The Four Devils of my Undoing

THE DEVILSCENT PROJECT  III

- a review (of a kind) of Ellen Covey/Olympic Orchids‘ four submissions for the Devilscent Project

Understand, these things don’t happen to me. I live such a drab, ordinary, invisible life…going to work, dropping off Super Mario at school and picking him up, existing only for those late night places in my imagination where shadows reign in the corners, when the boy and the cats are asleep, when all is quiet and only the click-clack of a keyboard taps its erratic rhythm in my room as I evoke the ghosts I find in sample vials and bottles and write down the stories they tell. Sometimes, it’s bliss and sometimes it’s a rarified form of torture when the words play hide-and-seek beyond my sixteen hour old days, or when those liquid chimaeras spark amber glints of defiance, choose to hide behind the Fail Demon’s back and won’t come out to play.

I nearly thought that happened again when Ellen Covey’s four Devs arrived in their tissue-wrapped box, thought that after all this time and anticipation, my vocabulary would surely fail me, fail to convey the flood of emotions I felt when I sniffed at their contents. This was so important, loomed so large in my imagination for such a long time as I wondered and I wandered down the primrose path of perfumed perdition that nothing I could possibly say would ever do them justice. They were all four like nothing Ellen had ever made, like nothing I had ever encountered before, each of the four a unique facet, a gossamer thread, a highlight, an ancient tale of long ago and a futurity for that storied creature I had conjured one night out of boredom and music and an old and archetypal story.

There I sat and I pondered and I fretted as I twirled my hair and drank my tea and felt a faraway ghostly presence breathe down my neck. That was me as I waved my blotters of Fabriano paper in the air and paced the floor, as I perused my thesaurus and bit my nails and sprayed my skin, that was the despairing writer who finally gave it up and went to bed with only Hairy Krishna’s ginger purr to console me, a faint trail of perfume hidden in his fur.

No one has ever had much faith in you, have they? I do.

At some unknown dead hour of night, I woke with a start. Was it a dream? I didn’t know, I knew only that Krishna had finally moved away from the small of my back and I could roll over, and as I adjusted the pillow and grabbed my duvet a little tighter, I heard a voice behind me in the dark, felt a human heat burn down my back in my single bed, an arm around me.

“Shhh. Don’t move.” Dev’s voice right by my ear. “If you do, you’ll ruin the spell. Lie still. Tell me what you feel, tell me what you smell.”

“Something both very light and very dark and very complex, so much going on in this bottle, something that tells me…to be careful, something woody and plush but very bright, bright like spice and evergreen together. There has to be oud in it, too, that same raspy edge, yet it’s sweet, too…sweet like..vanilla or maybe tolu, yes, I think that’s it and…” I shifted in the darkness. He was right behind me, this wasn’t a dream, this was real, and if this was real, this was very, very dangerous. As it got warmer under that duvet, his scent grew even headier, smokier and animalic without ever losing that bright, woody, oud-y, spicy bite. This one had teeth, but they were hidden behind an alluring veil of something very much alive and aware, was it frankincense I could sense in the distance, so many ancient secrets, something that read my stories and read between the words too, read the secrets and the truths I concealed behind them.

“This is you…” I whispered to the dark, “this is you in the beginning, before she knows what she’s getting herself into, when you read her mind and you know what she wants. You know but you’ll never tell her, you’ll let her believe that you can make it happen, that her wishes will come true…but there’s a danger here she won’t know until it’s far too late…

That animal heat burning down my back, that human animal pulsing in the dark in my room, breathing that perilous dream alive. I had no sooner thought those words when my eyes shot open, and Krishna’s amber eyes glowed feline for an instant above my leg. I was alone. But was it a dream?

My continents shifted, my ice caps melted, my magnetic poles were realigned.

I was lost…lost in some kaleidoscopic whirling Technicolor reverie of running breathless down a street, someone hot in pursuit behind me, then, there was no street, only the hard surface of a locked door, and next, nothing but this dense, demanding fiery dream, this multitude of sensations and scent, this another, fevered heat. This was a complex, fragrant fever that took and demanded, that overrode all my hesitations, that never asked and never told, this…blend of layers upon layers of meaning unfolding as I dreamt.

That blistering shock to my senses, far richer, denser and thicker than before, and all I could do was to take it without question, the animal feel and exultation of this arm around me, this skin, this impenetrable, all-pervasive need. I had no secrets I could hide, no doubts I could slip in between the spice and the leather, nowhere to run before this inhuman, intangible creature of sacred smoke and beastly appetites, couldn’t possibly refuse to follow where it led me, where it took me further into that dark I never knew before. All I knew was this lava in my blood and this tempest in my mind and all I would ever want ever again was this many-layered landscape of wanted and needed, even if it hurt, even if I cried, even if I never would know daylight again, I didn’t care, I didn’t care…

I bolted upright in an instant. A dream. It was a dream. Only a dream, witnessed by the dark outside my window and my frantic heartbeat singing in my ears and a cat that dug its claws in my arm so softly as it stretched, sighed and jumped off the bed in search of a snack.

It was only a dream.

There’s an old saying about love affairs. You can always remember the first time, but you can never remember the last.

“There’s an old saying about love affairs. You can always remember the first time, but you can never remember the last.”

Two dreams in this strange and almost endless night, dreams provoked by these haunting, haunted perfumes, dreams that brought me back to my story in ways I could never have imagined, dreams unfolding as that story of Dev and that desperate woman he ensnared who had so little left to lose except the one dream she had left, and this sleepless night, with this bittersweet perfume, it all comes back…with this exceptional and unique heartbreak-in-a-bottle. I looked out of the window into a moonless black night, and intimations of the animal from the dream before purr their low mumble in the background, but this is a moody, melancholy, tetchy Dev, because he knows the price he’ll pay, the price he’s always paid for being the Guardian of nightmares and negatives, it’s soaked into this spiky, raspy, redolent wood like her tears, seeped into the fabric of good and evil and even Earth itself with that underlying heartbeat of furry beast and sacred being, of despised monster and eternal scapegoat, of otherwordly and all too human. Frankincense – it must be – wafting its ancient, arcane secrets with its siblings myrrh and labdanum, and it won’t matter and won’t change what will and has to happen. The play must go on, the charade must continue to its inevitable end, and endings are the price we all pay for any dream come true.

I lay back down and pulled up the duvet, and as it rustled, Krishna ran into the room and jumped up, as if to say… “Get over it. You’re still dreaming.” He prodded a leg into a more comfortable position and curled up behind my knees.

Maybe Krishna was right. Or Buddha, and I was still lost of this world of mana and illusion, an illusion I created, and Ellen brought back to life?

I remembered everything. And everything hurt to remember.

“Don’t move.” Again, that familiar voice in the dark, that familiar weight of an arm over my waist, and a different, haunting heat burning down my back. SO solid, so warm, so fragrant, it had to be real.

“Am I still dreaming?”

“Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t. Maybe this project in the intangible – your words and these perfumes – is an exercise in materializing your dream, have you thought of that?”

“Just like my story…and my harebrained idea…about you, about frankincense and labdanum and peril and passion, but this is…” I breathed it deeper. That cool and pine-like breath,  something evergreen, frankincense, that plush and furry labdanum, it must have been, there was a drop – just one – of something sweet. Not benzoin, not vanilla, maybe Peru or tolu balsam, but still just a tiny drop.

“This is me, and this is you, not your protagonist.” I felt his breath on my neck, felt his hand brush my hair away as he nestled closer and whispered in my ear. “The time for fiction and disguises is over, baby. Those were just the tools you needed to set things in motion to make them real.”

“But you’re not real. You’re just a figment of my imagination.”

“How can you be so sure? Once upon a time a very long time ago, a girl of fifteen heard the Devil in her head saying… ‘You, girl, should write. That’s what you were meant to do, that was your purpose.’ Somewhere down the line, you forgot that dream and that conversation. I’m reminding you now. All those years and all that life between became fuel for that fire that made you write this story and these words.” He laughed softly in the dark, so softly, not even Krishna on my other side stirred.

“Now, I’m becoming more real, now that ghost you conjured has materialized in another kind of alchemy, and now, maybe other fictions can become fact, too.”

“C’mon. It’s just a story, yet another clichéd Faustian first novel, a metaphor for my own silly dreams.”

“Didn’t you know? That’s how all reality begins. With a dream.”

Before I could protest, a harp chord began to play in the dark, and I woke up for the last time this night and turned off my alarm. As Krishna stretched and began his own early morning song, as I staggered out to the kitchen and switched on the kettle for my coffee, that phrase reverberated in my head and stayed for the rest of that day.

“All reality begins…with a dream.”

That haunting scent of labdanum and frankincense and otherworldly, bitter, dark…

And sometimes it happens…that even dreams come true.

As the perfumer who made me a perfume writer just proved…

_______________________________________________

Notes: (taken from the enclosed envelope Ellen added with stern instructions not to open it until after my review!)

Dev no. 1: Three kinds of synthetic oud, woody base notes, black vanilla, clear labdanum absolute, synthetic musk deer accord, Africa stone tincture, ambergris tincture, synthetic civet, tolu balsam, beeswax absolute, frankincense, African bluegrass, giant arborvitae and cinnamon leaf.

Dev no. 2: Clear, dark and green labdanum, tolu balsam, black agar, woody base notes, musks including ambrette and the deer musk accord, castoreum, a different version of civet, cistus, incense accord, immortelle absolute, cade, davana, leather, rose, clove CO2 extract, cardamom, cinnamon and cinnamon leaf.

Dev no. 3: New Caledonian sandalwood absolute, dark labdanum, clear labdanum, red spikenard, fossilized amber, ambergris tincture, black truffle tincture, cistus, cassie absolute, frankincense, davana, African bluegrass, myrrh tincture, motia attar & cinnamon leaf.

Dev no. 4: Clear labdanum absolute, tolu balsam, dark labdanum, woody base notes, frankincense, arborvitae. 

Ellen Covey’s stunning perfumes are available at Olympic Orchids.

The Breath of Eternity

- a review of Opus Oils’ The Divine Collection – Isis

Many, many gods and goddesses have made their indelible impressions on history, imagination and the human mind. Mythology is nothing more nor less than the sum total of every lesson we humans need to learn in order to evolve and move forward, and so those many gods and goddesses are all expressions of basic human truths and a basic human need for the numinous, the sacred, that which is both above and beyond us and connects us with that deep, secret bedrock of our very selves.

Among all those many gods and goddesses of our storied past and present futures, one of the most important of all is the Egyptian goddess Isis. She was the embodiment of the ideal woman, wife of Osiris, mother of Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the giver of eternity in the afterlife. When Osiris was murdered and thoroughly dismembered by his brother Set, Isis walked the earth to find for all his scattered parts, and when she had them, she transformed herself into a kite, flew above him and breathed him back to life.

Even Christian iconography and its many thousands of images of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus traced their origin directly back to Isis and baby Horus. She was worshiped from Egypt to Britain and from Tingis (in modern Morocco) to a remote Essene stronghold near the Dead Sea. The Roman writer Apuleius in the second century quoted her:

I am nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the ocean, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, my nod governs the shining heights of Heavens, the wholesome sea breezes. Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names … some know me as Juno, some as Bellona … the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship call me by my true name…Queen Isis.

All these many years later, Isis is also an all-natural perfume in Opus Oils’ Divine Collection, and all these many perfumes later, her arcane magic has been so very hard to resist.

Kedra Hart told me that that Isis contains no less than three different kinds of lotus absolute – pink lotus, white water lily, which is often called lotus but in fact is another species of flower, and the fabled blue lotus which was used everywhere in ancient Egypt.

Blue lotus is an intriguing bloom. Every morning, it emerges from the water and opens up its petals to the sun, only to close them up at noon and retreat back into the water. It was a symbol of immortality, used in many medicines, presented to the Gods – and even to Isis – and its blooms were famous not just for their haunting perfume, but for their effect – they were soaked in wine and drunk as an aphrodisiac. The very scent of blue lotus itself has been shown to have psychoactive properties on the brain, and recently, a study proved the Egyptians were on to something – blue lotus contains phosphodiesters – which make Viagra so effective!

Isis is a hard perfume to pin down. Those three unmistakable lotuses – the blue, the pink and white water lily might make you think that Isis would be aquatic and ethereal, when in fact it is nothing of the kind.

A very long time ago, I once had a boyfriend who made a point of taking me to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen when the blue lotus bloomed to present me with a flower or two. Once you’ve sniffed a lotus, it’s impossible to mistake it for anything else – it is floral and green, earthy and warm, heady and haunting.

Right from the beginning, lotus is apparent – a juicy, jasmine-flecked, deep, complex lotus. The spicier pink lotus peeks out among the jasmine and the more ethereal white water lily too, all of them somehow a sum total of lotus both magical and alluring. As it opens up its fragrant petals on your skin, that exquisite sandalwood note I find in many Opus Oils is detectable in the far distance, but for a very long time, it’s all about those lotuses. Isis is no ordinary Goddess – and these flowers are no quotidian blooms. They entwine themselves around you in a warm, sensuous hug, and after a stressed out day that has you spread thinner than gold plating, suddenly, all your missing pieces come together into one fragrant entity, standing tall, standing proud, as serene as a secret lotus unfolding its petals in the sunrise among the reeds of the Nile.

I may be only frail and human, and I may never be immortal, but even I sometimes need a little centering calm in my own busy life, a reconnection with all I hold sacred, and Isis does just that.

When you are centered at last, secure as any earthly goddess can ever be, that beautiful sandalwood sings with frankincense and myrrh their redolent tales of sacred and profane, of worship and adulation, of all the many secrets Isis knows and shares with every woman who needs that grounding, that centering in an often frantic life, and finally, you can – as I did – imagine yourself as Nefertari, Ramses the Great’s queen, in the wall painting above. She has passed her test and weighed her heart on Anubis’ scales, Osiris has proclaimed his judgment, and the Goddess Isis – protector of all women in life and in the afterlife – steps forward to bestow immortality upon her or even you – that Breath…of Eternity.

Notes: Blue lotus absolute, pink lotus absolute, white water lily absolute, jasmine, sandalwood, frankincense, myrrh

Opus Oils – The Divine Collection – Isis is available as perfume oil, parfum and Eau de parfum, bath and body oil, bath salts, body lotion and body butter directly from the Opus Oils website. It will no eternity at all before I buy up one of everything!

Image: Nefertari and Isis, from Nefertari’s tomb, 19th Dynasty, the Valley of the Queens, Egypt.

Image of “Pink Lotus”, © Cecilia Webber

Guest starring…

Yours truly has a guest star spotlight on the incredible Alexis Karl’s blog, Body Made Luminous! Not all my writings are perfume blogs, so when I was asked if I would like to contribute, I was thrilled beyond measure for a chance to be a little freer and looser than I usually am. Find it here:

Body Made Luminous

With photography by Man Ray – as indeed the photo above of Lee Miller, ca. 1930.

See you there?

Shut up, Gertrude!

- Or…not all roses are created equal!

Among my collection of books and cookbooks is a book, ostensibly a cookbook but actually very much more. It contains not only a plethora of outrageous recipes that would have health fanatics screaming for their heart fibrillators, but also anecdotes from two extraordinary lives in extraordinary times, two lives that openly dared to fly in the face of convention – and sometimes propriety – and as such became inspirations for me as well.

The book is ‘The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook’, part cookbook of questionable virtues, part extraordinary testimony to the lives and times of two fabled iconoclasts of the early 20th century – Alice B. Toklas, partner, helpmeet, and frontline editor, and Gertrude Stein, art collector, literary salon hostess and resident genius.

Like all relationships viewed with the rose-tinted glasses of reminiscence and in hindsight, the reality of Alice and Gertrude was much more complex and far more extraordinary than the book would suggest – they were both raised at the tail end of the Victorian age, after all – but what’s really telling in our own iconoclastic age is that today, we remember Gertrude for two things, one of which I don’t consider relevant at all and the other for a simple throwaway poem that came to define her in popular culture. Gertrude Stein was considered a literary superstar in her day, but now, say the name (if it registers at all!) Gertrude Stein, and unless you’re well-versed in art history, famous American ex-patriots or impenetrable poetry, this is what you’ll think:

 ‘A rose … is a rose…is a rose’.

An entire lifetime of literary output, and you’re remembered for five words. As they say…

You don’t get to choose what you’re famous for.

This is when I say…shut up, Gertrude! As dedicated gardeners, flower lovers, perfumers and perfumoholics are very well aware, entire olfactory universes lie waiting for discovery within those velvety petals, and with the exception of those scentless blooms sold at florists these days, there’s no such thing as just…a rose.

Roses occur in nature in every hue except blue, green and black, and depending on the variety, exude a unique, multifaceted perfume that can be…lemony, tea-like, musky, greenly fresh, narcotic, spicy and fiery, earthy and warm – and these are just the living flowers, mind, well before they’re turned into concrete and absolute and essential oil in their infinite varieties, all of which will reflect the qualities of the roses themselves. Rose is also attributed to the goddess Aphrodite – no accident, since the scent of roses can be very erotic, quelle surprise!

I’ve been thinking about roses and wearing rose-centered perfumes a lot lately. Rose has a stimulating, uplifting effect on my overall mood, and during a very frantic March, I needed all the help I could get…

Gertrude may have considered rose as just another ‘flower’, for which I’ll forgive her since she was an Aquarius, yet I have other plans for your delectation…here are my personal favorite perfumed Odes to the Rose in no particular order of preference, which each prove that even Shakespeare got it wrong on roses. By any other name they might well smell as sweet, but they would not be those multiverses of perfume and poetry contained within the velvet folds and musical tones…of rose.

The Maharani of RoseNeela Vermeire Créations Mohur

We perfume bloggers live for those moments of olfactory epiphany when suddenly, a seismic shift occurs in our amygdalas and our noses blow our minds. This happened to me when I was given the opportunity to discover a brand-new line that is currently taking the perfume world by storm – Neela Vermeire Crèations. I knew Neela had collaborated for over a year with Bertrand Duchaufour, I had read the reviews. I thought I knew from roses. I was delighted to be proved so very, very wrong. For Mohur, Neela’s tribute to both the glorious Mogul empire and the British Raj, is nothing less than a Maharani – a Great Queen – of roses. Spicy and fiery, earthy and decadent, with more rosy-floral facets than any diamond can boast, it’s an outrageously spectacular rose perfume, opulent yet also as ethereal as a fervent wish on a full moon. It’s one of the most magnificent roses I’ve ever had the pleasure to sniff and to wear. As I have and I do and I indeed will for as long as I can ever love a rose…

The Wildest HeartLiz Zorn’s Sinti

Liz Zorn, indie perfumer extraordinaire, was unknown to me when I received a decant of her heart-stopping tribute to rose centifolia, Sinti. Sinti is not your usual rose perfume cliché, there’s nothing in the slightest that will remind you of rose soap or Eau de Granny. For one thing, this rose is wild at heart, wild and untamed and blooming unseen in a secret Saharan desert oasis, as green as nature itself and as surprising as a sudden beam of sunlight on that instant shock of …rose. It is bitter and a bit thorny, with its herbal bite of sage and galbanum that blooms into a fevered dream of one feral flower, easily unisex, easily worn, and all too easy to love, even though it never can be tamed.

A Rosy Dance on Moss Olympic Orchids’ Ballets Rouges

Olympic Orchids’ Ballets Rouges took no time at all to pirouette its way into my rosy heart – it was love at first sniff! Ballets Rouges is by bounds and leaps a green, silky opening that segues into a pas-de-ballet of roses so real, I’ve had people turn to look for the bouquet when I’ve worn this. Yet rose is not the whole story in this perfume, for down below beats a heart of green and a pulse of chypre with a ribbon of oakmoss so dark and luscious, this diehard chypre fan is reduced to molten jelly in gratitude that there are still perfumers who love oakmoss and roses as we do. Put the two together in this peerless pas-de-deux as Ellen Covey did, and even I can dance en point forever more those perfect, mossy, rosy steps.

Iconoclast RoseEtat Libre d’Orange’s Rossy di Palma L’Eau de Protection

If anyone knows how to do celebuscents (that hated category) flawlessly, it would be Etat Libre d’Orange. Their tribute to Rossy di Palma, the feisty, fiery actress Pedro Almodovar so adores, is a thorny, spiky, emerald-green and crimson red tattoo rose that obeys no laws but its own, which is every reason to adore it just as much as Rossy herself. From that bright, green opening bite to the dark patchouli pulse below, Rossy the rose perfume is the quintessential Rossy…unusual, unsettling and beautiful in its defiance of all those tired, trite rose tropes. This is a rose that shows its thorns plain as day and glows its crimson-lipped beauty as soon as you come closer. If you dare.

The Mozart of RoseEnvoyage Perfumes L’Emblem Rouge

When perfumer Shelley Waddington of Envoyage Perfumes worked with master distiller Dabney Rose, they danced a tandem that made precisely the rose perfume no one else would dare – the very essence of a classical rose perfume wrapped in a burgundy promise of perfection. L’Emblem Rouge is a thick, lavish, Oriental rose, spicy, green, and darkly romantic. It dances its own Mozart minuet on your skin with its burst of orange and spice, violet and orris, and all its pleasures proves as you muse that Mozart may be music, and rose may be a flower, but that doesn’t make L’Emblem Rouge any less a marvel – or Mozart any less a genius!

The Rosy RevolutionsTauer PerfumesUne Rose Chyprée & Incense Rosé

I’ve said it before in several locations and I’ll happily say it again – I personally consider Andy Tauer a perfumer of such stellar magnitude, I think he should be paraded down Fifth Avenue and carpet-bombed with rose petals by an adoring crowd, except I suspect he’ll have turned them into Un Rose Vermeillé (which I have yet to try) or something else equally spectacular before the parade reaches East 81st Street. The man knows his roses, knows them as only a truly dedicated rose lover can, and has done audacious things to roses that only prove how little Gertrude – or Shakespeare – knew of roses. When I recently was given a chance to name a bunch of samples to try, these two jumped off my keyboard and into the email before I could even blink. Certain things – and certain perfumes – you just…have this hunch about, although in this case, it was more of a neon blinking billboard. Une Rose Chyprée is a rose of reinventions and revolution, dark and light, depth and sweetness, no one element taking a backseat to the other. It’s Rose, Oh, Yes! But Wait! There’s So Much More! A breath of oakmoss, a kiss of vanilla, a whole library of everything rose and fire and all its splendors, too! Incense Rosé is yet another sleight-of-hand rabbit from Andy’s hat – again, not a rose, and not an incense and not like anything else your imagination could dream but something otherwise and elsewhere…from the blinding sunshine brought of its orange/citrus open to the smoky-tinged labdanum and frankincense drydown, if you’re curious what else can possibly be said about roses…look no further. I can guarantee you one thing only – you will be surprised! And roses will forevermore never be the same…

So Gertrude…hush. Yes, I know you’re dead, but I can still feel your crotchety ghost breathing down my back as I type, said with a sneer and a hint of that grande dame you also were:

“Well, obviously, I had other, more important things to contemplate than roses!”

But stop a moment and think…about a rose, and know that by any other name, it’s very much more than sweet…

Original image of Gertrude Stein, Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1913, from indicommons.org. ‘Gertrude en rose’ version – me.

With big thank you hugs to the Great Facilitators: Shelley Waddington, Ellen Covey, Anthony of NKDMan, Nick of Les Senteurs and the incredible Neela Vermeire.

Phantoms in the Fumosphere

-  This could happen to you, too!

Do you like to read perfume blogs? Do you appreciate the different perspectives on this or that verbal expression of olfactory art and expertise, do you love to see where the blogger’s words might take you, or what lemmings the writer will wake? And if you are a reader, do you ever wonder at the life of a perfume blogger? What goes on behind the scenes, what do all those bloggers do when they’re not posting?

The vast majority of us are working our day jobs – most of which are not connected in the slightest with the perfume industry, taking care of our quotidian lives, and to a greater or lesser degree as our life permits planning the next post. Maybe we’ve received samples of something we’d like to review and maybe we’re wearing them, and maybe in those idle moments on a freeway or a subway or city bus, in a supermarket queue, over a stove, we’re thinking about what to write about them, wondering about what places they have taken us, what wonders we have felt and seen and surreptitiously sniffed when we thought no one was looking, writing already in our minds.

You see, that’s what we do – write about perfume. We provide original content for your delectation and delight – and above all else for our own. We have a passion that perhaps is considered a bit suspect if not obsessive by our surroundings, and so…we blog and we write about that passion out of love, on our own time, and for very little or no renumeration at all. In the perfume communities of the Internet, we comment on each other’s blogs, we share discoveries, exchange information, network, and trade samples.

We do all of this for one reason.

We simply l-o-v-e perfume. We see it as the Invisible Art, we consider it a privilege to enjoy, we think it a joy to communicate that love to others who love it as we do.

Now…imagine a very different scenario. Imagine – there are no perfume blogs. At all. Imagine a world where the world of niche and independent perfume has only websites and advertising to notify the general public, and imagine therefore – that there are…no independent perfumers. Advertising is expensive. You as a consumer are stuck with the specters of corporate conglomerates who are thinking entirely different things about sensory transport – their bottom line, not your out-of-body olfactory experiences.

Hold that thought.

Now, imagine that you are what the social media marketing world calls the 1%. In Internet social interaction, it is a general rule of thumb that 90% of any given group in any given setting will enjoy the online content they have access to. They will enjoy it, they may even share it with each other. That’s all they do. Nine percent more will comment and interact with…the one percent who actually provide that content – write the blogs, post the links and share them, tweet them etc.

Every single perfume blog you read is part of that one percent. Each providing original, often beautifully written, thought-provoking, never-before-read words so that you may enjoy them.

Only that’s no longer true, I’m sad to say.

The fact is, every minute of every day, nameless, faceless phantoms stalk the blogosphere on the hunt for content to steal. Even in the friendly, rarified section of it I personally call…the fumosphere. There is an entire underground industry in Asia who trawl great blogs for their content so they can proceed to post them as new material. I’m not knowledgable enough or close enough to worry too much about them.

I worry about those other phantoms…the ones who are the stuff of haunting nightmares, the phantasms who in so many insidious ways can make me reconsider why I shouldn’t just …give up the ghost altogether.

These are the content thieves, the domain stealers, those innumerable unseen poachers who lurk in the dark and not so dark recesses of the blogosphere and on every blogging platform we use…to steal our words and even our carefully selected images and pass them off for their own.

They aren’t out to poach from the big blogs, the household names, since they are very well aware that if they did, the large audience those blogs have would expose them in a heartbeat.

Much better, so they think in their larcenous minds, to take from the smaller blogs, the cognoscenti blogs, the blogs that are just far enough under the radar of the fumosphere not to be entirely well-known. Who would notice, after all, if a domain registered since 2006 is used for a subterranean blog, who would care that blog posts are purloined wholesale and set up on another blog much further down the food chain in those overlooked shadowy corners, who cares if these thieves bask in the reflected glory of the words they loved enough to steal and try to pass for their own?

The one percent who conjure that content from thin air, sparse spare time and sleight-of-word care more about this issue than you could possibly begin to imagine. You see, this is our creativity, these are OUR words, this is what we love to do more than nearly anything else on Earth, which is exactly why we do it to begin with – for love. Those words, that content contains the DNA of our hearts and souls, the very essence of ourselves and our raison d’être. Our words, our blogs and our creativity has established a network, a reputation, and a credibility in a community that means everything to us – and to steal it amounts to something akin to violation of our souls.

Surely, I must be exaggerating? It can’t be that bad!

It is.

Last week, my friend and fellow perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfumes discovered to her horror that someone had hijacked her domain, a domain she has owned since 2006. This was a very suspect blog to begin with – there was no contact information and no links whatsoever, not even submerged in the HTML header code. In not much time and with a little help from perfumer and blogger Absinthe Dragon, we took it to the social platforms of Facebook and Twitter, shared our links, spread the word. Many of our friends in the perfume community reported the offender to the host. Less than 48 hours later, the blog name had changed. The case would have rested there – lessons learned, reports filed, copyright offices and ditto lawyers notified at exorbitant cost – except that wasn’t all that happened.

This morning, I woke up to another horror story. Lucy was notified that someone had stolen many of her own favorite posts – images and all – and passed them off as original material. Within minutes, I was informed on Facebook by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass that another very highly regarded blogger, Krista of Scent of the Day, had also had content stolen – lock, stock and barrel.

Once again, this was a highly suspect blog, once again, there was no contact information, no About page, no attribution, no backlinks or even so much as an email requesting permission. Once again, we reported the offender to Google. And last but never least, we’re confronted with that Big Polka-dotted Elephant in the blogosphere…or anywhere original creative content is created, since this issue is nothing new – why bother to create any kind of content and share it, if it’s going to be stolen?

Music is downloaded illegally every day, as are films. Images can be copied and saved with a right-click or a drag. Even perfumes are not immune to plagiarism – formulae are analyzed, copied, watered down and released as ‘new’ and ‘original’ all the time.

I prefer to buy my music and films to support my musicians and directors, not out of any sense of charity, but because these works of art in any medium were created to be enjoyed by people who felt they had something to say and I very much like how they say it and want them to keep saying it, so I can continue to enjoy it.

Why should I care? It didn’t happen to me. It happened to two friends and fellow bloggers who have supplied original content for my delectation for a very long time but whom I would never even conceive of stealing from or even quoting without permission because I’m a firm believer in the laws of karma. Yet it could happen to me, to you, to anyone who creates at any moment of any day – perpetrated by anyone who loved it so much even imitation was too much to ask and only copy-paste content poaching was enough, all to bask in that reflected glory and clandestine thrill only theft can provide.

We content creators and providers, we artists and we dreamers share our passions and our creations in the hopes that you may enjoy them, think about them, talk about them, discuss them with your friends. We arouse your curiosity about a world that may be infinitely larger and richer than you already know, we entertain you, we engage you so that you too can pay that passion forward to those you care about. And we do all of this, every minute of every day in every context and on many platforms – for love.

Du ut des. Latin for the number one rule of social interaction on the Internet:

I’ll give so you can give.

Here’s what I give: my words, since they’re the only thing I really have TO give, to share and to care with. Here’s where I care – to raise awareness of polka-dotted elephants in the blogosphere most of us would rather prefer to ignore if we could. Here’s where I share: the knowledge I have, the connections I’ve made, the precious and priceless friendships I’ve created with the magic my own words have conjured.

Here’s where I laugh: In the world of social media, there really is such a thing as …instant karma.

Here’s what I share: what I know.

Here’s what I know: Stolen love – or stolen words – is no love and no truth! – at all. But should you forget – let me tell you a few things… about instant social media karma…

With profound thanks to Undina, who alerted me to Krista’s stolen posts, too. And to the international perfume community, who knows stealing is so deathly uncool! And the very worst karma!

Image: RelyOnHorror