Thursday, April 19, 2012

Current Reading List

I’ve really been digging not only my library’s interlibrary loan system (especially now that the requests are all online instead of in writing), but also their digital library system.  I love listening to audiobooks when I’m cooking or doing chores.

Recently, I was listening to the audiobook of The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, and was pleasantly surprised at how often he brought up Dionysos.  He makes a rather good argument for Johnny Appleseed being an American Dionysos.  Did you know that apples from trees planted by seed are pretty much inedible, but they were great for making alcoholic cider?  That was NOT in the Disney cartoon I saw when I was a kid.  There is more to it than that, including his being an outsider, a wanderer, very close to nature, and having some pretty radical spiritual views for the time, but I recommend reading the whole chapter at least - but the whole book is excellent.  He also discusses Dionysian vs Apollonian principles in his discussion of our human ideals of beauty on the chapter on the tulip, and unsurprisingly, Dionysos comes up again on the chapter about Cannabis and intoxication.

I recently tracked down a science fiction short story written in the 70’s called The Feast of St Dionysus.  In the story, a man who is having trouble dealing with traumatic memories of his mission to Mars, goes off into the desert of Earth to be alone (and one senses, possibly to end his life).  Instead of the solitude and starkness he was hoping for, he finds a cult community in the middle of the desert that worships Dionysus, somewhat as a saint and somewhat as an equivalent to Jesus.  The main character then gets convinced to join the community and participate in the mysterious festival they have planned.  It was worth tracking down, I enjoyed it.

It’s worth mentioning that I found a reference to the above short story in The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants, one of the first books I got through interlibrary loan . (And really didn’t want to give back.  One day, I’ll buy a copy.)  The encylopedia mentions Dionysos in connection with the fly agaric mushroom, which seems to be speculation, although it’s something to think about. I think it’s interesting that both Dionysos and fly agaric mushrooms share an association with pine trees.

I’m also rereading The Science of the Craft, which is very thought provoking as far as seeing mystical and magickal phenomenon in a framework of quantum physics.  I’ve been pondering the concept of our consciousness as being a metapattern in the quantum sea (or Zero Point Field) and the idea of gods as also being intelligent metapatterns (though presumably greater or more complex). It gives a new perspective to the idea of invoking or evoking gods.  Is it simply a matter of aligning yourself with a particular god-pattern?

Currently on loan:  Kerenyi’s Dionysos.  (Finally!! Been meaning to read this for a long time.)  And an interesting find from a used bookstore:  Healing Dream and Ritual: Ancient Incubation and Modern Psychotherapy by C.A. Meier.  Not quite sure what to expect from it, but I’ve been feeling drawn to creating a dream incubation ritual focused on Dionysos, since that’s how he’s often communicated with me, so I’m hoping it will give me some inspiration for that.

Top 9 Dionysian perfumes from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

I admit it, I'm an addict of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumes.  I love their gothic, literary, and mythological themes, and the way they can evoke those themes with scents is amazing.  Besides just being lovely, they are also wonderful tools.  Scent is incredibly powerful - it can change your mood in an instant or recall a memory that you had forgotten.  You can also use them magically for their inherent properties, or for a trigger that you've developed, such as only wearing a certain scent while going into a trance or working with a certain god.  Here's my list so far of Dionysian themed scents.

Notes:  Although I list some scents as more feminine/masculine, it's only an attempt to be more descriptive for people that might be looking for one or the other.  Also, most of these have grape notes.  If you are worried about smelling like grape candy (and I certainly was), I recommend giving them a chance anyway. I've been pleasantly surprised with the complexity of the wine/grape notes and at least in all the ones listed below they are blended very well.  

LE = Limited edition   GC = General Catalogue   CD = Carnivale Diabolique

Now onwards and upwards, in reverse order!

9. Haloa (LE) - Wine grapes, pomegranate, myrrh, frankincense and olive leaf, and the warm scent of offertory cakes.  This scent is dedicated to the winter festival for Dionysos and Demeter.  This scent is dominated by the "cakes" and is a sweet foody scent.  I found the myrrh and frankincense to be nigh indetectable, alhough there is a pretty white grape note.  I'm not a fan of "foody" scents, so although I have to give it points for the Dionysian theme and the description, it's lowest on my list. 

8. Maenad (GC) - Orgiastic mayhem in the extreme: sweet strawberry and orange blossom distorted by carnation, black poppy and hibiscus.  My first thought on smelling this one is that it's a surprisingly light scent for a maenad.  This is one which I don't necessarily "agree" that the scent matches the concept/title.  Strawberry incense is a good description.  And you could say it's like a good-girl version of Dionysia, with a floral twist instead of the heavier wood/patchouli notes.  Definitely feminine (or even girly), and it's non-assuming enough for everyday wear. 

7. Harvest Moon (LE) - This Harvest lunacy combines the autumnal scents of dry leaves, mulling spices, balsam fir, cedar, juniper berry, clove, saffron, damson plum, sage, yarrow, and lily twined with Dionysus' sacred grapes and ivy, a bounty of apple and pumpkin, and the amaranth and lingum aloes of Janus, all touched by a gentle breath of festival woodsmoke and sweet wine.  I had such high hopes for this one, but for me the downfall was the dominant apple note, which is a big turn off for me. But if you like apple and autumn smells, then you will probably enjoy this one.  A friend of mine who is also a fan of all things Dionysian adores this one.

6. The Forest Reverie (GC)  A sunlit ancient forest, dotted with wild roses, grape vine, and queenly lilies, clothed in swirls of opium smoke. Although not a direct Dionysian reference, this one is very evocative of the god, in my opinion!  It's startlingly vibrant. I think the most unique aspect of this scent compared to some of the others on this list is the rose note, but its subtle after its applied.  This is woodsy and smoky with hints of floral. Nicely androgynous.

5. Horreur Sympathique (GC)  The perfume of a hellbound soul, gleefully lost to iniquity: blood musk, golden honey, thick black wine, champagne grapes, tobacco flower, plum blossom, tonka bean, oakmoss, carnation, benzoin, opoponax, and sugar cane.  Like Forest Reverie, this one is evocative if not explicitly Dionysian. This says to me, "Sweet, sweet excess..." And I mean sweet, literally. But it's not the cloying kind of sweet -- it's the kind of sweet the touches on the back of your throat and says "craving" and "intoxication".  It's a really beautiful perfume, and one of the first BPAL scents I fell in love with. I get a lot of complements when I wear this one.

4. Minotaur (LE)  The Bull of Minos, guardian of the Labyrinth in Knossos. A deep, swarthy black musk dusted by a dark, resinous blend of sacred bisabol myrrh, atramentous benzoin, tsori, balsam, and galbanum.  Oh, Minotaur!  If you adore resins like I do, this is resin heaven.  If it were a color it would be golden but seen from the shadows.  Equally (and very) sexy on both men and women.  Naturally, most scents I'd consider Dionysian have some sort of grape or wine note, but this one does not have fruit or florals at all if you're looking for something different.  

3. Dionysia (CD) - Wild plum, pomegranate, raspberry, Siamese benzoin, plum blossom, patchouli, frankincense, and mahogany.   This is my special occasion favorite; I like to wear it when I go dancing especially.  It's very fruity but just "dirty" enough with the wood and incense notes to balance it out.  It's heady and in-your-face sensual, and lasts a long time. More feminine than masculine.  This is part of the Carnivale Diabolique line that will be available again soon (at least that's what they promise!)

2. The Blood Garden (CD) - Blood accord, bitter clove, English ivy, Tempranillo grape, red currant, oak, leather, blackberry leaf, and ginger lily. Another Carnivale Diabolique scent, it took me some time to track this one down while the Carnivale is on hiatus.  I was very interested in this one because it had both ivy and grape.  It's BEAUTIFUL Dionysian heaven.  The fruit notes balance perfectly with the heavier notes, in one of those BPAL alchemical miracles where it all blends into something seamless, with no one note dominating the others.  I'm pretty sure the blood accord is dragon's blood which gives it a mysterious kick right out of the bottle, but then fades a bit after a while.  I can see where some might say this is more masculine, but I'm going to say it's androgynous - as a woman I have no reserves about wearing this one..  Lasts a long time, good throw, you don't need to apply much at all.

1. Bacchanalia (Discontinued in 2004, very rare)  A boisterous, belligerent, festive blend that lends to mad revelry, overindulgence and excess. Perfect for a weekend bender. Earthy musks combined with a beastial civet bouquet, a hint of sweet grape and orange blossom.  This is what Maenad SHOULD be, in my opinion.  But like the description suggests, this isn't an "every day" perfume. The musk and civet (faux civet of course) make it very animalistic and "other". I imagine the god himself might smell like this if you happened upon him in the woods.  A lot of people don't like civet or say it doesn't work with their body chemistry, but I really enjoy this one and plan on reserving it mainly for rituals and festivals.  (If you're bummed about this one being hard to find, you might try Satyr in the GC for a substitute in the meantime, as I've heard it also has a civet note, although Satyr won't have the grape.)

And here's a few Dionysian scents I have not tried yet:

Anthesteria (LE) - Dénthis wine and Bibline grape, with honey and a touch of thyme and oregano.

Panther Moon (LE - very rare and in high demand) - Gleaming black musk, mandrake, labdanum, black ginger, benzoin, champaca, ambergris accord, myrrh, and star anise.

Athens (GC) - A reformulation and modernization of a true Classical Greek perfume, myrrhine: voluptuous myrrh, golden honey, red wine, and sweet flowers.

Satyr (GC) - Unleash the bawdy, unrestrained passion of the satyr! A ferociously masculine scent: sexual, vigorous, and truly wild. 
*Any GC scents you can get straight from, but if you're going to track down a discontinued or LE, then I recommend either Ebay or the forums at  In order to keep up to date with the newest LE scents (as they are often seasonal and old ones may return) and to find out when the Carnivale scents go live again, I recommend following their official blog at Lastly, I am not affiliated with the lab at all, just a fan.