Monday, February 14, 2011

Fragrant Offerings (and more) for Valentine's Day

Beyond the juvenile "I love you" teddy-bears, the kitchy sentimental magnets and Hallmark postcards, Valentine's Day is just another chance to celebrate that which should be celebrated each day of the year: true love. And what is love but that force that surpasses all obstacles, all hindrances, to make possible the impossible?
In that vein and collaborating with The Non Blonde, my friend in arms Gaia, today we embark on a small homage to the world's most powerful god of them all: Eros or Cupid!
My first acquaintance with Scarborough Fair, the 16th century folk love ballad, had been in the version (immortally) sung by Simon & Garfunkel (contrapuncted with Canticle, a song about a soldier) in the iconic film of the 1960s The Graduate. Who can forget it, put into that memorable segment of chasing after phantoms? Yet other versions might focus our attention more to one "fragrant" passage in it, namely the line "parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme" which gets told and retold throughout.
More than meets the eye, Scarborough Fair talks about Love Magick. It talks about a couple who have been estranged: She has left him, he yearns for her and to rekindle their love, all delivered in a lengthy message over the song ("remember me to one who lives there, for once she was a true love of mine"), they exchange challenges consisting of impossible tasks which would prove they still have love for each other: she has to sew a cambric shirt with no seams or needle work, then wash it in a dry well, or find an acre of land between the sea and sand. Is it a reaffirmation of his pain or can love do the impossible?

Amy Nuttall sings Scarborough Fair.

The fragrant part of Scarborough Fair is indeed full of symbolism:

Thyme: Girls once used thyme sprigs in ceremonies to discover the identity of their true loves. A more upscale lady of Medieval times would embroider a flowering thyme sprig along with a visiting bee as a token to be given to a favored knight. A woman wearing thyme was once held to be irresistable.

Sage: Sage was once used to help childless couples conceive, and is associated with wisdom and longevity in plant lore. It was also used magically to honor weddings and to ensure domestic harmony.

Rosemary: Was once held to represent love and faithfulness. The plant was used in wedding ceremonies in place of rings as a sign of fidelity, and carried by newlyweds and wedding guests as a charm for fertility. But it also has the meaning of remembrance, as Shakespeare noted in Hamlet 'there's rosemary for remembrance.' Often used in love potions, it is also said to attract elves.

Parsley: It was once believed that only witches and pregnant women could grow this herb--Sow parsley, sow babes, was an old expression. The herb has been associated with witchcraft in England and also with death since ancient times. But more importantly, it is said to provoke lust and love.

Additionally, these herbs have long stood as "messages" to higher ends: Thyme stands for devotion, sage implies dependancy, rosemary (as Ophelia well knew) stands for remembrance, while parsley denotes a desire to procreate with said partner.
Keeping in mind these fragrant succulent herbs enter into many a delicious recipe (or even a scented herbal tea which lovers can share), perhaps the modern herbalism could recreate a powerful love potion, not only for Valentine's Day but for every day!

Music takes into other places as well, where the impossible is taking shape:

Greek-cypriot singer Alkinoos Ioannidis sings "Whatever love dreams".

"Whatever love dreams,
life lets them stay dreams.
But whoever falls in love
turns pain into a prayer,
turns the kiss into a boat
and leaves abroad..."

Extreme sing beautifully "More than Words".

True love is nevertheless often denied...due to inexperience. Or supressed manners. As in Lucy's and the reverent's case in E.M. Forster's A Room with a View (1985) where the possible becomes impossible for no apparent reason at all...until it dawns on her in the end.

Or it can be denied because it's just seems wrong. When it's possibly the only right thing in a messy situation.
Clip from The Priest (1994): One of the most passionate kissing scenes I have ever seen.

My own perfume preferences for Valentine's Day wearing?
Grand Amour by Annick Goutal: Because "love is everything" and he never fails to notice.
Passion by Annick Goutal : Because he loves it so...
Molinard de Molinard : Because this was his first fragrant gift to me and it holds precious memories.
Boxeuses by Serge Lutens : Because it's so darn sexy!
Amaranthine by Penhaligon's : Because a little skank never hurt no relationship.
Kiki by Vero Profumo : Because it's the perfect "morning after" eating-croissants-in-bed scent.

Hope your Valentine's Day is filled with passion and true-felt, beyond-the-commercial feelings!
Don't forget to visit Gaia's blog to read her own musings.


  1. Grand Amour By Annick Goutal. I am wearing it right now:-) Happy Valentines-everyday-should-be Valentines..

  2. I have not even decided on what perfume I am even going to wear today. I leaning towards Shalimar or maybe Mitsouko. Or Amouage's Epic. On any given day, it's hard for me to pick out what perfume I am going to wear. It's rainy and wet here in Cleveland (USA) and I am in a mood for a comfort scent.

  3. VL,

    I share your sentiment EXACTLY!!
    This is why we don't exchange those "gifts" pushed on us to buy.

    Grand Amour is totally romantic: it's very lush, but not too carnal, never a one-night-stand, a commited relationship instead which takes your heart and spins it round and round.

    Ah...stop me! :-)

  4. Eld,

    a pity that the weather doesn't condone sunnier thoughts...All your choices sound good to me, I have to say. The important thing is how they sound to you and your S.O!

    Maybe I should do a fun piece on how to pick up a scent on any given day and invite readers to offer tips. How does that sound?

  5. I'm not with anyone so I wear perfume to please me. Now I have added Frapin 1270 to my list of choices to what I want to wear today. My mother makes comments on it takes me too long to pick out a perfume that I'm gonna wear then it takes me to pick out what I'm going to wear. But when you have 26 perfumes sitting on your dresser drawer naturally, it's gonna take some time! I gripe to her that she doesn't need an hour to do her hair and make up so she doesn't have cause to gripe about my perfume!

  6. Eld,

    LOL, I can sympathise. Well, if I am to be a bit naughty here -and if you allow me to- you could tell your mother some people have 200 or even 300 bottles at home! (not to mention the decants and samples). I think that would make her reconsider and rejoice in having such a sane and frugal daughter!!

    Everyone takes their pleasures any way they choose; as long as they don't harm others in the process, I see no problem in that. ;-)

  7. Anonymous17:23

    Hi E!

    God, I have not heard that song by Extreme in many years. :)

    If I asked my hubby to pick a Valentine's scent for me to wear, he would choose 24 Faubourg.

    My Valentine's pick for myself would be Songes. Bonus, he loves this one also.

    I enjoyed reading your picks - especially the Kiki. You made that one sound very appealing.

    I also enjoyed reading the other poster's picks also.

    Have a good day everyone.


  8. I told her that there are some people that have way more than I do. My bank account just simply doesn't allow me to buy a lot of perfume as much as I would like! Right now, I am saving my pennies to buy 1 of 3 Amouages. I am debating between Lyric, Gold and Jubilation 25. I have samples of those and love all of them to deem all of them bottle worthy. Now I just need to decide which one! But I have to finish my 2 Victoria's Secret perfumes and Vera Wang for women before I do!

  9. Dawn,

    the song is very special to me ;-)
    (Good one, yes? the lyrics say it all really)

    Of course we both know that your hub is an amazing judge of scents so I wouldn't hesitate to put on anything he chose: the guy's got taste!
    Now, remind me please why on earth haven't I reviewed Songes? Oh right, I'm forgetful; no, make that procastrinating. That's me all right. Duly noted to be taken care of, thanks!

    Thanks for reading and commenting and for hoping over to Gaia's post as well! :-)

  10. Eld,

    right, budget does make a difference...Well...hmm....I like all those Amouages. Probably would pick J25 myself, but that's just me. I'd need to know more of your tastes to suggest a sure-fire choice of one over the other two (they're all very lovely indeed).

    Listen *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*: sometimes there are bottles of that limited edition of 30ml/1oz Amouage did a while ago circulating on auction sites, even by Amazon sellers sometimes, private auctions and split sites. Maybe take a look there BEFORE going for the honker bottle? They're really competitively priced for the exact same juice! ;-)

  11. I feel that too, it is not too carnal, it is more a mystery that one has to unfold over and over as if taking off the petals and being hurt by the thorns from time to time. I loved what you said. Grand Amour is perception more than sensation, I think. LOVE.

  12. VL,

    I can't but beatifically smile at what you describe so wonderfully. :-)

  13. Anonymous18:25

    Yes, good song. :)
    I'm surprised I don't hear it more often.

    And yes, the man's got great taste in perfume as well as food - which is his passion. He has already made our dinner reservations for the 4 nights we will be in Barcelona later this year. I can only remember one restaurant that he booked and that is El Celler de can Roca. Have you had the pleasure of dining there?

    REMINDER: Please do a review of SONGES.

    Hope all is well on your side of the world and we look forward to visiting your country as well this year.


  14. I have found Amouage perfumes on Amazon but with some of the prices are even more expensive than I have an adversion to auction sites due to a bad experience with buying something and the item never came. I normally can't wear scents with a rose note because the usually turn into a raw sewage smell on me but these three Amouages have rose notes that don't do that. I am more of a vetiver/woody/oriental type of person. I do like florals from time to time though.

  15. "Scarborough Fair." Have found myself wrapped up in that song from a young age...between the music, and worrying over the story, I got lost. And still can.

    You've reminded me how when I first had my own kitchen, and went to buy herbs to stock the cupboard, I started humming you-know-what as I was making my selections.

    As for meanings...with friends, I try to always stick include a piece of rosemary for occasions involving loss. And I'll tuck some in a flower arrangement on happy occasions, for the same purpose.

    I don't know if I have a Valentine's Day scent, per se. It could end up being a pleasant way to mark a day I embrace in sentiment, but keep a distance from in commercialism. (Was that a word? hmm...) There will be dinner, there will be a date, with someone with whom I have built memories...perhaps whatever my choice, I should stick some rosemary in my purse?

  16. E.,

    What a romantic and sexy post! I love the songs you chose...and now I am off to Netflix to see if I can find The Priest!

    For Valentine's Day, I'm wearing Amouage Opus I. The green notes lend a nice minty buzz to the rose. It has a "beginning of romantic flutterings" kind of vibe to me.

  17. I have to say a huge thank you for the Amy Nuttall video. It's absolutely incredible the way she sings it and I've been listening to it over and over again yesterday and today.
    I want the album where that song is located, I need to hear her sing the rest. :)

  18. Lovely thought provoking post on symbols/associations of the experience of love.
    Any thoughts on the new Frederic Malle 'Portrait of a Lady' ?


  19. oh wish to smell KIKI sometime soon in my life ...!

  20. Dawn,

    you're extraordinarily well-planned I have to say!

    No, in Spain I liked to stop and eat tapas in small bistros (Toledo has some which are wonderful, also Granada) and near the beaches which are very picturesque. So I might have missed some of the Michelin-starred restos.

    I'm looking forward to seeing you!

  21. Eld,

    oh, that's bad about the prices :-(

    I would think that Amouage scents have an orientalised feel to them, almost all of them, which is probably why the rose in them translates so well on you and your skin. Rose is a difficult "note" for me as well, more due to association with pot-pouri and toilet fresheners more than anything; so it's enough to go high end or an interesting combination to be able to let my prejudice aside (which is lucky!).

    I do highly recommend that you try the Scent Splits page on wikidot, there are people (reliable) who split the A scents there! ;-) (You just mail them and ask for prices and details and you take it from there)

  22. S,

    you're a thoughtful soul. It's nice to have a special little something to instill a sense of remembrance.

    Hope you had a great V day!! :-)

  23. Suzanne,

    so very nice to see you!!

    Thanks for the compliment and glad you enjoyed!

    Be warned the Priest is edgy, thought-provoking stuff, not feel-good: it's a terrific film in my opinion because it explores tough issues in a very realistic and respectful way without "glossing" them over (child molestation for one, the boundaries between god-inflicted and society/church-induced, the boundaries of self morals and how to act upon them etc etc). Highly recommended watching!

    Opus I was the most surprising in the initial trio: the more I test it, the more I find it complex and intelligent.

  24. Ines,

    very happy you liked it. I like it as well. The album is on Amazon, I have linked it.

  25. Pat,

    thank you. Usually the very cute stuff passes me by. I need some intensity in my romanticism, I guess. LOL!

    Can't say I was struck by any huge surprise at PoaL: it's an Arabian-style patchouli floral with that popular "oud" note that passes as woody in several new releases. It's very good, but not earth-shattering material (to me).

  26. Forggy,

    I think there are samples made by Luckyscent for the EDP? I believe so at least. Or you can write to Vero herself and ask if she knows of any option to accommodate you.


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