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In addition to the incenses Katlyn was kind enough to send me, she enclosed a number of sample vials of body incense, perfume oils that can be used for anointing or otherwise perfuming the skin.  Two of these, Kyphi and Elf Oil, are still available on her site.

Their textures are, well, oily, as opposed to watery.  As such, they stay on the skin and are slowly absorbed.

Kyphi is based on ancient Egyptian formulas for temple incense.  Its blend is composed of Oman and Somalia Frankincense, Somalia Myrrh, Cassia, Labdanum, Port Orford Cedar, and LiquidAmbar.

Kyphi is composed largely of dark base notes that stick with you for a long time, slowly fading away.  The amber is pervasive from the beginning, lying beneath the other notes in a blanket of sweet smoothness.  Katlyn’s amber reminds me very much of Eden Botanicals’ lovely amber oils.  The prominent notes at the beginning are frankincense and myrrh.  The cedar lends a pleasantly piercing, piney note to the blend, reminiscent of menthol.  This balsamic accent cuts any cloying sweetness that the blend could have.  The result is a resiny amber that is velvety without being cuddly.

Elf Oil is a “’Fayrie’ formula that comes from the Bodleian Library 17th-century magickal manuscript” used for the anointing of the eyes to see the Faery realm.  Katlyn gives no list of ingredients (all 100% essential oils and absolutes), but here are my impressions of the scent:

It’s a lovely, light sweet floral that would suit springtime pursuits.  Initially, notes of petitgrain lend a green, citrusy, floral wood scent.  That part is fleeting, and is quickly followed by a dominant white floral like neroli or orange blossom.  As the neroli starts to fade, rose joins the blend and acts as a floral base note.  Interestingly, on my skin, the woody aspects of the rose showed up first until the neroli had faded enough to let the rose peek through.  The blend didn’t last long on me—maybe an hour at best—but the sweetest scents are often the most fleeting, are they not?

These and another new blend, Blue Lotus, can be found on the Mermade Magickal Arts web site.  Blue Lotus sounds yummy; it’s a blend of sandalwood oil and coconut oil.

Katlyn’s blends are often limited releases, so get yours soon before they’re gone!

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Springtime is upon us!  I’ve been slogging away all winter working on my dissertation, and am ready to blossom in the warmer weather.

The incense has fallen by the wayside (for various reasons) until recently.  My restlessness takes the form of an increased yearning for the sensual–bring on the incense!!

I’ve been dipping into the stash of samples that Katlyn Breene kindly sent me from her incense making company, Mermade Magickal Arts.  For whatever reason, Indian incense just doesn’t seem fitting right now, nor does Japanese incense.  I feel like dancing around a bonfire in the night to waken the earth, not meditating or relaxing.  Push out and up into the light of spring.  For whatever reason, Katlyn’s incense blends push that button for me.

Sacred Grove and Earth Church:

Similarities thanks to the ingredients in common: fir balsam, cedar, juniper, and pine – all the foresty goodness you could ask for.  (Aside:  Why can’t piney body fragrances work so well??  They tend to end up smelling like Pine Sol: pine-scented household cleaning products)

Sacred Grove, however, riffs more on the resiny aspects of woods by emphasizing frankincense, storax, and labdanum.  While this good slug of resin could tend towards the sweet, powdery, ambery, or even citrusy, the balsamic-smelling aspects of the resins “hook into” the balsams proper.  To my nose, the piney, cedary aspects sneak up on you while you’re being dazzled by the orchestra of resins.  I love this stuff.

On the other hand, Earth Church focuses on the leaves and woods of the balsam family—the cedar and fir seem to take a front seat while the resins act as a bass line, rounding out the woods nicely.  The result is a blend that smells primarily of sweet, warm woodsmoke, with overtones of cedar and pine.

Aphrodesia:

Aphrodesia is a sweet blend showcasing rose otto, the fabulous essence of the rose flower.  The sweet, musky rose intertwines with other ingredients that are reminiscent of the sensual smell of skin or traditionally used in elixirs of love: sandalwood and aloeswood powder, ylang ylang and and a pinch of sweet amber/vanilla Tolu Balsam.  Labdanum and Hougary frankincense act as the resinous components.  This blend is simply yummy.  I love rose fragrances, but this blend excels beyond other rose-tinged incenses in my collection.  While rose is evident, its musky, sweet floral qualities are intensified by the ylang ylang.  And let’s not forget naughty naughty labdanum, so often used in perfumery to imitate ambergris or leather, and incorporated in amber blends to lend depth and sweetness.  (For more on labdanum, please read helg’s fascinating and thorough article.)  So for me, Aphrodesia works as smoky-sweet-skin-smell yumminess.  My favorite of the lot, but Sacred Grove and Earth Church are different enough from Aphrodesia that I need not pick Aphrodesia over the other two: buttons they do push, but each push different ones.

Pan’s Earth:

And let’s not forget Pan’s Earth:  It’s an earthy blend punctuated by piney notes.  Totally causes flashbacks for me:  when I light it, I’m back in my 12-year-old days.  We went to a retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina several times when I was younger, and I would often play in the forests and streams neighboring our cabin.  The air smelt earthy-damp and fresh with pine needles all the time–even though it was the middle of summer.  Wonderful time of freedom and relaxation in the mountain woods.  Aloeswood, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, labdanum, Hougary frankincense, and Himalayan juniper wood.

You can also read my earlier thoughts on Sacred Grove, Earth Church, and Pan’s Earth.

Today marks the Autumnal Equinox, when the days begin their slow descent into winter darkness.  It also marks one of the first cool days we’ve had since July in my part of the world (US Midwest).  The sky outside is an even, pale gray.  Rain has been predicted, but none has fallen.  My tomato plants haven’t wilted yet, but the first average frost date is rapidly approaching.  The corn field I can see from my deck has gone past the gold of harvest into the brown of decay.  The leaves have not started to turn yet, but I anticipate they will soon enough.  It’s a perfect time to start talking about scents that help one start cocooning against the elements.

Incense:

I think spicy scents form a good bridge between the lighter woods of summer and the richer scents of winter. Shoyeido’s Kyoto Autumn Leaves is an obvious choice, featuring a spicy, rich blend of sandalwood, cinnamon, patchouli, and benzoin.  Shoyeido’s Golden Pavilion is similarly spicy, but adds the pervasive note of cloves to Kyoto Autumn Leaves’ blend.  Baieido’s Sawayaka Kobunboku / Imagine series Koh serves cinnamon lovers well with its toasty blend of aloeswood, cinnamon, and Chinese herbs.  Shoyeido’s Incense Road series may also appeal to spice-lovers, especially its Spicy Chai scent.

I don’t usually pay any attention to Martha Stewart, but she seems to love Halloween just as much as I do.  She’s got an interesting project for a “pumpkin incense burner” that allows one to fill one’s living space with the scent of spiced, baking pumpkin–specifically, pumpkin pie, for those readers who are familiar with this autumn treat.  I’m curious about how the project would turn out, but the amount of time needed to complete it gives me pause.

Autumn is also time to be outside amongst the falling leaves and chill breeze.  Scents that evoke earthy loam and bonfires are perfect for autumn.  Mermade Magickal’s Pan’s Earth is awesomely earthy and slightly musky, bringing together aloeswood, patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, labdanum, Hougary frankincense, and Himalayan juniper wood.  Mermade Magickal’s Sacred Grove and Earth Church both evoke the scent of the wild woods and nighttime bonfires.  Both feature a good proportion of fragrant woods and evergreen wood and resins.  They bring the scent of the ideal bonfire to your house.

(Sacred Grove’s ingredients: Hougary and Oman Frankincense, Turkish Storax, Labdanum, Fir Balsam Essential Oil, Western Red Cedar Wood, Powdered Grand Fir Tips, Himalayan Juniper Wood, Pinon Pine Resin, Copal Elemi Resin)

(Earth Church’s ingredients:  Poplar Buds, Fir Needles, Port Orford Cedar, Juniper, Oman Frankincense, Pine Resin, Salupati, Rose Petals, Bay Laurel, Cedar, Labdanum , Ylang Ylang)

I haven’t done a Top Ten list since April, so I figure it’s about time for one.
This month I’ve been inundated with incense, so it’s now difficult to pick just ten. Hooray for that! ^_^
Naturally, it’s dominated by incenses I picked up in Japan.

  1. Kunjudo Karin Zuitou (Encens du Monde Golden Waves) – musky and sweet aloeswood goodness.
  2. Kyukyodo Higashiyama – Aloeswood, sandalwood, and Chinese herbs – a lighter aloeswood, thanks to the additional of sandalwood, with a slight vegetal tang. It alternates between a mossy kind of greenness and a musky freshness.
  3. Shoyeido unnamed incense (or name in kanji) from Daisen-in temple in Kyoto – Shoyeido really knows how to do benzoin-laced incenses really well, and this is another awesome example of their craft. I plan on exploring other Shoyeidos to discover if I can get this in the States. Hopefully it’s not one of the discontinued Classics.
  4. Mermade Magickal Arts Golden Bough – aptly named. It’s like a ray of sunshine through the trees of a pine grove. Resiny awesomeness.
  5. Mermade Magickal Arts Sacred Grove – similar to Golden Bough (I think it’s the resiny elements) but with an emphasis on the piney scent–needles and wood. Come Wintertime, I need to do some scent research at a Christmas tree lot–the last time we had a tree in the house for the holidays was when I was four, and I don’t remember what the whole experience of the tree is like.
  6. BAM Champa – My preferred nag champa, thanks to the awesome presence of sweet, resiny halmaddi. I also prefer the stick size, which is skinnier than the Mother’s Fragrance nag champas. While they’re awesome and neck-to-neck with the BAM, they’re too smoky for my small house.
  7. Kyukyodo Shiun – light aloeswood, great for meditative summer moments
  8. Kunjudo Karin/Encens du Monde Forest of Flowers – the eponymous incense of the five-fold Karin line by Kunjudo. (Different from the Encens du Monde Karin line) I think you could call this the theme, and the others the variations. Somewhat lighter because of an emphasis on more sandalwood, I think. (I have a “small box”)
  9. Kyukyodo Ikaruga – this is so inexpensive, but so good. I prefer this to Shirohato, finding the latter’s floral component too delicate. I lit one Monday while I was cleaning house as an act of home purification, and was pleasantly reminded of how cheering I find the fragrance. I believe the bundles in the 10-bundle box are meant to be burned en masse as an outdoor temple or gravesite offering.
  10. Shroff Sandal Flora – I haven’t burned many of the new Shroffs yet, but this older one remains one of my favorites. A light rosy-woody scent that lingers a while, but not for days. I prefer that so I can burn other scents in the house. A good balance of rose and wood is a hard one to come by in personal fragrances, and sometimes I wish I could wear this one.

I’m back from Japan!  The trip was fabulous.  Unfortunately, at the moment I am suffering from a major case of jet lag.  We got back on Saturday evening, but my body still thinks it’s midnight right now.  To combat the daytime sleepiness, I’ve been keeping active with exercise, walking, and household chores.  If I sit still for too long, I start going to sleep (seriously).  But that means no chance to sit a bit and write.  So no dissertation writing (eeeep!) and no blogging.

I have to monitor and participate in the ferrets’ playtime, however, so that gives me a bit of time where I can jump on the computer for a few minutes at a time.  So here I am.

I’ve been burning quite a bit of frankincense-based stuff, to keep the spirits up.  Number one for that purpose at the moment is Mermade Magickal Arts’ Golden Bough.

When the first real post is completed, you’ll find it here!