Tales from the Crypt


After those really freakish warm days we are back in Spring weather – Spring in the Midwest often carries with it this crackly-skritchy feeling, like you can’t be sure if you should go out without gloves and a hot shower sounds soooo good – but it’s not really cold.  The ground is skritchy, too, with Nature doing her best to grow things – even if it’s only weeds (you can tell I’ve been in the garden a few days, doing Hard Labor).  And I kind of like the skritchiness of it –  Spring is about birth/rebirth – but it’s also about the unsentimentality of Nature; every year I bury baby rabbits, left by their mother in some shallow nest that ends up being their grave.  I plant seeds, they burst onto the scene, robust and green…and collapse from stress or root rot.  Spring is a rough row to hoe.   And before I can appreciate the rebirth I have to pay homage to its flip side.  So   I pulled out three of the grave, Grave-ish scents in my collection for a crypt-by-crypt experiment.  The Three:  Underworld (extrait) by Liz  Zorn; Onda (edp) by Vero Kern…..and the Great White Shark of Dark, Djedi by Guerlain (reissue).  They are in order of how I see them in relation to the journey through the beginning of the season.

Let’s start with Underworld.  I always think of Underworld as Charon, the Ferryman and the lonely Moon of Pluto.  Beautiful in name and in scent, it’s the gateway to the darker aspects of Spring.  I couldn’t dare wear Underworld in any other season – and there has to be that slight nip in the air for me to feel ‘right’ in applying it.  There’s a melancholy beauty and just a hint of…dare I say it? …dread..in Underworld.  But there’s also a hint of excitement in the journey, as you step aboard the raft.  Liz Zorn is known for the beautiful namings of her creations -and this is perfectly named.   This is best worn on a nippy Spring day, when you want to wallow in the What Has Not Yet Come to Pass part of the season.  Lots of wet muck and leaves woven in and out of the Zornish base.    It’s a very contemplative scent – great for spending the afternoon in a window seat, reading poetry.

Underworld extrait. Notes from the Soivohle website: an unusual pairing of vetivers from around the world, rich spice notes of cinnamon, ginger lily and clove, a touch of jasmine, roasted coffee, cocoa, rose leather and balsams, set into a  light vanilla oud tincture.



We awaken.  And we’re in the Tomb.

I’ve been wanting to try this for awhile but, frankly, I lacked the nerve.  The original Onda scared the crap out of me – and the edp is no different, in its ability to induce fear.  Lest you think that is a slam against the scent, think again – I actually LIKE that about Onda.  It is one of the most terrifying, most compelling scents I’ve ever encountered.   Here’s what happened:  I put Onda edp on  right before going to bed and I was really beat so my cognition, never all that tight to begin with, was really ravelly.  So the Onda is on and I’m reading a few pages of Louise Penny’s The Cruellest Month” and I absentmindedly put my hand up to brush back my hair….my nose gets a whiff of Onda and (I am not making this up, I swear) I JUMP BACK – just a bit, but still…when was the last time you wore a fragrance that SCARED you?  Onda carries me deep into some very dark places, forcing me to consider what lies beneath the black muck of Spring growth.  I’m irreligious but Onda takes me back to Good Friday at St Dorothy, back when they shrouded all the statues with purple cloth, to mourn Jesus’s crucifixion.   My insane cousin and his Dracula bride actually married on Good Friday – in a Catholic Church – and it was vaguely obscene, with the shrouds, the absence of flowers, the oily remnants of incense and the total focus on Total Loss.  The sheer banality of this 10am wedding, her in a lemonade-stained secondhand gown and all of us trying to figure out why they’d chosen GOOD FRIDAY…? well, it still skeeves me in a way no horror film ever could.  Onda is not skeevy – far from it – but it is scary.  I can’t imagine my scent wardrobe without it!


Onda edp notes (from the Luckyscent site) Bergamot, citron, mandarin, ginger, coriander, basil, passion fruit, iris, ylang-ylang, honey, vetiver Bourbon, patchouli, musk, cedar wood  (there.  that doesn’t sound too scary, does it?)



Roll back the stone. Djedi is……well, there is nothing to compare to Djedi.  I only have the reissue and for that, I’m grateful.  Yes, grateful.  I’m afraid if I got a taste of the original perfume my soul would stop stone dead.   Djedi is the chiaroscuro between Death and Life.   Persephone, Eurydice.  The Plea.  The Promise.  If Only.  Please.   Djedi allows for your senses to come into the light whilst remaining in darkness.   The beauty of Djedi is that light and dark are perfectly balanced, with no judgement.  The lush sweetness of of the rose yearns to burst through but cannot bear to leave the gorgeous dryness of the vetiver.  There is a reason this fragrance is such a legend.  The tug between light and darkness has never been done as hauntingly perfect as in Djedi.

Notes for Djedi (edt reissue)

rose, vetiver, musk, oakmoss, leather, civet and patchouli  


all scents are from my collection.

  • nozknoz says:

    I’m seconding all those above who find this to be a particularly beautiful and insightful post, Musette!

    I’ve got Onda and some Djedi, so I’ll get them out and try them this week, although here in DC we are beyond skritchy (although it’s rather dry) to the height of spring. In fact, today was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen here.

    The weird scent I’ve been playing with recently is Caron En Avion. I have a new sample from the LuckyScent Caron sample pack, and an older bottle – haven’t figure out the exact vintage yet. It’s really such a weird scent, in the way that Narcisse Noir and Third Man are weird: it has notes that attract and others that repel in a compelling composition. I found a review on by Mouchoir de Monsieur on Basenotes who notes that, “All things that truly are sublime contain a suggestion of ugliness.” That’s the classic Carons and early spring, isn’t it?

    • HemlockSillage says:

      That is a great quote, Nozknoz. Do tell what you think of Djedi and Onda, when you try them. It’s like they should go on a list of advanced perfumes for perfumistas. Not that any great perfume is basic, but a list of perfumes to try after one’s tried the classics, the nouveau niche scents. . .and then the list of scents that polarize perfume fans. That would be a fun list to explore. Secretions Magnifique would be on that list, and I tried it just to understand what all the hubbub was about. Sublime with suggestion (or outright) ugliness, indeed. Be well.

  • Ann says:

    Hey, lady, I’m late to the party, but wow — what a cool post! Have not smelled any of the greats you mentioned. The closest I’ve gotten to crypt-ish is a recent sample of Messe de Minuit and I kind of liked it.

  • 50_Roses says:

    Wow, this post is hard for me to relate to. “Chilly” and “nippy” are words I associate with winter, not spring. Spring, for us on the Texas Gulf Coast, is warm, soft, and full of sunshine (except when it rains, of course). We have had a LOT of rain, which is wonderful after last year’s record drought. Everything, and I mean everything, is green. We are on our third month of spring already, the season having started in late January this year. My roses began blooming in earnest in February, and Zephirine Drouhin was through with her spring show by mid-March, about a month and a half ahead of normal. For me, the worst part of spring is that it is followed by summer. I only hope this summer is less brutal than the last.

    Onda to me smells like a musty antique shop–dust, old fabrics, old books, and a hint of mildew. An interesting olfactory experience, but not a wearable perfume. I just recently acquired a sample of vintage Djedi, and am not sure what I think. I don’t really get dark and light, just mostly dark. Definitely vetiver, and I am not sure what else. It is certainly unusual, but for some reason it did not move me. I need to test it further, I suppose. Underworld I have never smelled, so I cannot comment on that. Right now I am wearing Oha, one of my absolute favorite perfumes, and one which always feels right, no matter what the weather.

    • Musette says:

      VINTAGE Djedi?

      Oh! Love Zephirine Drouhin – can’t grow it well here (Buck roses do best and those Canada thingies that go to -999F or thereabouts) – Roses in temperate climes are SO gorgeous!!!

      I’m still reeling from the notion of vintage Djedi.

      Forgive me.



      • 50_Roses says:

        Zephirine is a Bourbon rose, so she probably need milder winters than you can give her. Bourbon, China, and Tea roses all do well in mild winter areas. By “those Canada thingies”, I guess you mean rugosa roses? Rugosas grow wild in Siberia, but I don’t have any, because they are said not to do well in heat. I do have a found rose, “Katy Road Pink”, which was named for the place it was discovered, growing unattended along a roadside near Houston. It has since been pretty well identified as the Buck rose Carefree Beauty. CB seems to do just fine in our hot summers.

        • Musette says:

          I didn’t mean rugosas, per se. Somebody developed a strain of roses to withstand Canadian winters – and I can’t remember the name of the company – but a couple of the roses, ‘William Baffin’ and “Henry Kelsey’, do very well in the Midwest – I’ve since moved to south-central IL (from Chicago, which can be brutal) so am able to grow a wider variety of roses. But down here we get a lot of Japanese Beetles, so if it’s not one thing, it’s another. sigh


  • HemlockSillage says:

    Dingoes ate my comments. I’m a tryin’ this one more time, but if this gets lost in the ether, I’m taking it as a sign I’m to be silent 😉

    Lovely post, Musette. I love Onda and Djedi. I never think of them as crypt-like. Loamy, earthy, yes, but more the moist soil of growing things. Onda I own in extrait and EdP, and wear spring and fall. I have a tiny scrab of Djedi, which I wear with joy, sad that I’ll run out soon. They seem so very different to me. You capture it perfectly, In that Djedi is more floral.

    I wear these for me. Non fumeheads don’t get them. Onda is the scent I reach for when I just have time to be. (Angela wrote much the same thing over at NST.) It is not office friendly. A lady at work followed my path, asking everyone, “Do you smell mold? What is that smell?”

    Now I need to try Underworld. Curses, foiled again in my attempt to avoid ordering more samples. You seduced me with your evocative prose. If you get a sec, what is your vibe on Onda extrait vs. EdP? I’d like to hear your take.

    Last thought–Dinazad, you crack me up with Messe de Minuit as a summer holiday fragrance. That one is my idea of a crypt scent. It can have a mold note on my skin, and I like it like that. I dig out my tiny sample for goth moments 🙂 Be well!

    • Musette says:

      YOU WORE ONDA TO THE OFFICE? LOL! I used to wear ballgowns to my (old life) office and even with that, wouldn’t have had the stones to wear Onda to work!!! I would wear Onda as I drove my chariot, pulled by flaming tigers, through the streets of my Empire.

      The extrait is a bit more workable for me, which stuns me. But I think it’s workable because it pulls NO punches. You are either all in’ with it – or it will eat you alive.

      That’s my opinion, anyway!


      • HemlockSillage says:

        Have you been reading/watching Hunger Games? Just saw the film (enjoyed the book), and your flaming chariot image caught me.

        In my defense, I wore Onda extrait as I was zipping through the office on a rare weekday off. I was dropping of some papers, thinking I smelled amazing, pwerful and womanly. Apparently, I should have worn my spring fresh scent Lysol 🙂 I agree that the extrait is easier to wear; the EdP with its passion fruit is really more unusual. (okay, it’s odd, but I love that about it)

        Love the idea of you going to work in a ball gown! Rrrowr! You amaze me. We need to set up a mini Sniffa in Chicago, and spritz esoteric scents, eat great food and just laugh together. That’d be the best.

  • sweetlife says:

    The crypt in Spring! Well I guess we are in that Easter cave moment (says the Jew, who always forgets). I don’t find Onda cryptlike or scary, more rooty and wild, but it takes a certain amount of…commitment…for sure. It’s one of those perfumes that I number among my most admired and treasured (though I only have a sample) but that I don’t actually reach for that often.

    Djedi. I have a tiny sample that is still waiting for me to put it on. It feels like it needs a ceremony, or at least some clear space and time.

    Thanks for the great post, Musette!

    • Musette says:

      Clear space and time, for sure. It’s not a casual scent at all! You don’t have to dress for it – but you do have to be Present.

      ‘rooty and wild’ ! yup! that would be Onda.


  • mals86 says:

    Darling Musette, this may be one of my very favorite posts of yours. Big hugs for the lovely writing.

    And spring can be so emotionally oppressive for me – not so much the death-in-life, but the hopes that didn’t come to fruition, the shoulda-been-but-wasn’t, the missed opportunities. One of the most poignant parts of giving birth, for me, was giving up the imagined baby for the real one. Not that I was disappointed in the real one, ever, but just… all the things that baby could have been… the endless possibilities suddenly narrowing into the glorious reality. That’s spring, for me.

    I don’t really DO earthy. I just don’t. (Can’t?) But even without Black March or Onda or Djedi, I’m emotionally frangible enough in the spring. Pretty florals make me cry in the spring.

    • Musette says:

      You are definitely a Spring kinda gal, I think. And I think you nailed why it is such a poignant time for so many of us. Everything you described is a bit of ‘death-in-life’ – the death of your fantasy baby for the life of your real one, for example.

      Country living really hammers home the yin/yang of Spring, I think. Calving, new chicks – the reemergence of those absurd toads that hatch in the swales and trip me up on the sidewalk for the first 2-3 weeks, before they all head back to the river just a few blocks away (squished toad is a pervasive smell around here through April, as they seek the warmth of the paved street, to their doom). And I also think it causes us to think of our own reemergence, not always a comforting thing, I think.

      Wouldn’t it be weird if Onda actually gave you emotional strength!? That would just be….well. You know. Weird!


      (and thanks for the lovely compliment. Coming from you, whose writing I admire so much, that just makes me feel all ‘smiley’ 🙂

  • Kimberly says:

    Great post!

    No one, in your entire family, just came out and asked them what they were thinking? Was everyone too polite?

    • Musette says:

      This was 40 + years ago, so I was not privy to the details. I just remember the odd, uncomfortable experience – the church was thick with incense and dust motes from Holy Thursday services (with that weak Spring sunshine coming through the leaded glass), the statues were all shrouded, No music, no flowers. Just this cold, dead air.

      My maternal family are strange – I think there was a lot of behind the scenes whispering but as they were the groom’s side, they had little to do with it, beyond wearing beige and shutting up. I am not so sure they did the ‘shutting up’ part, though they were probably too stunned by the weirdness of the wedding to do more than stand there.


  • dinazad says:

    Grumble….. I’ll never understand how people can find Messe de Minuit creepy and crypt-y. It reminds me of summer holidays. Grumble….

    That said, it’s patchouli which reminds me of the two sides of spring: rotting leaves, cold, damp earth and moss and….. something…… growing down there among the dirt and rot. Hopefully, green shoots, but it might as well be the thing from the crypt in its days of comparative innocence… I don’t, of course, mean the patch scents which smell like chocolate covered griottes, but the real thing, the rotting stuff. Reminiscence Patchouli, for instande…..

    Haven’t ever smelled Djedi. Yet. 😉

    • Jillie says:

      You know – that’s what I think is so amazing about perfume …. we all have such different perceptions. One gal’s Poison is another one’s poison. But I’m sorry to have insulted your beloved Messe de Minuit, and I reckon you must have had wonderful vacations in interesting places – feel free to grumble about one of my old favourites that I think is the polar opposite of MdM: Prescriptives’ Calyx (or Chanel’s Cristalle)! They are the ones that remind me of summer holidays!

      • Musette says:

        You two are KILLIN’ ME :Overjoy: dinazad: the idea of MdM being a ‘summer holidays’ scent! OMG! I think that’s a first!!! I love that – similar to my thinking Bal a Versailles (the vintage) is just a pretty little floral (which I do 🙂

        Jillie, I LOVE Calyx – still wear it on occasion, where it never fails to garner serious compliments….but when it goes bad (and it does – it has a crappy shelf life) – it smells like the underside of a summer boardwalk, where some homeless guy peed on a bunch of rotting guavas! :Crazy-Mad:


        • FragrantWitch says:

          Ooh, I love Calyx too but what’s with the crummy shelf-life?? Peed on rotten guavas indeed!
          Im with you on Bal a Versailles- its a lovely floral on me. My friend wears it and smells like the morning after a Bacchanalian orgy. :Censored:
          Skin chemistry huh? :Thinking:

        • Jillie says:

          Hee, hee, hee! You are SO right – Calyx does suddenly turn overnight (the goblins must get in the cupboard and do something unspeakable to the bottle). And then it smells like sewage to me. But from now on I will always have your image in my mind ……..

        • ggperfume says:

          Even when Calyx is still good it smells like a Tropical Fruit Life Saver – the clear, whitish one (which fruit was that supposed to be, anyway?)

          • Musette says:

            Mystery Fruit! I think it was supposed to be …..cantaloupe? No….HONEYDEW! That’s what that always reminded me of. A not-quite-ripe honeydew.


      • dinazad says:

        Jillie, I wouldn’t dream of saying bad things about Cristalle, even if I don’t wear it (not my style) and I don’t know Calyx. But perfume perception is a fascinating thing – La Perla Eclix, which many people love and adore, smells of sardines and vanilla to me…

        Still, MdM is summer holidays. To be precise: August in the Pyrenees, HOT, HOT weather, meadows you can’t sit down on because of all the prickly stuff growing there, cork oaks, rosemary, cairns, dust and HEAT. And tiny little churches with literally nothing in them except stone and a slight drop in temperature dotted all over the landscape.

        But then, we all have our own scent memories….. Wishing you lovely ones!

        • Jillie says:

          Dinazad – you’re so sweet! I suspect we must be opposite in our tastes (is that what evil scent twins are?) – I prefer cool (if not cold) weather and am happiest sitting by a roaring log fire in the winter. It’s strange, our favourite perfumes should be the other way round, really, they don’t seem to go with our physical happy states. Sardines and vanilla ….. yum. We have a famous chef here called Heston Blumenthal who makes up strange combinations, and I could swear that I read that he uses vanilla in lots of savoury recipes. So maybe that’s not such a strange fragrance to wear!!! (Cats would like it.)

  • Lisa D says:

    Onda is an incredible scent, I agree, and I understand completely your “jump” back. It’s not so much that the scent frightens me, it’s more like I’m startled to smell myself when I’m wearing it, as if it’s the smell of someone else entirely, disconcertingly replacing my own.

    • Musette says:

      Oooh! like an incubus! Perhaps that’s what frightens me about Onda – that sense of being lost, being subsumed by something else?


  • FragrantWitch says:

    Musette, you are just amazing. You must be one incredible lady to know for ‘real’ as you have such a broad range of interests an express them so eloquently and with great humour as well.
    I agree with that feeling of decay feeding the rebirth of the Earth. Black March is just perfect for that mood and days that hover like shades between the seasons.
    I actually enjoyed being scared- proper want-to-hide-under-the-covers-hair-standing-on-end scared and it happens only rarely, most often in book, music or painting form. I will have to seek out Onda immediately.
    And, as a I am a Guerlie-girl, I will be acquiring some Djedi ASAP.
    Thank you for a great post!

    • Gwenyth says:

      Ooooo. I agree — Musette, you are awesome!! I ADORE your posts because of your ‘voice’ as you write. I love your insights, your sense of humor, your clever turns-of-phrase, etc., etc. I’m very happy that I’ve been able to get to know you in virtual life.

      Now for perfumes: A perfumer who is masterfully talented at creating ‘real-life-moments’ is Neil Morris. His Dark Season is so beautifully evocative that it takes me some other place in the world every time I smell it. Another one in the same vein is Mr. Morris’ #1 in the Earthtones collection – Dark Earth.
      Both these fragrances are redolent of earthy smells and are amazing scents!

      • Musette says:

        Wow! You two put me to the blush!!!

        FragrantWitch – you will LOVE Onda. It will scare the polish off your toenails! Powerful stuff. If you have an opp to try the Djedi perfume, lmk! The edt is beyond beautiful – I shudder to think what the perfume might evoke. Yow!

        NM’s Dark Season and Dark Earth are perfect for this time of year, I think. I know Neil conjured the beautiful DS as a winter scent but I think it works perfectly for this dark, wet time of year. I love Dark Earth as well. Very transporting.


  • Patty says:

    Weird how vetiver makes you feel the crypt. Maybe it’s just the dirt part – ashes to ashes, dust to dust?

    This I say in a foul mood with some inches of snow on the ground outside and still falling, pulling down the full-budded trees that foolishly thought it was spring due to two weeks of 60-80 degree weather. :Mad:

    • Musette says:

      OMG! Do I LOVE that gnashy emoticon!!!

      I have two words for you: Hot Chocolate. And plenty of it. (okay, that’s six words).

      and yes, I think vetiver has that burned-dirt aspect that is vaguely crypt-like. Especially if the crypt is really old and everything in there is beyond the oilier aspects of decay. Dust to dust……we live in between those two but only live fully when remembering what brackets that life.


  • Style Spy says:

    Marvelous post. I’ve never smelled any of these, but I sure would like to, especially after reading this.

    • Musette says:

      Djedi is tough to find but the other two are easy. I would start with Underworld, then move to Onda, if you want to see how I personally see the progression.


  • EileenS says:

    Oh, dear! You’re making me feel mentally unbalanced! The scents you describe ARE the sort of spring scent for those days-in-between — not winter, not yet spring. (Maybe Persephone hasn’t quite made up her mind about leaving the Underworld yet.)

    The problem is that these are the scents I live for. What you are calling grave-ish scents are ones I find almost irresistibly hopeful, maybe even bouyant, with new life popping up all over. Even Black March and Messe de Minuit have an uplifting element in all that darkness.

    This may be a sad remnant of my Catholic school days — all that incense, candle wax, and catechism must have rearranged my head!

    • Musette says:

      There is an element of hope in all three of those scents, I agree. Underworld’s got the adventure, Onda the possibility, however faint, of redemption beyond the grave and Djedi the surrendering to whichever direction Fate takes you.

      I am convent-raised and even Good Friday, with its black caul of despair, hints at redemption – how else to prepare us for Easter? Weird day to be married, though (in a Catholic Church, of all places)


      • ggperfume says:

        What priest would even allow a wedding on Good Friday? I would have thought it was against the rules of the Church.

        • Musette says:

          it was weird (Of course, I’m remembering from 40+ years) – I remember it being the least enjoyable experience – the Church was dark, cold, unhappy – no music, no nothing – and the priest looked vaguely freaked out and really disapproving. If you’ve seen the Lydia/Wickham wedding scene in the Ehle/Firth version of Pride and Prejudice it was like that. Only worse.

          xo >-)

  • Brilliant.

    Must. Try. Onda.

    Hmm, we’re having a nasty cold wet day here, too. Can I find my sample of Messe de Minuit? I don’t decay and mold from that, just incense and old, cold stone.

  • March says:

    DJEDI. Le Giant Sigh. Djedi was the sample I made a bad fool of myself over, when a friend had a teeny sample. I HAD to smell it. And seconding what Jayne said. Black March is incredible. I’m still pretending Christopher Brosius named it for me.

  • Jayne58 says:

    Just 2 words – Black March

    • Musette says:

      I have never smelled that – or if I did I wasn’t paying attention. I know lots of people love that for early spring days – must investigate!

      xo (my alien is gone)

  • Kirsten Scranton says:

    You are a genius. Have you guys thought of doing a collection of what you think are your best posts, along with maybe some readers’ favs or most commented on, and putting them out in a book? Just a thought….

    • Musette says:

      OMGosh! :-o! Thank you! What a nice thing to say.

      A book….. 😕

      xo >-)

      • Musette says:

        ps. these are new emoticons, blast it! That was supposed to be ‘Considering Guy’

        xo >-)

        • Kirsten Scranton says:

          Ha, too funny! I’m just sayin’ on the book… if you’re this good at tempting me to part with my cash over ‘fumes, think what you guys could do through Barnes and Noble, indy booksellers, etc. You’re good at selling stuff – words, perfumes, ideas….in some ways, on some levels, isn’t the ability to convey their worth to others rooted in the same skillset?

  • Jillie says:

    Gosh, what a dark post Musette! Sort of chimes with a general mood though – well, mine any way. Like you, for me somehow spring doesn’t always seem to be full of life, but the opposite; perhaps it’s because everyone assoicates the season with re-birth, but nature has a funny little way of reminding you that you can’t have life without death.

    My most crypt-like fragrance is Etro’s Messe de Minuit – I really can’t wear it as it wafts whiffs of actual decay to my nose and gives me nightmares. Probably ideal for Halloween.

    I think I will lighten my mood now by wearing some old Diorissimo (hackneyed spring fragrance, I know, but still lovely), or PG’s Ilang Ivohibe, which reminds me of warm sunshine with a touch of zest.

    • Musette says:

      It’s funny – but I didn’t think of it as ‘dark’ at all – I enjoy the play between light and dark, death and life. Those bunnies used to freak me right the heck out, until I realized that, come June, there are a bazillion young Peters trying to get into my vegetable garden. Left to its own devices Nature tends to stay in balance. All three of those perfumes serve a beautiful purpose, I think. Reminds us, like you said, that you can’t have life without death (well, we could – but it would get really crowded here, really quick!)

      And Diorissimo isn’t hackneyed at all, imo! It is one of the most beautiful, glorious spring scents ever created! I wore it a few days ago and thrilled to it!

      xo >-)