Friday, April 30, 2010

Perfume Illuminated: Fire and Smoke

Round and round we go, finding our selves at the Celtic holy day and one of the fire festivals known as Beltane. It's no coincidence that this splendid Spring point of time also falls on Arbor day. Celebrations for Beltane/Beltaine, also termed May Day, begin this evening when fires are lit welcoming the light, the return of the Green time, and the marriage of Earth and Sky, Lord and Lady.

As many of you already know, Celtic and pagan traditions are very dear to my heart as they are to Beth. Thus, as co-conspirators in the awakening of the senses, we have chosen to focus on the fragrance and flavor of fire, which manifests itself as smoke, in today's edition of the Perfume Illuminated Project.


Beltane heralds in the Summertime and is one of eight solar Sabbats. It is an occasion where the veils between the worlds are at their most transparent and the Faerie Queen may be spotted riding on her white stead. The festival has a strong association to elemental fire, referring to the return of the light half of the year and the rising of lusty passions. Traditionally bonfires are built and leaped over as an act of purification.

The fragrance of smoke in natural and botanical perfume is primarily derived from the essences of Choya Nakh, Cade and Birch Tar. This trio of aromatics is very strong and is best utilized in small amounts. If put on a scent strip undiluted Choya Nakh will last for months, indicating it's steadfast and tenacious nature.

Choya Nakh is the result of the distillation of sea shells within earthen vessels in India. I immediately feel in love with this raw material the first time I inhaled it's strong aroma. It's not for everyone, like Patchouli it seems to cause a love it or hate it reaction. The word Choya stands for "traditional distillation in an earthen vessel", other Choyas include Choya Loban (Frankincense, Boswellia serrata) and Choya Ral (Shorea robusta an Asian tree).

In constructing a perfume for Beltane consider notes from the green, floral, fruit and wood families as the main thematic elements with just a hint of smoke for the purification aspect. Since water is another key elemental of the festival I'm really liking the addition of Choya Nakh, aince it is from sea shells. Where as in the past I anointed myself with Q for this threshold into the new season, today I will choose the solid Page 47. Page 47 is a lusty earthy floral beach scent that was created last August in celebration of my birth date. This fragrance has been reformatted slightly and will rebirth anew on May 27th.

"Thanks invisible physician, for thy silent deciduous medicine, thy day and night, thy waters and thy airs, the banks, the grass, the trees, and e'en the weeds."
~ Walt Whitman, "The Oaks and I"

I've written quite a bit about Beltane here at the journal, read the entry from 2008 here and 2009 here.

Events that you might enjoy this weekend to get into the theme of Beltane is the Renaissance Faire and May Faires happening at Waldorf schools throughout the northern hemisphere. This afternoon I am off to our local Waldorf school to help set up for tomorrows fair where you will spot a splendid Maypole for dancing. The photo above is from Eve in 3rd or 4th grade participating in the Maypole dance with her class at Highland Hall Waldorf School.

FLAVOR: Beth Schreibman Gehring
Please continue reading about Fire and Smoke at the Windesphere Witch blog

IMAGES: Opening painting by John Melhuish Strudwick. The images of the Shell, the Nose and Mouth are old engravings that I have cleaned up and modified. The photo of the MayFaire dance is by Ben Neuhart.

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