s

SmellyBlog

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! 


Peace Incense

Incense for Peace












 

It is a long standing tradition to create at least one form of incense during the Oriental Perfumery courses. This fall (November 10-14, 2019), we created incense cones using a very unusual material fire tree resin AKA grass tree (Xanthorrhoaethat one of my students harvested herself and brought all the way from Australia. 

The incense blend was born out of the concept of marrying plants and resins from both Australia and the Middle East: bay leaves, eucalyptus leaves, fire tree resin, Australian sandalwood, and an array of Middle Eastern resins. On the leaves we've written prayers before causing them into pieces and grinding them. Prayers that will go up in smoke and come true. 

As we were writing on the leaves it, I recalled a dream I had about teaching perfume and incense to youth with the vision of harnessing the alchemy of it to sawing seeds of peace - first within and then outwardly to our environs.

I am now praying to have the courage, strength, wisdom, and the right help and partnership to be sawing these seeds for real in my everyday life.

Without any messed up politics, but through meeting people's true essence, and mine... This requires serious self reflection and internal alchemical transformations that transcends trauma, hurt and long history of pain and destructive defense mechanisms.


Of course, it is so much easier said than done... So I am hesitantly putting it here and trusting you to guard this and save this as a reminder to make this come true on all levels. The process begins from within. I hope that soon enough I will be ready to share it and bring it outwardly and lead others through this process.
Thank you


Incense for Peace




Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways

Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
I ran out of my Ras El Hanout mixture (which I always make myself, using very peculiar spices from my overflowing spice rack). You can see some of them in the images below (how many of them can you guess?).
Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout
Most of the grinding is done the old fashioned way using mortar and pestle, as it should be. I believe it is a more direct connection to the material because this way I can smell them as I crrrrrrrush them! Whatever I'm unable to grind fine enough, I will pass on to the electric grinder. I kept most of it for my cooking (nothing beats a homemade couscous topped with a homemade couscous stew spiced with my very own Ras El Hanout!). But some I just felt compelled to burn as incense.
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh Snake
My first idea was making it into nerikoh (kneaded incense, which is not actually burnt but placed on a hot micah plate). Nerikoh traditionally uses honey or plum paste. For this experiment I used a combination of dates and honey. I named these Oasis Nerikoh.
In the picture you are seeing the incense dough shaped as a spiral, and waiting to be hand-rolled into tiny balls.
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh (kneaded incense balls), rolled into a mixture of ras el hanout and sandalwood powder.
Ras El Hanout Incense Sticks
My second attempt at making incense sticks! Practice will eventually make perfect I hope.
 Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
The whole line up, from top to bottom: Ras El Hanout Incense cones, norikoh, incense sticks.
Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
Here they are, all dried up and ready to use! The ornamental brown ceramic dish in the background is my aromatherapy diffuser, which I use to heat up nerikoh.

Local Kyphi

Local Kyphi Ingredients
In preparation for the Kyphi class I'm teaching February 21st, I've decided to experiment with making Kyphi with as many local ingredients as possible. I tried to use mostly plants and materials that I either grow or wild-harvest, or can be found locally theoretically speaking.
Some were included because they were traditionally part of the materials traded Incense Route and therefore have penetrated the local cuisine and pharmacopeia and are almost inseparable from the culture (such as Frankincense and Myrrh), and also I've included them because although the specimens I have are not grown locally - there is now a farm near the Dead Sea that grows them. The same is true for mastic (which although is from Greece, I can harvest my own - just wasn't patient enough to wait till next summer when I can collect enough resin!). And so on, for most of the resins. So this is not a strictly local product, but it carries the spirit of the landscape I now live in, and reflects its plant aromatic profile.

Local Kyphi in the Mortar
I began by soaking organic uncultured grapes in wine from the local vintner, and then set off to pound all the herbs I picked in the mortar and pestle. If you can recognize any of them in the pictures, and post a comment - you will be entered to win a little jar of my local Kyphi once it is made! It ended up very green and balsamic smelling, and with energy that is very vibrant and sweet, not unlike the Venus incense pastilles I made last year.
Local Kyphi in the Drying Basket
Here it is drying in a basket layered with a gauze fabric (okay, more like an antiquated baby diaper, remember those days? If you do then you're either very old or getting there!).

Fig Incense

Maple & Fig

With all the heat waves I've survived in the past couple of years, my Philosykos is beginning to dwindle down. So, I have decided to seek out a new fig fragrance. I love Philosykos, a green fig fragrance that is very refreshing in hot weather. Like wading in a cool pebbled stream, and enjoying the shade of fig trees and towering oleander bushes. It lasts very briefly, and so I thought why not get a stronger fig scent?

Premier Figuier was created in 1994, and was not only the first fig fragrance, but also one of the first by Olivia Giacobetti (the year prior to that she debuted her career with Petit Guerlain and Eau de l'Artisan). I have a sample of this first fig, and always liked it but not enough to purchase a bottle: it's milky, coconut and powdery and lasts even less than Philosykos (which is also by Giacobetti, and very light, which is excellent quality for summertime, but also limits it to this season for me). The latter has an Eau de Parfum version that is wonderful and longer lasting, but simply not available around this part of the world; and so when I stumbled upon Premier Figuier Extrême in the website of the nearest perfume boutique, I decided to purchase it unsniffed (the actual location near me didn't have it, so that's why I didn't smell it first). When it arrived, I immediately had a buyer's regret, because I should have known better than to purchase something with a similar name to something I like and expect it to end up well. I decided to pick up the scent, not open it, and go to the boutique that is a little more far away and sniff them side by side.

But, of course, I couldn't not open a bottle of new perfume sitting on my desk. So I undressed the box from its cellophane wrap, released the bottle from its carton embrace and spritzed just teeny tiny bit on one wrist. Well, this is neither smelling like Premier Figuier; not like fig of any shape for that matter. Instead, I got this exotic whiff of the spice market, a swirl of incense and maybe some crushed fig leaves very far in the backdrop. To replace Philosykos clearly it can't. Nevertheless, I was intrigued.

Hội An, Vietnam

Premier Figuier Extrême begins with a trail of delicate incense smoke, intertwined with spicy-floral undercurrent. It is dry and warm, yet also soft and sweet-balsamic (I am smelling Peru balsam to be more specific). There is a surprising smokiness to it that brings to mind Dzing! or perhaps Tea for Two (also by Giacobetti, who must have some kind of a signature I am yet to decipher), and much less of the powderiness of the original with its coconut note which I found distracting and a bit too soapy and watery-aldehydic. While the two are marketed as different concentrations of the same theme (Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum), and share almost all of the notes (minus the asafoetida note in the original), such as almond milk, coconut, sandalwood, fig leaf, dried fruit and fig wood - I find them to be almost as different as night and day: PF is watery, thin and luminous, with abstracts hints to the milky latex that streams out of the young tree. It is not even quite a tree yet, but a sapling that grows by the water stream, with the cool watery air coming off the wet pebbles.

PFE is rather expansive, surprisingly full-bodied and with a sultry, sulphuric air to it, and I am wondering if this is part of the allusion to the fig fruit. This makes me wonder if the asafoetida note is not wrongly listed and actually belongs to the Extrême. It is mentioned this way on Fragrantica.
It is not so much like ripe figs (and definitely not purple!) as stated in some of the copy writing, but more of a conceptual perfume, an interpretation of an interpretation. I imagine the perfumer revisiting her creation almost a decade later to tweak and upgrade the formulation to make it longer lasting - and gets carried away creating a completely new (and improved!) interpretation of the fig theme. This time the fruit is ripe, rich, full and the tree it grows from has matured to have thick, huggable trunk and more sturdy branches. It has become a home to several song birds and gives enough shade to rest under and cool off, even though it's not even close to any body of water. On the contrary: Maybe someone is burning a fire near it, and roasting some summer fruit on its flames.

There is the aspect of contrasting textures, also, which is what I find most intriguing about this scent. There is the feeling of being surrounded by fine incense smoke, and at the same time a bracing touch of bumpy fresh fig leaf. A delicate, powdery, almost honeyed sweet floral haze and also the pulling apart of fruit to reveal its minuscule slimy tentacles inside. The polished dusty feel of a silvery fig tree trunk, and at the same time the oozing white milky watery sap.

All in all, I'm pleased to say this has turned into an intriguing blind purchase which I'm happy to embrace into my collection and wear in this strange late spring, which keeps jumping from one extreme to the next: thunderstorms and humid cold rainy days, followed by hot dry desert winds, and replaced again by muggy humid days and more showers sprinkled in between. It's light-textured yet rich with nuances and I'm happy to discover different things within it in both cooler and warmer days.

Top notes: Fig Tree Leaves, Gorse Bush Flowers, Smoky & Sulfur Notes 
Heart notes: Almond Milk, Figs, Sandalwood
Base notes: Coconut Milk, Dried Fruit Notes, Stone Pine, Incense

A word about comparative sniffing: When trying something blind for the first time and without any preconceived ideas, you have the advantage of being able to form an impression that is free of opinions, marketing intentions and other biases. If I was to be told "this is a fig fragrance", on the other hand, I would be looking for the fig and finding it thanks to the power of suggestion. It is a bit tricky to compare similar fragrances side by side. It may be an excellent exercise for a professional perfumer or a perfumery student trying to refine their olfactory discerning abilities. But for  a layperson just trying to find a scene they enjoy, this can be utterly confusing and totally ruin the fun. Instead of smelling it for what it is, you smell it in comparison to something else that it is "supposed" to be similar to. And by doing so, what happens is that you find less of what you were expecting to find, and if that was what you're after - and don't find it - this is a sure method to feel disappointed.



  • Page 1 of 6
  • Page 1 of 6
Back to the top