Tuesday, July 2, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter B for Bison/Buffalo, Part 1

Continuing with The Perfumed Bestiary series is B for Bison or what is termed as the Buffalo from the North American central and western plains. This muscular shaggy beast with iconic horns and hump is considered a spiritual icon of the indigenous tribes of North America.

While writing a post on medieval bestiaries and looking over some of the books I had borrowed from the Santa Fe library I came across our American buffalo and their heart wrenching story. It seemed appropriate to devote the B spot to this mighty creature, especially since I now live in their territory.

In 1888 the artist Albert Bierstadt, a German/American painter "endeavored to show the buffalo in all aspects and depict the cruel slaughter of a noble animal now almost extinct"1 with his celebrated painting titled The Last of the Buffalo. Of course, it was the white man, not an indigenous brave, who were responsible for their near extinction from "a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle."

"With a population in excess of 60 million in the late 18th century, the species was down to 541 animals by 1889. Recovery efforts expanded in the mid-20th century, with a resurgence to roughly 31,000[5] animals today, largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves."3

So, although Bierstadts painting is quite glorious technically, once again the depiction of reality is off. "Bison slaughter was even encouraged by the US government as a means of starving out Native American populations, which relied on the bison for food. In fact, hunting of bison became so prevalent that travelers on trains in the Midwest would shoot bison during long-haul train trips."4

"Bison are a keystone species, helping to create habitat for a number of different wildlife species, including grassland birds and even many plant species. As bison forage, they aerate the soil with their hooves, aid plant growth, disperse native seeds, and help to maintain a healthy and balanced ecosystem. While bison are no longer threatened with extinction, they remain largely “ecologically extinct” and absent from their historic Great Plains habitat. Substantial work remains to fully restore the species to its ecological and cultural role throughout the Great Plains and we are grateful for those working with us to promote coexistence with our national mammal."5


The Bison/Buffalo is an element of earth. Solid in mass, Bison live in large herds

Earth represents stability and abundance, from the womb of our fertile Earth we plant our seeds and make our homes. The crust of the Earth is rock composed of oxygen, silicon, aluminum and iron. In some parts of the world the ratio of this divine cocktail will be slightly different. Here in Northern New Mexico our earth has a reddish/pink cast due to the decomposition of iron-rich rocks.

The most used symbol to denote elemental earth is the quartered circle, while in alchemical texts the symbol is noted is a downward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line.

Elemental earth is connected to the mineral kingdom and our sensory experience of this world through touch. Associated with the North, elemental EARTH, is home to our connection to the here & now. Located in the base chakra, this is the place of manifestation, control & restraint and grounded in experience. Home of the Male, strength and ability to create magic.

An aspect of elemental earth is abundance which relates to Buffalo. Living abundantly begins with gratitude and humility, knowing that we are of the Earth and will one day return to her.

Take time to walk in gratitude, mindful of the support of the Earth below your feet with each step. An intuitive that dropped by the perfumery last week told me to become conscious of my backside, that to much emphasis is attributed to grounding via our feet and not our backs where our spine is located. I found this insight quite profound, as I am rarely conscious of my back. When we do put our consciousness there, we become much more whole, round like planet earth and more dimensional. Consider the mass and strength of the Buffalo and that their primary nutrition comes from eating grasses and sedges.

"You cannot receive the bounty of abundance with a closed fist. 
The more you express gratitude, the more Spirit will send you things to be grateful for."5

Crystals associated with attributes of the Buffalo
  • Apache Tears
  • Picture Jasper
  • Chrysoprase
  • Pink Opal
  • Chrysocolla
  • Narmada River Lingam
  • Hematite
  • Bloodstone

The Sioux consider the birth of a white buffalo to be the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman, their primary cultural prophet and the bringer of their "Seven Sacred Rites". Among the Mandan and Hidatsa, the White Buffalo Cow Society was the most sacred of societies for women.

In the next post I'll share how I constructed the fragrance, stay tuned.

Buffalo Nickel
Buffalo photo by Jack Dykinga (Wikipedia Commons)
The Last of the Buffalo by Albert Bierstadt (Wikipedia Commons)
Ptihn-Tak-Ochatä - Dance of the Mandan Women by Karl Bodmer, 1840–1843 (Public Domain)

1 New York World
2,3 Wikipedia, American Bison
4 American Bison
Animal Totem by Susan Jolley

Sunday, June 23, 2019

12th year Anniversary

I've been so swamped between the move to another house, the spa-cation and getting prepared for the Santa Fe Art Tour at the perfumery that I completely forgot about the 12th anniversary of launching Roxana Illuminated Perfume, ugh!

Back in February of 2007 I was contacted by Sandy Messori to be a presenter at the Ojai Valley Lavender Festival. As you can imagine I felt extremely honored considering some of the other speakers were luminaries in the aromatherapy community, like Suzanne Catty & Michael Scholes. Along with presenting I was offered a booth to sell my products.

At the time I had just started coming out of my shell as a "perfumer", even though I had already been teaching, creating my botanical perfumes and custom fragrances for clients. The invitation gave me the impetus to get my branding and a website together, which launched on the day of the event June 16, 2007. You can read a little bit about it here at the journal.

As a gift to you I am offering 25% off the round tins of Vera (pictured above). This lavender perfume was created specifically for the Ojai Lavender Festival to be a reflection of the landscape, it is complex yet simple with notes ranging from lavender, sage, sun-kissed skin, honey and resin. Use coupon code VERA at the illuminated perfume website, or come pick it up at the perfumery.

Here are a few testimonials I uncovered...

"This perfume has redefined lavender for me. It has built it into a scent that is stunning in its complexity; that is both very natural and very feminine in a sophisticated way. This is one little luxury that I hope never to be without again."
~ Customer of Vera liquid flacon

"Lavender is one of my favorite flowers and scents, and this smells exactly like the real thing, not heavy or overpowering at all like those soap and bath products! Thank you so much!"
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"I love that you make perfumes I can wear without getting a rash. I love the heavenly scents and I'm thrilled with the extra solid samples you included! Thank you!"
~ Customer of Vera liquid perfume flacon

"Starts as a herbal-y lavender then dries down to soft resins. Exquisite."
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"Absolutely beautiful perfumes. As well as smelling good, I love how each seems to be imbued with intention to me; Sierra is joyful, Q is grounding and Vera gives a feeling of clarity."
~ Grace

"Thanks, Roxana! It smells wonderful ~ as per the words of my fiancee. :)"
~ Fireman, Vera liquid for his girl

I LOVE the VERA it has a wonderfully complex scent,
and the "sun kissed skin" note is very sensual!
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume

"This is my favorite stuff in the whole world. "
~ Customer of Vera liquid falcon

"I am wearing this right now. Seeing how Vera is my favorite thing in the world, of course I love it. Love, love, love it."
~ Customer of Vera solid perfume compact

"The depth of this fragrance is amazing. Lavender has a very open, honest fragrance, but Vera is so much more. It is open and subtle at the same time. I love wearing it.
Thank you so much for creating this wonderful fragrance."
~ Customer of Vera liquid vial

Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Santa Fe Studio Tour #44

The 15th annual Santa Fe Studio Tour began this morning at 10am with over fifty artist's studios participating. It's a great chance to chat with local artists, learn about their process and support their work. For more information visit the Santa Fe Studio Tour site.

The perfumery is “un-officially” part of the tour since Greg is showing his work in the school portion  of the space. We are STUDIO 44 (an auspicious number), conveniently located in the mid-town Arts District of the city at Lena Street Lofts. Come be enchanted in our synergistic sensorium, grab a matcha from my neighbor Iconik Coffee or hand-made, vegan ice cream from Sunset Swirl across the way. Then head over out to visit the rest of the artists in our collective participating in the studio tour. Todays visitors shared that our space was there favorite!

The scent bar is available for instant olfactory adventures, memory stirring and stories, as well as hydrosol spritzes. Stroll through our macrame permeable wall to the School of Lost Arts where Greg has set up his visionary art with banners, original art, his retrospective book to peruse, and favorite prints for purchase, and get information about upcoming classes planned in the space. Greg and I look forward to transporting you to another realm.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Sunrise Springs: Awakening Journey

If you are a regular reader of this journal, than you already know I'm a sensualist, and in fact my love of beauty, peace and feeling nurtured with nature is what brought me to making plant perfume to begin with.

The Greek Goddess Tyche, also known Fortuna, arrived last week with an invitation to participate in an “Awakening Journey” weekend at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, all expenses paid!  This extremely special event is thanks to the careful curation of Caitlin and Amy, the dynamic duo of @SimplySocialNM on Instagram.

I was lucky to have had a taste of the resort back in August of 2017, on an exploratory visit of Santa Fe before moving from Los Angeles. Thus, when the opportunity to attend a weekend staycation presented itself, I spontaneously jumped at the opportunity, ignoring a very long list of items that needed addressing. Little did I know that I was an " instagram micro-influencer" and would soon make friends with an eclectic little tribe here in Santa Fe.

The group met within the gates of the stunning 70-acre property the afternoon of Friday, June 7th. Soon after arriving I was given an itinerary with activities and shortly whisked away to the spa for a luxurious massage, getting me present in my physical body for what was to come.

After some free time getting settled in my room, the group met at the Moon House for a cleansing ceremony including individual and group readings by Jessica Ibarra, a gifted spiritual guide. In the glow of our blown minds by Jessica's intuitive perceptions, we all sat down at the long rectangular table to enjoy a wonderful meal prepared by Chef Rocky Heron.

The next morning I awoke early and headed to the restaurant where I encountered a few of the girls at a round table enjoying their breakfast. Each of the attendees was given a special itinerary with lots of extra time to take advantage of the beautiful grounds and classes. Elizabeth, a gifted photographer and I choose to attend the "Best Kept Secret in Medicine" workshop with Dr. Sally Fisher. Although I was familiar with much of what was shared it was the perfect lecture to reset my commitment to healthy eating habits. Afterwards I headed to a Yoga Nidra class followed by my "Medicine Helper" appointment with Concha Garcia-Allen. From there I headed to the brand new repose pools to blissfully soak in one of the new natural artesian warm water "Repose Pools" to integrate the experience with Concha.

That evening, we all once again met at the Moon House for cocktails, sharing our experience of the day and our individual sessions followed by another stunning meal. At this point in the journey I was finally unwinding and letting go of my anxiety of being the "crone" of the group.

Sunday morning I once again woke up early and headed out to a morning yoga class before my 9am private mineral infused soak in one of the Ojoitos in the spa area. As I lay in the warm water looking out at the beauty of the landscape with the tall trees I thought "Gee, wouldn't it be grand if the spa was at the center of a community of homes with my fellow sisters from the weekend experience."

After the luxurious 25 minute soak (which was way too short!) I leisurely roamed the grounds with my camera for last minute captures. One of the reoccurring themes we all noticed in our evening sessions, were the concepts of the circle, reflections and we are all related. As I was contemplating these themes with fellow attendee Kelsey, I saw the circular tubs and the great grandmother Cottonwood tree reflected in the water. In awe, I felt the confirmation of our collective experience and the alchemical mantra As Above So Below.

At 11:30am I met my fellow attendees near the sweat lodge for a Nahui Ollin Dance in the Four Directions led by Concha followed by brunch at the Blue Heron. The dance and ritual was incredibly moving, I find indigenous dances and ceremonies to be very potent and stirring.

I am still in the process of integrating all that occurred over the weekend, it was a quite lot over a very short time. My only regret was that I would have liked to spend more time with the beautiful souls who attended the transformational weekend with me. At dinner Saturday evening, Barrett Freibert mentioned that its when we share our vulnerability that deep connections are made. I've been contemplating this idea since she mentioned it, as I believe most of us are in search of deep connection, or what Joseph Campbell calls the experience of "being alive."

The weekend gave me the opportunity to fully experience the spa for my own upcoming retreats.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter A for Axolotl, Part 2

The first fragrance in A Perfumed Bestiary series has been sent, those participants will have the first opportunity to order more of the limited edition before it is offered to subscribers of Illuminated News.

For those who signed up for the "compact" as part of their membership I used the version with the cabochon insert, offering a rose quart, black onyx or unakite stone, all of which were purchased locally here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I've been assured that the stones are not synthetic, imitation or heated. Although, they did tell me that the native people, some of which are vendors on the Plaza along the edge of the Palace of the Governors, do and did bake their stones to alter their color.

When building the fragrance I had two things in mind, first the concept: which notes work best with this months beastie, the Axolotl and secondly, how those notes work together to produce the right scent.

I'm choosing to align each beastie in the series with a specific plant, for the Axolotl I chose White Copal Resin, Copaifera officinalis, from Mexico. I was given a nice sized chunk of it as a gift from a new friend here in Santa Fe named Alberto, he had obtained it on a recent trip to Mexico. Auspiciously Greg and I burned a tiny piece during a meditation just as I was working on the fragrance.

White Copal has a bright, fruity scent, much lighter than other resins that are used as incense. As an essence for botanical perfume there is an oleoresin available that contains some of the brightness of the incense burning resin along with notes of wood and pepper. The inclusion of this material had me contemplating an incense/amber scent but with a "water" quality, turning me to the addition of Myrrh and Violet Leaf. I choose to include Cypress and Juniper as a story point for the Chinaimpas islands, located in the Axolotl's native habitat, but also knowing that it would harmonize well with the Copal. There are hints of spice, complimenting the wood and incense, as well as conceptually alluding to the salamander mistakenly being attributed to fire in the first illuminated bestiaries.

Although I can write about this all rather eloquently now, the process of achieving what I envisioned was actually quite a struggle because of the challenge with striking a balance between the scent of water with incense. I didn't want the fragrance to go too much in one direction, but instead master a synergy between incense, which is generally on the dry and smokey side, and liquid fluidity. Seaweed was out of the question since the Axolotl resides in freshwater, thus as I contemplated a list of about ten essences I associate with the scent of water Myrrh and Violet Leaf seemed to work best. I also rather liked that the pairing of many of these plant essences were producing a leathery quality.

As I work on the pairing of the aromatic notes, I am also considering how this all works conceptually with the Axolotl. So, although the Copal came onto the scene from an auspicious/intuitive place that worked perfectly with the Axolotl being from Mexico, most of the other essences were added by looking over chemistry and smelling notes on scent strips to get a sense of how they paired together.

In total, I used twenty seven essences to build the perfume, including some Dragon Blood resin from a trip to Ecuador back in 2009. Creating a perfume is a dance between the right and left hemisphere. I've found that for me, I constantly float in the the gap, standing weightless, on the invisible bridge between the intuitive and rational mind.

If you haven't already signed up for the next limited edition perfume, illuminating a beastie beginning with the letter B, you can do so here.

Choose Your Subscription

Each month you will receive a small amount of perfume inspired by a specific
imagined or barely imagined being from the animal kingdom.

The next fragrance will be shipped in June 2019.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Perfumed Bestiary, Letter A for Axolotl, Part 1

The Perfumed Bestiary series begins with a rather bizarre looking amphibian called an Axolotl (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl) from the highland lakes of Mexico City. The lidless eyes and fuzzy external gills around its wide head give this beastie an anime quality. Also called a Mexican walking fish, Axolotls are members of the tiger salamander species, native to Lake Xochimilco. Our little salamander has been listed as critically endangered in their natural habitat due to the growing population in Mexico City, resulting in urban sprawl and pollution of the Lake.

Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) differ from other salamanders in that they live permanently in water. In the wild they are a mottled brown color, where as the captive specimens are albino, giving them that pop art look that I mentioned earlier in this post. No wonder they referred to as "ludicrous  fish" by the early European who first encountered them.

The mythical salamander from alchemical texts and illuminated manuscripts, such as The Ashmole  Bestiary, portrays the creature having a special relationship with fire and often illustrated in the middle of flames. Ancient writings cite the salamander as a product of fire who both consumes fire and is able to put out fire. This mythology stems from the the word "Sam andaran" translates as fire within in Persian. In our modern day where we can examine sources with more scrutiny it is easy to see that the ancients spun a story around the salamander that is more consistent with the lizard, a reptile, than the salamander. We humans love a good story, and sometimes forget to discern truth, becoming ignorant, confused or blindsided by the person telling the story.

It's time we set the record straight on both mythical and endangered creatures. This project intends to do so by tuning each of us into one beastie per month. As we each become more aware of the other beings we share this planet then in our own small way we can contribute to a solution.

The Axolotl does contain one superpower, its ability to regenerate a limb or other body parts within a short period of time. So you see, although this months beastie has had some challenges in its natural habitat, its ability to heal has had humans studying it for years, resulting in fast numbers of them surviving well in large and small aquariums all over the world.

Learn more about Axolotls at Axolotl.org


The Axolotl is an elemental of fresh water, unlike other salamanders, they live permanently in water. Despite their being listed on the endangered list they are surviving not only in the wild with the help of humans but also in aquariums throughout the world. Thus the Axolotl teaches us to be survivors, he is telling us that change is inevitable and the ability to adapt and grow a new limb if necessary is a strength. Embrace change, keep going, renew and evolve.

Although the Axolotl contains both lungs and gills it is a water elemental. Water represents fluidity, the psyche, emotions, the feminine, shadows, dreams, intuition and the moon.

As above, so below, as within, so without. For the next month, journey inward with Axolotl, discover the areas that you need to rejuvenate, those that are ready to be let go and evolve your self into a more enlightened form, then go outside your comfort zone and face new territories, perhaps those that you have avoided in the past.

Crystals associated with attributes of the Axolotl
  • Lepidolite
  • Elestials
  • Aquamarine
  • Amber Calcite
  • Sodalite
  • Abalone
  • Rhodonite
  • Hematite
  • Angelite
  • Chlorite in Quartz
  • Alexandrite
  • Chrysoprase
Read part two of this post here.

Credit to a few of the images:
Illuminated A, reconstructed by Roxana, An axolotl photographed at Detroit Zoo in Michigan by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark Salamander (the device of Francis I), woodcut perhaps by Christopher Plantin, from Devises Heroïques by Claude Paradin, 1557 (Image from Glasgow University)Salamander, Emblem X from Musaeum Hermeticum, 1679 (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, A 21st Century Bestiary by Caspar Henderson
Animal Totem by Susan Jolley

Monday, April 22, 2019


Last year when the lilacs began their flowering season here in Santa Fe, I wasn't quite ready for them since the bulk of the necessary lab equipment and supplies were still sitting in a POD out in Albuquerque.

This year however, I am not only prepared with my lovely new space, equipment, tools, etc., but I have been monitoring several bushes around town and I also have a tribe of friends on the look out for me as well.

Although I have not yet worked with this beauty, which I believe is the Syringa vulgaris, I've been hearing many natural perfumers on the East coast rave about their results with capturing her fragrance via the enfleurage process.

Having been monitoring a few shrubs in the area, (photo above) I knew that the bloom cycle was about to happen at any moment. Thus, I headed to the local thrift store for glass pyrex and prepared them over the weekend. Then today, I received a text from a friend who drives a FedEx truck in the neighborhood alerting me to a spot where I could find some flowering.

By observing the flower heads I can see that its a bit early in the cycle, but I decided to pick a few bunches anyway since I'm studying and getting to know her a bit. In fact, this evening I will be sleeping with a small bouquet next to me, perhaps int he dreamtime she will impart a message or two.

Below are two photos of the first enfleurage bed with fresh lilacs, it looks like I'm baking a lilac pie, doesn't it? I'll be posting more about this process in the student forum for Art of Botanical Perfume online course.

Photos ©RoxanaVilla