Roots!

I was really glad when Brandi, best friend and fellow foodie, came to visit me for a few days. Among other fun things, we took an overnight road-trip to Sonoma. As I gazed at the rows and rows of the carefully tended, ripening grapes out of the car window I saw that, though I myself once managed an essential oil company in Los Angeles, I needed some reminding about where my perfumery ingredients originated from! It was powerful to consider agriculture, terroir, wines, and essential oils in this light once again.

My oils, the aromatics used in my infusions, absolutes, and jojoba oil were, much like the wines we sampled, the result of the very hard and dedicated labor of farmers who toil in all seasons and with all of the elements. Like grapes, some of these crops require highly skilled harvesting, sometimes by hand, and highly skilled distillation techniques, not to mention all of the additional craft and toil, love, sweat, and patience required. A family winery in Sonoma was the perfect place to remember and to appreciate such efforts of both vineyards and essential oil plantations alike, and I went home with a renewed appreciation of both.

Me, left, and best friend, travel companion and fellow foodie Brandi, right. Behind us is the vineyards of Gundlach Bunshu, Sonoma. This family has been growing wine in this very spot for over one hundred and fifty years. The top photograph is also of their vineyards.

Brandi and I were guided and advised by another dear friend of mine, Misty (pictured, right) through a wine-tasting. It was really enjoyable to use my perfumer’s nose to identify and savor the many notes in the wines. I eyed the stills that were visible in the tasting room, and was reminded many times, and in many ways, of the similarities between botanical perfumery and viniculture.

Perhaps a fitting Arabesque scent, in keeping with the theme, is Veriditas. This botanical perfume was inspired by the medieval German mystic Hildegard of Bingen and her understanding of  ‘a green truth’ or Veriditas which she came to comprehend and define from a series of mystical visions concerning God, nature, and humankind.

Samples, 6 ml bottles, and minaret bottles of the perfume Veriditas are available in the Etsy shop. The perfume contains an inclusion of Vetiver root, from dried Vetiver roots imported from a small farm in Madagascar.

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My Sultry Summer Sale continues until July 5th. Use the coupon code SummerHoliday2017 in my Etsy shop to receive free Priority insured shipping (domestic/US parcels only, please!) on all orders $10.00 and up.
Thanks everyone! 

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The Dark Lady’s Mask~ A Book Launch & A Botanical Perfume

DLM

 

Hello everyone!

I’m excited to share the news of my friend Mary Sharratt’s new book with you. Her research on Hildegard of Bingen brought us together online in 2011, when she was kind enough to give me travel and research tips just as I was preparing for my own trip to Germany to see my longtime bestie and traveling companion, Brandi! (I’ve long desired to be a Hildegard-of-Bingen-Pilgrim!)

My longtime blog followers might also recall that Mary also made a guest appearance on my blog when her book Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard of Bingen was published.

And now she has written a compelling new book on Aemilia Lanier, an author who fascinated me last year in my “Women in Literature” class at Sierra College!

In honor of Mary’s new book, The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse, which has come out today, I have designed a custom scent called “The Dark Lady.” The ingredients have been taken directly from a Shakespearean-era aromatic recipe for a sweetbag (sachet) that has been magically transformed into a botanical perfume by yours truly. It will be the prize in a forthcoming contest Mary will have on Amazon, in keeping with her new book…

Follow her on social media, below, to stay tuned on the contest details!
And now — over to Mary!

Unmasking the Dark Lady
by Mary Sharratt 

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with worldwide celebrations to mark his legacy. But what about the women?

My motto as a novelist is “writing women back into history.” I’ve long been frustrated by the fact that the average intelligent, literate person can’t name a woman writer before Jane Austen. The Dark Lady’s Mask is my love letter to literary pioneer Aemilia Bassano Lanier, England’s first professional woman writer. I want to draw her out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

I first discovered her when researching the lives of Renaissance women. The daughter of an Italian court musician who may have been a Marrano, or a secret Jew living under the guise of a Christian convert, Lanier was one of the most highly educated women of her era. She certainly had the talent and expertise to write plays or secular poetry. However in England at that time, the only genre considered acceptable for women was religious verse. Lanier’s female literary predecessors like Mary Sidney wrote poetic meditations on the Psalms.

But Lanier turned the tradition of women’s devotional writing on its head. Her epic poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail God, King of the Jews), published in 1611, is nothing less than a vindication of the rights of women couched in religious verse. Dedicated and addressed exclusively to women, Salve Deus lays claim to women’s God-given call to rise up against male arrogance, just as the strong women in the Old Testament rose up against their oppressors.
The possibility that Lanier may also have been the mysterious Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s Sonnets only adds to her mystique.

My intention was to write a novel that married the playful comedy of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love to the unflinching feminism of Virginia Woolf’s meditations on Shakespeare’s sister in A Room of One’s Own. How many more obstacles would an educated and gifted Renaissance woman poet face compared with her ambitious male counterpart?
In The Dark Lady’s Mask, I explore what happens when a struggling young Shakespeare meets a struggling young woman poet of equal genius and passion.

If Lanier and Shakespeare were, in fact, lovers, would this explain how Shakespeare made the leap from his history plays to his Italian comedies and romances—the turning point of his career? Lanier, after all, was an Anglo-Italian trapped in a miserable arranged marriage. The names Aemilia, Emilia, Emelia, and Bassanio all appear in Shakespeare’s plays. His Italian comedies are set in Veneto, Lanier’s ancestral homeland. What if Shakespeare’s early comedies were the fruit of an active collaboration between him and Lanier?

These two poets had such radically different character arcs. We all know about Shakespeare’s rise to the glory that would enshrine him as a cultural icon. But there was no meteoric rise for Lanier. Though she eventually triumphed to become a published poet, she died in obscurity and has only recently been rediscovered by scholars.

I find it fascinating how the strong, outspoken women of Shakespeare’s early Italian comedies, such as the crossdressing Rosalind in As You Like It and the spirited Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, gave way to much weaker heroines and misogynistic portraits of women in Shakespeare’s great tragedies, such as frail, mad Ophelia in Hamlet. This change in tack leads me to wonder if the historical Shakespeare actually did have a bittersweet affair with a mysterious, unknown woman that cast a shadow over his later life and work.

I hope that The Dark Lady’s Mask can redress the balance and give Aemilia Bassano Lanier the accolades she deserves. Whether or not she was Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, she was certainly his literary peer.

Mary Sharratt’s novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse, is released April 19 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. For a chance to win a free copy, “like” Mary Sharratt’s author page on Facebook and leave a comment on any post there before June 21. Five winners will be announced on Midsummer’s Eve, 2016.

Mary Sharratt, author of
THE DARK LADY’S MASK: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2016

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy.”
-Margaret George, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

www.marysharratt.com

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“Veriditas”

veriditas

The Gates of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Hildegard, Rudesheim/Bingen, May 2011

Hildegard von Bingen, a German Abbess, composer, herbalist and mystic 1098-1179, wrote about the concept of ‘Veriditas’ in her book “Physica.”

She wrote in the middle High German colloquial and so the term, which she herself created, has been assigned several translations or meanings. A hybrid of the Latin word for truth, Veritas, and the Latin word for green, Viridis, Veriditas can be thought of as ‘greenness’ a spiritual term used to describe her vision of the green power of Nature and the unity of all creation.

I think about the concept of Veriditas a lot while I am doing my aromatic work. And if I’m honest, I think my own personal belief in the concept/theme of Veriditas, in the magic, purity and the sheer power of Nature, is the main reason I am so devoted to working strictly as a botanical perfumer, i.e. solely with plants and plant-based essential oils, today.

Hildegard of Bingen has inspired my work since I first wrote a graduate research paper on her in 1998. It meant a lot to me to be able to make a pilgrimage to Bingen last year with my friend Brandi, just to light a candle and pay homage to her life and work.

Kirsten at the Abbey of St. Hildegard, Rudesheim/Bingen, Germany. 2011.

Below is my botanical perfume, named “Veriditas.” It is one of the four Arabesque Aromas perfumes I originally designed in 2006/7 with the theme of emotional well-being in mind.          It is warm, earthy, and comforting, with botanicals and essential oils of Cedarwood, Vanilla and Vetiver Root.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/46846909/veriditas-a-natural-perfume-oil

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