First off, Happy Easter to all!... or Happy Eostre if that's your bent, ya big hippie, you. Either way, the name derives from Ostara, the Saxon goddess of springtime (and a second-cousin-once-removed of the Norse goddesses Freyja and Iðunn). Ostara's sacred time is dawn, when the moon and sun both occupy the sky; her totems -- redolent of fertility -- are the hare and the egg.
Throughout old pagan Europe, birds' eggs pulled double duty: as an obvious source of protein-rich sustenance, and as a mystical symbol of fruitfulness and transformation. Each tribe evolved its own traditions centered on the hiding, finding, breaking, throwing, or offering of eggs-- but certainly decorating them proved most satisfying to all, and nowhere more than in Eastern Europe where the custom achieved the level of high art. Of course, Peter Carl Fabergé really took it to the limit with his imperial confections ... but to me, eggs dyed and decorated at home hold far more spiritual power. Pysanky (Ukranian), pisanki (Polish/Belorussian), pisanice (Serbian/Croatian), pisano (Bulgarian), hímestojás (Hungarian), margučiai (Lithuanian), kraslice (Czech/Slovak), velikonočni pirhi (Slovenian), ouă vopsite (Romanian), and jejka pisać (Sorbian) all variously employ wax-resist dyeing, painting, and etching techniques to produce incredibly ornate patterns based on traditional (read: pagan) folk motifs.
I recently had the privilege of coordinating an art exhibit with a local Lithuanian-American civic group, one of whose members offered HUNDREDS of her own self-made margučiai for display. She kindly allowed me to handle several of them, and I was completely humbled by the experience. The exquisitely fine detail achieved by her knifepoint resulted in the most delicate bas-relief texture at which both my eyes and fingertips marveled. I confided in her that I hand-engrave Viking-style drinking horns with a steel etching stylus, and for a minute we engaged in some serious tool-geekery-- but my modest skills cannot hold a candle to hers, for in addition to pattern and texture she also works in color.
And WHAT color! Entirely derived from natural sources -- birch leaves, onion skins, wildflower petals, walnut shells, oak and alder bark, iron rust, and beet juice -- these russets, olives, fuchsias, azures, ochres and umbers harmonize together in a way that makes me long to renovate my house, my wardrobe, my whole world to match their subtle Earth-Mother spectrum. Ah!
Now, I promised you a perfume review... and I mean to make good. Let's say farewell to the subject of Easter eggs with a final mention of a charming custom from Hungary. On the day after Easter, decorated eggs are offered in exchange for sprinklings of Hungary water, the national eau de cologne. Isn't that beautiful? But it's Easter Sunday and Hungary water have I none... so instead I propose to anoint you with vintage Paco Rabanne Calandre pure parfum.
First of all, the figure on the price tag must remain unspoken. Let's say I paid for it in shoe leather. To afford this thumbnail-sized bottle of precious Calandre extrait, I parked my car miles and miles* from the Library every day for several weeks straight, eschewing a cushy metered parking space nearby in order to pocket a compensatory chunk o' change.
Now, I won't lie: I'm not so virtuous that I saved the money first and THEN bought the prize. Hell no: I claimed Calandre the minute I spotted it. The purpose of all that subsequent trudging-around** was to atone for my willful extravagance. If not moderation in all things, there can at least be accountability-- but I got to wear Calandre while I earned it, which made all the difference. You might say I walked it off with a spring in my step.
But the fact remains: I slogged. I sweated. I willingly hauled my weary, workaday ass around town to earn Calandre. And I would have gone farther, too. For Calandre parfum, as it happens, is a world apart from the Eau de Calandre whose chrome-plated vetiver I already know and love. The latter is Space Age, to be sure. But the parfum, by comparison, is pure Space Oddity.
Curling vines, spicy petals, caraway seeds, fresh butter, green suede, bitter herbs.... how to really describe it? It's a scent out of left field. It's deeply satisfying in and of itself, but perhaps even more so now because so hard-to-find (although if you happen to be in Japan...). It lasts for hours and hours, summoning waves of toe-curling delight with every passing tick of the clock. Going from Eau de Calandre to this is like graduating from grocery-store yogurt to the glory that is Greek giaoúrti, or ditching margarine-in-a-plastic-tub for Kerrygold or Plugrá, or receiving a windfall that allows you to transition in one heartbeat from made-for-Target readywear to 100% bespoke tailoring.
If you find it, do what I did. Pay anything. Stop at nothing. I am perfectly serious.
Here's some more Bowie, if you require him at this moment. I know I do.
*Okay... maybe a third of a mile.
**By which I mean I walked a REALLY VERY REASONABLE distance to work. I know, I know... I ought to do this every day. It's healthier, not to mention thriftier. FINE, I'll keep doing it, JEEZ. Twist my arm, why don't you? ;)
Scent Elements: Aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, greens, rose, geranium, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, iris, vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, amber, musk