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Perfumes to Honour the Dead

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October 31st marks a special time of the year, from astronomic point of view: Tonight marks the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. This is the entrance to the darkest part of the year. It is the night when the barriers between this world and the world of the dead or the spirit world are very thin, allowing passage from one realm to the other. 

Even if you don't celebrate Samhain, Hallowe'en or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) - this night is a befitting time to remember our ancestors, far and near. Light a candle to those we don't remember because they died before we were born, or we were too young when they passed. And for those who were near and dear - this can be done joyfully by preparing their favourite food, or wearing their perfume. 
Incense and scents in general, for their invisible presence, have historically been the gateway for the underworld, the spirit realm and divinity. Many cultures still use incense in their rituals related to death, funerals and memorials. 

The Egyptians were especially elaborate about their preparations for the last journey: They would pack their dead's chambers with all their belongings, including vials of perfumes and cosmetics, and most famously - ensured the body stays as true to form as possible through a meticulous process of mummification, which involved many fragrant aromatics, such as myrrh, pine resin, cedar, cinnamon, juniper and later also frankincense (in the Roman era). 

In both China and Japan, incense is burnt daily in domestic altars, to honour the ancestors. In China it is mostly a sandalwood based incense, and in Japan incense sticks of many complex aromatics. In India, incense is burnt on the funeral pyres, to help elevate the spirits of the dead to higher realms, and also to mask the intense smell of burning flesh. Of course, the wealthier the deceased is, the more incense can be burnt. I've even read of using sandalwood as the fuel for pyres of the richest people. 

Tobacco is used by the First Nations to communicate with the spirits - almost as a key to their world.  It is also believed that offering tobacco will tell other plants that we're seeking their help and guidance. The Cree people would bury their dead holding tobacco and sweetgrass incense, and also personal belonging that would be considered as an extension of themselves, such as their pipe. 

The Mexicans use copal incense to show the ancestors' spirits the way back into our world for their annual visit, so that they won't get lost. Marigold flowers adorn the graves and portals through which these spirits are expected to enter. This tradition is rooted in the Aztec customs of giving the Gods offerings of maize (corn), or else - copal moulded to the shape of maize foods, such as grains or ears of corn, and even tamales and tortillas. They also buried the dead with pieces of "jade" - copal resin painted in green, as food for their last journey. 

Some of the practices are kept alive today, and others faded away while others disappeared because they seemed to have very little hold in our current reason-obsessed culture. However, one thing is for certain: when you bring forth a scent or an aroma associated with a beloved person who has passed away, you're making that person alive, even if just in your memories. 

Tonight I will slice a red grapefruit and uncork a bottle of Old Spice in memory of my grandfather. These fond memories and the love our ancestors poured into us are eternal. 

Happy Halloween!

Clarimonde by Ayala Moriel
Clarimonde, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
Wishing you a bountiful trick-or-treating night, and reconnecting with the spirit world...

Tonight I'm celebrating with Dreaming Parallel, the perfume I created last year for the Clarimonde project. There are 2 bottles remaining from this haunting limited edition of half-faded roses, dark violets, musk, turn of the century patchouli and cloves, carnation, narcissus and dragon's blood (it's an actual plant resin, which is as red as blood and which I've ground and tinctured especially for this vampire-perfume). The last 2 bottles are presented in a little hand-painted wooden coffin.

And, you got a couple of hours still to take advantage of free shipping on my website for orders of $100 or more :-) 

Blackbeard Afternoon Tea Piracy

Chocolate Ships Cookies by Ayala Moriel
Chocolate Ships Cookies, a photo by Ayala Moriel on Flickr.
This weekend we held a Halloween tea and perfume celebration, with guest appearance of the great and terrible pirate Blackbeard, and his bearded lady friend (BTW - she has a goatee and loves the new oil!).

Blackbeard Oil

Featured Interactive Presentation: The Nearly Non-Existent Grooming Lives of Pirates, and demo by the Bearded Lady - and a special appearance by Blackbeard himself!

Miriam
Menu:
Heavy spices will mask the rotten foodstuff at sea, and lemons in all shapes and forms will take care of scurvy... Enjoy!

Tuna & Pickled Lemon Tea Sandwiches
Tea Sandwiches:
Apple + Smoked Cheddar
Pickled Lemon + Tuna
Fennel + Orange
Marinated Eggplant + Pomegranate

Apple & Smoked Cheddar Tea Sandwiches
Scones:
Seabuiscuits (weevils optional), served with clotted cream, blackberry jam & honey

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Lemon Tart
Desserts:
Lemon Tarts
Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
Chocolate Ships Cookies
Fudgey Brownies with Blueberry Chocolate Sauce

Espionage Tea
Teas & Libations Served:
- Ayala Moriel's Espionage Tea(Lapsang suchong, Assam tea, vanilla, jasmine and rosebuds).
- White Wolf (white tea with vanilla, peppermint and licorice)
- Hot Tea Toddy (shot of whiskey added to your Espionage tea!)
- Blackbeard Cocktail (Assam Tea, Raw Sugar and Rum)

Pirate Afternoon Tea Party
This was the very last tea party that I would be hosting at my home studio on 1230 Haro street. I've been hosting these sensual gatherings since 2009 (and hosted 30 parties so far, all with original menues and recipes). They were a wonderful way to build a community and nurish (the barely-existent) scent culture in my city, and encourage people get in touch with their senses, in particular the sense of smell.

The side effects of this wild venture included (but were not limited to): making new friends, enjoying fine teas, brewing wild cocktails, perfume indulgence, outrageous menues and orignal recipes of hand-made pastries made by hand by yours truly.

 Blackbeards Afternoon Tea
It's sad to bid farewell to what has become a huge part of my life - planning, baking and hosting parties. But this is a necessary change so that I can focus on completing the 2 books I've working on (one of them being a recipe book for many of my tea party favourites!), and to move towards a better future for my business as well as family. Think of it as pruning that will allow for new growth...

For more pics from the party, please visit my Flickr album!

News from the nose: Fatal Fairytales and Fantastic Fragrances for Fall

With September bearing some of the warm light hearted traits of summer and November being the frigid prelude to winter, ominous October is at the chilly heart of Autumn. This time of year evokes images of harvested sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, carved pumpkins, skeleton-leaves and barren trees.
In light of October’s festivities of transformation and harvest, we have found ourselves captivated by a few haunting stories and legends. The beautiful aspect of story-telling, is that whether the stories are fact of fiction, they capture some of the most relatable, fearful, tragic and joyous aspects of life.
We have selected perfumes that capture the mystical optimism as well as fatal darkness of these legends, many of which are centuries old. Whether you choose to embrace or eschew this fantasy-soaked month, we encourage you to immerse yourself in a beautifully written book, doused in a complex perfume that unfolds on the skin like a story, defying logic or reason while tapping into the deepest corners of your soul.

1. Sleeping Beauty - Treazon

Unlike the 1959 animated movie by Walt Disney, the original fairytale of Sleeping Beauty is by no means a lighthearted story. A dark tale written in the 16th century, the story centers on a young beautiful maiden, cursed to sleep forever until she is kissed by her loving man (spiritually interpreted as the awakening of her animus). Treazon, a perfume that celebrates the narcotic tuberose flowers, captures Sleeping Beauty’s underlying theme of corrupted innocence.

2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Schizm

 Written by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886, the sinister tale of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has mesmerized and horrified readers since it was brought to print. By day Dr. Jekyll is an appraised doctor and by night he is the sinister, murderous Edward Hyde, the line between his true self and alter ego (or “shadow”) gradually becoming more blurry. The classic story of good versus evil is haunting and unsettling because it represents the battle between lightness and darkness that we each carry inside of us. Schizm pays tribute to this universal theme of internal conflict and contradiction. The fragrance opens as a green, dry and earthy fragrance, cool and crisp as the day time. As the scent warms with the heat of one’s skin, the fragrance transforms into a warm, spicy and slightly carnal oriental perfume, as rich and unyielding as the night.

3. Bluebeard – Orcas Beard Oil

The tale of Bluebeard is one of the most terrifying we’ve ever encountered, of a serial-killer husband whose slain wives are discovered in his basement by his young bride. Once the truth comes out, she no longer can live in denial of the predator she picked for a mate. Not only does she cease to believe in the charm of her blue-bearded companion – she needs to fight for her life. However, most deeply speaking, this sinister discovery led to the awakening of her deep, active soul-force and she is able to not only defeat him, but also emerge as a strong woman out of her naive mistake. Orcas Beard Oil is for the bearded gentlemen and ladies among us, and is as cool as the ocean and refreshing as the breeze. You can wear it as a beard or hair perfume, and use it to style your locks.

4. Hansel & Gretl – Black Licorice

Like so many fairy-tales, this childhood favorite combines quintessentially innocent elements of childhood with dark themes of murder, cannibalism, and witchcraft. Playing tribute to the classic treat of the same name, Black Licorice brings to mind dreams of candy houses, ghouls and shadowy nights spent trick-or-treating.  

5. Cinderella - The Purple Dress

The Purple Dress is exotic and enigmatic, evoking images of an elusive yet vibrant woman who comes alive at night but cannot be found in the day. Star anise, black tea, orange juice, honey absolute, orange blossom, and champaca rest on a bed of sandalwood, nutmeg and guiacwood. This fragrance has a duskier mood, yet shimmers with romance and fantasy.

6. Dracula – Incense & Chocolate

 With smoky notes of frankincense, tobacco and myrrh combining with rich, sensual dark chocolate, Incense & Chocolate one-of-a-kind fragrance embodies the cruel yet sultry spirit of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula as he cursed Christ in a candle-lit, incense-choked church. Truly a signature perfume, the customer that purchases this fragrance also purchases the rights to exclusivity ensuring that this fragrance would only ever be made for them (and those they choose to bite…). Precious notes of olibanum, labdanum, cardamom, and champaca celebrate the coming together of the physical and spiritual realms through the ancient rituals of drinking hot chocolate and burning incense.

7. Jack the Ripper – Espionage

Smoky dim-lit bars and foggy alleys are the settings for many horror stories and murder mysteries. The mysterious unnamed men of the night have always ignited fear into the minds of those who appreciate a good murder story. Espionage's smoky tobacco, leather, vanilla, orris root and tonka bean encapsulate the smell of scotch and cigar smoke that would fill a hidden, alley-way bar at the darkest hour of night.

8. Alice in Wonderland – White Potion

 Louis Carroll’s eccentric story of a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole into an alternate, hyperbole universe is at once optimistic and ominous. The fantasy of the story and of Alice drinking a potion to fit through a tiny door into Wonderland at the beginning of the story is frightening yet captivating in that she is able to experience this strange new land from many different perspectives and is free to do so without the limitations of normal life. An ethereal floriental, White Potion, with notes of tuberose, coconut, tonka bean, ylang-ylang and grapefruit captures the sweet naiveté of Alice as well as the exotic strangeness of Wonderland. We encourage you to try our White Potion chocolate bar – a bite from which might make you bigger or smaller at will. Creamy and decadent white chocolate that is subtly scented with tuberose and embedded with vanilla seeds, almonds and shredded coconut, it is a treat that you will truly never forget – and can even share with children, as it is our mildest of all 4 fragrant bars we’ve created with CocoaNymph.

9. Snow White - InCarnation

Spicy, fiery and unusual, InCarnation is a soliflore tribute to the rich aroma of carnations. Carnations are a flower with many different olfactory facets: green, spicy, creamy, sweet, cool and warm. The ever-changing, slightly carnal scent of this flower is true to the name of this perfume which describes anything that is in the flesh, incarnate. Reincarnation describes the process of one passing and then being born again as a new being, a theme that is present in many legends and fairytales and is predominant in the tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Snow White was blessed by her mother to contain the three spiritual colours: white as snow (purity and selflessness), red as blood (passion and zest for life), and black as wood (shadow, the dark side of the psyche). However, Snow White chooses to lead a one-dimensional life “white” life which leads to her fatal death by the red poisoned apple – only to later resurrect as a stronger, more complete person that  musters the courage kill the evil queen. InCarnation perfume features all three colours – white intoxicating tuberose, firey red carnation and warm spices, and black and animalic African stone tincture.

10. La Morte Amoureuse – Dreaming Parallel

Dreaming Parallel is a fragrance inspired by the short story "La Morte Amoureuse” that was written by Théophile Gautier and published in La Chronique de Paris in 1836. This tale takes place in France and is about Romuald, a priest that falls deeply in love with a young woman named Clarimonde who is revealed to be a vampire. The nuances of lust, temptation and evil only succeed at making the love story within “La Morte Amoureuse” more inebriating and powerful. As human beings we yearn for love and security yet we also long for adventure and for this reason, forbidden romance stories with elements of danger never fail to mesmerize audiences. Dreaming Parallel’s sophisticated combination of cassie, costus root, ancient patchouli, leather, narcissus, Turkish rose, violet leaf along with naturally-sourced sweet violet notes of alpha ionone play homage to this dark tale of corruption, seduction and forbidden love. This is a very limited edition and we've only got 3 last bottles remaining.

Wishing you a wonderful harvest season and October festivities!

Ayala & Alicia

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