It is that time of year again and I am woefully unprepared and massively unmotivated. Summer-me anticipated this problem and at least put together a list of ideas for October-me, so we’ll see what I can do. It’s Sunday and I’ve got to spend the rest of my evening dreading Monday, so I think the sharing of my movie inspo is just about all I’ve got in me for today.

I typically make a habit of reporting on my 31 Days of Horror progress on social media, but I don’t think I’ll be doing too much of that this year. Not sure I want to call attention to my lackluster efforts. Still, if you are one of maybe two people who check in around this time of year to see what I’m reading, watching, or otherwise horror-ing–hi, and hello! I am gonna do my very best (but let’s keep our expectations very low!)

 

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Peche Obscene from Lvnea, in collaboration with musician Chelsea Wolfe is glorious– but what I mean is glorious in the way that something monstrous and magnificent stalks the dead zone of night, by stealth and in the dark. This is peach, irradiated and ashen and grown over with moss and broken bird’s nests and salted against curses, curls of ferric iron to both ward away and contain within. A peach more lore and legend than it ever had life, a peach whose shadow looms uneasily far beyond its ruined flesh. Juices corrupt with the grave dirt of vetiver and patchouli and oozing with osmanthus’ strange leathery/jammy incense, Peche Obscene is an undead lich of a peach, and it is absolutely, terrifyingly bewitching in the way that all delicious forbidden things are.

With notes of “gasoline, dirt, rocks, leather, and funeral flowers” you’d probably expect Procession from Seance Perfumes to be a somewhat challenging scent, or a fragrance that some people might describe as “an acquired taste.” But that’s not the case at all. From the very first sniff, this gentle floral is all about softness and solace. Not the heavy, sinking desolation of sorrow, but rather the easement of having your grief and suffering witnessed by someone who is not trying to fix it, or make you feel better, just to quietly sit with you in sadness. All sorts of blooms, lilies and orchids, hydrangeas and lacy sweet alyssum, powdery, creamy, honeyed blossoms gently perfuming the darkness so that it’s not so lonely there.

I reviewed House of Matriarch Vanilla Caviar over on TikTok. You kinda need the visuals.

Fiery Pink Pepper from Molton Brown opens with so much promise, a zesty dust storm of dry citrus peel and pith, ginger’s tangy effervescent spice, and some underlying rosy-peppery woody notes. It rapidly becomes a somewhat predictable smelling woody cologne that is somehow also aquatic, but both aspects are equally lackluster. It’s that bubbly, vivacious new acquaintance that when you get to know them, you realize that they don’t actually have any interests or passions and they don’t have much of an internal life. Fun for a very short time, but it’s no one you are ever going to have a deep or lasting connection with. This fragrance is the essence of that person–what little essence they might have, anyway– distilled and bottled.

In this review for Ethereal Wave from Liis there are a few thoughts on music, and I just want to put it out there that I am an enthusiast, not an expert. Take my opinions with a grain of salt and also probably not very seriously. So Ethereal Wave is a fragrance that I am given to understand, is inspired by the gauzy, gossamer otherworldly sounds of the genre of music pioneered by musicians of the ineffable, the Cocteau Twins. And while there are just no words to convey how very into this concept I am, I am not sure that’s exactly what the fragrance gives me. I get a bright, lush, honeyed apricot (which I don’t think is a note even in this perfume), haloed by a white tea’s crisp, clean, grassy elegance. I don’t get a sense of the cardamom listed in the notes at all, but together the apricot-esque-ness and the white tea aspect meld to create something shimmering and luminous with an almost fluorescent neon radiance. Let’s say Cocteau Twins are at the more dreamy, delicate atmospheric end of the spectrum, and then all the way on the other end is the bold and strange (but also strangely catchy) sci-fi, avant-garde dream pop of Grimes, who is basically an anime character of a musician. So that’s the sort of stream-of-consciousness thinking that got me to the place where when I’m wearing this sample, I feel like a member of a colorful kawaii magical girl gang fighting space aliens when they’re not being school girls and pop idols, and i don’t know if any of you have seen or remember Tokyo Mew Mew but that’s where Ethereal Wave has taken me.

 Himitsu from Regime des Fleurs is a scent that I immediately loved and felt like it understood me, but it oddly and immediately called to mind a scent I don’t care for and which I can’t relate to…and yet on some level, they smell strangely similar. That scent I’m thinking of is Daim Blond from Serge Lutens, and its cool floral iris, expensive suede handbag, and apricot sunbeam vibes are the embodiment of someone who has it super together, they’re on a career track and probably going to make partner, they do yoga and host book clubs. I imagine they probably live in the city and they thrive in that energy and the atmosphere. I feel like Himitsu is the country mouse version of that person and they grew up with the exact opposite temperment. They live in a secluded little cottage at the edge of some remote hamlet,  and their only friends are like 25 varieties of wildflower and maybe one bluebird and they wear an actual, honest-to-patchwork, ruffled Holly Hobby bonnet which they wear unironically.  They probably own a grainy recording of the Royal Ballet’s Tales of Beatrix Potter.   They smell of dew-dappled violets at dawn, lacy cotton curtains drying in a chilly October breeze, and soft leather boots that have never clicked or clacked on concrete;  they only know the quiet creeping moss and curling fern of woodland paths.

I purchased Shay & Blue Cotton Flower because I thought it might be similar to a scent I am very fond of: Bath and Body Works Clean Cotton Blossom which then became Sea Island Cotton and which is now Fresh Cotton, but is perhaps not even available anymore? I loved the idea of that scent because it always conjured a sort of Anne of Green Gables Gunne Sax feeling for me, like cottagecore pre-whenever people started referring to it as cottagecore. Cotton Flower is less bleachy and screechy than any of the B&BW iterations; it doesn’t have that harsh lemony lily of the valley cleaning product aspect. It’s a bit woodier and muskier and warmer, with a golden nectarine glow, which is not to say it’s fruity, but it’s got a rather peachy-coral-vermillion-emberglow YouTube vaporwave neon sunset version of the scent of something like a nectarine. Shay & Blue Tonka Angelica is a resinous vanilla incense almond blossom pudding, with an underlying plastic milkiness reminiscent of Japanese milk candy.

There’s something about Craft from Andrea Maack that feels sleek and reflective, like the soaring chrome spires of a retrofuturistic sci-fi megastructure and its mechanized cybernetic inhabitants. It’s a cool, bloodless scent, like frost flowers on glass, and wintry chilled metal. I hadn’t read the description prior to writing down these thoughts and now I’m simultaneously pleased and peeved because I picked up on this perfume’s vibe to such an extent I’ve almost quoted the website’s copy about jet packs and robots right back at you. This is one of those instances when it seems the concept and the execution align in an almost preternaturally perfect way… like the android overlords have implanted these ideas directly into my brain!

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At the start of September I was pretty bummed because Florida Septembers are not super magical.  I don’t know what it’s like where you’re at, but in Florida, autumn really seems to dither and dilly-dally and lollygag and all those funny old-fashioned words that mean something’s taking too effing long!

So I  just did all the autumn things I love anyhow, to make myself feel better and perhaps summon some autumn feels while I was at it… and I thought it might be fun to film them along the way for a MONTAGE. Who doesn’t love a montage?  So yeah, here’s 3 weeks of homebody autumnal stuff distilled into about 5 minutes worth of video.

My videos aren’t like the top quality or whatever, but I have fun making them, so I hope you will give it a watch! And as per usual, everything mentioned in the video can be found below.

🎃 wreath and felt woodland creature dangle from World Market
🎃 pumpkin spice creamer recipe
🎃 sourdough bread recipe 
🎃 pumpkin bread recipe
🎃 Dragonhoard yarn
🎃 Comfort Fade cardi pattern
🎃 Zoologist Bat https://www.zoologistperfumes.com/pro…
🎃 Chris Collins Autumn Rhythm
🎃 Solstice Scents Estate Carnation
🎃 Pineward Fanghorn II
🎃 bloodmilk x BPAL Owl Moon
🎃 Arcana Wildcraft Holy Terror 
🎃 BPAL Limited Edition Pumpkin Smut is not available but their 2023 Halloween collection is live!
🎃 Botanical Interest seeds
🎃 Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle 
🎃 Lone Women by Victor LaValle
🎃 Let Him In by William Friend
🎃 Never Whistle At Night : An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology
🎃 Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy
🎃 The Watchers by A.M. Shine

 

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cover art by George Ziel for Shorecliff by Marilyn Ross

A full moon hangs low in the sky, its eerie glow casting flickering shadows in the tangled, overgrown gardens. Ancient trees loom like spectral sentinels, their gnarled branches tangling the curls of an anguished heroine, her hair whipping in the wind as she flees an unseen menace. Hark, a lone candle beckons from a distant window–but is it in welcome, or in warning?

In the shadowy realm where danger and desire entwine, George Ziel’s (1914–1982) haunting brushstrokes captured the essence of the genre, bringing to life its dark and captivating world. Ablaze with passion and peril and replete with the gothic imagery of crumbling castles, abandoned ruins, and overgrown cemeteries, these works were mesmerizing bewitchments, both beautiful and terrifying, invitations into a world of mystery and suspense.

cover art by George Ziel for The Haunting of Elizabeth Calder

An artist in his very soul regardless of circumstance, Ziel (born Jerzy Zielensky) survived the atrocities of WWII and the Warsaw Ghettos with his powerful need to create art intact; after his liberation and during hospital convalescence, he turned the desperate scrap paper and charcoal sketches of his fellow prisoners in the notorious camp into new drawings which were then collected into stark, unforgettable books and published in 1946.

After the war, Ziel moved to New York City and embarked upon his incredibly prolific career as a commercial artist, creating countless pulp paperback novel covers. He left behind a legacy of many hundreds of lurid book covers– brooding gothics, macabre horror, even lush romances– a lifetime of painterly visions and shivery wonderments to capture the imagination and transport readers to mysterious realms of secrets and darkness.

Read more of George Ziel’s biography and career over at Lynn Munroe books, and see below for a small gallery of my favorites from among his beautiful nightmares.

 

cover art by George Ziel for Inherit the Mirage by Julia Thatcher

 

cover art by George Ziel for Twilight Return by Jean Kimbro

 

cover art by George Ziel for The Storm Witch by Elisabeth Barr

 

cover art by George Ziel for The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

 

cover art by George Ziel for Nightgleams by Julia Thatcher

 

cover art by George Ziel for Black Candle by Christine Randell

 

covert art by George Ziel for Appleshaw by Christine Damien

 

cover art by George Ziel for House of the Darkest Death by Alicia Grace

 

cover art by George Ziel for Dark Waters of Death by Sharon Wagner

 

cover art by George Ziel for Whispering Gables by Sandra Abbott

 

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Back in the dark ages of 2010, I found this intriguing gal on a wunderkammer of a website called Ectoplasmosis, and shared it on my own Tumblr.  The span of internet years is akin to vast aeons, so of course, thirteen years later, the Ectoplasmosis blog has long since crumbled to dust …but it has not exactly blown away in the wind as if it never existed at all. I just checked, and there is an Ectoplasmosis Tumblr, and it looks like one of the co-founders is still around. At the time of my initial queries, they never answered my questions about who this mysterious headdress gal was, so it’s doubtful they know anything more over a decade later, so I never bothered following up over the years.

I probably saw her image, sans context, online right around the same time I was doing some digging on the mysterious, similarly dramatic-headdressed woman who turned out to be Maria Germanova, a Russian actress. I don’t know if I can take credit for putting Maria’s name to that enigmatic face, but there was nothing online connecting her name to that carte de visite until I found it, so I think I can!

I do make a point of sharing the above image on social media every year or so because I am hopeful that it will eventually hit a pair of eyeballs that know something about the provenance of the image. It’s been pretty dismal pickings, though. Everyone always confidently asserts, “It’s Theda Bara!!” (probably because they are thinking of this image), and while I don’t consider myself an expert in identifying things like this, I have never agreed with that assessment. Many other people often suggest the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (who strangely enough is erroneously noted as having Maria Germanova’s face, such as in this Wide Walls article, which is going to annoy me until the day I die, but oh well, I guess.)

At any rate, many years have passed since I first began the quest for the identity of the horned headdress woman, and it has remained frustratingly fruitless… until now.

I was recently involved in another mystery, that of the cover artist for a particular edition of A Wrinkle in Time (if you don’t care to read the transcript or listen to the excellent podcast, it’s Richard Bober), and the NYT picked up and reported on the story as well. In asking me a few questions about it, the reporter inquired if I had any more mysteries I needed help with, and I thought EUREKA! Here’s a chance to get way more eyeballs in my arsenal!

Earlier this year, I made a little meme with this image, and on that post an Instagram commenter by the moniker of “doctorstockton” pointed me to the UF site, where someone was curating and highlighting “Gems of the Archive” –and unholy towering headdresses, there she was in this collection of  Cuban Cigarette Cards of Erotica. According to the information here, apparently, in order to sell cigarettes to Cubans still wedded to hand-rolled cigars, Cuba’s earliest cigarette companies began including images of scantily clad and sometimes even bare-breasted women in every box. This collection dates from the early 1920s and advertised the company Cigarros Nacionales on the back of every card; every card invites the smokers to collect all ten series of cards. So…our mysterious headdress woman was a collectible trading card? Like a Garbage Pail Kid?

I immediately reached out to the Cuban Studies Department to see if anyone was able to share any additional information, and I received the most marvelous email back from Lillian Guerra, Ph.D., a Professor of Cuban & Caribbean History at the University of Florida. Professor Guerra generously offered that:

“The whole bunch of these cards are available in an archival collection under my name at UF and is open for viewing to the public. That will not necessarily get you any further on who this female model was, but I am fairly certain that her name was “Geraldy” and that she is also featured in the card that we placed right next to the one with the horned crown: I-7. Her real name was Geraldina, although I don’t know her last name. She was quite famous in the 1910s and 1920s. I have always wondered if she starred in the Cuban theatre of the time as she clearly appears in that guise, rather than simply in lingerie like many others.”

She then goes on to add:

“…The women in these cards were not sex workers, per se; they did generally work in the cabaret business and may have been free-lance sex workers, but the quality of the imagery here speaks to the notion that they were not of the lowest licensed class of sex workers. (In Cuba, there were five categories of licensed prostitutes under Spanish colonial rule in the 19th century.) It is likely that these women modelled for expensive lingerie stores that catered to the women of the highest elite class on the side of main professional occupations as elite cabaret dancers, singers and waitresses.”

Professor Guerra notes that they will not be uploading the new material for the site until October 1, but will run new material every month from Oct 1 until the end of May 2024. She says hat she will be featuring female figures in the first set of Gems of the Archives, mostly teachers, and that she is trying to make it more intimate in the history it tells this year. I, for one, will be checking in often to see what fascinating individuals she will feature in the future.

So…I think that may be as solved as this mystery is going to get for the time being! What do you think?  Many, many thanks to doctorstockton for the tip and Professor Guerra for the knowledge,  insight, and stories. No thanks at all given to the people with an overinflated sense of confidence who keep insisting this woman was Theda Bara, with absolutely no proof or evidence at all.

 

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Friends and fans of fairies and unicorns and monsters and heroes and Neverlands and Lalalands! You can now purchase a signed copy of The Art of Fantasy directly from me!  Need a little peek before you buy? That’s fair, and I have plenty for you…

𖤣 The Art of Fantasy Sneak Peeks: Creatures Great and Small
𖤣 The Art of Fantasy: Forgotten Worlds and Wonderlands
𖤣 The Art of Fantasy: Interior Spreads
𖤣 Even More Peeks At The Art of Fantasy

*Please note this is for US purchases only.*

 

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I’ve been curating little capsule collections of fragrances for myself each month— a “marinade,” if you will — and I have particularly been looking forward to revisiting these autumnal selections for spooky season. If you’re interested in hearing more about these perfumes, head on over to my TikTok account!

 

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I am a bit overwhelmed, and I don’t know what more there is to say about it anymore, but the case is cracked, and the mystery is solved! You can read all about it and listen to the story over at The Endless Thread Podcast today.

And also, because I do not want to possibly contribute to confusion for future people seeking this answer, I’m going to include it plain as day right here: it’s Richard Bober! But you should listen to the podcast anyway because it was lots of fun hearing about the twists and turns that eventually led to the answer. You need to experience the whole wild ride! Many, many thanks to all of the people who left comments on this blog post, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and on all of the various subreddits. And a huge thanks to John Coulthart for A LOT of suggestions and ideas and, of course, Adam Rowe and Michael Whelan, who shared their expertise and connections and got so many eyeballs and brain noodles involved!

In the meantime, if you need to reacquaint yourself with this particular mystery, you can read all about it here. A Mystery That Should Not Exist: Who Is The Cover Artist For This Edition Of A Wrinkle In Time?

AND ALSO, I never would have made the connections and guessed it was this particular artist; however, he was not entirely new to me. Do you recall me sharing this image all over social media a few years back? Well…it’s the same artist!!

 

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Surrealist jewelers of psychic armor, bloodmilk, sent me their most recent collaboration with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a fragrance called “Comet,” which is described as “Glittering shards of icy white plum, crystalized pink peppercorn, Oman frankincense, and silvered amber arc through a midnight haze of Sumatran patchouli, velvet oakmoss, and hothouse orchids.” This is pretty thrilling because it seems like the universe has delivered another pink peppercorn perfume when I was seeking such things. Passing between worlds over an unfathomable span of time, an ancient journey’s ending, and the abundant exuberance of new life that springs from it. This is a scent that opens with an incendiary collision of superheated off-gassing resins and the euphoric kaleidoscope of a summer meadow in full bloom, a curious but joyful amber-floral conflagration. As the incandescent radiation of the crash site dims and cools and condenses, strange alien flora, dormant in the ice and dust of deep space, burst forth and blossom, a vibrant pageant of lush, aromatic petals unfurl and fruit and ripen and decay in the span of seconds, releasing soft, fleecy seed pods in a billowing puff of bittersweet, powdery musk. Carried softly on the breeze, these small travelers burrow in the earth, float to the clouds, and enter warm bodies with an intake of breath. Other journeys. Other worlds.

Delta of Venus from Eris Parfum is built around guava, and here’s a confession: I have never smelled or tasted guava, so it’s not for me to say how realistic it is, but here’s another confession: I don’t come to fragrance for realism, so who cares! What I do experience is a fragrance ravenously lush and rosy-glowing with exuberance, a thronging pulse of velvety sunset mango, the tart-tinglingly bright shiver of pineapple, and the bittersweet toe-curling juicy astringency and vaguely funky musk of pink grapefruit. There’s nothing dark about this scent, but there’s an underlying luxe, shadowy floral that I can’t help but associate with black velvet in a way, in gorgeous contrast to those invitingly vibrant tropical fruits. In my mind’s eye, this is a brooding black velvet vanitas painting with a prismatic profusion of soft fruits tumbling lusciously off the canvas.

This is a bit unfortunate because up until now, I have loved everything I have tried from Kerosene, but Wood Haven smells like a damp, mildewed cedar bento box emptied of its contents, save a few shrimpy and brackish strips of rehydrated kombu and sour scraps of pungently pickled ginger. They can’t all be winners, I guess.

With notes of neroli, fig, bergamot, red currant, and rain lily, Brazilian Lily from Blocki is a humid, sultry honeyed orange blossom with a gorgeous glassy chartreuse streak of neon brightness. On one hand, it conjures visions of a butterfly rainforest exhibit, that lush, floral dampness, and the electric tickle of tiny wings, and on the other, it calls to mind an avant-garde weirdo tropical beach bloom art installation that becomes a midnight bioluminescent glow stick rave. I know I’ve been longing for autumn lately, but with this perfume is an endless summer evening, and I am lost in its dreaming. LC of nearlynoseblind wrote the copy for this scent and I think that is very, very cool.

Carbonara from Lorenzo Pazzaglia is another scent in my pink peppercorn journey. Lorenzo Pazzaglia is a perfumer I only heard about last year in a Facebook group which I no longer even really lurk in because I just cannot with perfume drama. Or any fandom drama or nonsense. On the one hand, I love connecting with people through a shared interest, but on the other, nothing will ruin an enthusiasm faster than the other people who share it. If anyone has ever wondered why I may seem aloof and uninvolved, that’s why. On an individual basis, I love the idea of kindred spirits, and it’s great when those connections happen organically, but I will not join group situations of them anymore. ANYWAY, no one asked about that, but there you go. So the cool thing about this perfumer is that he is also a chef, and as an enthusiastic home cook myself, I most definitely experience that link between taste and smell. Carbonara, the fragrance is a really interesting take on Carbonara, the unctuous peppery, pasta dish, wherein he expresses those savory elements through a gourmand experience: there’s a plush, creamy amber vanilla, an earthy, faintly smoky brown sugar, coconut milky with a gentle salinity, and a trio of peppers that prickle enigmatically. It’s wrapped up with a woody, boozy velvety aspect that I can’t associate with the dish at all, but it provides a rich, aromatic *something* that reigns in a fragrance that might also be at home on a dessert cart. I want to try all of this perfumer’s offerings, and I might eat them, too.

I try to respect a perfumer’s vision when it comes to the inspiration for their fragrances, but the description for Kill the Lights from Gritti Fragrance, with its story of a one-of-a-kind leather-clad, out-of-control rule breaker roaring through the storm on his beastly motorcycle, doesn’t do it for me at all. Nothing in those words resonates, and, respectfully, that’s not my story while wearing this scent. Instead, this musty balsamic woody floral takes me to a very literal place, the song Kill the Lights, from Canadian darkwave synth-rock band The Birthday Massacre’s 2007 Walking With Strangers album. This lush, melancholic song always sounded like someone found a dusty book of fairy tales and paraphrased those enchantments through a gothy, gloomy world-weary, jaded 20-year-old’s “them’s the breaks, kid” kind of lens. There’s a miasma of last night’s perfume and smoky bars about it, coupled with dusty pages plummy with the poison of hope and happy endings. It’s another scent in my pink pepper journey and also has enigmatic inclusions of artemisia and davana–two evocative notes which always catch my fancy– and though I’m not necessarily getting out of it what the creator had in mind, I’m still finding it an intriguing and enjoyable scent.

I am revisiting my samples from Sorecellerie Apothecary. I recall making a video remarking that the scents in my first order all smelled alike, but when I revisited what I ordered, I chose all 5-6 scents based on notes that appealed to me. SO if they did smell similar…that’s kind of on me for choosing the way I did! Right now, I’m wearing Strings of Light in the Forest, which when I first tried it, didn’t appeal to me for whatever reason, but today, I can’t get enough of it. With notes that include vanilla milkshake beeswax, and lavender, this is actually quite lovely. The soft, creamy vanilla, glowing amber, and velvety ambroxan are giving me vintage Vanilla Fields vibes, and I hate to compare indie perfumer’s offerings to mainstream perfumes because I’m pretty sure they don’t care for it when people do that, but that is what I smell, and there are no complaints here because I loved my old bottle of Vanilla Fields. There’s a chilly backbone to the scent not quite herbal, not quite astringent, but a cool, crystalline core that lends a spectral shivery …I don’t want to say freshness, but there is a feeling of frigid ozone that frosts over any lingering sweetness. Overall, it does make me think of lights in the forest, in a very specific way. When the fellowship is in the woods of Lothlorien, Legolas describes them as “ …the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn, their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.”

Notturno, by Meo Fusciuni, is a fragrance that is meant to evoke the poetry and the imaginary rooms of night. It is soft, so soft, which is interesting for a leather-forward fragrance because, unlike most, there’s nothing acrid or smoky or tannic about it. This is leather worn close to the skin and worn down over years, padding up and down hardwood stairs in the hours of darkness, tufted with fur and spiked with little claws. Springing silently into bed with you at midnight, kneading a small spot in the midst of faded flannel quilts, and snoozing in the crook of your knees. You know these are dreams and ghosts and wisps of memory; your dear inky-furred friend died twelve years ago on a June afternoon and is buried under a lightning-struck oak in New Jersey. A phone on the creaky cedar nightstand illuminates the hour; she often visits at this time. These are warm, blanket-soft moments, a sweet slip in time or space, or sleep when everything is safe and good and exactly as it should be.

I’ve recently been sampling several perfumes from Meo Fusciuni. So far, these are all introspective, quiet creations–nothing bold or bombastic, but they’re all really lovely, and I get the sense from interviews and the way shop keeps and other perfumers talk about him that he is a thoughtful, elegant, and articulate fellow.  Because I agonize over these things, I wonder if he might be bummed out (or maybe, hopefully, elated?) to read a review wherein someone compares his Spirito offering to a less sleazy, more delicate and pensive Drakkar Noir?

Ok, some context. I love Drakkar Noir. I always have. My high school boyfriend used to wear it, and I found it rather swoony. In retrospect, I am realizing that I wanted it to be a swoony fragrance FOR ME. I wanted to smell like a villainous rascal reeking of peppery-woody-musky fougère! And somehow –just today!– I am realizing that I have been drawn to various iterations of this combination of notes all throughout my journey with perfume.My journey with perfume.” I don’t mean to sound pretentious. It’s not even a journey, really. I’m not trying to get anywhere; there’s no end destination. And I’ll always be an amateur. And that’s fine! I’m not trying to be an expert or a guru. I want to smell and learn. And learn and smell some more. And when I die, I hope it’s right after I smell something surprising and learn something new! I digress.

When I smelled Spirito this morning, I thought, “Gosh! This is like Drakkar Noir leveling up after 12 lifetimes, and it’s finally stopped being the skeeziest guy at titty bars. It mediates and keeps a journal, and it’ll listen with intent when you talk now, and it’ll ask you if you want venting space or solution space. It’s sensitive and self-aware. Maybe even a little wistful and ruminative.

In reviewing their various compositions, it looks like they don’t have an awful lot in common. Just angelica, lavender, vetiver, and cedar. Maybe the interplay between the notes creates some kind of connection for me, I don’t know. But I’m sticking with it. Spirito is a poetry-reading, contemplative Drakkar Noir whose roguish heart, it turns out, is just as fragile and hopeful, just as much as a dreamer as mine.

Meo Fusciuni, I mean no offense or insult! I adore Drakkar Noir, and as far as I am concerned, it is legendary. And Spirito took it (or my memory of it) to task and turned it into something softer, lovelier, and better.

Coastal Veil from Pineward is heavy rain clouds rolling in on a prickly breeze coupled with a brisk, delicate brininess. A placid little tidepool of a scent, a child’s memory postcard from those still, secret spaces where the sea meets the land, filtered through the misty haze of a grey, overcast day. Little fish darting between little sun-dappled shadows, starfish clinging to rock, sand dollars buried in the sediment, kelp frond canopies, and algae-slicked stone. Every six hours, a new world, a new memory to cup in your small palm, to lap at your tiny toes, to dream foggy snippets of in later years and wonder if it happened at all.

August Picnic, 1976 from DSH Perfumes: an elusive and ephemeral splash of zesty, effervescent, subtly sweet-tart strawberry lemonade joie de vivre on a summer day when the grass is blindingly green and tall enough to tickle your knees and the sun hangs golden above the cedars, not even the barest whisper of winter in its shade—the joyous and wistful and fleeting perfume of an idyllic June afternoon.

Kupala from Fantome Perfume, with its notes of bonfire, birch, and dewy fern, is inspired by Slavic solstice celebrations, but in this scent, I immediately smell smoky fur tinged with a sweet, rich perfume, spilled red wine dark as blood, nocturnal creatures reveling in cool midnight air under a full moon and weirdly enough, wreathed in fragrant yellow daisies, and the TV on the Radio Lyrics: “Got a curse we cannot lift //Shines when the sunshine shifts // There’s a curse comes with a kiss // The bite that binds the gift that gives.” So here me out…what if this is the witching hour of summer solstice celebrations…but with howling werewolves in the midst of feverish transformation?

Velvet Moon is a collaboration between perfumer Poesie and indie PerfumeTok darling uncommonsmells.  With notes of cardamom, black pepper, beeswax candles and inspired by a dark academia midnight hour moment of being ensconced in a darkened library lined with bookshelves and brooding portraits, cloaked in velvet and moonlight, this is one of those times when I can get a perfect vision of what the perfumer what trying to evoke–or at least my version of it, filtered through my own perspectives and experiences. Before stories you may know featuring murderous campus cults and demonic professors opening portals to hell and Greek lessons gone weird or whatever, there was Lois Duncan’s 1974 book Down A Dark Hall. I don’t want to assume one way or the other, but if you are unfamiliar, Lois Duncan wrote twisty YA thrillers that usually touched on the supernatural, and if you know her for nothing else, you know of the movies adapted from her book I Know What You Did Last Summer. In Down A Dark Hal, five young women are chosen for a remote, mysterious boarding school called Blackwood. They begin to flourish academically and artistically even as they unravel and dwindle away, and you eventually learn the horrifying mystery of the school. I think Velvet Moon smells exactly like the scene from this iconic book cover that’s been emblazoned on my brain for the past 30-odd years: skin damp from the bath, soft with a gently spiced lotion, rich oaken panel walls, and opulent staircases, and the sweet golden glow of candlelight beyond which dark forces are lurking and hungry. This scent is currently sold out, but I hear that it will be back tomorrow, September 1st!

Jade Vines from Regime des Fleurs is a scent I had hoped I would not love, but I knew I was doomed because I’ve really enjoyed most things from this not-entirely-budget-friendly brand. The way I want to talk about is probably unhelpful to those seeking literal reviews of perfumes, so: the straightforward take is that this is a tremulous woody green fever dream dripping with tuberose’s luminous, honeyed hallucinatory incense. There’s nothing really aquatic about it, at least not in a light-hearted sunny marine sense, but I envision a thalassic altar to invoke something darker from the depths of the abyss; picture Uxia Cambarro as the Priestess of the Esoteric Order of Dagon in her lair, a shadowy grotto dimly lit by iridescent algae blooms and spectral, glowing salt crystal. So there’s that verdant woodland, dreamy white floral element but also something of secret caverns by the sea and echoes of the arcane rituals that once took place in the darkness there. The further I think on either of these aspects, the more they elude me; it’s the perfumed equivalent of being kept in a room with more corners than logic says is possible or rereading over and over the same page of a book with the unsettling suspicion that it’s somehow vaguely different each time. I highly suggest you sample this scent while listening to the Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble to heighten the weirdness.

 

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I am very much a creature of habit.

So, much as I did for the two previous books, I was compelled to create a “How To Wear” for my newest offering, The Art of Fantasy! These items were pieced together to create an ensemble full of *immaculate vibes* and not because I’m trying to get you to buy any of these things; my sartorial daydreams are opulent and not inexpensive, so yes–many of these things are stupidly pricey, I am well aware of that! Also, I apologize if some of these things are sold out or discontinued, but you can often find the same or similar items on resale sites.

Ulla Johnson Fiona Dress (no longer available) // Dita von Teese bra and panties // Valentino shawl (no longer available) // Cecelia Hibiscus Heels //Jennifer Behr butterfly pin set // Braccacialini snail handbag // Renaissance cameo pendant // bloodmilk Dreaming Underground ritual strand (no longer available) // Porter Gulch Marie Ring // Rituel de Fille Anthelion Gold Luminizer // Amali carved dove ring // Pillar opal ring // Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths fragrance // Florasis Goddess palette

BONUS! Here are the ensembles I assembled for the previous two books…

 

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