Monday, December 08, 2008

Dana Tabu

Many of you already know I've been researching the myths of Persephone for some time now, which explains my 2nd perfume creation (now discontinued and selling out from my website) and upcoming music project to coincide with the Persephone concept. The story of the abduction, rape or fall of Persephone, fascinates me because of the symbolic connection I see with the biblical story of the fall of Eve. Just as Eve was tempted, or fooled, by the snake to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge, Persephone was fooled by a snake from the underworld, sent up to the world of the living in the form of a narcissus flower (daffodil). When Persephone picked it, her life would be doomed forever. Should she have seen it coming? It can be compared to the story of how Eve came to carry the sins of humanity with one act of defiance against God...although I still find it hard to swallow that the victim should be blamed for the serpent's lie and trap. It's kind of like, "you shouldn't have worn that miniskirt" or some such transferrence of blame from the true perpetrator of the crime. The price of sin, it seems, goes hand in hand with the misfortune of being born female. Perhaps we're born into sin after all.

Woman is a symbol of the duality of Fate: summer or winter, whether crops yield or fail. Mother Nature is a merciless god force, the Universe / Uterus, giver of life and death. We're so often told the misogynistic lie that a woman is only one of two things, a virgin or a whore. Sometimes we're both, and sometimes, we are another aspect of the original Triple Goddess, as mothers - motherhood which is supposed to save us from some kind of judgment for whatever reason. Nothing like having additional pressure put on us to behave, and be, a certain way, because control freaks will have it no other way. Goddess figures have served from being representations of our human psyche (mythology is early psychology) to being simplistic stereotypes of an entire gender, a useful tool in controlling and oppressing us. Most people still unconsciously judge women from the same age-old stereotype that somehow, we are the conniving two-faced liars, the nature of the very snake we were fooled by.

Enter Tabu by Dana. This perfume is known as an affordable drugstore scent, but it actually has a long history dating back to 1932. As many perfumes from this era do, Tabu smells like a parfum fourrere type, meaning a rich, warm, musky, animalic scent you might consider wearing with minks and jewels. It often contains an animalic note such as civet or honey combined with heavy woods (patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood) and amber to give it depth. Tabu is also a very spicy scent, placing it firmly in the Spicy Oriental fragrance family. I usually don't wear Tabu, nor do I favor this fragrance family (other examples of Spicy Orientals include Youth Dew, Opium, Cinnabar, Bal a Versailles), but Tabu is worthy of mention for it is legendary. Equally legendary as its scent is the ad campaign based on the Rene Prinet painting, "The Kreutzer Sonata" (1901), an image of a man holding a violin in one arm and a lady pianist in the other, embracing in a passionate kiss. The ad campaign called Tabu "the forbidden fragrance" - what a scent this must be!

Michael Edwards wrote in his book, Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances, that Tabu was composed with the idea of "the puta perfume". Of course we could argue that a puta, or prostitute, can wear any perfume of choice or none at all, that any one perfume or scent type can't define her profession (except, perhaps, to say a strong scent to mask odors), but I think such a perfume can be defined, as crude as it sounds, as the scent of many odors: a strong and complex cacophany of human smells. Such a perfume would have to defy society's rules for proper ladies to smell elegant and refined. It would have to boldly go where even the Guerlain sisters Jicky (1889) and Shalimar (1925) hadn't gone before. Tabu does - it's balsamic and warm but also aggressive - to me, it could be a perfume for a man, like Old Spice. Base-heavy, strong, carnal and savory, it might as well be a sizzling hunk of pepper steak. It also smells boozy, with an intoxicating heart of narcissus and Sambac jasmine.

Perhaps a woman who's so sexually liberated that she can capitalize on it is emasculated with a man's detachment and business sense. Perhaps woman is a snake, one who resembles the male god who sent up the pretty narcissus flower in the field by the River Styx to set her up in the First Place.

(Images: Tabu ads, 1988, 1974,