“Drann” botanical perfume, named for the old Irish word for a whispered magical chant, charm or spell

Drann was designed specifically for a group that I feel so honored and excited to be a part of: The Primordial Perfume Project of 2012.

Drann, made mostly of essential oils from Sacred trees, is a smooth, subtle, resinous, warm, unisex, meditative scent, featuring Oud, Peru Balsam, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cedarwood, Cistus, Lavender and Rosewood, with botanical inclusions of Birch and Ash wood from the British Isles, and pieces of Oak Moss.

The word ‘drann’ has its linguistic roots in early Northern European languages and the root of the word speaks of turning, twisting, weaving, and influencing via magic. (The same root is found in the old Irish word for Druid, Drai, wizard, Draoi, the Gaelic word for enchantment, Draoidheacht.) The Celtic spiral is a visual representation, a symbol, of this same magical meaning. (Celtic Knotwork and interlace is probably the most famous example of this.)

I visited the Neolithic Burial Chamber “Newgrange” on my first visit to Ireland in 2002.

Ash in the Irish Ogham ties in nicely with this symbolism. Ash is also the tree associated with the Celtic Tree of Life. And the Ash rune, As, in the Runic alphabet “…invokes the Divine force. As is the divine breath, ond, which powers existence… ” from Rune Magic by Nigel Pennick.

Sample of “Drann” botanical perfume with birch and ash wood.

Samples and the botanical perfume “Drann” are available on Etsy.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/99960855/drann-botanical-perfume-sample-created

The Primordial Perfume Project proves to be a potent and amazing collaboration with over 60 artists, writers and perfumers. Each participant has been asked to create a separate Facebook page for their Primordial entry.

If you’d like to keep abreast of my project entry, and the project as a whole, you can visit my Primordial Perfume project page here.

https://www.facebook.com/PrimordialScent2012PerfumeProjectKirstenSchilling

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On Holy Wells & Sacred Water

“Lakes and rivers were seen as ways in which prayers could be carried to the deities. The waters were sacred messengers. Whereas lakes and rivers pour your supplications away and therefore calmed the gods or goddesses, or alerted them to your problem, the benefits of wells are usually depicted as being given freely to all.”

~from The Spiritual Traveler by Palmer & Palmer

Kirsten at the Christian Brigid's Well, Kildare, Ireland. 2002.

To me, holy wells represent unconditional purity and sanctity, renewal, blessing and recovery. From illness. From the past…  From whatever. I’m a big believer in ‘the fresh start’ and the ‘new beginning.’

I think this is because the symbolism of the goddess – and Saint – Brigid is sacred and beautiful to me, and I take it very personally. An ancient Celtic fire goddess, later turned saint by the early Irish Catholic church, both goddess and Saint Brigid are patrons of light, fire, poetry, brides, purification, renewal and holy wells.

Brigid’s time of year is early February, when snowdrops, the first flowers of spring, begin to appear, pushing their heads through the snow and the dark of late winter. There are many celebrations that exist in different guises, yet similar in essence, with which to honor Her. For instance, the medieval holiday of Candlemas, celebrated February 2nd, first inspired me to create the Brigid’s candle in 2001.

For roughly the past ten years, I’ve made candles in my kitchen during this holiday, honoring light and renewal, and creating this tool for others to do the same. I add drops of the holy well water to the wax as it is melting for an extra ‘benediction.’

Arabesque Aroma's Brigid's Candle

The word Candlemas comes from the Latin word festa candelarum, the festival of candles, and it isn’t at all a coincidence that it falls on the Celtic fire celebration of Brigid, celebrated sundown February 1st to sundown February 2 and the feast day of Brigid the saint, February 1st.

The ancient, pre-Christian Brigid's Well, Kildare, Ireland 2006

Both the Goddess and the Saint Brigid also have a connection with smithcraft.

Which sounds rather random and odd, if one does not know that smithcraft and metalwork was a highly revered and honorable craft in the North and Hiberno-Saxon (ancient Irish) art movement of the 6th – 9th centuries, akin to magic. (When our goddess became Saint Brigit, the patron saint of smithcraft, brides, poetry and purification, she was said to have lived in Kildare, Ireland in the 5th century. And the first Vitae Brigitae, or Life of Brigid, was written c. 650 AD.)

In the Hiberno-Saxon art movement metalwork, particularly where the use of gold is concerned, revealed the concern with the transmutation of the soul into something higher, better, illuminated and purified. For the above reasons, I find it difficult to entirely separate Brigid’s array of symbolism from the ancient art of alchemy.

courtesy of Chantal Simon

Roman Baths, Bath, England, 2008. Photograph courtesy of Chantal Simon.

Holy Wells such as the ones in Kildare, Ireland, the Roman ones in Bath, or the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England, are visited by thousands of pilgrims each year who bring with them their hopes and prayers of transmutation, purity and renewal.

Pilgrim's prayers and offerings, tied to a Blackthorn just outside the Chalice Well at Glastonbury, Somerset, England. December, 2008.

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Musings On Myth, Symbolism and the Creative Life

The pilgrim’s plaque in this photograph marks the medieval Way of Saint James as it meanders through a magical, historical forest in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

I have long been inspired by the quest, the sojourn, of the medieval pilgrim; striving to access the higher and more sacred places within themselves, ultimately transformed by their journeys…

Symbols of pilgrimage are also meaningful to me.

found outside of a 15th century castle, Germany

The scallop shell is the pilgrim’s symbol for a number of reasons, some of them practical (it served as a badge of protection while traversing the path. If needed, it could also function as a vessel for eating and drinking) others more spiritual and metaphorical.

The labyrinth is another ancient pilgrim’s symbol, of sorts, pre-dating Christianity but like many pagan concepts, later absorbed by Christianity. During medieval times, walking a labyrinth was thought to be a worthy substitute for those who were unable to afford, or physically withstand, the long, uncertain and often perilous journey.

The twelfth century labyrinth at Notre-Dame de Chartres, France, is the last surviving authentic medieval labyrinth. I was lucky enough to visit Chartres in 2006, but unlucky enough to do so on a Friday, when the labyrinth was covered with chairs and therefore not accessible to geeky, enthusiastic pilgrims from Los Angeles, California.

There is an exact replica of the Chartres labyrinth in Los Angeles, though, at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, that I have traversed several times. And I don’t think I’ve ever emerged from the labyrinth without at least a small morsel of new insight. As Jean Hani writes in Notre Dame de Chartres: Enigma of the Labyrinth, “The deeper significance of the pilgrimage through a labyrinth, which is equally true for any pilgrimage, is that it symbolises the inner pilgrimage we make to the centre of our Being.”

Kaiserslautern, Germany

I associate the labyrinth AND the spiral (another ancient, timeless pre-Christian symbol) with the rather beautiful Irish Ogham meaning attributed to the plant Ivy; a hearty, winding, evergreen plant that, to the pre-Christian Irish, represented fundamentally, the Spiral to the Self.

Holy wells, another common site of medieval pilgrimage, are a particular passion of mine. In one of my favorite books on pilgrimage and holy places, The Spiritual Traveler: The Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes in Britain, authors Nigel and Martin Palmer write “Water is one of the oldest symbols for the Other, for that which is opposed to order, and must therefore be propitiated or, at the very least, treated with respect.”

I use a few drops of holy well water in my aromatic creations, drawn myself from the pre-Christian well of the Goddess Brigid, later named a Saint, in Kildare, Ireland, where I made my own pilgrimage with my friend Sarah, in a rental car, in 2006.

Yes, we were pixie-led for two extra hours (the street signs were all switched around!) and I had a fever that day but — alas — it was all simply part of that particular and rather wonderful journey. I was also fortunate to visit the Roman waters at Bath, and draw some water from the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England, in 2008.

An Arabesque Aromas natural perfume oil photo by Louie Martinesse

So I work in my aromatics home-studio with this symbolism constantly present in my mind, my heart, and in my toil, whether I am creating a new perfume or practicing cartomancy for clients or friends.

But rather than write all about me, I thought it would be far more interesting to interview other artists on this blog. I’ve come across many fascinating and talented artists this past year. And I’d like to know what symbols, stories, and ideals inspire their creative endeavors… what is their personal myth.

I will write a bit more about mine in the coming weeks, and this summer, I look forward to featuring guest writers and/or artist-interviews to further discuss the topic of myth, symbolism and the creative life.

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