Astro Guide

How to Find the Perfect Fragrance, According to Your Zodiac Sign

VICE senior astrologer Annabel Gat joins forces with a perfumer to create a modern-day guide to fragrance combinations based on your natal chart.

by Annabel Gat
Aug 9 2019, 3:33pm

Collage by Darcie Wilder

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There have long been classical and speculative links between planets and scents in astrology, and when it comes to smells, our preferences are just as unique as our natal charts! As early as the renaissance, author and astrologer William Lilly’s Christian Astrology and Culpepper’s Complete Herbal has linked ingredients found in today’s perfumes to the domains of each of the planets in the sky, each of which rule different signs in the zodiac.

Like how your natal chart is a combination of planetary aspects and placements, fragrances are a combination of top notes, middle notes, and base notes that “unfold over time and help the scent reveal itself like a symphony,” according to perfumer and astrology fan Marissa Zappas, creator of the upcoming perfume collection Redamance .

What if the planetary placements in our natal charts can provide a guide to our signature scents and unique fragrance personalities? I sat down with Zappas to combine our expertise in astrology and perfumery, and figure out the best way to work with the scents associated with our ruling planets. We’ve compiled information about each planet and the signs they rule so you can find which scents align with your natal chart. We also created an easy guide at @AstroGuide on Instagram to generate combinations based on your sun, moon, and rising signs, or as astrologers call them, your big three!

Venus-ruled Signs Taurus and Libra

Romantic and sensual fruits and florals

While the misty-magic that perfume delivers arguably places it at least partially under the domain of Neptune, the planet of fantasy, Venus is a stronger contender for rulership over perfume in general due to its function as a tool of seduction and its place on the beauty counter.

Venus is the planet of love, money, and beauty, and it rules sensual earth sign Taurus, a sign that is rivaled for its love of shopping by Libra, another Venus-ruled sign. Harmonious Venus loves romance, so a Taurus or Libra perfume is sure to be seductive yet particular to their elements—Taurus being earthier while Libra is more airy.

In addition to sweet scents, like figs and peaches, and floral scents, like rose and violet, sensual Venus brings to mind a muskier base note that adds complexity and lasting power. Perfumes with a silky or velvety depth are Venusian in their decadence. “Cashmeran, a commonly used and expensive synthetic musk, smells like a soft, warm blanket,” Zappas says.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Moon-ruled Cancer

Earthy mushroom to salty sea; gourmand notes

Like Venus, the moon conjures images of mystery, magic, and romance. In astrology, the moon rules the domain of our memories, inner-world, and sense of security. The moon also rules Cancer, a water sign famous for its many moods, making it a good fit for multi-faceted scents that reflect the moon’s changing phases.

Aquatic or marine perfumes use notes like calone, a synthetic that is oceanic,“salty, ozonic, almost fishy at times and a bit metallic,” according to Zappas. These scents align with Cancer’s beachy vibe. Zappas also says that mushrooms are ruled by the moon, which would make them a good fit for Cancer: “Mushroom notes are used typically in building white floral fragrances such as gardenia…They accentuate the floralcy with a sense of plush, musty earthiness. If you imagine the smell of a gardenia at the height of its scent—even browning a bit at the edges—there is always that earthy, mushroom smell there.”

Marissa’s suggestions:

Sun-ruled Leo

Ambers and sunny, bold, full-bodied scents

The sun, warm and creative, rules Leo, a regal fire sign that always reminds us to be ourselves. Leo is surely one of the most loyal signs in the zodiac, and Zappas says “there is something romantic about associating oneself with a single scent.” But our tastes and needs evolve over time, so your signature scent will, too. People choose different scents to mark periods of their lives, and it can be powerful to choose a new scent when you’re at a new phase in your life, Zappas says.

Speaking of the sun’s warmth, what makes a perfume cool or warm? “Warm smells are smells you'd wear in the cold to warm you up—think spices, amber, deep resins, vanilla... and cold smells are smells that you'd tend to wear in the warmth of summer to stay fresh/cool,” Zappas says. “Think citruses, light florals, metallic notes.”

Marissa’s suggestions:

Mercury-ruled Signs Gemini and Virgo

Fresh, clean, and healing

Communication planet Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, and the plants it rules—lavender, fennel, and parsley—are “generally top notes that dissipate quickly,” Zappas says. Mercury is also associated with healing, which is fitting for perfume that can be used as a type of aromatherapy to help invoke certain feelings or serve as a reminder of ideas or intentions.

“Pure rose oil, for example, is technically a perfume in itself,” she says, but rose essential oil has many components, including citronellol, phenyl ethanol, and linalool. Perfumery takes these individual components and rearranges them, Zappas explains. Lots of synthetic scents from raw materials, including linalool, which naturally occurs in raw materials like mint, cinnamon, rosewood, lavender and basil, can be worn on their own if diluted.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Mars-ruled Signs Aries and Scorpio

Animalic, spicy, and fierce

Warrior planet Mars rules Aries and Scorpio, two signs that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—and believe it not, bad smells have a place in perfume!

“Perfumery has a very strange history,” Zappas says. “The commercial fragrance industry hasn’t used real animal products for many years, [but] civet was originally derived from the anal glands of civet cats, castoreum [from] beaver testicles...musk [came] from the caudal glands of the Himalayan Musk Deer.” Today, there are safe, synthetic versions of these scents.

On their own, animalic scents are very potent and “can smell like sweat, fecal matter, unwashed hair, body odor and even cat pee,” Zappas says. At low dosages, they “make fragrances more dynamic and textured.” If you think about it, there are lots of seemingly repulsive smells that many people like, including the smell of gas stations. “Cumin is also technically an animalic note because it can smell like body odor, which, in a certain context, can be really appealing,” Zappas adds.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Jupiter-ruled Signs Sagittarius and Pisces

Enveloping, dreamy, and adventurous

Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, and it’s the planet of expansion, so one could imagine a perfume that billows around a person or is even overpowering. “It’s really interesting to think about this question in relation to feminism and the idea of taking up space,” Zappas says. “This is why I love perfumes from the 80s like Opium, Poison and Paris—they were totally unafraid of doing that [whereas today there are many light, timid perfumes on the market.]”

Zappas doesn’t recommend toning it down, even when it comes to strong Jupiter scents. Unless someone is legitimately allergic, “I don’t worry about overpowering someone with perfume,” she says. “I don’t think one should apply perfume afraid of offending someone.”

Sagittarius and Pisces are all about travel, whether it be in the astral realm or physical one! They love to see the world (Sagittarius by airplane, Pisces by sea) and they are both lofty, idealistic, spiritually-leaning signs. The scents of places of worship, of heavy books, and ships at sea come to mind.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Saturn-ruled Signs Capricorn and Aquarius

Leather and suede, money and power

When we think of Saturn, the planetary ruler of Capricorn and Aquarius, the word “cool” comes to mind—and so does the dichotomy of luxury and frugality. Generally, what makes perfume expensive is the price of the raw materials used and the packaging, Zappas says, but price does not determine quality. That’s something only your nose can determine.

To that end, some of the best perfumes can be found at the drugstore, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath and Body Works. There’s also a vibrant online perfume community for swapping half-used bottles, and other ways to acquire expensive perfume without paying full price (including asking for samples!). Surrender to Chance, for example, is a perfume sample company that offers affordable samples of thousands of perfumes so you can try niche and vintage scents.

As for scents, Saturn rules dirty or stinking muddy places, and brings to mind a coin purse, bricks, earth, and the sky.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Uranus-ruled Aquarius

Quirky and unexpected

Uranus, the planet of innovation, is the mad scientist in the laboratory that brings us the synthetic versions of scents that might otherwise be hard to find. Uranus is the wildcard of the zodiac, so an element of surprise ought to be packed into its perfumes.

Coffee, most people’s first olfactory pleasure of the day, is ruled by Mercury and Uranus according to author Paul Beyerl’s The Master Book of Herbalism, which makes sense considering these two planets rule the mind, and most people credit their genius to the gift of coffee. “Pure coffee oil is surprisingly musky and animalic,” Zappas says. “It’s is a very commonly used raw material, especially in low dosages and in chocolate fragrances. It was featured prominently in the newest iteration of Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume, Black Opium by YSL, as well as Polo Red by Ralph Lauren.”

Marissa’s suggestions:

Neptune-ruled Pisces

Intoxicating, oceanic, mystical

Like Jupiter, Neptune is a spiritual planet, and I interpret it as ruling over room, body, and aura sprays. It’s a dreamy, whimsical planet, which also rules intoxication. Alcoholic beverages have a place in perfumery—gin, for example, which is based on juniper. A Neptunian perfume or oil is one you might wear to bed or during your meditation practice. Oceanic notes also belong to Neptune, like the ones we described above.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Apres l’Ondee by Guerlain: delicate and not overpowering

Byredo’s Sunday Cologne: notes of incense and patchouli, invoking a mystical atmosphere

Coven by Andrea Maack like a wood cabin covered by damp moss, fairies, and sex

Blondine by Frassai: dreamy, playful, and abstract

Lavande Trianon by Lancome: rich, dreamy, and decadent lavender/vanilla

Rehab by Initio Parfums: tobacco and a boozy, late-night smell

Bruma by Cire Trudon: dreamy, fluffy iris, with violet and lipstick notes

Pluto-ruled Scorpio

Decay, burning leaves, transformation

Pluto is the modern planetary ruler of Scorpio, a sign associated with transformation, death and rebirth, and the season of falling leaves in the northern hemisphere. “I frequently think about the relationship between decay and perfume. Nothing smells unless it’s in a state of decay. Flowers smell the strongest as they wither. Metal rarely smells because it takes a long time to decay, but old coins that have been used do. In this sense, there is something inherently Plutonian about perfume,” Zappas says.

As the planet of death and rebirth, Pluto is associated with passion and obsession. Intense perfumes that linger on your lover’s pillow long after you have left are Pluto’s domain. Destruction and creation are themes associated with Pluto, so notes like “gasoline and fallen or burning leaves” are appropriate.

Marissa’s suggestions:

Burning Barbershop by DS & Durga: based on a fire coming from a curling iron

De Profundis by Serge Lutens: a gorgeous and haunting scent based on an accord of funeral flowers and ash.

Moth by Zoologist: a rich, dark, spicy and smoky fragrance

I Am Trash by Etat Libre d'Orange made from the smells of discarded objects like wood chips and fruit peels

Iris Nazarena by Aedes de Venustas: somber, mysterious and drop dead gorgeous, like something you’d wear to a tragic opera or a poet's funeral

Stercus by Orto Parisi: indolic, dirty jasmine—even slightly fecal—but actually gorgeous

Series 3 Incense Avignon by Comme des Garçons: hardcore, meditative, transformative incense that is beautiful and rich

Beyond using the planets as a guide to find your signature scent, Zappas says persistence and patience are key. “What I always tell people who are looking for a new scent is this: It’s hard!” she says. “We can enter a perfume shop determined to buy a jasmine perfume and walk out with something entirely different.”

Zappas recommends going perfume shopping in a relaxed environment (she likes Duty Free). Spray it on, let it sit for at least 10 minutes, then reevaluate. Remember also that, “one need not be monogamous to a single perfume...it’s important to date a perfume before purchasing it,” she says. “It takes time to get to know it, to see how it wears on your skin.”

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