What is a Rushnyk?

‘This is a tree of life.’ Pani Olga’s fingers traced the embroidery on a rushnyk depicting a fantastical plant. From its branches sprouted opulent blossoms. ‘It means that the embroiderer dreamed of a long life and a big family.’

‘This is Beregynya, a safe keeper.’ Pani Olga drew my attention to a figure, ample of hip and bosom, holding branches laden with grapes and flowers. ‘It was embroidered by someone to protect a loved one from harm.’ The image had none of the Orthodox sobriety and harkened back to the old animistic religion of the Slavs, who worshipped the spirits of plants, animals, birds and rocks.

From The Rooster House

A simple piece of cloth can hold a wealth of meaning. Rushnyk (plural: rushnyky) is a traditional Ukrainian ritual cloth, intricately adorned with symbolic patterns and motifs. Although at its most basic, a rushnyk is a hand towel, the word evokes much more to a Ukrainian. These cloths hold significant cultural and spiritual value in Ukrainian heritage, representing a blend of art, tradition, and identity. During much of Ukraine’s history, when expressing thoughts freely had dangerous consequences, a rushnyk served as a repository of encoded messages. It could be a declaration of love, celebration of freedom or of a yearning for escape.

Reading these secret messages in the embroideries on rushnyky became my obsession during my trips to Ukraine. I had a wonderful teacher and a partner on this quest, a lady I met at our local church in Poltava. Pani Olga plays an important role in my book The Rooster House, especially because of her knowledge about rushnyky and traditional arts. Thread by thread I unraveled the family mystery and became an avid lover of rushnyky embroideries.

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One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village

Russian rockets struck our village the other day. It was a beautiful early summer day in June and people were outside working in their gardens. Our village in the Poltava region of central Ukraine has been unscathed so far. The rocket sounded like an airplane, and by the time everyone released what it really was, it was too late. The sound deepened, shrill and terrifying. Then came the blast.

The house that we always called “the house beyond the river” was hit and our neighbor who lived there was killed. She didn’t have time to escape before the roof collapsed on her. Her family was weeding the garden, while she was cooking. She was in her forties and was working as a nurse in our small clinic.

My grandmother’s house was not touched, but the windows cracked because of the force of the blast. My cousin is safe.

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Sindh: Recipes and Stories from a Forgotten Land by Sapna Ajwani

My travels in Pakistan started in Sindh, the third-largest province of the country. The ancient Persians referred to the land east of the river Indus as hind and the word Sindh was their variation on the Sanskrit, Sindhu, meaning ‘river.’ Wherever you are in Sindh, you’re conscious of the great river that still defines the place, its geography and mindset. I would follow the Indus throughout Sindh, and when I finally deviated from its course, I missed the river and its mighty presence. It cast its spell on me as surely as it did on Alexander the Great who conquered Sindh in 325 BCE and referred to the river as Indós.

I miss many things from Sindh besides the river: the friendly disposition of its people, the stunning historical sites that make ancient Greek ruins seem modern, the bejeweled shrines, the sandstone temples. I also missed Sindhi flavors, the unique combination that reminded me more of refined Persian cuisine than the earthy flavors of the neighboring Punjab.

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Frederic Malle Carnal Flower Perfume Giveaway

Today we have a generous giveaway courtesy to Frank. He is giving away a bottle of Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower (30ml, sprayed a couple of times only, box included). Frank says, “This fragrance was a hand-me down from a perfume collector friend, but I never could wear it and my wife doesn’t like it either. We prefer to give it away to someone who might enjoy it more.”

Frank can ship anywhere in the continental USA.

Disclaimer: Bois de Jasmin is not responsible for leaks or damage during transit or for lost packages.

Please answer all of the questions below to be entered into the draw. I will create two groups and randomly draw one winner from each.

1. Frank would like to ask for your suggestions of a summer perfume that is light but not a cologne. He is open to any recommendations, but he especially likes woods and leather. “Is there such a thing as a light leather?” he asks.
2. May I contact you via email to notify you of your win and share your email with Frank?

The contest is now closed, the winner is Melanie D. Congratulations! I will contact the winner via email shortly.

I would like to thank our entire Bois de Jasmin community for your generosity and kindness, whether it means giveaways like this, advice or comments.

Recommend Me a Perfume: May 2024

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. You can use this space to find perfume recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors. Or you can just tell us what perfume you are wearing!

Our June-July perfume class schedule is now open. The new classes include Vetiver, Balsamic Notes, Musk. We will decode what these notes mean, how they are used in perfumery and learn how to identify them. There will also a class on Japanese Incense that I’m particularly excited about. Jasmine, Tuberose and Incense will also be featured, which will give us a chance to talk about opulence. Also, due to your requests, I’ve added prices in dollars and a video recording option. Please take a look and let me know if there are other topics that you would like to study.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Latest Comments

  • Kim in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Dear Victoria, I am so deeply saddened to read about the tragedy that struck your village. Distance is what makes the situation worse as it is times like these when… June 14, 2024 at 3:45pm

  • Maria Perry in One Summer Day in Our Ukrainian Village: Dear Victoria, What terrible news and I am so so sorry for your neighbor. It is devastating to hear about the war in Ukraine, but so important to have recounts… June 14, 2024 at 12:11pm

  • Victoria in What is a Rushnyk?: Thank you very much. You can try looking for a rushnyk on Etsy. A number of Ukrainian artisans have shops there. June 14, 2024 at 11:59am

  • Victoria in What is a Rushnyk?: It was such a lovely museum. A volunteer effort. June 14, 2024 at 11:58am

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