Monday, May 30, 2011

Lotus Eaters Perfume

"The Lotus Eaters" is the newest story based perfume that is a-brewing.  It is a bit late in the evening to go into the whole making of it but I am basing it off the epic Odyssey poem and research from historical evidence of plants believed to have been growing in the supposed area/s of "where" it took place. It has been fascinating as not only lotus has been a player but clover, persimmon, sweet grasses, fenugreek in what I have read.
I am working from different translations as well. In a quick nut shell about the section of the lotophagi ....The Lotus-Eaters – "Rounding to the south, Odysseus and his men were blown off-course, towards the land of the Lotus-Eaters. While Odysseus was scouting around the land, some of his men mingled with the natives and ate the local lotus grown on the land. Soon, everything went hazy and the men found themselves under the heavy influence of some intoxicant that caused them to fall asleep. The lotus flowers they had eaten were narcotic in nature and made them forget all about their family and homeland. These men wanted to stay on this land and eat lotus for the rest of their lives. They refused to go home."


Notes in "the Lotus Eaters" so far have: infused fruits, lotuses, narcissus absolute, fig, fenugreek, aglaia, jasmine, peru balsam, vanilla, sandalwood, tolu, africa stone, honey abso, sweetgrass, genet, and....



So I have decided to hold my "Chang Er" Story based perfume until September. That is when the festival takes place celebrating the story and the Osmanthus blossoming.
It hasn't stopped me from working on other osmanthus perfumes. In my love to combine poetry or literature with perfume making I found a few osmanthus poems. I recently encountered a haunting poem from a W.S Merwin book of translated poetry that is never far from my reach. In the few powerful, picturesque lines I related the poem to my never ending and taunting cycle of disability.


Birds Calling In The Ravine by Wang Wei


I’m idle, as osmanthus flowers fall
This quiet night in spring, the hill is empty.
The moon comes out and startles the birds on the hill,
They don’t stop calling in the spring ravine.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chang Er inspired osmanthus perfume and the bad oil debacle

A company I infrequently get my organic fract coconut oil from seems to have become shady. I never had problems with them before but this last supply of oil ruined all of my newly diluted absolutes, concretes and perfume compositions. This was obviously a huge set back. Having to trash much of my stock and in a stupor I set my sites on a new perfume based around Osmanthus. Osmanthus absolute was a a note upon first whiff almost made me gag.  It reminded me when I was 8 of the bottle of apricot flavored liquid penicillin I had to take for weeks that lost its cap in my school backpack. I was determined to come back to Osmanthus and give it another chance, kind of like I do with beets every year to see if I my tastes buds have changed regarding "the root of all evil".  Well, I mixed a tiny bit with aglaia absolute, copaiba balsam and mandarin and well....by George I found how I could make the apricot note of Osmanthus work to my liking. I discovered the green mandarin as a good pairing from eating a mandarin earlier and having the scent still on my hands. Then I had the potential opportunity to make a osmanthus custom. I maniacally made something off the cuff in one day. It smelled quite nice! Then customer decided she already had osmanthus and wanted something else.  So, I put that composition aside.  I often challenge (must be some sort of masochistic neurosis ) my "yuck nose buds" to make what I think is a poo into flowers. To create a osmanthus perfume I would wear (and sell) would be some sort  of psychological phoenix from the bad oil disaster. I needed an osmanthus muse to build the perfume around I became super excited when researching osmanthus I found the the ancient Chinese fable of The Moon Lady, the Rabbit, & the Woodcutter. It is a wonderful story which I have posted below from the site that I composed the whole perfume from. I used literal words taken from the story below.  I had decided on the name “Moon Garden” but I was saddened to find it is already taken. I may call it “Chang Er” or "Garden of the Moon”. I can’t list all of the notes err I grow a long white beard...It has notes of citrus, exotic cedarwoods, hinoki wood, herbs, osmanthus, aglaia and fig supported by other florals.
The base is incense heavy, with balsams and tobacco I also added snuck in some sweetgrass and vanilla tincture. the rest...?
Here is the intro and link to the story from which I composed and was inspired to make the perfume. The link has information about Osmanthus as well.


Sacred to the gods & goddesses of Taoism & of Northern Buddhism, numerous species of osmanthus are grown on the grounds of Chinese & Japanese temples. To kneel before the late winter flowers to smell them is the same as bowing before the Divine. Several species of Osmanthus receive special honors of week-long festivals in autumn, the time when the majority of species flower, but if you are absent from the autumn celebration, Delavay's Osmanthus permits spring honors for the Moon Lady's Tree.
Chang ErThe Moon Lady is shown at right in a portrait by Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Her name was Chang Er, or Chang Oh, the fairy-wife of the heavenly archer Hou Yi, whose bow was the sliver moon. 


In the beginning of the world there were ten suns that circled the earth & each lit the world in turn, & these sons were the pious children of the Celestial Jade Emperor. But one day Hou Yi heard prayers from the Earth, where there was famine & drought because the ten suns had arrived in the sky all at the same time.

"Do not rise together at one time!" Hou Yi chastised the ten suns, but they said, "We are the Lights of the Jade Emperor. We will do as we please." So with his arrows, Hou Yi extinguished nine of the ten suns to save the world.
By this act, Heaven's Jade Emperor had his sun-bath spoiled, his lights extinguished, his children slain. Wrathfully he said to Hou Yi, "You like the Earth so much you would destroy the brightness of heaven? In that case, you are banished from the sky, & can live among mortals without your immortality."

Hou Yi indeed loved the Yellow Earth & became a good ruler thereupon, where he was incarnated as the Tang Emperor Xuanzong. His wife so missed the court of heaven that she stopped speaking, & no loving act of the emperor would induce her to speak. But while her husband slept, she would burn incense & pray to the Full Moon for deliverance, saying, "My husband, not I, was banished from Heaven. Why must I suffer with him? Why must I grow old beside him as a mortal? I long for eternal youth & court life in the Celestial Pavilion with its splendid gardens & riches!"

When her husband caught Chang Er in her prayers of infidelity, a rift grew between them, & in his anger Hou Yi became a less & less kindly ruler, so that rebels rose up among the people.

On a warm autumn night, on an evening of the Full Moon, the emperor & his wife were seated in a garden viewing station observing the beauty of the swollen moon, eating dainty sugared flowers taken from the osmanthus shrubs. A Taoist priest, Luo Gongyuan, came before the emperor & empress & fell upon his face below the moon-viewing station. He pulled from his priestly robes a folded paper & a goblet of osmanthus wine. He unfolded the paper & poured from it a sparkling powder into the wine.

Handing the goblet up to the emperor, the priest said, "This medicine will restore your immortality." Hou Yi thought to himself, "Forces are against me. This priest may be trying to poison me. Before I drink of this cup, I will test it on Chang Er." Aloud he said, "Fair wife, you have lamented your mortality, you may take the first sip."

But when she took the goblet, Chang Er was thinking, "My husband has become a tyrant. How the earth will suffer if he is made immortal!" So she gulped down the entire brew. Hou Yi was so furious he drew his bronze sword & tried to behead his wife. But as soon as she had taken the herbal brew, she discovered could fly.

She planned to escape to heaven, & flew upward laughing. She got only as far as the Moon when she discovered her ability to fly was weakening. She landed at the gate of the Moon's Vast & Frozen Palace.

At the main gate of the jade & jasper palace there grew an enormous, redolent osmanthus tree, beneath which squatted a jade rabbit with mortal & pestle, manufacturing the herb of immortality.

The Vast & Frozen Palace with its gardens had all the things that she had missed about heaven, but soon she realized nothing dwelt in the forest except that rabbit. With only her pet beside her, she wandered the wilderness of osmanthus, lamenting her infidelities that had resulted in this loneliness.

But others say that Chang-Er is like a bhodisattva who was rising to heaven upon her moment of enlightenment when a great pity for the world rose in her, & she chose to rise no further than the Moon, so that she would be close enough to the Earth to hear their prayers. At the time of autumn's Harvest Moon, she returns to the earth, & grants the prayers of those all deserving who beseech her.

Centuries after Cheng-Er arrived upon the moon, there lived an earthly woodcutter, Wu Kang. One night he slipped by stealth into the garden of the Temple of Xi Wangmu the Queenmother of the West, in order to cut up one of Her ancient osmanthus trees & heap up its many branches to sell as firewood.

Wu Kang heaped the branches upon his back & slipped away by moonlight, but was suddenly overcome with drowsiness. He lay down a moment to rest, & when he opened his eyes, he was in a fabulous garden. He came to the place of the jade rabbit under the gigantic osmanthus which grows upon the moon, the shadow of which is visible from the earth.

"Rabbit," said Wu Kang. "Where is this place?"

"It is Chang-Er's Garden of the Moon," said the rabbit, setting aside his pestle.

"Why are you in this place?" asked Wu Kang.

"Long ago," said the rabbit, "three sages disguised themselves as beggars & set out to test the generosity of the Fox, the Monkey, & myself. They asked the Fox for some of his food, & the Fox gave grapes to each of them. They asked the Monkey for some of his food, & he gave each a piece of melon. But when they came to me purporting to be starving, I had only grass to eat, which cannot sustain beggars. Feeling pity for them, I told them to skin & dress me & have me for their meal. As reward, my spirit was made immortal, & I live in this splendid garden where I am happy to practice herb lore. It's a good life for me, but for human beings, the Moon is vast & cold."

"Why have I awakened in your garden?" asked Wu Kang.

The rabbit told him, "You cut down a sacred osmanthus in the Temple of the Moon Lady. That osmanthus was the grandson of the tree that overshadows the Red Pavilion & the Garden of the Moon. The Jade Emperor has banished you to this place as punishment. But you can return home as soon as you have cut down the Moon's osmanthus."

The woodcutter, missing his family, was eager to return home. So he began hacking at the redolent tree. Every time he cut into a limb, it healed instantly. He is there to this day, cutting & cutting, to no avail.

Now the story is not told whether Chang Er & Wu Kang ever became friends. But because Chang Er's sin was infidelity, we may presume she has some relief of her loneliness thanks to the presence of the woodcutter.


The variously called Aroma Festival, Reunion Festival, or Mooncake Festival celebrates the Moon Lady, the Rabbit, & the Woodcutter. It is held during September's full moon, when the majority of nearly two-dozen types of osmanthus species are a flower. But Delevay's Osmanthus waits until winter's end to bloom, & the scent of it is Chang Er's & Wu Kang's nostalgia.