. And light, although travels at a very constant speed, has many qualities in which it reveals itself. I've been in search for words to describe several light dispersing and other light-related phenomenon, and just in general, words that pertain to light, wether to describe it, qualify or quantify it. In this sense, writers are in much more luck than the film vocabulary designated to fragrance. We have words such as: Refraction, Illumination, Radiance, Brilliance... Light may Glow, Flash, Gleam, Sparkle, Twinkle, Dazzle, Glitter, Glisten, Glister, Glint, Glare, Flicker and may be Blinding, Bright or Dim. It may show up in columns, Shafts of Light, such as Beams or Rays; and in more technical terms, these rays may be Crepuscular or Anticrepuscular AKA Antisolar; or it may be Dappled such as the golden sunlight on the forest floor.

Sun is kissing the Isle of Love #isleoflove #sunset #bananabeach
We have many light-words which are related to a time fo the day, beginning with the mundane and very useful "Day", "Night", "Morning" and "Afternoon". And since each of those happen daily - most people know what kind of light-quality is discussed, when light-related words such as dawn, sunrise, high-noon, sunset, twilight and dusk are mentioned. Similarly universal, yet perhaps less commonly discussed by lay-people are the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, the Vernal Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox. Both have more to do with quantity of light (lengths of day and night). Other phenomenon may be relevant only to a particular part of the world, such as the Aurora Borealis is in the Arctic Circle; and the Midnight Sun in both poles.

Adjective pertaining to light may refer also to its colour as well, such as Iridescent or Opalescent and also pointing at its source of energy. For example - Fluorescent light which is transferred through gas,  Phosphorescent, which emits the glow in delay, re-releasing light after its source has been turned off or removed; or Incandecant, which emits light though extreme heat, which happens when we overheat metal or glass, same thing that happens in old-fashioned light-bulbs. In essence, this is thermal energy (heat) which transforms into light energy.

Feather & Beach & Sunset Medicine

But I am looking for very particular and poetic descriptions of light! Light refracting in quiet water, creating myriads of coruscating, dancing veins, for instance. This phenomenon should have a name, but it doesn't as far as I know. The crepuscular light that shine down from the surface of the water when I swim westwards during the sunset time are nothing but awe-inspiring. It has a different mood and appearance than the rays of light you see at sunset dispersing to all directions from behind a cloud. Light simply behaves differently in water versus air. For those kinds of terms, we may turn to other languages, just as we did to Japanese for the term Komorebi. In Swedish, there is a word for the gleaming, road-like reflection of moonlight on the water: Mångata. Isn't it a fantastic word? 

Back to the world of perfume: we do borrow vocabulary from other realms, such as light, to describe fragrances. So we may say a fragrance is radiant, iridescent, shimmering, luminous, sparkling, shiny, bright, light or dark. But which specific fragrances have those light-related qualities? Can we really relate to fragrances with such visual yet abstract terms without spilling over to the topic of synesthesia? How much is it marketing and associations, and how much is it that we really see and feel the colour purple when we small champaca; And is it really synesthesia or we just associated "chocolate" with "brown", "roses" with "red" and "smoky notes" with "black"?

At the beginning of this year I have collaborated with a visual artist Sanaz Mazinanai,  for her solo exhibit “Light Times” that explored the technical history of photography and its implication on this art form.when I created an ambient (environmental) fragrance named ILLUME for her art show dedicated to the history of photography. This was a conceptual art show, not truly a historical one, which explored the relationship of photography and memory, technology and the personal. Scent was not the only memory-related aspect of this abstract show. There was also music, composed by Mani Mazinani. The idea was how when we record something, for example through photographing it, as well as when we later associate a life event or a memory with scent or sound, its original meaning changes and perhaps even gets lost and is being replaced by these visual, fragrant or acoustic representations.


ILLUME sheds light on the concept through the sense of smell, which is subconsciously influential in our formation and retrieval of deeply rooted and emotionally charged memories. Being an environmental fragrance and part of an art show makes it public, perhaps even invasive, unlike the intimate and personal memories often elicited by perfume. Therefore, it was important to keep the scent simultaneously vague and familiar. It is immediately noticeable upon entering the space, yet not easily recognizable and identifiable. 

Wherever there is light, there is also shadow. ILLUME explores this interplay of light with the shadows it casts, both in our collective memories and personal ones. The scent is agreeable yet abstract, with disturbing elements hidden in the background. Its design draws on chemical and technical themes such as minerals and acids, to create a reference to the dark room. These dominant acidic and mineral notes are light and sharp, but are only a mask to conceal the dark secrets and hidden memories - embodied with wet, mushroomy woods and smokey notes. Taken outside of their context, these familiar, mundane smells loose their meaning, or perhaps take on a new shape and identity. 
 
The concept of light is something I intend to continue exploring in the coming year 2020. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. And if there is any special light-related perfume that I missed, and must smell - please leave a comment. 

New: Aqua Mirabillis Collection

Aqua Mirabillis Series
I wasn't planning on releasing any new perfumes this year. But this kinda just happened, as a result of the wonderful and inspiring collaboration with Jullius Craft Distillery. Some of these fragrances were created a long time ago but were never added to the online store, such as the Agua de Florida (Florida Water) I made way back in 2013, and the Aqua Pistachia (mastic lentsik waters), which I created in 2018, after the inspiring Mastic Magic workshop I held here at the studio with Dan Riegler of Apothecary's Garden.

So without further adieu, I present to you an Aqua Mirabillis Collection of fragrant eaux: Cleansing and purifying waters, inspired by Aqua Mirabillis formulations from the time before perfumery separated from medicine, and the pharmacy was fragrant and redolent of healing herbs.  

These Medieval "Miracle Waters" were the first alcohol-based perfumes in Medieval Europe. Citrus peels, along with astringent herbs, were tinctured into what was called then “Aqua Mirabillis” AKA Miracle Water – were used both internally as medicine, and externally as disinfectant, for relieving sore muscles or simply as a substitute for bathing. Inspired by these ancient concoctions, and the abundance of healing plants in the Mediterranean wilderness surrounding the new studio in Clil, our collection of Aqua Mirabillis was born. These are perfumes for external use only, featuring ingredients rarely found in perfumery, which I grow, harvest, forage and tincture all by hand in the traditional old ways. Ingredients such as mastica, varthemia, vitex, wild oregano, thyme, sage, mint and more find their way into these fine fragrances that create a sense of well-being and connection to the Earth. 


Agua de Florida

Spanish fro Florida Waters, these mean "Flower Water", due to the higher proportion of lavender relative to the European-style Eau de Cologne, as well as some rosewater. Other New World botanicals include lime zest, cinnamon bark and clove buds. And to give it a local, Galilee twist: Mediterranean lavender, AKA Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas) tincture from my herb garden, Grapefruit blossoms from my own orchard lend their sensuous allure. And a hint of tobacco for its sacred and protective properties. Use these Agua Florida to freshen up during the hot summer months, and in ceremony for purification at the end of a healing ceremony which involved release of pain, grieving, tension and general heaviness. 

Aqua Pistachia 

Mastic resin is the original chewing gum, and is used to flavour Middle Eastern ice creams and desserts; the leaves also are beneficial for oral hygiene but also prevent ulcers and have myriad of health benefits and medicinal uses, including uterine health. But most of all they are the most refreshing fragrance around. They smell forest-like without having a single pine needle in them. What I tried to recreate with this scent is the icy, brisk scent of hail on a cold winter morning in the Galilee. There are no words to describe the smell of the mastic bushes when they clash with these icy forms of precipitation. So I will let Aqua Pistachia speak for itself. 

Aqua Akka

Cleansing and purifying waters, inspired by Jullius Distillery's Akko Gin - a wild gin that is made entirely of local botanicals indigenous to the Western Galilee. To translate it into a fragrance, have combined several green, leafy botanicals that I find while roaming the Western Galilee and Mount Meron. Some traditional to gin, such as juniper berries; and others completely out-of-the-box, such as vitex berry and myrtle leaves. Cedar from the Morocco is here to replace Cedar of Lebanon, one of my favourite trees and destination while hiking on Mount Meron. Finally, a floral element, without which a perfume can hardly exist: handcrafted grapefruit blossom tincture from my own organic orchard, giving it body as well as a certain earthy sensuality. 

May Meron (Mt. Meron Waters) 

Mt Meron is a holy mountain in the Western Galilee, the second highest peak in all of Israel. Oak forests and regal Cedars of Lebanon grace its evergreen slopes, and its peak is usually shrouded in clouds, fog and mystery. It is home to unique vegetation, some plants that are found nowhere else in the country, which grow on a bed of quartz crystals, nonetheless. 
May Meron are cleansing and purifying waters, made in the tradition of Aqua Mirabillis - the miracle waters of Medieval Europe, in the early days after the discover of alcohol distillation. This fragrance is inspired by an autumn pilgrimage to Mt. Meron, which is abundant with wild medicinal herbs, Medronho berries, and saffron crocuses. These healing waters were born out of a collaboration with Jullius Craft Distillery and are the perfume interpretation of the magical and healing Jullius Bitters, which are redolent of wild herbs such as white mint (Micromeria fruticosa), sage, myrtle and mastic. 
Apply these Mt. Meron Waters just as you would any perfume, as well as in rituals for their protective, grounding, warming qualities, or for purification at the beginning or end of a healing ceremony. 

Triple Goddess Incense

Triple Goddess Incense

This week I've been burning the Triple Goddess incense. The Triple Goddess is representative of the three main phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning; of the women's menstrual cycle from the start of lining of the womb, through ovulation and followed by shedding layers of the womb and bleeding; and finally it is representative of a woman's circle of life: Maiden-Mother-Crone. Our culture celebrates the maiden, the woman at its sexual peak, yet also naive and most vulnerable, alluring and raw/fresh state. It pretty much ignores and diminishes the woman at the times when she is most in need of support, when she is dedicating herself to raising the young ones - Motherhood; and the time when she is wise and no longer fertile or "of use" to the patriarchal culture - as she is no longer a desirable sex-object, and can no longer bear children. At this stage, however, the Crone is most precious for its polished and refined state of being, it is most beautiful from within, having gained much wisdom and life experiences. She can teach both men and women how to live and how to be in tune with nature's cycles. She's seen many dark nights turn into daylight. She is the woman who knows

This post, as well as the incense, is in memory of my brother's sister-in-law. She passed away a week ago, on Monday night, surrounded by her closest family and loved ones, after a year and half of battle with breast cancer. Her courage and her suffering serves as an urgent call to us women: to live our lives truly and fully, and to reach out and ask for support from our sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers. In good times and especially in bad times, we always have one another. Even if it seems like they won't understand us or support us. Maybe in our darkest moments we don't even think we are loved. But this is not true. We always have other women to turn to and trust. Find those women and keep them close to you. Don't let anything come between you - but keep leaning on each other through motherhood, marriage, relationship, hardships, careers, and also take them along with you when things are just fun and light and happy. So that you have those sweet and fond memories to feed on in times of famine. 

And since you are dying to know: the incense has three colours in it, and three incense materials, representative of the red, white and black of the woman's psyche. White of purity and light and fullness, represented by White Copal, which smells just as bright and fresh when burnt. Of course the white can also be associated with the Crone's wisdom, as well as with snow, winter and death (being the colour of bones and of the white cloth used to wrap the dead with). The red is the colour of bleeding, of giving life, of her wounds, represented by Dragon's Blood, not only because it is blood red, but also because of its flaming, aggressive aroma, purifying and protective properties and perfume. And lastly, the Black of earth,  of a decaying yet fertile soil, of the Crone's wisdom.  I chose to use Black Copal for this stage, which is suitable not just because of its colour but also because of its musty and mysterious scent. Of course the meanings and associations of these colours could be different. This is simply one layer of a deeper wisdom. 


This post as well as the incense is dedicated to all womanity so that we accept, no - embrace! - both our waxing, waning and darkest hours. May we never resort to artificially and superficially inflating our light to cover up sorrow, grief, emptiness and flaws. Bleed, cry, dance, swim, laugh, weave, play, create, destroy, sing, listen and heal when it's the right time. You are enough! 


Solstice & Light

Solstice Smilax light
It is lovely how this year, the Winter Solstice and the 1st Night of Chanuka coincide. Yesterday afternoon, in the last hours of the night, my daughter and I set for a lovely hike on the mountain just behind our home. As expected, we found some unexpected surprises - botanical treasures and new paths we've never took before. And even if we did take those path or part of them, it felt new and strange and exciting. That is what I love about nature: NO matter how long you'll live in a place, the seasonal changes will always bring new surprises. And even with familiar plants, you'll always discover something new. The first surprise was to find those little "ponds" in the rock crevices on the mountain. It totally makes sense that they will exist. It's just that I've never seen them. Even though I have visited this mountain a lot growing up. This is a particularly beautiful area covered in rocks with interesting formations. They were probably once the bottom of the sea!

Satureja montana "Bonsai"
Mountain savoury (Satureja montana) "Bonsai" in the rocks

Satureja colony
An entire rocky mound covered in a Satureja colony

And we even got to munch of on some berries:
Buckthorn berries
Buckthorn berries

Arbutus berries
Arbutus berries (AKA Strawberry tree)

Arbutus
The tree itself already developed a new, red skin! They shed the outer bark every fall to allow for new growth, a very impressive sight.

Narcisse de Montagne (Narcissus gazette)
And last but not least: Narcisse de Montagne galore! While the narcissi in the valleys are already done blooming for the most part, the ones in the mountain seem to have just reached their peak. And so we get to enjoy a second season of wild narcissus heavenly scent, after I already thought it was over.

Sunset on the Abaya
May you will alway find the light in every situation, and always find new things to enjoy even within the familiar, the mundane and your immediate surroundings. It's those little simple things that matter the most. This is what our life is made of day in and day out. So make each moment like this count.
Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Chanuka! 

Botanical Alchemy Course

Botanical Alchemy Course
"Can you lead the way on a path you've never travelled?"
That was the questions asked of me before diving head-on into teaching the Botanical Alchemy course for the first time. Despite many hesitations, fears and doubts, I went on with the plan.
Botanical Alchemy Course
Since returning to my village, I've been called time and time again into the world of healing plants. It has become apparent to me that I must answer this call and go deep into learning from what the First Nations of North America consider to be "The Teachers". I am learning their language, even though I have always known it existed, and heard them whisper in my ears since my early childhood. The flowers speak to me in geometrical shapes, numbers and colours. The aromatic plants speak the language of perfume. And now that I am intentionally listening, not just intuitively but also with purpose and commitment, I hear so much more and become gradually fluent in it.
Botanical Alchemy Course
Plant speak a language of many dialects - sound, colour, scent, taste and even tactile and kinetic. The plants are in tune with Mother Earth and all her cycles, the moon and the stars. I knew I wanted to spend a year listening to these plants in all the phases and all the season, and watch them go from seed to seedling, to sapling, and all the way to flowering fruity and spreading their seeds again. And I wanted companions. So I am fortunate to have found four curious souls to take this journey with me, one season at a time. Together we will spend two days a month truly listening to the plant, listening to each other and sharing what we've learned about the local plants, and the elements. Starting with: Earth in the Winter. 
Botanical Alchemy Course
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