September 22, 2021
The Scented Zodiac
By Janine Hagal
Exploring the mysteries of plants on an astrological level can help deepen our relationship with the whole of the cosmos. Our universe is encapsulated in the natural microcosm all around us; one should only have to step outside and observe the nearest so-called weeds to begin. The connections unfold when we start to take note of botanical signatures by sight, herbal actions, and most notably in my practice, smell.
Scent is arguably our most primal sense, and studies have shown it is closely intertwined with memory and emotion in the brain. This is perhaps why it is woven into almost every culture’s magical practice, from incense to anointing oils. Astrology is no exception, and from older celestial texts such as the Picatrix, to Agrippa’s writings on planetary fumigations, scented plant and animal materia have been given cosmic correlations for at least a millennium.
Perfumery has evolved hundredfold since the 11th century, as have our fragrant associations, but many of the same materials are still used today. Focusing only on an modern roster of natural oils and absolutes can definitely help the mage or novice olfactor or find their bearings in an overwhelming world. Working with purely plant materials one is already familiar with can also add dimensions to understanding the green kingdom. A personal and even fulfilling place to start sleuthing fragrances can be your own Zodiac sign! I’ve compiled a list of a few aromatic associations for the 12 signs…
Aries – Pink Peppercorn
A piquant top note associated with Mars, the ruler of this sign and the planet corresponding with fiery quickness in spellwork. Herbes of Mars tend to be hot, spicy, dry, sanguine, and even sensual. Unrelated to Black pepper, the characteristics of a fresh pink pepper essential oil are less dark, more flirty, and at times smell like their rosy coloring. It can be as martially pungent as it is diffusive, so use in moderation.
Taurus – Vanilla
A gourmand note for the gormandizer of the zodiac. The creamy and soothing familiarity of Vanilla absolute is under the dominion of the Moon and Venus, which are respectively in its exaltation and domicile in Taurus. Paired with the aphrodisiac qualities from this Venusian vanilla bean, this fixative absolute is a perfect fit for the fixed sign. It doesn’t hurt the Taurean cause that true vanilla is also quite expensive- roughly $20/mL.
Gemini – Lavender Absolute
Culpeper states this flower is “owned by Mercury”, primarily for its actions on the nerves. Here, Gemini can correlate to the Mercurial actions of the mind, and Virgo to the body, (though with all things Mercury, this is constantly in flux.) Lavender will soothe the racing Gemini brain, which can tire from holding its mental luggage. In absolute form, this adds a jammy depth and functions as a “heart note” rather than the essential oil which dissipates quicker.
Cancer – Jasmine Grandiflorum
The lush, narcotic night blooms of this species of Jasmine are cultivated widely for their sweet and indisputably lunar aroma. Its smoothness rounds out a blend, and can even be used to “fix” a scent gone wrong. Used for all manner of dream magic, such as promoting astral travel or preventing nightmares. Much like the moon, its role in a perfume harmonizes the overall synastry of influences. One should only need to take a whiff to understand its Cancerian traits.
Leo – Saffron
A golden solar spice once used to dye the garb of royalty. A regal, leathery, and unique fragrance from the stamen of crocuses. Resembling a lion’s mane or the rays of the sun, its looks are on par with its Leonine association. It is incredibly labor intensive to harvest and with a low yield, so it is priced at about $5000 a pound in raw materials… a king’s ransom. If such a thing is possible, it even smells opulent.
Virgo – Bergamot
Clean, citrusy, and green. Bergamot is a Mercurial Digestif popularized in Earl grey tea, that also lends a touch of class and freshness to Parfum and Eau De Cologne style blends alike. Just like Virgo, Bergamot is (practically) always right. Even a hint of this essential oil can make for a sophisticated top note that fits almost anywhere.
Libra – Rose De Mai
Also referred to as “Cabbage Rose”, this absolute is a softer and more cost effective alternative to Rose Otto for those who want to capture the nectar of a fresh bud about to bloom. Libra not only correlates to the aesthetic beauty of this classical symbol, but the scent itself (under the dominion of Venus).
Scorpio – Cypress
The tree of death traditionally tends to fall in the jurisdiction of Saturn, but this was also before Pluto was discovered, which co-rules funerary herbes. Scorpio has many iterations of the self focusing on death, regeneration, and rebirth that can be represented by different facets of scent. This graveyard plant is very coniferous and almost martial, but with a shadow to it that other evergreens lack.
Sagittarius – Fir Absolute
Wild and fecund, the jellied fruit notes correspond to the expansive Jovian nature of this sign. When you’re looking to create a true evergreen blend, this is what you want at the heart, intertwined with essential oils of fir, spruce, or pine, to name a few. Not many scents pique wanderlust for the wilderness quite like this.
Capricorn – Labdanum
Traditionally collected by goats, using special leather straps that combed their fur for the resin, this tenacious fixative is in the dominion of the Mer-Goat and its ruler Saturn. Although it is no longer processed in this manner, hirsine notes may still linger in the imagination when smelling this balsamic, and almost animalic base note. Also sometimes referred to as Amber in perfumery, notably when mixed with other warm scents like Vanilla.
Aquarius – Coffee Bean
This stimulating scent culturally symbolizes awakening, figuratively and literally. Moving into the astrological “Age of Aquarius”, I cannot think of a better analogy, especially considering the shared experience of coffee. On its own, it’s a weirdo scent, with no real scent family to fit into, except for gourmand, (which is a strange place for a bitter bean).
Pisces – Lotus
Marine, meditative, and deep. True Lotus lacks the synthetic floral notes you may be expecting to find, thanks to the abundance of imitations on the market. Like many plants with a mutable roundness to them, that give the impression of juiciness, there tends to be a water connection. In the case of Pisces, traditionally governed by Jupiter (who holds dominion over fruits), and contemporarily by Neptune (ruler of illusion) the situation of a “fruit scent with no fruit” is too on the nose. But, for many already taking note of the astrological synchronicities, we see how much of what we used to think of as coincidence is something more cosmic indeed.