With this message we celebrate this year's Vernal Equinox, an event honoured by many cultures and religions, and a designator of the new calendrical year. It as well marks the time of Dísablót, a Scandinavian sacrificial holiday which was held in honour of the spirits or deities of fertility called dísir. May we mark this vital time of rebirth and renewal with the immensely verdant scent of the violet leaf, and forsake all that is holding us back.
Viola odorata—or the sweet, wood, English, common, florist’s or garden violet—is an evergreen perennial woodland plant that has short roots, procumbent stalks, ovate leaves, and highly scented violet flowers from March through May (depending on the climate). Violets likely originated in North Africa and made their way to Europe through Italy. During the Napoleonic war, a French soldier from Toulouse who was also a gardener happened upon the lovely fragrant violets while stationed in Italy, and brought enough back to his home to plant and cultivate them.
The violets thrived in Toulouse and now surround the city with their blooms each spring.
Their etymological root is both from vi (designating the Mediterranean substratal region) and ion (Greek for the colour violet), the latter's namesake being the ill-fated priestess Io with whom Zeus became enamoured with and who Hera, filled with spite, turned into a white heifer. To honour his love, Zeus covered Io's grazing area with violets, an overwhelming delight both in scent and taste. Both priestess and bloom figure greatly in the Germanic pagan celebration of Disablót—said to have taken place during the vernal equinox (the beginning blooming period of the violet)—whose ceremonial sacrificial rites were conducted by priestesses to honour the deities of fertility (or disir) in hopes of enhancing the coming harvest.
Violets have been traditionally used to bring about good fortune and health, and as a defence against malicious forces. According to folklore, however, the violet became an ill omen when it bloomed on one's property during fall, reversing its vernal role and flipping the heads of fate. Much like its opposing symbolic roles, so too does the viola odorata experience a bifurcation when it comes to its presence in scent.
While the violet flower produces a powdery, heady scent, the leaf bursts forth verdantly.
This marked difference between the leaf and flower is rarely delineated in perfume descriptions; it is, however, quite like the difference between night and day, winter and spring, or (perhaps dramatically) life and death. The flower absolute—no longer produced using the flowers except in small artisanal batches due to the high price and small yield—is now synthetically created using ionones (of ion, as its source of inspiration), isolates that can be derived in iris and orris root, as well as rose, osmanthus, and boronia. The creation of the ionones generated a massive boom of production of the violet flower 'scent' during the 19th century, and eventually phased out production with the originary bloom.
Through the simulacra of the ionones, the Belle Époque was flooded by ghosts of Io.
The scent of the violet leaves' absolute—created through a process of solvent extraction of these leaves that generates a concrete, which is then alcohol washed, chilled, filtered, and finally evaporated in vacuum—bursts forth with indelible verdancy, mirrored in its intensely green viscous colour. The scent, as rich as that of woodland in the spring and of a dewy, watery quality, is one of only two natural green/leafy notes found in perfumery (the other being galbanum). Added in small amounts due to its overwhelming potency, the scent of the violet leaf transforms the singular note into a cinematic olfactory scene, providing the rose with its verdant bush, the wood-driven notes their forest, and a variety of blooms with their ethereal morning dew.
'Heart's ease' was one of many nicknames for viola odorata.
Many crowns of violets,
…together you set before more
and many scented wreaths
and on a soft, gentle bed…
you quenched your desire…
In this month of the violet bloom and vernal equinox, anoint these life-filled new beginnings with the verdant scent of the violet leaf.
Featured LVNEA Products Containing Violet:
And wood soft, scent of quiet
Wanderings with footsteps
Swallowed by the forest floor.