The challenge I face in creating these new bakhoors is not the “how”, as I know the mechanics and the chemistry very well. It’s capturing the mystery of the reverence the early Christians had for their faith, for our Lord, for the Saints and for each other through scent. The challenge of re-creating a lost time is something that most perfumers are not willing to do, because it’s just a lot easier to give people what they want and what they want is usually the result of modern marketing.
With this new project, I am breaking away from everything that people have associated with my art up to now, and I run the very serious risk of rejection. That would spell the end of BPI as a “business” but I never really saw it as a money-making endeavor anyway. I want to get back to being an artist, and less of a merchant. If that means “loss of business”, I guess that’s what that means and I can live with that, as long as what I am doing brings honor to our Lord.
Plans for Perfume Elixirs:
I’m going to drop one perfume and make a new one. “Antigua” will no longer be available after January 30 so I will put the last 2 bottles on sale and that will be that. It’s not a scent I want to keep, simply because it doesn’t fit with my current interests, and the others just over-shadow it anyway. “Antigua” was a fun scent that I created for little girls at faire, and for secular women who wanted a Caribbean perfume. It doesn’t have anywhere near the sophistication (either in simple smell, or in chemical composition) to the other three. Madagascar has always been my best seller, and the main reason for this is: it’s a “dark”, heavy perfume, loaded with the richness of Oriental spice, and overlaid with florals. There are 27 distinct “notes” in Madagascar alone.
“Silk Road” and “Mykonos” will soon be joined by ” Cyprus” and I am renaming “Madagascar” into “Saida”. Madagascar will remain largely the same except for an infusion of carnation and a couple other notes I think will make it a more powerful, “signature” fragrance as my personal trademark. That will round out my Byzantine perfume series and maybe this summer I will start on the Arabian elixirs.
As for the bahkhoors I am planning, I have been working on four formulas and have been inspired by four particular desert monastics. These four bahkhoors, will be named after a particular desert father or mother. The four I have chosen to focus on are:
Abba Moses the Ethiopian
Abba Antony of Egypt
Too often, the desert mothers get pushed aside, especially in intellectual conversations; they are hardly ever mentioned. I do not want anyone to think that I am on some sort of “feminist kick” but I think this is really insulting to these brilliant and lovely women, and I think their feelings must be a little hurt that we ignore them so much. So I am going to pay attention to them if no one else will, and maybe if people try the bahkhoors I make for them and like them, this will inspire them to read more about them.
This series of incense is an intense study in experimenting with native flavors and aromatics (al-Khindi would at least be impressed that I’m trying, if I am not always successfull. <laugh!>). I have not stretched my nose this far before and although I am not unhappy about it, I still feel I may be missing something and that I haven’t gotten it quite perfect yet.
But I want to preserve the sayings that I have been reading, while I work. I have them printed out and taped above my work table, so that I can read a sentence or two, and then keep working on the formula. It helps to keep me focused on what I am trying to achieve. With these two women, these desert mothers, I am trying to create the scent of the white (no doubt silk) robes our Lord has given them in Heaven. Naturally, this is really impossible, because we don’t know what scents there are in Heaven…and of course, everything I do, think and am, stinks in comparison…but still, my work is mainly about if it were possible, what would it smell like? And Our Lord says that with Him, all things are possible!
Here’s some of the sayings from these extraordinary women, and after reading them, maybe you will see where I am going with this.
She also said that neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that. There was an anchorite who was able to banish the demons; and he asked them, ‘What makes you go away? Is it fasting?’ They replied, ‘We do not eat or drink.’ ‘Is it vigils?’ They replied, ‘We do not sleep.’ ‘Is it separation from the world?’ ‘We live in the deserts.’ ‘What power sends you away then?’ They said, ‘Nothing can overcome us, but only humility.’ ‘Do you see how humility is victorious over the demons?’
Amma Theodora also said, ‘There was a monk, who, because of the great number of his temptations said, “I will go away from here.” As he was putting on his sandals, he saw another man who was also putting on his sandals and this other monk said to him, “Is it on my account that you are going away? Because I go before you wherever you are going.”
The same Amma was asked about the conversations one hears; ‘If one is habitually listening to secular speech, how can one yet live for God alone, as you suggest?’ She said, ‘Just as when you are sitting at table and there are many courses, you take some but without pleasure, so when secular conversations come your way, have your heart turned towards God, and thanks to this disposition, you will hear them without pleasure, and they will not do you any harm.’
Once the same spirit of fornication attacked her more insistently, reminding her of the vanities of the world. But she gave herself up to the fear of God and to asceticism and went up onto her little terrace to pray. Then the spirit of fornication appeared corporally to her and said, ‘Sarah, you have overcome me.’ But she said, ‘It is not I who have overcome you, but my master, Christ.’
It was said concerning her that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look at it.
Another time, two old men, great anchorites, came to the district of Pelusia to visit her. When they arrived one said to the other, ‘Let us humiliate this old woman.’ So they said to her, ‘Be careful not to become conceited thinking to yourself: “Look how anchorites are coming to see me, a mere woman.” ‘But Amma Sarah said to them, ‘According to nature I am a woman, but not according to my thoughts.’
Amma Sarah said, ‘If I prayed God that all men should approve of my conduct, I should find myself a penitent at the door of each one, but I shall rather pray that my heart may be pure towards all.’
She also said, ‘I put out my foot to ascend the ladder, and I place death before my eyes before going up it.’
She also said, ‘It is good to give alms for men’s sake. Even if it is only done to please men, through it one can begin to seek to please God.’
Some monks of Scetis came one day to visit Amma Sarah. She offered them a small basket of fruit. They left the good fruit and ate the bad. So she said to them, ‘You are true monks of Scetis.’
She also said to the brothers, ‘It is I who am a man, you who are women.’
This Coptic nun was photographed in 1936. She lived to be 115 years old and was martyred for Christ in 1976.