What is the Air whispering to you? What scents call you through the wind?
Working intentionally with the element of Air can help us to observe the unseen and notice its effects on the world around us. Like the scents that it carries, it bridges our inner world with the outer world through breath. We see & feel it by its effects- the breeze rustling the leaves, mist rising from the water, smoke carried from the fire. Air allows us to share space with all of life across distances. It touches everything; it spreads seeds; it moves with freedom. It can exist without form. We depend on Air for life. Like all of the elements, it has its destructive sides but these, too, can serve as a catalyst for change.
We can intentionally channel the energy of Air within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Air, Elspeth’s Airs most airy perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?
The photos in this post are of my friend, Chad, embodying the element of Air for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about Chad below!
Chad’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.
Air Qualities & Correspondences
Nature: Thinking, observing, learning, wisdom
Colors: Yellow, white, silver
Astrological Signs: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Planets: Jupiter, Venus
Plants: Rosemary, yarrow, fennel, lavender, dill, cattails
Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs Cypress Rose
Rituals to Connect with Air
*Take a walk outside and inhale as you go. What scents do you notice? Which call to you & do you know where they’re coming from? Get curious & follow your nose on a journey to find its source.
*Choose a scent that helps to invoke a feeling you want to experience. Sit in a quiet place & either apply it to your skin or diffuse it and take long, deep breaths. Tune in to the emotions that arise and how they feel in your body. (Elspeth’s Airs Meditation Oil is great for this!)
*Burn incense or diffuse your favorite oils & incense.
*Bring consciousness to your breath. As you inhale, imagine being filled with vitality and nourishment. As you exhale, you share your gifts with the world and release what’s ready to be transmuted. Feel into the reciprocity available in this exchange.
*Work with plants that have Air correspondences. Think: feathery leaves & veins, wispy formations, and plants with fragrant, diffusive scents. See the graphic for some ideas but there are lots more! If they’re edible, drink them as a tea; inhale their aroma; or just hang out & breathe with them!
*Engage in flowing movement, ideally in the open air.
*Notice how the wind moves across your skin, in the leaves, in the clouds.
*Speak your intentions and let the wind carry them.
Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Air Energy
Affirmation: I am sacred.
Key notes: Rose, frankincense, cypress & lemon
Intended to both ground and inspire, Cypress Rose forms a protective bubble in which to center and open up to what’s inside.
Frankincense keeps you rooted and safe, while Rose inspires your creativity and opens your heart. Cypress serves to cleanse and purify, while Lemon uplifts.
Bright, tart top notes bloom into a sweet, rosy heart that lingers throughout the day as a joyful, comforting reminder that you are safe and well.
About the Model
Chad is one of the most thoughtful & observant people I know, and he applies his observations to transforming the world around him. He spreads seeds that manifest his dreams & embodies both the gentle breeze and the righteous storm, when necessary.
Chad Morris is the owner of Endless Journey Collection, where he makes handmade bowties, jewelry, t-shirts & upcycled denim. His goal is to spread happiness and confidence with his creations. He is also the Medical Case Manager and Communications Specialist for Frontline Legal Services, where he helps to address HIV stigma and connect people to services. A New Orleans native, Chad got his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University New Orleans. Long committed to helping people on a better path to health, Chad worked for CVS pharmacy for 11 years until joining the Frontline team in 2018.
Chad & I met at the library in college. In the early days of our friendship, we were out & about across town with a crew, but over time, Chad & I bonded over our shared love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, old Mariah Carey songs and witnessing & supporting each other through both hard and joyful times. We both started our creative businesses around the same time & have been market buddies and sounding boards since then. Chad moved to Atlanta last year & it was so wonderful to have him back in New Orleans for this magical photoshoot!
I’ve been growing a Sambac Jasmine plant for about 3 years and this is the first year it’s really poppin’ off. I use an absolute of its flowers in one of my perfumes and it’s been such a pleasure living next to this plant, learning what it likes & watching it flourish. Sambac Jasmine starts blooming heavily in May in my region (9b) and sends its sweet, floral fragrance far & wide. It feels sensual, relaxing & uplifting at the same time. Here are a few facts & observations about Jasminum sambac:
In my yard: The variety that I have is like a mix between a shrub and a vine. It loves to sprawl out and send its branches in many directions, though it doesn’t send out tendrils. The flowers on my plant are double-layered. The last time I repotted it, it had spread its roots out of the pot and down into the tiny amount of soil available in my otherwise concrete yard. From its limbs to its roots to its big, loud, delicious fragrance, Sambac Jasmine is not afraid to take up space.
Plant names: Jasminum sambac, Sampaguita (Philipines), Melati Putih (Indonesia)
Elemental correspondences: Water + Earth
Family: Oleaceae (olive)
Native to: tropical Asia, from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia. It’s the national flower of the Philippines and 1 of 3 national flowers of Indonesia. Widely cultivated in Southwest of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Naturalized in many places, including Mauritius, Madagascar, the Maldives, Chiapas, Central America, southern Florida, the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.
Botany: Frost-tender evergreen vine or shrub; highly variable; ovate, simple leaves, either opposite or in whorls of 3. Blooms in clusters of 3-12. The flowers open at night and close in the morning.
Lore/traditional uses: In the Philippines, Sampaguita garlands are used as a form of bestowing honor, veneration, or accolade. Jasminum sambac is the subject of the danza song La Flor de Manila, composed by Dolores Paterno in 1879.
In Indonesian tradition, it has long been considered a sacred flower, as it symbolizes purity, sacredness, graceful simplicity and sincerity. It also represents the beauty of modesty; a small and simple white flower that can produce such sweet fragrance. The jasmine has wide spectrums in Indonesian traditions; it is the flower of life and beauty, yet it is also often associated with spirit and death.
Scent profile: Sweet, creamy, floral, vanilla, fresh (like bath soap up close), lush, sweeter, more of a creamy floral from a distance, coumarin, indolic, lactonic; very diffusive (projects its scent far)
Energies & Aromatherapy: “Paradoxically strong yet serene, jasmine can settle and open the heart to self-love, compassion for others, and new experiences.” (from Aromatics International). Euphoric.
Elspeth’s Airs perfumes: Fleurs et chocolat*
*Fleurs et chocolat has been out of stock for a long time because I’ve been unable to find one of the essences (Tiare.) I’m currently growing both Tiare and Sambac Jasmine and enfleuraging them to hopefully use in perfumes again!
How do you connect with the element of Water? How can perfume guide & inspire you?
Intentionally working with the element of Water can help us to connect more deeply with our emotions, feel them and move them through our bodies. Water can help us tap into our natural intuition & creativity, cleanse energies that we’re ready to release, and to open up to play, ease and joy. Along with many other powerful ways, connecting to water through our sense of smell can help us to go deep and get intimate with Water.
We can intentionally channel the energy of Water within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Water, Elspeth’s Airs most watery perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?
The photos in this post are of my friend, Shana, embodying the element of Water for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about Shana below!
Shana’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.
Water Qualities & Correspondences
Nature: Flowing, purifying, healing, soothing- realm of emotions, intuition, depth, nourishment
Astrological Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Planets: Venus, Mars, Moon
Plants: Chamomile, lemon balm, orange blossom, gardenia, water lilies, roses
Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs’ Picnic
Rituals to Connect with Water
* Walk or sit by a body of natural water. Breathe in deeply and notice what smells stand out. What different qualities of scent do different bodies of water have? What other scents do you detect? Which ones seem intertwined with the place- i.e., the mix of still water + algae, the fresh ocean breeze + dry sand? Do you notice the “aura” of the water? What other ambient scents do you notice that create a fragrant snapshot of the place of the water at this moment in time? (I LOVE doing this & creating imaginary “perfumes of place”- i.e., the Bayou in the Spring with still water, wet earth after the rain, jasmine & maybe the smoke of BBQ!)
Where else do you notice the varied “scents of water” (i.e., air heavy with coming rain vs. the air right after a rain)?
* Choose a fragrance (maybe an Elspeth’s Airs perfume! Or an essential oil or fresh plant) that has correspondences to Water. Inhale it as you imagine the aspects of Water that you would like to connect with & set intentions or meditate. Revisit this scent each time you would like to remember those intentions & feel them within your body.
* Charge drinking water with energy & intentions: hold the water and speak or think your intentions then drink the water mindfully.
* Try using “color magic” and symbols to evoke energies you want to connect with. Wearing the color blue and adorning yourself, your altar or your space with objects like seashells is a great way to communicate with your subconscious about the Water connection that you are nurturing.
* Take a ritual bath with herbs. I love preparing a tea with the herbs first and then adding that to the bath water, and adding a few flowers or leaves directly to the bath for an added feeling of beauty (w easier clean up!)
* Swim or sit by natural bodies of water.
* Have a tea ceremony, perhaps with herbs that have water correspondences. Sip mindfully and tune in to how the tea tastes and how it feels in your body.
Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Water Energy
Affirmation: I am naturally playful.
Key notes: Boronia, Tangerine, Sandalwood
Picnic plays with the fruity-floral notes of Boronia and imagines it resting on a blanket in a secret clearing with a bouquet of Neroli and a bowl of Tangerines. Ambrette seeds allude to sweet sweat from frolicking and a hint of Spearmint freshens it up after the romp through the woods.
Ripe, fruity and a little zesty, with a woodsy and slightly animalic base, this blend merges precious essences for a delightful foray into fantasy.
About the Model
Shana is a force of Nature. Like water, Shana has a gift for making big changes- transforming landscapes by consistent action over time. Emotionally brilliant with a strong intuition, this Cancer sun swims boldly into deep waters.
Shana Turner @shanaturner_writes is a writer, grassroots literary instructor & organizational facilitator. “Community Solstice” is where this work comes together. Born on the summer solstice, she is a working-class, queer femme of Irish and Jewish descent from Boston who lives in New Orleans. She has two decades of experience with justice organizing, infrastructure development, participatory planning, creative writing projects, and collective learning through a popular education praxis. Through her work, she seeks to treat wounds as sites for transformation, to complicate the false binary between victim and offender in intra-community conflict, assess equity and disparities of power within groups, interrogate the construction and perpetuation of whiteness, and engage rituals of ceremony in the ordinary moments of everyday life.
Shana & I have been friends for over 10 years, connecting over nuanced critiques of social dynamics, breaking bread & our shared love of being near & in water. We support each other through hard times, provide spaces to vent & process, act as thought partners in planning out our visions, and celebrate & cherish the moments of joy. And of course, go to the beach, the bayou or the river every chance we get!
How do you connect with the element of Fire? How can perfume provide a pathway?
Fire is the element of transformation and alchemy, cleansing and destruction. Its flames dance playfully and it stokes our inner desires and passions. It illuminates through the darkness and represents health, vitality and creativity. It can be our beacon, bringing warmth to our homes & hearths; it can also be dangerous when untended. Even in its destruction, Fire gives way to new life, nourishing the soil with ash and making room for new things to grow. Fire commands respect and attention. Fire energy in balance is a vital part of the natural cycles of life.
We can intentionally channel the energy of Fire within us and around us, through focus and visualization, as well as through rituals, scents, plants, and symbols. Below are the qualities & correspondences associated with Fire, Elspeth’s Airs most fire-invoking perfumes & some of my favorite ways to connect with this energy. What are some of yours?
The photos in this post are of my friend, Mandisa, embodying the element of Fire for our Elemental Magic photoshoot in March. Read more about the fiery Mandisa below!
Mandisa’s makeup by Sabrina Blunt and photos by Trevor Mark.
Fire Qualities & Correspondences
Nature: Transformation, play, action, desire, alchemy, cleansing, destruction
Colors: Red & orange
Astrological Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Planets: Sun, Mars, Jupiter
Plants: Cinnamon, ginger, hot peppers, stinging, thorny plants like nettles, sunflowers, spices like nutmeg and clove
Perfumes: Elspeth’s Airs Through Flames & Eros
Rituals to Connect with Fire
*Use perfumes & scent to set intentions around what you wish to release or to invoke what you are passionate about creating or transforming.
*Burn candles, especially red or orange ones. You can also dress your candle with herbs & essential oils that correspond with fire.
*Write things you wish to release on paper and then burn it (safely, of course!)
*Gather around a fire.
*Make a sun tea: place herbs in a glass jar and cover with water & cap. Place outside where the water can strike it for 3 to 5 hours. Once at desired strength, drink or refrigerate.
*Infuse flowers in water in the sun all day and then rinse your body with the water.
*Bask in the sun.
*Bake with fiery herbs & spices- a delight for the mouth & the nose!
*Use fiery scents or incense in your releasing & cleansing ceremonies.
Elspeth’s Airs Perfumes to Connect with Fire Energy
Affirmation: I already know the way.
Key notes: Lemongrass, clove, tobacco, woods & spices
Made under the influence of a Fire Moon, Through Flames incinerates confusion and brings clarity by fire. Built upon a solid base of Virginian Cedarwood, Opoponax and Vetiver, a stir of tobacco is used to ignite the fire. Siberian Fir and Rosemary stoke the flames and send Lemongrass into the air. Ginger adds heat, while Black Pepper jolts us awake & brings us into focus. A touch of Cardamom sweetens the blend just enough to balance the medicine. We are left feeling clear and strong.
Affirmation: I am electric. Being with tension fuels my growth.
Key notes: Vetiver, citrus, cinnamon & ginger
“Eros is the unconsummated quality of the between.” – Catherine MacCoun, “On Becoming an Alchemist”
Cinnamon and Vetiver spark a playful tension between hot and cool in this blend. These two poles create an opening for Cypress and Lemongrass to arise to form a bridge between the contrasting elements. Magic occurs in this space of in-between.
Originally created under a Full Hunter Moon in Aries, Eros simultaneously pulls us in opposite directions and keeps us centered in that still place within. It implores us to be with certain tensions, as they can propel us towards growth.
About the Model
Mandisa can’t help BUT radiate fire energy. With her Sun and Moon in Leo, born in the heat of August in the South, Mandisa is as fierce as she is passionate and loving. Her clear intentions, words & actions have the power to transform hearts & minds & all the world that she touches.
S. Mandisa Moore O-Neal is a Black Feminist, abolitionist and founder of The Moore-O’Neal Law Group, LLC, a Black feminist law and policy practice. Currently, she’s the Executive Director of The Center for HIV Law and Policy, a research and policy think tank and advocacy resource for People Living with HIV and surrounding communities. Before joining CHLP, she was a civil rights attorney with a focus on HIV De-criminalization litigation, education and advocacy; family law litigation, education and advocacy; employment and public accommodations discrimination litigation and education; and police accountability litigation and advocacy and her primary organizing support work was as member of the BYP100-New Orleans’ chapter, SONG-New Orleans and a founding member of the Louisiana Coalition on Criminalization and Health.
Mandisa is also one of my besties. We’ve been friends since college, when we challenged the “devil’s advocate” bros in a Liberation Theology class and emotionally supported each other through Hurricane Katrina. Over about 18 years, our friendship has grown us both through many shifts and evolutions, and I’m proud and honored that we call each other family.
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.
All of the elements are involved in the growing of plants & the making of perfumes and multiple elements may show up energetically in each perfume; however, some of Elspeth’s Airs perfumes conjure specific elements more strongly.
Here are my top picks:
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.
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
I’ve spent the past few weeks visiting a group of Sweetbay Magnolia almost daily. One thing that stands out to me is their softness. The petals are soft, supple, thick & waxy. The buds have tiny little hairs that feel like fur. The gray-green leaves have soft undersides. Even the newer branches have bark that feels soft to the touch. They seem to invite gentle stroking. I make an offering to the trees then sit with them a while before asking permission to collect a few petals. It’s been a pure, comforting joy and reprieve to spend time with these trees in the midst of so much hardness in the world. It’s been a particularly tough week. I’m grateful for these moments of softness & sweetness and wishing for each of you moments of softness, as well.
Here’s a meditation on softness that Sweetbay inspired, as well as a short profile on Sweetbay Magnolia:
Plant names: Sweetbay Magnolia, Laurel Magnolia, Swamp Magnolia
Botanical name: Magnolia virginiana
Characteristics: Evergreen in places with milder winters, semi-evergreen elsewhere; simple, alternate leaves; perennial
Where they’re native to & who they’re in community with: native to the lowlands and swamps of the Atlantic coastal plain of the eastern U.S. I’ve noticed dragonflies on the branches, tiny insects inside the flowers, bees, squirrels and birds also hanging out with Sweetbay.
Lore/traditional uses: Native Americans used a concoction of the bark to treat fevers and rheumatism. The fruit was used for coughs and chest ailments.
The petals are edible and people do things like pickle them. Always, be aware of where you’re harvesting from to feel confident that they haven’t been treated or exposed to excessive contaminants.
Ecological considerations: It was introduced into cultivation in the 1680s. I pick only petals and leave the center part (multiple pistils that will develop into an “aggregate follicle” fruit with seeds) so that the tree can fulfill its reproductive cycle. I only take petals from a few flowers on lower branches and like to harvest them after they’ve had a day in the sun, even if I don’t get the strongest scent.
Scent profile: notes of vanilla, lemon, occasional whiffs of honeysuckle and rose; strongest scent on just opening blooms; the scent evolves quickly as the flower opens; creamy, sweet, fresh & light floral
In perfumery: I’m currently making an enfleurage of the petals to make what will eventually be an absolute.