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Magia et Menstruum: Thoughts on Perfume in Magic

The art of perfume lies not in the hand of the Europeans: despite the classic- and classist- connotations that the Italians and French have taken for themselves. The art of steam distillation is attributed to (perhaps psuedopigraphically)  Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, the Persian alchemist Shi’ite philosopher. The ability to refine ethyl alcohol (AL-Kuhl: a reference to the medicinal cosmetic Alkuhl الكحل, as the essence of a thing) from fermented material would revolutionize medicine for all eternity. But the act of destructive distillation is found even more anciently. In India, Choya Nakh: the essence of dry-distilled onychia shells with sandalwood, is produced in a clay oven. The result is a delicious smokey, roasted sandalwood note that- in my opinion- is impossible to replicate.

Distillation aside, the majority of the plants used to create perfumes that the French and Italians so willingly claim- is inherently American by virtue. In what is now called Mexico, the Aztec Empire named narcotic white flowers- what we may refer to as tuberose- omixochitl, or the Spanish, Flor de Heuso lit. “bone flower”, as its reference for the color, and its use in ancestral ceremonies. Tonka, Dipteryx odorata, Vanilla, Vanilla planifolia, Coffee, Coffea arabica, and sugar Saccharum officinarum, are all products of North and South Americas, and the Caribbean, along with the tomatoes, potatoes, and many other botanicals which bolster the French and Italian imagination as being rightfully theirs. Before the colonization of the Americas, the spices of Major and Minor Asias were the primary lands of perfumery raw materials: Rose from the Levant, clove, and pepper from India, frankincense from Palestine, and Jatamsi Nard from the Himalayas.

The essence of perfume however (with a cock of the head and a squint of an eye) can be thought of at its base: The extraction of plant, animal, and mineral material, to produce an effect on our olfaction, and by proxy, taking these spiritual virtues into us. The Aqua Mirablis known as 4711 started as a medicinal drink and cologne to stave off disease. Under the rule of Napoleon, formulas for drugs were required to be listed to the public by law. To protect his secret proprietary formula, the Colognish apothecar  Wilhelm Mühlens listed his cologne water as a cosmetic.

Perfume lies not solely in the superfluous cosmetic, but instead in the medicinal. In formative conceptions of germ theory, such as miasma theory, disease spreads through places where pollution builds up: places of the sick, such as medical houses, cemeteries, brothels, and so on. While scientifically, we know that bad smell does not necessarily equate to disease and good smell does not necessarily prevent it, it can be a good indicator of it. Many who eat carnivorously will smell raw meat before cooking if it’s been sitting in their fridge for a questionable period. A house that smells may indicate a lack of hygiene. The smell of death perfuming the air can indicate danger nearby. When we smell odors which are noticeably synthetic: motor oil, spray paint, pesticides, fertilizer, we oftentimes hold our breath as the instinct is to not allow the acrid airs to enter our lungs. Ollifaction is linked to our physical health, as well as our spiritual.

In Perfumerirismo, perfumes are the solved extraction of the plant spirit. In many notions of Alchemy, this is also true. In an astrological worldview- a major consideration of the physik in Medieval and Renaissance Europe- plants and their perfumes may remediate symptoms of planetary afflictions, or enhance benefic qualities. Magically, many of us use perfumes and smoke to fill the airs so spirits may react to their scent or- in some cosmologies- are thickened by these airs as a way to manifest. 

The formula of a perfume can be viewed much like the magic oil known in American Hoodoo: some more formulaic than others, for instance Lavender Love Drops- which obliquely smell of lavender. Other formulas may be simples, not dissimilar to spagyric medicines: the water or rose to cool a heated temperament, or the oil of pepper to heat it up. Another formula may be completely given by a spirit: see my Visions of the Witches Rose. A spirit- whether it be a dead person, a demon, a plant ally, or some-one/thing else may tell you to mix this herb in this formula, or this oil in that, and anoint it in certain places, or certain items. The immaterial also steps into play: the perfume may need a secret, or to gestate upsidedown under a rose bush for a month. One friend made certain that- even if he bought the cheap agua cologñas from the botanica- which have a multiplicity of uses in magic- he still added the “real” plant into it to lend its essence. 

One Anthropologist in the 1980s recorded charms created by a wisewoman that were made for her clients: making them in bags which were filled with herbs under the auspices of the planetary and zodiacal rulership of the person's sun sign, and supplemented with perfumes- some of which were synthetic fragrances- and minerals to protect them. (Camus 2016)

The tutelage of these perfumes is taken up by many spirits: In my personal practice, the Rose has led to powerful insights of perfumes, influenced my witchcraft practice, and has led me to other traditions- in which some spirits also patron my perfume work. In Orthodox Christianity, The third Sunday of Holy Pascha is the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers. The day commemorates when the women disciples of our Lord came to the tomb to anoint his body with myrrh oils but found the tomb empty. In Catholicism, Mary Magdalene's feast day is July 22nd, and she is the Patron Saint of Perfumers. In some areas of South America, it is La Sirena or other legions of mermaids which govern the aquatic practice of perfumery. 

Indeed, my magical work with particular water spirits has improved my perfumery, especially around the magics of cleansing formulas to heal and disparage sickness, disease, and ghosts. Shulke in his Ars Philtron says:

“The foregoing elucidation of the Philtre illumines the Water Elemental and the Mercurial prong of the alchymical triad; it is to be distinguished from oils, whose chymical affinities are more akin to the Earth element and alchymical Sulphur. Water and ethyl alcohol are the prime Chymical Vessels of the Philtre, and the two may be regarded as esoteric kin… While it is true that botanical



essential oils --ubiquitous in plants by the design of Nature-- are extracted from an individual plant corpus into the fluidic menstruum during the work of decoctions, infusions, and tinctures; their amounts are minimal in comparison with the water and alcohol in which they are bound…The Philtres best-known from antiquity are potions of Love and Lust, those Succubal Nectars rousing the sex of man and woman, crafted for seduction.

These have acquired a nefarious reputation because of their use as a Poison Cup, craftily added to an unknowing victim's food or drink. Thus, the Philtre has become in some spheres synonymous with bewitchment.” (Shulke 2001)

While Shulke is referencing specifically the Philtre- that is the ensorcelled liquids of aqueous magics- this applies similarly to perfumes. 


A Vessel of Power To The Spirit of Rose as Queen of Perfumes

When you wish to learn more about perfumery, you may call upon the Queen of Perfumes, which is a spirit who lies under the Venerial current, and exists under the rose, you can make a vessel for her, which should sit on the perfumer's organ, amongst the bottles. 

Find a red vessel of copper or porcelain- and if it is porcelain make it red or pink, primarily. On a Friday when the moon is waxing or full, wash it in rosewater and champagne. Suffumigate it with frankincense, and mark onto it an image of a heart with a rose growing from it, encircled by a crown:

 into it place the perfumes of rose, jasmine, tobacco, frankincense, myrrh, benzoin, iris and violets, and many others of your choosing. Add to this herb of Venereal power, fragrant rose petals, rosemary, saffron, and so on. When this is complete, mark this sigil onto the workspace, and call to the Queen of perfumes:

Come most-fragrant one, 

Perfumed and delightful: you who are joyous and light-hearted.

Come with garlands of Violets and roses, 

Lilies and fragrant spices, come with laughter and good fortune, be kindly unto me. 

Come Rosa Luxuria


And when you see the spirit lend its virtue to the vessel, make a pact with it by feeding it a bit of floral gin, Champaign, or perfumes, along with a drop of blood every month. And you should engage this spirit vessel when you create perfume. And to fortify your magical perfumery, add a few drops of this into your perfumes, and a small amount of the perfumes you create into the vessel. 






2. L envoûtement - Enquête sur les mondes sorciers. Tome 3.Dominique Camus.

avril 2016. Ouest France

3. Ars Philtron... Daniel Shulke. 2001. Xoanon Press



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