Which of the elements call to you? How do you relate to them? How do you invoke them? What emotions do they stir? Which ones make you feel connected to your innate power? How can we use perfume to deepen that connection?
I believe that we can work with natural perfume & our sense of smell to consciously connect with the elements in our daily lives and remember our connection to Earth and our own bodies.
Air and Water have always called to me. The wind at my hands charges me up & fills me with a sense of power. Water calms my spirit and I crave being submerged in its depths. When I began learning perfumery, it felt meaningful that Water & Air feature so prominently in a finished perfume. As my devotion to this craft deepened, I marveled at all of the ways that the elements- Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit- weave in & out of the creative, magical, transformative processes involved in perfumery and at how we can use perfume to invoke & honor the elements in return.
A (Very) Brief History of the Elements Across Culture & Time
Many people throughout time have believed (& still believe) in the concept of fundamental, archetypal “elements” that comprise the universe, from the Ancient Greeks to Native American tribes to traditional African cultures to alchemists and various spiritual practitioners. There’s variation across cultures, belief systems and time, but there are also common themes. One is that the elements are typically associated with corresponding qualities, colors, directions, seasons, animals, plants, stages of life, and energies.
In magic and spirituality, practitioners often use these elements to create balance and harmony in their lives, as well as to connect with the energies of the natural world. The elements are also used in ritual and spell work. Practitioners may call upon the energies of the elements to enhance the effectiveness of their magic, or to create a sacred space for ritual work.
The Elements in Perfume
Since childhood, I’ve been intuitively aware of the influence of the elements on me & the world around me. As I intentionally develop my spiritual, alchemical, creative practices, I honor and work with the elements through the craft of perfumery.
Simply put, all of the materials that come together in the creation of a natural perfume come through the elements- plants from the Earth, propagated, nourished, grown by Water, Air, and Fire from the sun. I believe that each plant has its own Spirit and that the energies of all of these elements come through as the plants are tended, harvested & transformed. The processes of transformation to separate fragrant molecules from plants then calls on the elements in new ways. In steam distillation, Earth is combined with Water and Fire to free essential oils into the Air, and then condense them back into Water and Spirit (as hydrosol & “essential” oils) which are then sent into the Air when added to natural fixatives and sprayed on our bodies & in our spaces.
Perfume, then, gives us a tangible way to connect with the elements- to feel their presence, to honor them, to invite their energies & attributes into our present moments as we breathe in the scents and remember our connection in our bodies.
This month, I invite you to direct conscious attention to how you experience the elements through your senses, especially your sense of smell. Are there one or two elements that you feel particularly called to work with at this time? What smells help you to feel connected with that element? In what ways can you intentionally invite in the energy of that element through scent? What feelings do you notice and where do you notice them in your body?
If you’re interested in exploring the elements through Elspeth’s Airs perfumes, see below for some ideas!
Elemental Magic Photoshoot
I recently did a photoshoot to visually represent the ways that the elements both form the basis of all plant-based perfumes and how perfume can be used to invoke the elements.
For the photoshoot, I asked three of my best friends to each embody an element with me. We selected our elements based on our astrological signs and chose our clothing, makeup & props based on elemental correspondences. Can we agree that everyone understood the assignment? And looks GORGEOUS? Check out the photo gallery & follow along on social media as I share more about the elements and each of the models in the coming weeks.
Elemental Correspondences for Plants & Perfumes
I also drew a chart with some of the elemental correspondences as I understand them from my own experience & various sources over the years. There are many more correspondences that one could include (here’s one I referenced), but this is focused in on the elements as they relate to scent.
Air: Cypress Rose
Fire: Through Flames and Eros
As always, gratitude
Thanks for reading along as I share more about different aspects of natural perfumery that inspire & excite me! I hope it’s as enjoyable for you to engage with as it was for me. I plan to share regularly about the magic, medicine, science, history & art of natural perfumery. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified of new blog posts, receive offers, event & product info, and for scent-related meditations & activities.
May you be ever more connected to the forces of nature & the power of the elements around and in you. Remember that you are nature and that YOU are powerful. We are powerful.