The Clarimonde Project
From that moment on his life becomes complicated; Romuald and Clarimonde travel to Venice where he lives as a priest by day and a Seignior by night, enjoying the love of his beautiful Clarimonde , as well as pleasures of the flesh which he had never known could exist. The day arrives though when he discovers that she has been giving him a sleeping draught all along , sothat she could drink one drop of his blood each night. Eventually Romuald becomes so tortured by his double life that he tells his mentor, an older priest name Serapion his story. The older priest takes him to the cemetery and opens her tomb , where Romuald discovers her resting peacefully , glowing with life from the gift of his blood. The priest, driven to destroy what he cannot understand , pours holywater upon the sleeping Clarimonde who instantly disintigrates into ashes and dust. She comes to Romuald one last time in a vision, asking why he has destroyed the bond between them, sadly reminding him that she had asked for almost nothing in exchange for the love and beauty that she’d brought to his very existence.
I must admit right now that I hated the end of the story. I wished that Clarimonde had been able to choose a man that could value her for her true self without guilt , a man who could take what she offered him passionately and return it back to her without fear…..a man who could have honestly CHOSEN her. I have lived with one who was so scared of my femaleness that he sought to destroy my very essence through his violence, he could not CHOOSE me so he sought to destroy me. I think that every woman experiences a love like that once and perhaps that is why we all have related so strongly to her story. We are familiar with our blood, we know it’s taste and smell. We have bitten our lips many times in sorrow as we bandage our children, quiet our tongues or bury our dead. We know what it means to choose life, to choose to open ourselves up to love even though it may destroy us. We need men who are fearless in the face of our passions and our frailties. It saddens me that Romauld and Clarimonde lived in a time when she couldn’t be honest with him about who she was and because it was a time when women were by their very natures suspect, it would have impossible for her to have been honest with him, she who held such a deep and forbidden secret. I have always thought that within the bonds of secular religion live the very intolerances that destroy any real possibility for love to grow. I would have liked him more if he hadn’t chosen to have been such a spineless martyr , betraying her in the end to preserve his façade, his piousness. In the end he willingly took everything from her yet clearly didn’t trust what she offered him, choosing to destroy her instead of just allowing her to be , to choose another who could truly love her. I was saddened that she felt that she couldn't be honest with him and wondered what their possibilities would have been if she'd been able to ask for his passion outright. Women know that their lives are inextricably intertwined with natural cycles of life and death. We stare headfirst into the chasm of the unknown to turn our bodies inside out, riding the painful waves of childbirth , thinking that for sure we are dying until the very moment when life emerges at the bitter end of then spiral. We are not afraid of that which we do not quite understand nor do not seek to destroy the essence of the experience. We would gladly spill our blood for our passions and are left emotionally battered and violently scarred when we find out that the object of our affections was simply not willing to do the same but sometimes as it was with Clarimonde we feel that we are not worthy of asking for our hearts deepest wishes.
I had never read the story of Clarimonde until my friend and fellow blogger Lucy Raubertas proposed to several of us that we might discover and create a perfumed project around it. She started a secret page for us and very quickly we began to breath life into her vision. The Clarimonde Project is a scented collaboration that began with about 11 of us but it quickly blossomed into so much more. From the start I knew that this was going to be an extraordinary project and for weeks I have lived immersed in a world of 18th century art , music and literature , waiting for the moment when I could claim Clarimonde as my own. I read hungrily as extraordinary perfumers like Mandy Aftel, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz , Monica Miller, Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl and Ayala Moriel began to describe the scents that they were blending for this project and it wasn’t long before I felt the compelling need to create something of my own. I became obsessed with the idea of scenting a pair of gloves. I looked for days for just the right pair andeventually I found them…a pair of vintage French kid gloves, embroidered and in perfect condition. It took a month for them to arrive, but they are beautiful, worth every penny and the eternally long wait. Armed with a wonderful article by Jeanne Rose about scenting leather I began to work. Leather and I are not strangers as I’ve spent many a moment caressing and cleaning my saddles and bridles. But the softness of the kid demanded a different respect, so I made a simple solid perfume of beeswax and jojoba which I scented with chocolate, rose, a bit of oud that I had, some sandalwood and cinnamon. I rubbed the creamy mixture all over my hands until they were very warm and took a sniff. Delicious yes, but something was missing. I went over to the beautiful parcels that had arrived and took out the precious vials. Slowly the scent began to take shape as I rubbed drops of each delicious perfume into my hands. 5 wonderful perfumes, each of them so very different and yet they blended so well together. I took another deep breath and was stunned by the sheer beauty of them all, It was as if I could smell the essence of each yet blended together it was the most potent mixture of scent that I’ve ever smelled, beautiful, sexual and feral. It was as if we’d all been dreaming the same dream, yet each of us had brought back a different piece of her soul.
It was the scent of Clarimonde and it permeated my senses, filling me with an odd mixture of joy and passion tinged with a touch of regret. It was amazing to realize that we had ventured into unknown depths to bring her most intimate secrets into the light.
I plunged my hands into the gloves and after what seemed like an eternity I removed my hands to find that they were not greasy at all, the fine kid had absorbed all of the oil and sweet perfume. I folded several pieces of tissue that I’d scented with the mixture and placed them into the palms of the gloves, wrapped more tissue around them and buried them for several days in a pile of warm autumn leaves. When next I saw them they were infused with not only the scent of all of that lovely perfume but the golden warmth of the leaves that they’d been resting in. They were lovely to begin with, delicate and soft with age but they even more beautiful now. They glow with the luscious scent but there is something else, an aura of love and loss, to me they smell of redemption and rebirth. The bitter ending of this story finds Romuald torn with regret, warning his readers never to look at a woman because most assuredly they will meet the same fate as he. It can’t help but be obvious that his real regret is that he lacked the courage to choose love over fear, to embrace passion instead of destruction, hope over resignation.
All over one tiny drop of blood.
The image that you see above is my tribute to her, an altar outside in my little herb garden that I have dedicated to Clarimonde and these scented gloves are my offering. Instead of being reviled she is worshipped, an 18th century Goddess of incomparable darkness and unfathomable light who was betrayed by the one that she loved , reduced to tricking him for the scraps of his passion that he could never openly offer her , the sadness being that she generously and openly offered him somuch. She has become my muse and in my ending, Romauld lovingly collected the ashes from her tomb and took them to a secret place where he built a shrine to the beautiful woman that he loved and kept her safe from harm. I can imagine no other.
When I opened the parcel that I received from Ayala I was transfixed even before I saw its contents. I didn’t need to see what was inside, I could tell simply by the scent wafting from the envelope that I’d received an extraordinary gift and that I was going to enjoy it very much. Inside was beautifully handmade dream pillow, of creamy silk with a single precious garnet sewn into its folds that I am sure symbolizes the one drop of blood that she needed to survive . A dream pillow is a beautifully simple thing, a precious little parcel that’s been filled with herbs designed to enhance the experience of sleep or in Romaulds case something that he would have filled with herbs from the monastery gardens to banish his impure thoughts of Clarimonde. Ayala’s interpretation of the scent is very pretty and has an absolutely ethereal quality that is disarming, because the fragrance is very sexy. The beautiful pillow itself is filled with relaxing herbs and flowers such as valerian and lavender that by their very nature should easily promote an easy restful sleep, but Ayala has also perfumed it with her beautiful “Clarimonde” , which is sumptuous , exotic and twisted with a heavenly wisp of violet that windsthough her gorgeously spicy oriental/floral blend and gives this perfume its very otherworldly and deeply spiritual quality. My husband described it as remarkably beautiful and I agree. My dreams have been exquisite and happily filled with very impure thoughts.
The package that I received from Monica Miller was absolutely intriguing . From her label which is a fabulous celtic knot of intertwined bodies to the contents inside, an exquisite little vial of her lovely Sangre Eau de Parfum and two remarkable lip stains, one called “Purple Shadow” and the other aptly named “Scarlet Kiss” , the experience from start to finish was delightful. For some reason, I felt as if I had to be dressed to wear these, so I put on a lovely shirt of purple velvet and some gorgeous black velvet trousers. That wasn’t enough so I swept up my hair and fastened it with a golden comb of my grandmothers that I keep for such an occasion. That seemed to be better so then I did my eyes in a soft kohl pencil and swept a hint of blush across my cheeks. Then I stroked the Sangre across my throat and onto my wrists and finally applied the lips stains, mixing them until the effect was dark and winey. I looked in the mirror and felt incredibly elegant , practically of anotherworld. Monica’s lip stains not only feel delightful but they taste wonderful because they are filled with essential oils, resins and herbs. The base she used is shea butter and my lips loved it and responded accordingly by looking bee stung and beautiful. Sangre, her scented tribute to Clarimonde is gorgeous. I loved the deep dark fruit essences that she used along with a fresh sweet chamomile and the way that she’s blended them with the rich floral heart and base of musks, honey and sticky resins creates a bacchanalian feast of a perfume that manages to be both Bohemian and classic at the same time.
Immortal Mine: Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl
Immortal Mine is a lust, passion filled and wildly untamed perfume that delighted me from the second that I opened the vial. First of all, it was beautifully presented, covered with bloody red sealing wax that was oozy and dripping all over the cap anddown the sides like a fabulous candle or a vial of blood. It made a delightful crack and what emerged was one of the most fascinating perfumes that I’ve ever smelled filled with incense, lust and magic. It was instantly arresting. Immortal Mine came with the most remarkable list of ingredients; Soil from an unmarked grave, wyverns blood, amber, longing ,smoke, wax, myrhh ,words from a dead mans mouth, desire and much more…..I loved it and I haven’t stopped wearing it since the moment I put it on. I must admit that I’ve never smelled a perfume that instantly suited me as much as this one does. Permit me to reach into another vampires world for a moment but there’s something of Immortal Mine that if you know the story of Lestat and you remember back to his days on the stage in Paris at The Theatre of the Vampires you’ll understand. The only words to describe the beauty of Immortal Mine are indulgent and hedonistic and of all of these perfumes it is the one that is the most wicked. There’s nothing kind or sweet about this one…it takes you, spins you around dizzily and doesn’t let go until you’re completely dizzy with desire. To me it occurs like a dreamy, hypnotic spell, a few drops of this in a glass of port and I would probably give up everything……