Scent Semantics is a new monthly perfume blogger collaboration curated by Portia Turbo to bring together six writers from around the world to meditate on a single word, and then write about a fragrance they’ve chosen that best represents it.
“Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”
This month, Elena has chosen the word ANGELIC.
The word angelic has always been synonymous with “boring” for me. Not that I have an issue with religion or people who are religious (I don’t), but the dictionary definition of angelic — “resembling, or suggestive of an angel (as in purity, holiness, innocence, or beauty)” — seems dull compared to their portrayal in the Old Testament where they are flaming sword-waving, wrathful, inscrutable, and terrifying messengers of God.
Old Testament angels are scary. They’re meant to be scary. They are awesome, but not in the banal way we would say, “These tacos are awesome!” More like the slack-jawed, wordlessly blinking way that we might be when face-to-face with something much bigger, more powerful, and completely incomprehensible to our puny human brains. I’m fairly certain that if most people saw an actual angel as described in the Old Testament, they would soil themselves.
I’m not an expert on angels. I didn’t grow up going to any religious services, which is probably why I find angels fascinating in an esoteric way. According to the Kabbalah, there are ten kinds of angels in the “choir of angels,” each weirder and more terrifying than the last. Take the cherubim who, far from the chubby, winged babies commonly found in Renaissance tableaux, were described in the Book of Ezekiel as beings with four faces (one human, one of a lion, one of an ox, and one of an eagle), two pairs of wings, and human legs with shiny hooves. Freaky! What about the six-winged seraphim, fiery beings with one set of wings to cover their face, one set to cover their feet, and one set used to fly. Even freakier! Let’s not forget the ophanim (angels shaped like interlocked flaming chariot wheels, covered with eyes), which are just plain weird.
Coming back to our Scent Semantics word of the month, if the definition of angelic is that which is “resembling, or suggestive of an angel,” why can’t the word also encompass that which is resembling or suggestive of these stranger, more hallucinogenic, and more terrifying angels? Being angelic is just what angels do, regardless if they are more benevolent human-looking ones, or ones that look like eyeball wheels.
What about the fallen angels? The rebel angels? And the most famous fallen, rebel angel of them all: Satan. In Abrahamic religions, Satan (also known as Lucifer) was supposedly a beautiful angel, cast out of Heaven as eternal punishment for rebelling against God. Surprisingly, the Bible doesn’t say that Hell is Satan’s kingdom, only that there will be a place of everlasting fire for him and the other fallen angels. Hell is not an idea that the authors of the Bible invented. Many ancient and modern religions imagined a fiery underworld inhabited by malevolent entities, and damned souls.
Which brings me to my choice of fragrance this month: Boujee Bougies‘ Hellflower. Boujee Bougies is a project from Olfiction, an independent fragrance house founded by two people very familiar to Perfumeland: perfumer Pia Long and Creative Director and writer Nick Gilbert. Rounding out the Boujee Bougies team are Thomas Dunckley (aka the Candy Perfume Boy) and perfumer’s assistant Ezra-Lloyd Jackson.
With a team like that, we all knew that they would create something wonderful.
According to the Boujee Boujies website, Hellflower is a candle inspired by “a tatty old sci-fi novel […] all about a populace addicted to flowers.” I have not read it, but I will take Pia and Nick’s word that it’s hilariously bad. Like a lot of pulpy fiction, a summary of its plot is difficult to find on the internet, but in all honesty, do you even need the plot?
Hellflower: The Candle, is meant to evoke the scent of burning flowers (magnolia and jasmine) and brimstone, the ancient name for sulphur.
Thankfully, these sulphurous notes are not the kind you smell when you overboil eggs. Instead, they are more like what you smell in grapefruit, specifically like when you leave grapefruit juice out for too long. And Hellflower is quite juicy.
As it burns, it’s simultaneously voluptuous and energizing. It’s not a suffocating scent, however the candle creates a narcotic haze of grapefruit creamsicle that floats through the air like gauze. It’s a beautiful and unexpected. Is it angelic? I’m not sure. But isn’t that the beauty of this Scent Semantics project? To meditate on the intersections of scent and meaning, and follow where each of these words takes you?
Speaking of other meditations and semantic scent journeys to follow, I can’t wait to read everyone else’s takes on angelic. Please visit their blogs and subscribe to support (links in menu and below).