Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Incense week: 3.Lush sinful incense for Holy Tuesday

As today the religious theme is the vigilance of the wise virgins who were ready for Jesus and the repentance of sinners, as reflected in the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and anointed them with myrrh, I decided to attribute incense scents that have a rich, feminine, lush nature to them and which would not be far off the notion of a sinner, repentant or not.
In greek orthodox church today on holy Tuesday "The Hymn of Kassiane", a woman who became a nun in her later life and a famous hymnograph, is being chanted: “Lord, the woman caught up in a multitude of sins, sensing Your divinity, assumes the perfumer’s role; lamenting, she provides myrrh in anticipation of Your burial. “Alas!” she cries, “for me night is a frenzy of excess, dark and moonless, a love affair with sin. You draw from the clouds the waters of the sea; will You accept the fountainhead of my tears?”
(translation from Hellenic Koine {=greek}to English by saintbarbara.org).

The tale of Kassiane herself, an educated aristocrat of her time that was to be the Byzantine emperor’s bride, only to be refuted for her intelligence and quick wit, is touching.
The tale recounted here goes thus:

“Church history becomes aware of her when she lived in Constantinople and was a regular attendant at the Royal Court of Emperor Theophilos whose mother, Euphrosene, saw in the brilliant and beautiful Kassiane a very likely candidate to become the bride of her son. The field of eligible young women narrowed down to Kassiane and another lovely girl named Theodora who hailed from Paphlogenia, apparently from a ranking family of the Empire. The final choice was to be made by the young Emperor who elected to have both the girls brought before him so that a final comparison and decision could be made. Since both were extremely attractive, the choice was not an easy one; but the one thing that Theophilos wanted to make certain that his bride not exceed him intellect.
In a custom that dated back to the Persians, years before the formation of the Byzantine Empire, a golden apple was to be given to the one who was to be the Empress. Looking at Kassiane, the Emperor stated, “From woman came the worst in the world” (meaning Eve and her original sin). Kassiane calmly replied, “From woman also came the best” (referring to the Virgin Mary who bore the Son of God”). The issue was settled then and there, and Theodora got the golden apple.”

The first thing that came into my mind therefore recalling both intelligence, rich depth and mysterious incense was Angelique Encens by Creed. As I have already embarked on a full review of it here, I won’t elaborate too much. Suffice to repeat that it is a dark, resinous oriental potion redolent of angelical demons who smell sweet and enticing, marrying angelica with the plush of vanilla and incense, hinting at the carnality of tuberose, but never succumbing to its full spectre. It has been suggested to me to try to layer it with Tabarome, also by Creed and I find that it takes an even more sinister touch that is positively addictive. The elixir of a sinner who wants to repent, deep down.

Amir by Laura Tonnato: Another lush incense perfume that has a rich heart and base of resins that fan out in velvety amber like a modern interpretation of Obsession. The presence of smoke and spice is evident although the opening stage might seem quite medicinal, but as it dissipates one is met with a mature beauty of creamy darkness. Feminine and ready for the plucking quite unapologetically. Frankincense adds mystery and you can imagine this worn before a blazing fire in a country house somewhere exotic during the winter. As the embers die away it retains its air of seduction and panache making your presence unforgettable.

Tolu by Ormonde Jayne: In a line that was sadly full of misses for me for some reason despite the undeniable innovation and good ingredients Tolu was the exception. An amber rich incense fragrance, made by Linda Pilkington, with presence and stamina that doesn’t succumb to the too sweet like some ambers do, nor to the medicinal which is the antithetical end of the spectrum in this category (which was Amber Sultan to me unfortunately). Despite the official clary sage and juniper top notes that might seem to shift it to that direction in fact I get more of a peppery and resiny warmth than anything else in the opening (which might account for the unusual reception it gets from people unaccustomed to balsams smelled per se). It keeps a delicate balance between the two ends displaying the wonders of Tolu Balsam and tonka beans over which a subtle floral heart that includes orchid, moroccan rose, muguet (lily of the valley) and orange blossom, left to emit their attractant properties. The effect is surely oriental, however and the mood is exuberant and confident without too much of a development just like the head-strong heroines that might wear this.
I would advise to keep this for cool weather.

Next post will tackle tricky, traitorous, deviant incenses.

Art photography by Chris Borgman, courtesy of his site.

1 comment:

  1. Amir is a rare find that i managed to obtein in less harsh times. It's a treasured fragrance, fruity, heavy, with presence, longevity on my skin and i think it' s for a woman, for a more mature woman 's skin. I beleive that on a young woman's skin, it will be a kind of waste. It's not a perfume for "old ladies", but it's presence is earthy, sultry, persistent, balsamic, totally appropriate for the Holy Week (i don't beleive what i am writing), but it has a certain personality as a scent and i immagine only a woman over thirty, at least, to wear it nicely.


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