Our first set of reviews for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s archetypal adventure and tarot-inspired collection, The Fool’s Journey, featured the master of ceremonies and consummate magus, The Magician. Soon to follow was The Daughter of Heaven and Earth, the Fruitful Mother of Thousands, The Empress. Next we saw The Star Maiden, She Who Shines in the Darkness, High Priestess of Veiled Golden Isis, the Eternal Virgin–The High Priestess. Today we focus on The Emperor (which is only available until 11/26/18 before it disappears from the site!)
Complementing The Empress, The Emperor is the “Masculine Principle, the Animus, and The Patriarch.” Sitting ramrod straight and rigid, though, his stern countenance is quite a departure from the sensual languor of The Empress. The Emperor is the embodiment of Martial discipline and power that stems from self-control, restraint, and abstention. He rules as the mind directs the Ego, and his governing style evinces a brilliant intellect and unimpeachable confidence. He is the Red King to the Empress’ White Queen, releasing the soaring eagle of his intellect in search of the Philosopher’s Stone.
In his hands, he holds the symbols of his office – the orb and the rod – and his throne rests in a rocky landscape bisected by a narrow stream. He is the power conferred by Initiation and the power of the process of Initiation itself. He is authority, potency, protection, influence and supremacy, all exercised with absolute control. His presence augments fame, honor, and glory, and bears tidings for issues of government and country. He is decisive action and the necessity of boundaries, demarcations, and responsibility. He is social structure and civilization itself, he is the strength to defend home, family, community, and country. He is Divine Law and Temporal Law, and he is the steel-sheathed fist that creates, maintains, and defends these laws.
Passion feeds the soul and intuition guides the spirit, but without the laws of man and nature and the structure of society, civilization and government, we would immolate in the fires of chaos.
What will you do to defend that which you love?
The Huntsman (black pine and vetiver, leather and clove) Leading a host of spectral hounds, he scours the earth in search of errant souls. A still, solemn forest of tarry, resinous pines, greenest firs, and crisp midnight air. Woodsmoke and loam, lichen and fern, and musty mosses creeping over logs and hidden pathways. Spiders sleeping in their dew-jeweled webs, high in the branches. If you love deep, green woodsy scents, then you are going to need this one.
Pater Populi (bay leaf and olive blossom with ambrette seed, white oakmoss, petitgrain, lavender, cedar, and leather) The foundation of a stable and just society, the keeper of tradition, the enforcer of laws. This is lovely and sweet, but not in a cloying, saccharine way that you taste on your tongue, but an emotion, a feeling, a tug on the heart-strings. A sentiment, rather than the scent of sweetness. A gentle iron, the edges buffed with woods and resins. A clean, musky, mallow-y tobacco.
The Horned God (Ash and white cedar, frankincense and acacia, holly and oak, verbena and nettle) Lord of the cycle of death and resurrection, he is the personification of the rhythms of order found deep in the cycles of nature. A citrusy cedar, wreathed in verdant greenery.
Eternal King (juniper and yew berry, black pine, white sage, soil, and pyre smoke) At first, all piney pine-pine-pine. Pine needles rubbed in your eyes and mouth, up your nose, when your face has been smashed into the damp earth. Why are you laying prostrate on the ground, abased and humbled with your head bowed low in the dirt? It is, of course, the will of the unyielding king at whose undying feet you kneel. Your petitions for mercy, for love, make him laugh–and it’s a joyous, terrifying sound. He sets fire to your hair. You wake up with a start, your bed clothes soaked in bittersweet sweat, your cheeks streaked with grime and tears. A pine needle has worked its way into the fabric of your pajamas, and you leave it where it pokes your tender skin, a reminder to hold your love and loyalty close, defend its sanctity, even and especially from kings.
The Imperator (steel and gold wreathed by a crown of bay and iris) Cool and powdery, regal and sophisticated, this is indeed the steely eau de cologne of a sovereign commanding his legions to secure the safety of his people and promote the expansion of his lands…but this dedicated ruler also moonlights as a chef! Sometimes, as he crawls under his silken sheets at night after a clandestine visit to the night market to search out the perfect seasoning bouquet for a pot au feu, his companion stirs from slumber to sleepily note the bitter, herbal pungency of her lover’s hands. “Is that…parsley?” she inquires in a drowsy mumble, before nodding off again. Damn, he thinks. Should have washed my hands after chopping the bay and thyme. Probably should have washed the blood of my enemies from them before handling the herbs, too. Eh, what’re you gonna do?
The Emperor’s Throne (tobacco leaf, stone-grey ambergris, cistus, benzoin, and Himalayan cedar). I am currently reading a fascinating book about ambergris because I have long heard it mentioned with reference to perfume, though I’ve never been entirely certain if it is actually supposed to smell like something, or if it is in fact a fixative with which to increase the staying-power of the scent. I still don’t know, but maybe I’ll have a better answer after I finish the book! At any rate, I can’t stop thinking about ambergris lately, and seeing it mentioned as a note in The Emperor’s Throne probably has me overthinking things (for example, I certainly don’t smell much in the way of musky, earthy cow dung, which is how traders and scholars describe–fresh–ambergris, but then again, BPAL is a cruelty free business and no doubt uses a synthetic variety, not the actual whale poop filled with squid beaks and whatnot, and which sells for obscene amounts per ounce.) Rather than a fecal marine scent, then, what this is instead is a musty cedar with a sweet, rounded bottom note, and I can’t confirm this for a fact, since I don’t actually know any rich people, but I’m certain it smells like rich people airing out their linen cupboards.
The Emperor’s Rams (dragon’s blood resin, red peppercorn, red poppy, red musk, and red amber) Sweet, spicy, and utterly hypnotic, dragon’s blood resin is one of my very favorite notes, and its inclusion in the rams representing the twin symbols of Aries, signifying courage and aggression, provides a warm base, a blanket of familiarity–with an interesting twist, when you peek from over your cozy, resinous coverlet. Hot metal upon which something fragrant burns, sizzling peppercorns, hissing and popping, like so many mustard seeds in an oiled pan, stirred quickly with curry leaves and cardamom pods.
The Emperor’s Crown (frankincense and styrax with bergamot and lemon peel) Rulership blessed by celestial providence; bright, metallic opulence, righteous and autere. A dry, bright citrusy frankincense, a little piney, a little woody, and vaguely creamy vanillic something in the dry-down.
The Emperor’s Beard (sweet tobacco and raw patchouli with Italian bergamot, pine needle, vintage dime store musk, and red sandalwood) In writing these reviews and scent stories I do try my best to not make comparisons to other scents, even other BPALs, because I think that’s a lazy kind of workaround, and besides, it really doesn’t work for people who haven’t smelled what I might be comparing the scent to. However! BPAL’s limited edition lunacy scent Schwarzer Mond has been released a few times over the years, beginning, I believe, in 2006. I own several bottles of it. In fact, you might say I hoard it. It is my all time, no.1, A++ scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and it smells of wicked, brooding resins and that dark lurker, patchouli. Now, imagine that scent, but anthropomorphized as a wooly beard (no man attached, just the beard) that also smells vaguely of a maple porter.
The Emperor’s Scepter (golden myrrh, calamus, iris root, and cardamom) Formed into the crux ansata, symbolizing his absolute power over life and death, The Emperor’s Scepter has got the oddest, and most fleeting olfactory opening act of strawberries and cream that quickly exits not just the stage but this plane of existence entirely, leaving no trace it had even been there. The main event–you know, the whole reason you bought the ticket in the first place (I’m looking at you, hotly anticipated Beats Antique show in 2012; doors were at 8 but you didn’t show up on the stage until midnight when I was practically asleep!)–enters shy and soft but strange and stunning; rich, nutty (?) resins and the subtle warmth of delicate spices.
The Emperor’s Armor (Roman chamomile, frankincense, ylang ylang, vetiver, and Italian bergamot) A talisman against fear in the form of a ylang ylang lozenge; that heavy, heady, slightly medical floral scent boiled to a sugary syrup, cooled in a lovely wax mold, and painted with a lemony chamomile glaze to help it go down easier. Procure from your local miracle worker and use as needed.
The Red Robes (red musk and leather streaked with tomato leaf and tobacco) Absolute power in the temporal world. This is a perfectly pleasant scent but I’m unable, even after several samplings, to really pick out individual notes. An earthy-fruity, well-rounded musk with a hint of tobacco.
The Stream (lavender buds and gentle bells of Lily of the Valley floating on a calm river of lychee, ylang ylang, and white magnolia) The intuitiveness, compassion, sensuality, and creativity that nourishes and sustains Order. Musky, zingy, effervescent apricots and dewy white florals bundled close and dry in a basket woven from sharply fragrant lavender.
The Orb (bitter almond and gold oudh) The orb is immediately, deliciously almond-y, in a sweet marzipan paste way, but there’s also a scant handful of roasted, salted nuts lurking in the background. Sweet mandarin oranges and tiny clementines sit, piled high, in a vintage pyrex bowl nearby to create a melange of notes that hover closely for a moment together, but mostly spend time apart in separate corners of the room.
The Fiery Mountains (clove, birch tar, red ginger root, and frankincense) The aspirations of man, both in the material and spiritual worlds. Red hot candies are some people’s favorite sweets, but these people are gross and they are wrong. Ok, maybe not all of you, but I am definitely thinking of one lousy person in particular and I hate his rotten guts forever and I might be associating him with a poor candy that never did anything to me and now I am a candy-shaming bully. I guess I’ll own up to that. Nonetheless, I maintain that Red Hots are super gross. But imagine them made with deeply aromatic clove and peppery fresh ginger and nuances of woodsmoke and birch sap and packaged in a fancy box carved with runes and sold at a secret artisanal witch’s market that you can only find out about from a cipher hidden deep in the pages of the previous year’s farmer’s almanac.
Last Call! The Emperor collection is currently live and available until November 26th for purchase in 5ml bottles for $26 each. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.