Sunday, 19 December 2010
We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Gold
Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch
By most standards, the infant Jesus had a bit of a rough start in life, what between the lowly manger, the presence of assorted farm animals in his straw-carpeted nursery, and the constant nagging fear of becoming the next cot death statistic at the hands of Herod. But on the other hand, he did receive some excellent presents. For the three wise men who came to pay homage to this very special baby brought exotic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These are more imaginative choices than the usual suspects of a Beatrix Potter mug, a silver spoon or an educational mobile. And they are all gifts that you would be happy to receive at any age, well, speaking for the perfumistas amongst us, anyway.
And so it came to pass that Krista of Scent of The Day and Joanne from Redolent of Spices invited a number of their fellow bloggers to review perfumes inspired by the three gifts of the Magi. Here is the first of my three picks - I will post the other two in the course of the week.
GOLD: Gorilla Perfume – Icon ("sacred bling")
Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, mandarin, myrrh, sandalwood
Nothwithstanding the somewhat flip introduction to the Christmas story above, I actually had a strict religious upbringing in the fold of a minor American sect. Our church was plain and unadorned, as were its lay readers who took the place of priests. We didn’t really have carols either, though I do recall one hymn that included the faintly curious line: “the Bethlehem babe - beloved, replete, by flesh embound”.
Understandably, my father felt sensorily deprived in his own church, and greatly envied the rich trappings of more mainstream faiths. In an uncharacteristic access of generosity he even bought me a colour TV, just so he could watch a live broadcast of a bishops’ convention in New Zealand while staying with me. Father didn’t get much change out of £200, but he was able to enjoy the procession of diocesan dignatories down under in all their full technicolour finery.
This craving of my father’s for ecclesiastical glitz goes way back. For on family holidays, instead of being taken to child-orientated attractions such as theme parks and zoos, as soon as we could walk my brother and I were made to traipse round old churches and monasteries instead. The most fun we ever had as kids was rewinding home cine camera footage to watch monks crossing cloisters backwards.
And from these nave-gazing holidays Father would invariably bring back cheap and gaudy religious knick-knacks, which appealed to his magpie-like eye. The two I remember most vividly are a white plastic altar with a gold chalice concealed behind an Advent-calendar-sized door, and an ornate carved triptych with paintings of Greek icons, its lavish gilt imagery contrasting with the dark wood.
Gorilla Perfume’s Icon perfectly captures the mystique and rituals of these other, very different religions of Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, with which my father had a life-long dalliance. They were the bright silk lining in the dull worsted overcoat of his main faith. Icon conjures up the familiar whiff of incense, the clunk of the censer, and above all the flashes of gold in the cool and gloomy church interiors – from the glittering brocade vestments to the gleaming chalice and the ornate paintings adorning the high altar and shadowy side chapels.
I detect three main strands to Icon: a pronounced orange note, the myrrh (I could have used it as my myrrh selection(!), and something undefinable but vaguely herby. This slightly odd combination works surprisingly well and the scent remains pretty light throughout. The orangey/herbal aspects have a bright, slightly medicinal and cleansed feeling about them, as befits a scent associated with the purgative benefits of religious rites. They also evoke images of citrus groves and scrubby Mediterranean vegetation just outside the churches, while the incense undertones summon up their dark and cavernous depths, with bewitching glimpses of secret, "sacred bling"…
Photo of Icon perfume from the Gorilla website, photo of Greek Orthodox church from members.virtualtourist.com
The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!
Redolent of Spices
Scent of the Day
All I Am - A Redhead
Chicken Freak's Obsession
Notes from Josephine
The Perfume Chronicles
My Perfume Life
PS Having mastered my friend's MAC to write this, I will be travelling back from California from this afternoon till Tuesday morning (weather and transport modes permitting!) In addition to posting the other two parts of this joint blogging project later this week, another Bonkers Road Trip report (with scented bits!) will be along soon...