Scylla–The Myth

The view of Scylla's fishtail

The view of Scylla’s fishtail

The beautiful Scylla was the daughter of a river god and a naiad (a goddess of a small body of fresh water). She was seen by a gentleman (a god, really) named Glaucus who at one time had been a humble fisherman but who consumed an herb which caused him to become a god. Scylla was not at all attracted to Glaucus, he was long haired, bearded, had a fish tail for nether parts (face it, he was a merman) and she didn’t feel at all any sympathy or desire for him. He pursued her along the shores of the sea and she spurned him in spectacular fashion. Everyone thought that was funny EXCEPT the witch Circe (who would later form a crush on Ulysses and turn his men into pigs). Circe thought that Glaucous was rather cute and was angry and embarrassed that a little snip like Scylla would tell everyone he was just an ugly smelly fishman, which was insulting Circe’s taste in men!

Circe approached Glaucous and made eyes at him but he rebuffed her claiming that he cared only for Scylla and no one else would do. Circe flew into a jealous rage, made up a very effective potion and poured it on Scylla while she was bathing and had her eyes closed.

The barking lampreys

The barking lampreys

Scylla started to writhe and call out in great pain, he legs split into six ugly tentacles and she grew a gigantic fish tail, just like the one she had laughed at on Glaucus but hers was far uglier with mud colored twisted scales, lumps, holes, and places where parasites had bored into the flesh and formed barnacle filled nests. There sprung from her spine wide mucus covered fins and dorsal fin with the look of fungus-like grey balls tipping the edges of it. Then six ghastly sea lampreys flew out from her back and stationed themselves on either side of her waist as they twisted and barked.

Scylla immediately developed an endless hunger for the flesh of men and cruised back and forth in the Strait of Messina looking for boats from which to pluck sailors to eat like grapes. She had grown very large, over 100 feet, and was a match for any craft.

There is an excellent sculpture of Scylla at The Rock of Scylla in Calabria. I took some pictures of it but it is truly 3 dimensional and difficult to capture in your mind all at once.


This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.



Making Scents Of Sicily-Part 2

Well...Today we are going to explore more typical scents which inspired the Sicilian Collection at Possets Perfume.

Coffee-Everyone loves the particular smell of fresh ground coffee and Sicily is awash in espresso machinery of all types. From the classic upended tank with an eagle on top to the modern computery looking ones, Sicilians adore everything about the process and the product. You can smell coffee everywhere in the mornings and afternoons in the streets of any Sicilian city. Coffee has found its way into perfume as well, and one of our most popular fragrances was a coffee based creation. The Sicilian Collection is no different yet I have used a light and subtle hand with coffee in a summer series, and you won’t smell it up front but it does insinuate.

Black Pepper-Nothing quite matches the pop and woody zizzle of black pepper. I put it in Sicily and it ads such a mad-good edge. Black pepper is found in a number of famous fragrances throughout the years and is considered a classic ingredient.

Pink Pepper-One of the most memorable meals I had in Sicily had the surprising feature of Pink Peppercorns in a sauce covering pappardelle noodles. A bit more aromatic in a plant way than black pepper, the pink variety must be treated delicately so as not to overpower a fragrance. It should be an enhancement to the background, not a foreground “announcer”.

Hay-The smell of drying hay or dry grasses in the hills is truly marvelous on Sicily. The weather turns hot and dry right after the verdant spring and that is when that wonderful smell of dried grass starts to haunt you. Again, this is a surprisingly strong element and best in the summer as an ornament rather than the star player.

Basil-The quintessential herb and hallmark of southern Italian cooking, basil is prized for its licorice-like scent and ability to conjure hot summer days. Basil is featured in the 100% Natural blend Triskelion to great effect.

Jasmine-May and June are the best times for that sweetest of flowers, Mediterranean jasmine. Everywhere the mad vine displays its small white flowers and creamy fragrance. Very different from the “stinky” varieties, this jasmine is so beautiful it can break your heart. I grow it at home. Since jasmine is so very Sicilian, I put it in my perfume called Mafia to great effect.

Fig-This has been a dark, syrupy summer favorite for many years. A natural partner for the heavier elements like patchouli, musk, and nag champa; fig can range from a molasses-like variety to a very green and light scent. Prestidigitazione and Scylla have fig in them and are luscious.

Cucumber-On a hot dry island, cucumber is bound to be a favorite treat, and the scent of it instantly signals coolness and wet. Arabic influence in cuisine can be seen in the liberal use of spices, a bit of hot pepper, and cucumber. The scent mingles deliciously with a great many elements and I have not used it as a central part of my Sicilian Collection but as a very effective piece of scenery.

Violet-The beautiful purple flower is usually associated with Parma but grows in the shady bowers of Sicily as well. A favorite among the aristocrats in the classic The Leopard, violet has enjoyed a renaissance in the 21st century among perfumers and their fans. I use it as a tribute to the glorious Angelica of that novel, and her perfume Bouquet a la Marechale.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Making Scents Of Sicily-Part 1

Well...At Possets we were determined to make a perfume collection based on the glorious island of Sicily. That is a pretty big ambition. Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean and has so much to choose from. I decided to go with the lush notes I remembered there.

Oranges and Lemons-The citrus fruit of Sicily is justifiably famous. It is truly the most fragrant and suave of all the citrus I have encountered. I was lucky enough to get there at the end of the blood orange season, too! Blood oranges look just like regular small oranges until you cut them open, the interior is burgundy red and the taste is unequaled anywhere. Once I ordered orange juice and got a glass of what looked like tomato juice. Then I tasted it and realized I was one of the luckiest of breakfasters! Fortunes have been made and lost on citrus. The Arabs conquered Sicily and brought the orange groves and lemon blossoms which gave the island its most famous crop, and the poll position as citrus grower for the entire of Europe. The orange and lemon essential oils used in the Sicilian Collection at Possets are either of Italian origin or pure blood orange. They are lovely top notes, and with a bit of magic can be made to stick around and mellow into the rest of a perfume.

Bergamot-A sort of big thick skinned citrus fruit, you are more familiar with it as the defining scent in Earl Grey tea. A middle note of great character, I always think of it as the soul of sophistication.

Myrtle-All around ancient ruins you can smell myrtle pouring out its essence to the sun. I could not find much of it about, and I have always thought that it was a very strong and volatile aromatic, but without the hostility of turpentine. A small amount has the power to transform a mundane perfume into a head turning scent of a strong and very sexy perfume. It was one of the herbs associated with Venus.

Rosemary and Sage-Two exceptionally Italian herbs which can make up a whole entrancing new character when lightly added to dishes or perfume. Again these herbs grow wild around the undisturbed spots and are part of the memories you will take away with you. They found their way into quite a few of my blends this time and handily conveyed the idea of Sicily. Clary Sage was also part of this herby mix and added a warmth and snugness which you can’t quite get with the oils of the other two.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Caravaggio's Mistakes!

For a closer look, click on the images and you will be taken to a bigger version of them so that you can see the detail.

Emmaus Supper

Everyone I know likes to oo and ahh over every work of Caravaggio. He is the GRRRRREAT MAAAASTER! OK, he is wonderful BUT I started to notice a problem he was having and I brought it up much to the ire of my buddies. He had a devil of a time with foreshortening. I first noticed this problem in his painting The Dinner At Emmaus.

I love this painting, the daring way Caravaggio places the man on the right (the disciple Cleopas) who stretches out his arms in astonishment like an umpire calling “safe!”. Jesus is so calm, looks like He is making his point effortlessly in the face of such bold denial. The bravado of the perspective is innovative and a wonder BUT it’s not totally believable. Take a look at the size of the right and left hand of Cleopas and compare them to the size of his head. The rule of thumb in art is that a hand is approximately the length of a face. Both the front and the far hand are the same size and the one furthest away should be considerably smaller than the one in front. It isn’t, and so that is a problem. As great a work of art as this is, I can’t look at it without thinking, “…if only Caravaggio had fixed that before he finished it.” It doesn’t have to be perfect, just believable.

OK, I will admit that is sort of a prissy observation, the difference isn’t so great that you would stop everything you are doing and write an essay about it (like prissy art historian wannabes {like me} do) BUT I ran across an egregious example of Caravaggio’s sloppy perspective and this one is undeniable (actually I was almost stoned and run out of town for bringing it up, by art expert wannabes BUT undaunted I asserted they were WRONG and that settled it, as it always does*).

stlucyThe Burial of St. Lucy resides in Syracusa in Sicily. It is a large and prized work by Caravaggio, done whilst beleaguered and running for his life after he was expelled from The Knights of Malta and the island of Malta itself. He needed money and having found shelter and a patron on Sicily, he was commissioned to paint the scene after the martyrdom of one of Sicily’s most popular saints.

The composition is daring (again) the gravediggers are given the largest and closest spot to the viewer and you sort of have to hunt for the protagonist of the piece. She is lying on the ground, dead, with her eyes cut out as part of her torture but the gore is not apparent.

Looking at this painting, I got the feeling that each of the figures existed in its own plane, and not as part of a continuing view in perspective, as we do in real life. It is as if none of the figures were really posed together, just each one separately.

More disturbing was the right arm of St. Lucy. It looks like a doll’s arm! As if she had an arm which was about a foot long, much too short for an average human being. Her hand is much smaller than her face (remember the rule of thumb about hands and faces I told you before?). That isn’t the way proper perspective works. The hand should be much larger if it is closer to us, and at least as large as her face. Even if her hand is curled, it certainly isn’t the proper size. And so again Caravaggio blows it with hand/arm foreshortening. This time, it’s a huge error and hard to escape unless you are in profound denial.

I think the big problem Caravaggio faced was that he was rushed and disturbed when he painted this picture. The jig was just about up for him and he was hunted and/or cast out of just about every place he had been welcomed. That had to take a psychological toll on him. Also, I just don’t think he understood perspective and if you notice, almost all of his paintings avoid having to deal with depth in the painting. Backgrounds are black, there is never a landscape in the distance, no one is way far away.

In the Burial of St. Lucy, there is one plane in the foreground with the gravediggers in it, and one in the background where the crowd and the downed saint exist almost lined up against a wall.

Mighty peculiar, but undeniable.

*Actually, it just made them huffier but they forgave me later; they said it was because they liked me BUT I know that it was because I was right.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Art In Sicily—The Shocking Truth!!!

MedusaOnce or twice I was solemnly told that nothing at all went on in art south of Rome during or after the Renaissance. Wrong, very wrong. You will be delighted to know that there is a whole wonderful world waiting for you to discover it!

In the next few weeks I am going to discuss one of the things I am very good at: art history. I hope you will come along for this amusing ride through the marks left behind by people who have been a part of the Sicilian story.

Oh, and there will be at least one H-bomb comment which is guaranteed to raise hackles. I am not backing down. I have categorically discovered a serious flaw in a hallowed painter’s technique which I have not seen discussed anywhere and I have taken some major heat for even bringing it up. Stay tuned.

Art is one of my favorite topics and I have done a lot of thinking and practicing about it. Sicily is just full of surprising masterpieces of which you have never heard and (in many cases) which you have never seen BUT that will all be remedied in this blog.

(The picture for this blog is Caravaggio’s Medusa, the face is supposed to be that of Caravaggio himself).

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Try This At Home–Nigella (Love-In-A-Mist)

blackseedsI have never been a big fan of caraway seed. I find it too sharp and volatile for my taste. One day, I tried some Armenian String Cheese. The neatest thing about it were these little black seeds running through it. I found out that they were called ‘nigella’ and also knew that the nigella I grew in my backyard contained seed pods. Put 2 and 2 together and found out that I had been growing those tasty little seeds for years and never took full advantage of them! I started putting them in a number of things: breads, salads, pickles, anywhere I would have used caraway or any strong flavored seed. They are perfect.

Nigella has a strong flavor and it is a bit sharp but it’s not as overpowering as caraway seed and it’s scent is more of a perfume and less of a harsh clean smell.

nigellaflowerI mentioned this to a friend in the Middle East who assured me that they were wonderful for your health and a staple in Middle Eastern cooking! They are expressed for their oil, the seeds are sold in bulk all over souks and on the internet. You can buy bulk nigella seed in Indian stores as well, Pakistani store, and any place with foods from “The Silk Road”. I bet that Chinese food stores are no stranger to them, either.

The reason why I am talking about them here is because they are famously grown on Sicily! The hills are often filled with the nodding blue heads of Love-In-A-Mist, followed by fat seed pods which are then harvested and sold at market.

You don’t have to go to Sicily to get Nigella seed, you can find them on the internet and they are not very expensive at all. They go by a variety of different names: nigella, black seed, blackseed, black cumin, and there may be a few more. I just use them when I want a bit of piquancy added to my dishes.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Sicily And Beyond, Our Thing

gunOne of the most famous aspects of Sicily is the Mafia, or Cosa Nostra. Aside from The Godfather, most people don’t know much about the Cosa Nostra and its offshoots. The Mafia actually started during the middle of the 19th century as a reaction to the breakdown of the old strong feudal system and the rise of a new and weak government. From the middle of the 19th century on, agriculture collapsed slowly as a source of revenue and the Mafia rose as a secret society of bandits who shook down landowners for “protection money”. They prevailed on what was left of the aristocratic landowners and got their payoff in return for leaving them alone. If the feudal system had remained intact, the Mafia never would have appeared. Over time, the Mafia turned more to running their own illegal activities rather than preying on landowners. Several members went to America to make their fortunes and did quite well, as we know.

In Italy in general, the Mafia was rumored to have been a big player in the Christian Democratic Party (the prevailing political party in Italy), and at the time of WWII, the Allies were even said to have enlisted the aid of Mafiosi to keep order after they invaded Italy!

Today, there are three main organized crime organizations, and they are differentiated by location. The Mafia or Cosa Nostra is the most famous and often portrayed as the most elegant of the three. They were always the stuff of legend, painted in romantic tones and secretly admired for their style and success. The Cosa Nostra is associated mainly with Sicily and are actually quite commonly seen but keep a very low profile.

The Cammora is the name of the organized crime scene is Naples. They are famous for controlling the garbage pickup in that ancient city and were the subject of the wildly popular cable television series The Sopranos. Born in the shadow of Vesuvius, the Cammora is seen as a lot rougher and less sophisticated than the Sicilian Mafia, but very effective for their loose bonds of organization.

Finally, the ‘Ndrangheta is the organized crime society which operates out of Calabria, the “toe of the boot”. What makes them so tenacious is that they are strictly among family members, so it is almost impossible to infiltrate their ranks. They are not as effective as the Camorra or the Mafia but they are exceptionally vicious when moved to be.

Most of the organized criminal groups are found in the South of Italy and it is thought to be in response to the increasing poverty in the South as good paying jobs migrated to the North after the Unification and post WWII. As the fortunes of the South declined, organized crime increased.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring The Sicilian Summer 2014 Collection now. The Sicilian Summer Collection is loaded with glorious fragrances perfect for the heat and redolent with the rich beauty of the Mediterranean.


Bigger Samples At Possets For a Limited Time

The Bluebird of Happiness

The Bluebird of Happiness

I ordered empty vials and when I opened the box I saw they were the next size up of vials (about 1/3 larger). Rather than go through the hassle of sending them back and delaying making samples, I decided to use them up. So, the following samples will be going out to people in larger sizes while supplies last: Arizona, Alaska, Pleiades, Morgan le Fay, Cygnus, Arcturus, Sweet Arabia, Dance With Me, Wings of an Angel, and Nevada. There may be a couple more in the future and I will let you know which ones they are. They will be the same price as all the rest. Lucky you! After all of the larger ones are sent out we will be going back to the regular size.

Sports Drinks

madmegWhen I work out hard I get very thirsty, that is normal. To slake my thirst I used to buy all kinds of sports drinks, the diet variety. Unfortunately something always went wrong somewhere along the line. First, a green tea drink I used to get from my local grocery started to taste fishy. Ick! Next I tried the powdered drink mixes and they were always tooooooo sweeeeeeeet by far. There was just so much sweetener in them that I could not stand drinking them after a while. I tried to dilute them to no avail, once you get that over-the-top taste in your head, you can’t get it out. Bla! The better ones were always the pricey ones. Then, there started a hybrid bunch of drinks which were “100% natural” and contained high fructose corn syrup (which is 100% natural if you live in some parallel universe and aren’t too picky), were “lite” (only 100 calories per serving and each 16 oz bottle contained 25 servings—ha ha ha). *Sigh* I give up! The drinks industry must be making money for every calorie we consume, not each bottle of beverage we buy…I am convinced the whole thing is backward.

So, after all that tribulation, I decided to make my own sports drink. I am not a purist, I like a bit of flavoring to my liquid. I found myself in the highly unfamiliar place of actually LIKING unsweetened tea! I have always loathed tea, and unsweetened and unlemoned tea was just foul as far as I was concerned. Then one day a miracle happened, I started to like plain tea! Then I started to work out and drink plain tea. Rather than go buy it in the store for grossly inflated prices, I got myself one of those big plastic pitchers and threw in:

  • 4 green tea bags
  • 4 black or orange pekoe tea bags
  • 4 Peach Passion tea bags from Celestial Seasonings

Then I filled the pitcher with water from the tap and put it in the refrigerator. After a couple of hours there was tea in that thing! I normally start drinking it when it turns an appetizing color but it’s best to leave the bags in overnight and take them out the next day. Squeeze all the goodness out of them before discarding.

Then I have a huge amount of tea: ready to use, cold, in a flavor I like, with all the benefits of green tea without the fishy taste. Just pour it into my water bottle and off I go. Very refreshing and with no ugly after taste, added junque, or high price. Try it. Throw in a handful of mint when you brew, try other flavors of herbal teas (chai or constant comment). I bet you will get spoiled and like your homemade tea better than that store-bought stuff!

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is going to be featuring Sicilian Summer for its Summer 2014 Collection. The Sicilian Summer Collection should appear mid-June 2014 but in the meantime check out their current collection, The Night Sky which is spring and glorious.