I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that, though I grew up in a household steeped in the mysteries of the occult, and had all manner of mystical materials and esoteric knowledge at my fingertips, I spent most of my childhood at my late grandmother’s knee, primping pie crusts, dropping dumplings, and stirring steep, simmering pots of aromatic Cincinnati chili. I guess that in itself isn’t embarrassing, because those were treasured times and the best sorts of lessons and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But what I’m saying is, that despite the wealth of woo woo available to me, any actual magics I absorbed were of the more practical and delicious variety. My mother’s divinatory accoutrements, such as tarot cards and the like, were of keen interest to me only in the sense that they were emblazoned with vibrantly beautiful imagery that set my imagination alight and were woven with potent symbolism that stirred my story-loving soul–even though I never took the time to properly study their nuances and secrets and didn’t know what the heck any of it meant.
Thirty years later, just this January, actually, I decided it was high time to remedy my ignorance. Over the years, I’d picked up just enough knowledge to dabble, but now it was time to get serious. And just in time for my Taurean nature to catch up to my decision and begin implementing my studies (I won’t lie–that phase took about three months), our friends at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab have begun releasing tarot inspired scents!
To say that these creations are merely “tarot inspired”, though, is a pretty egregious understatement. From what I can tell of scents released so far (The Fool, The Magician, and The High Priestess), these fragrant interpretations are a deep dive into the archetypes of the major arcana by someone who clearly knows their way around a Rider-Waite. There were 12 scents dedicated to The Fool, alone! (Released, appropriately enough, on April Fools Day, The Fool has since sold out.)
“The Fool’s Journey” is a term coiled by Eden Gray and appears as the title of the Epilogue in A Complete Guide to the Tarot.
“The Fool represents the soul of everyman, which, after it is clothed in a body, appears on earth and goes through the life experiences depicted in the 21 cards of the Major Arcana, sometimes thought of as archetypes of the subconscious.”
The fool is you. It is me. It is all of us! And the journey of the fool is our very own adventure through these archetypal energies. For today’s segment of the journey, the steps are perilous and will contain many “teachable moments.” But fear not, for in this collection of limited edition perfume blends, The Magician is here in his many aspects to instruct, challenge, and entertain.
“The First Trump, the Master of Ceremonies, the Compère, the Doorkeeper of the Tarot. Originally the Juggler – the prototypical Trickster – he was transformed by the shifting currents of collective consciousness into the consummate Magus. He is the Carnival King and the Lord of Gamblers, the First Diviner and the Master of Chance. He is Hermes, he is Mercury, he is Apollo; he is the opening note and the final triumph of the Opus and the Messenger of the Divine. He commands, controls, and synthesizes the Four Elements; he is Aleph, he is the first substance, he is the source of all numbers. He is the intersection of Heaven and Earth.
The Magician in his current incarnation embodies action in all forms, skill and perspicacity, the utilization of innate talents, and deliberate, conscious transformation, yet he is still the Juggler – the Supreme Trickster – forever playing Three-card Monte with your fate.”
And though I’m not far enough along in my own, personal, journey to interpret the more complex aspects of The Magician and his lessons, I can sure tell you what they smell like!
The Lemniscate (frankincense and black pepper, Himalayan cedar, cognac, and tobacco) The sign of life, the sigil of eternity. Dry, chilly woods with a piperine zip and a nose-tickling, lemony cedar nip.
The Magician’s Belt (frankincense, white rose, balsam, almond flower, and benzoin) The Ouroboros, the serpent as he consumes his own tail. My notes tell me that I thought this was “a creamy, grape-y rose, dipped in sugar”, which makes me sound like a simpleton, but…there you go.
The Magician’s Garden (Flos campi and lilium convallium, Rose of Sharon and Lily of the Valley) The blossoms of transcendence and spiritual aspiration. I didn’t know this until just this moment, but Rose of Sharon is not really a rose at all, but rather a member of the hibiscus family–and which is why I don’t smell any rose in this lovely garden (which is fine with me, rose and I have a complicated relationship). Instead this is a charming white floral that is somehow both dusky and heady, light and lacy. There’s an odd mineral tang hovering at the edges, which cuts the cloying and keeps things weird. For what it’s worth, The Magician’s Garden is my favorite of the collection. My second favorite is…
The Magician’s Robes (red and white musks alight with frankincense, white oudh, sweet labdanum, and saffron) The unification of opposites, putrefaction and individuation, the culmination of the Great Work. The way up and the way down are one and the same. Straight from the bottle, this reminds me of a sauce that comes with the naan which I usually stuff myself with and which leaves me unable to finish my cauliflower tikka masala at one of my favorite restaurants. It’s bright green and I always worry it’s going to be fraught with mint,but I’m not certain there’s even any mint in it. It’s slightly sour, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter and never fails to make my mouth pucker in surprise. On my wrist though, The Magician’s Robes are a deep. velvety embrace, utterly saturated with sweet, musky magics.
The Magician’s Tools (Clary sage and patchouli for Earth, lavender and yarrow for Air, tobacco and Dracaena cinnabari for Fire, lotus root and myrrh for Water). Wand and cup, dagger and coin. A scent lofty and bright with tinny/camphoraceous herbals, and anchored by a gritty, earthy darkness.
The Magician’s Wand (ash, rowan, oak, and elder wood, polished with sweet resins but handworn, glowing with inner fire) Energy, will, and the manifested Word of the Magus. It is the generative process, the act of creation. Lush golden resins, and pillowy vanilla musk. There’s almost something fruity about it, but it’s very elusive….maybe like some sort of fluffy syllabub flavored with the essence of a fruit that never existed.
Il Bagatella (pomegranate and Lebanese cedar, the martyr’s red rose, and an aspergillum of wine-soaked hyssop) The Carnival King, the embodiment of the liminal space that exists between the death and resurrection of Christ. *consults notes* : “…this is a punch that will really fuck you up.” A sticky, red wine-soaked pomegranate floating in the middle of your Nana’s cut glass punch bowl.
Taschenspieler (peru balsam, tobacco absolute, leather, white sage, and blackberry juice) The master of sleight-of-hand and trickery: dexterous, clever, and roguish. Darkly refreshing, an herbal draught in a wooden cup. Savory at the sip, and sweet at the swallow, it becomes sweeter and more potent the longer you drink from its depths.
The Harlequin (vetiver-steeped raspberry and red currant) The Divine Comedian, the Eternal Jester, instructing through pranks and buffoonery. A jammy, fizzy summer drink dankened by the barest whisper of vetiver, counter-brightened by a squeeze of lemon. This is, of course, served in a smiley-faced plastic pitcher.
The Legerdemain (black silken musk, dark clove, guaiac wood, black pepper, frankincense, and cardamom) The twilight in between the stage performer and the Magus; the sleight of hand trick transforms into true sorcerous skill. A sharp, funky waft from musky, brooding spice cabinet that softens to the must and dust of peppery ghosts with time and expiration dates past.
The Magus (honey absolute, Oman frankincense, and asphodel) The Sorcerer, the Cunning-Man, the Sage. Soft, green herbs steeped in honey. A taste on the tongue to sweeten your kisses as you pass through the underworld.
The Mountebank (leather, sweet balsam, white sandalwood, thieves’ rosin, and dusty lavender) The Hustler, the Scoundrel, the Grifter, using the magic of misdirection, charm, and subtlety to swindle his way through this world, and through all worlds, seen and unseen. Roguish leather, dusty from the road. Balsamic molasses. Fluffy lavender clouds. A tricky scent that keeps you guessing.
The Storyteller (beeswax, leather, hearth wood, and campfire smoke) The Raconteur, the Town Gossip, and the first character to appear on the stage in the first act. A clean, respectable sort of scent, straight from the bottle. The soft, citrusy cologne of an upstanding citizen. Once on the skin, however, it’s an entirely different story than the one you thought you were getting. Still respectable, I guess. But less rigid. Less wake-up call and more bedtime story. The soft supple leather of a well worn chair armchair, a hearth whose smoking embers signal the late hour, and the sweet, dripping wax of a candle that has illuminated an audience from its rapt, wide-eyed beginnings to its soft snores at the tale’s end.
The Magician collection is currently live and available for purchase in 5ml bottles for $26 each. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.