Today, Monday, 21 August 2017, all of North America will experience an eclipse of the sun, with a total eclipse stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. During this event, the moon will completely cover the sun, and the sun’s corona will extend its golden tendrils from behind a shadowed veil. Some intrepid sky-gazers may have traveled to a region of totality and will be privy to a once in a lifetime show. Some of you are staying local, smart enough to have procured a pair of eclipse glasses (and savvy enough not to get ripped off) and are apparently going to cost your bosses a lot of money whilst gazing at the phenomena in the middle of your work day; others procrastinated on the glasses front and are now lamenting their laziness (never fear though, Make Magazine has some neat ideas for you!) However you are spending your time during this Great American Eclipse, it is a fascinating thing to ruminate upon–historically, solar eclipses have been held responsible for the fall of empires, the onset of wars, the birth and death of great people, and the onset of terrible plagues and natural disasters.
So what am I doing during this magnificent celestial distraction? Why, I am smelling eclipse-related fragrances, of course!
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s The Great American Eclipse series is a paean to this once in a lifetime event: an amber-gilded sampling of the poetry, prose, notable persons, mythology, and historical accounts surrounding solar eclipses. See below for reviews of six scents from this limited edition collection.
The Sun Has Perished (Tunisian amber, wilted asphodel, myrrh, and smoke.) I have read that Babylonians were so fearful of eclipses, they would protect their King by placing a substitute King on the throne at the time of an eclipse, while the actual ruler laid low to avoid being seen–you know, just in case. As part of this ritual, if no negative portents were observed, the substitute king was put to death–therefore fulfilling the prophecy of the celestial omen while saving the life of the real king. The Sun Has Perished smells like being swallowed in swirling, smoky mists; of the grey ghost this mock king must feel he is becoming, as he trembles and curses myths and monarchs and his lot in life in general.
The Curtain of the Temple was Torn in Two (Radiant golden amber suffused with holy incense smoke compounded from acacia, myrrh, cassia, balsam, frankincense, cinnamon, onycha accord, and galbanum.) Immediately dusty and spicy with an underlying, nose-wrinkling mustiness; an essence both piquant and bitter which roams strangely concurrent to a vague, golden sweetness, a powdery memory of buttery cakes.
The Sun in Anger Swore (Red amber spiked with dragon’s blood resin, black pepper, red musk, and red oudh) This is indeed a sour seether; burning gall and biting acid and the peppery musk of a cursed reptile that even the gods abhor.
18 June 1860 (Amber, collodion, silver nitrate accord, and white lavender) Inspired by the first wet plate photograph of an eclipse, 18 June 1860 opens with a jagged streak of lightning shocking an inky sky; the scent of electrical discharge and absurd, astringent energies, which dries down to the prettiest bar of soap in your guest bathroom–a shimmering lump of lightly sweetened nectar nesting in a small metal dish.
All Ruinous Disorders (Amber, bergamot, and honeyed saffron blackened by smoked oudh, patchouli, ti leaf, scorched thistle, leather, and yew.) ‘Tis strange, strange! This is such a well-blended, complex scent that recognizing the individual notes is a challenge. I’d guess that the patchouli and leather form the rich, earthy base of this scent, and it is sweetened by amber, brightened by aromatic bergamot and lightened by the green freshness of the glossy, grassy ti leaf.
Disastrous Twilight (Blue amber, gurjum balsam, pale orris, Somalian myrrh, benzoin, red sandalwood, and ylang ylang) evokes the eerie melancholia of midday darkness; the dim strangeness of the afternoon sun obscured; of once brightly burning stars, cooling and becoming small, still shadows. Mysterious, powdery florals belie a soft, woodsy warmth that surprises and disappears, and a leathery licorice note that really begins to amp up the longer the scent wears.
The Great American Eclipse collection is currently live and available for purchase in 5ml bottles for $24 each, until October 7, 2017. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available for The Great American Eclipse scents.
Featured image: First wet plate photograph of an eclipse, by astronomer Charles A. Young (1860)
Second image: Illustration from Astronomy; the sun and his family by Julia McNair Wright