The Veil Has Lifted...Happy Halloween!

Someone up there loves me because my ongoing mystery illness has been subsiding this last week just in time for my favorite holiday. I didn't make any plans in the event that I still feel terrible, health in this case is more symbolic. But the last two days I've actually been eating and leaving the house for 3-4 hours at a time WITHOUT INCIDENT!

I digress. Back to Halloween. First off, it's my brother's birthday which irritates me that he got world's coolest birthday. He doesn't love dead things the way I do. Secondly, since I love history and haven't written about history in a while, here's an ultra-mini history of Halloween.

My Celtic ancestors were seriously amazing. They were crazy and I love them for it. They had this festival called Samhain (I'm pretty sure Wiccans still call Halloween that) (why do I know so much about this stuff?). They believed that the veil between this world and the next thinned and allowed the free passage of spirits to roam the earth. The Celts would light bonfires and wear masks to ward off any nasty ghosts that may be about. And people were totally fine with this arrangement until, like everything else, the Catholics had to come appropriate Samhain for themselves. I'm Catholic, I can say these things. Anyway, Pope Gregory III was all like, the Celts are having way too much fun we want in. So he decreed that November 1 would be All Saints Day which as we all know has morphed into something awesome called Dia de Los Muertos. All Saints Day appropriated the Celtic Samhain traditions. The night before All Saints Day was called All Hallows' Eve which you already knew because you watched Hocus Pocus everyday as a child. Just me? Everything has to be a fight between good and evil with these religious types so All Hallows' Eve, which over time became known as Halloween, was the more sinister of the days. From there, someone had the utter brilliance of incorporating pumpkins and candy. Halloween.

There's probably more to the story, but I told you, ultra-mini today. Sales have been down due to the hurricane on the East Coast (seriously, hope you guys are ok and are able to get out and vote next week!!), but I thought it fitting that I woke up to the sale of three bottles of Dead Writers perfume. Halloween.

Victorian Mourning Jewelry

Last year whilst strolling down Valencia in San Francisco's Mission District, I walked by this little incense and oil shop and noticed a random book in the window. It was called, Jewels: A Secret History, by Victoria Finlay. I have no idea what possessed me to buy this book. I've never read a book like it and I'm not exactly a gemologist (not sure if that is a real word). But you see, I love The Dark Crystal, and Tales of the Crystals, so maybe it was some sort of childhood nostalgia. Anyway, the book is really cool. Each chapter talks about a precious gemstone in terms of the history of it's value. Because of this book, I got a pearl engagement ring and discovered the topic of today's blog post. Victorian Mourning Jewelry, aka, Queen Victoria was the first goth.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria's grief was so profound that not only did she have her servants lay out Albert's clothes every morning after his death, but she only wore black until her own death in 1901. Unwittingly, she started the craze for what was popularly dubbed, mourning jewelry. Items such as necklaces, rings, brooches, and bracelets that contained jet were all the rage.

It suddenly makes sense to me why the Victorian time period is usually described as Gothic. Between Edgar Allan Poe, the Bronte Sisters, and Queen Victoria, you've got enough grief and morbidity to keep 200 years of misunderstood youth on trend.

On that note, here are two solid perfume lockets I recently made in the Victorian Mourning style.

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Pretty neat, huh???

Badass of the Week: Doc Maynard

Warning: I'm going to use the word "badass" like 50 times because there is no other word to describe the awesome that is Doc Maynard. I'm supposed to do a tutorial today, but, well, I'm just so excited to introduce my men's colognes that I couldn't wait to share a little history lesson behind the inspiration for my first cologne.

I first heard about Doc Maynard when I read Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Seriously, if you like steampunk, alternative history, zombies and badass female heroines, you need to get on that stat. At that point, I didn't live in Seattle, I was still in either Los Angeles or San Francisco I don't even remember, so frankly nothing outside of that had entered my mind and I just thought he was some made up character. NOT SO!

After I moved here, I got really interested in local history because there's a ton of it and, well, BONESHAKER!! I went on the Underground Walking Tour (yes! you can go underground to old Seattle that burned down) and that was basically a love song to Doc Maynard. So who was this mysterious man with the name straight out of Tombstone or something?

Doc Maynard was a frontier doctor and friend to the Native Americans, famous for becoming one of the founding fathers of Seattle. After losing his fortune in Cleveland, he bade farewell to his family promising to send for them as he made his way to California seeking a new life. He totally didn't send for them though because he found out his wife cheated on him... but he didn't want to totally screw her over so he stayed with her for a time (nice guy!). On the trail to Oregon he used his medical knowledge to help fight cholera which proved fortuitous as he met the love of his life, the widow of the wagon train leader, Catherine Broshears. He accompanied her to Puget Sound where he got involved in logging and swindled San Francisco for 10 times what he paid amassing a small fortune. But it was city building that interested Doc Maynard saying that he wasn't interested in wealth, just building the greatest city on earth. He opened a store, became Justice of the Peace, befriended local Native Americans, helped start brothels (he felt vice was necessary on the frontier) and even petitioned for a separate Washington Territory. It was at his urging that Seattle was named for Chief Seattle, leader of the local tribe and his bestie. At that time, Seattle was an upstart little village that made its fortune first with logging and then ultimately being the last stop for supplies on the Alaska Gold Rush Trail. Jesus, this dude was awesome, I need to visit his grave. Writing this I was getting jealous of such cool state history but then I remembered I'm from New York.

photo (19)
photo (19)

Aaaannnyway, I make my fragrances with historical and literary figures in mind and when I decided that I wanted to venture into colognes... Doc Maynard was the first person I thought of (actually second behind King Henry VIII but I haven't perfected that yet). This cologne is a tribute to Seattle's original badass and brings to mind sasparilla and old saloons. The sassafras lends a root beer scent while the underlying juniper berry (used to flavor gin) smells fresh and clean. Layers of moss, sandalwood and tobacco round out this cologne.

I LOVE HISTORY!!

Tart of the Week: The Duchess Georgiana Cavendish

For fans of Georgiana, the title of this post is written in jest, you'll find out why below. For those of you who don't know who Georgiana is, or if you just don't like Keira Knightley which seems to me the only reason why you would not have heard of the Duchess, it's story time. Georgiana Spencer (Princess Diana’s great-great-grandaunt) was delighted to find out that she had caught the eye of the influential (and rich!) Duke of Devonshire. Always the aristocrat, Georgiana supported her husband’s political affiliations with friendliness and charm – becoming at one point one of the chief fashionistas in England. She was even pen-pal to Marie Antoinette. However, difficulty in producing an heir led her husband to grow distant and he began a not-so secret affair with Georgiana’s friend Lady Elizabeth Foster. The trio lived as a ménage-a-trois (not by Georgiana’s choice) for the rest of her life.

Despite her marital unhappiness, Georgiana found solace in the arms of Charles Grey who later became Prime Minister. They had an illegitimate daughter whom Georgiana was forced to give up. Charles Grey is the namesake of the ever popular Earl Grey Tea. She died at the age of 48 most likely due to alcoholism.

One day whilst searching for information on historical figures, like I do, I found a website written as a gossip blog in Georgiana's "voice." It's called The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century, and while it's a cheeky Georgian version of TMZ, it's clear that the author's focus is history because there's tons of interesting stuff I didn't know. They even have a Tart of the Week section!! Anytime someone uses the word "tart" as an insult I feel warm and fuzzy inside. I wish all people would talk like that, I'd be less weird. There's also a companion site for Marie Antoinette but we'll talk about that tart later. While the discovery of these sites validated the fact that there are other people out there like me, I was kind of jealous I hadn't thought of it first.

Anyway, the point. So, as you know I make perfumes. I read a lot of historical fiction, and biographies for that matter, and thought it would be cool to make perfumes inspired by what I think historical figures might have worn based on their personalities. I love grandeur and tragedy because I'm crazy.

Georgiana was one of the first I made. This perfume is dedicated to the star-crossed lovers by a mix of Black Tea and Bergamot (ingredients of Earl Grey Tea) as well as the delicate florals of Jasmine and Lavender. I giggled like an absolute school girl when I realized that not only had I made a pleasant perfume, but I'd made one that smelled like Earl Grey tea. Because Georgiana and Lord Grey were lovers. SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!?!?! As of last night I only have one more bottle left of Georgiana. But don't worry, I'm going to make more. It just takes about a month for it to be pretty and I wasn't expecting it to be popular so let's chalk it up to poor planning on my part and call it a day.

If you are intrigued by Georgiana's story, you should read Amanda Foreman's biography which the 2008 movie The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, is based on. The original title of the book was Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire, but since the movie came out you might only find it as The Duchess.