Familiar by name, yet otherwise perf this much fabled Arabian tree has been as famous as it has been elusive since long before the birth of Christ, when the three wise men from the East brought it as a gift to that humble stable in Bethlehem. We do not know how far the use of Frankincense goes back in time, but we do know that it already scented the Egyptian Temples to honour Ra and Horus and it is said that Queen Sheba brought a great number of Frankincense trees as a special gift for King Solomon.
Unfortunately those trees were destined to die as Frankincense trees only grow in a very limited geographic range and very arid conditions. Nevertheless, it’s the thought that counts and bringing all these trees was indeed a very strong sign of honour and respect. In the ancient world incense trees fuelled the economy of the Arab world as oil does today. Trading cities positioned at important points of the spice or incense routes prospered considerably thanks to the thoroughfare business.
At one time Frankincense was more valuable than gold – needless to say, a situation much relished by the traders who only benefited from the obscurity and remoteness of the trees. Legend had it that the trees only grew in the most inhospitable mountainous places, guarded by dragon-like creatures that would readily strike out at any intruder. Obviously such stories were invented to scare off any attempts of enterprising and adventurous young men who otherwise perhaps might have ventured in search of the trees to do a little harvesting themselves. But, scare tactics aside, the long journey across the desert was no amble down the garden path – it was fraught with peril and as potentially dangerous as it was lucrative.
There are several regions where Frankincense grows, of which Oman, Somalia and Ethiopia are the most important suppliers today. Now as in the days of Solomon the most important use of Frankincense was as a sacred offering for the Gods. And although the worldwide demand for it has broadened, the actual worldwide consumption used to be far greater than it is now. Much Frankincense is still gathered in the traditional way from wild growing trees. The trees, although provided by nature, ‘belong’ as deliberated by unspoken agreement, to particular families who live nearby and who claim the right to harvest them.
In the ancient world all Frankincense trees were decreed to belong to the King and only he negotiated the harvesting rights with the various merchants for a goodly fee. Studies have shown that where families take a ‘guardian’ position towards the trees they are far better cared for and protected as naturally any desert dweller will be quite careful to protect the source of their livelihood compared to roving harvesters who do not have any vested interest in the welfare of a particular tree.
In modern magical traditions, frankincense is often used as a purifier – burn the resin to cleanse a sacred space, or use the essential oils* to anoint an area that needs to be purified. Because it is believed that the vibrational energies of frankincense are particularly powerful, many people mix frankincense with other herbs to give them a magical boost.
Many people find that it makes a perfect incense to use during meditation, energy work, or chakra exercises such as opening the third eye. In some belief systems, frankincense is associated with good fortune in business–carry a few bits of resin in your pocket when you go to a business meeting or interview.
In some traditions of Hoodoo and rootwork, frankincense is used to anoint petitions, and is said to give the other magical herbs in the working a boost.
When it comes to magical uses, myrrh has a wide variety of applications. In fact, the possibilities are nearly endless. Because the scent is fairly strong, it’s often used in conjunction with other herbs or resins, like frankincense or sandalwood. Associated with purification and cleansing, you can use myrrh in a number of different ritual and magical contexts. Try one or more of the following:
Burn myrrh, combined with frankincense, in rituals related to banishing. In some magical traditions, myrrh is incorporated into workings to break hexes and curses, or for protection against magical and psychic attack.
You can also blend myrrh into an incense to use for purifying sacred spaces, or to consecrate magical tools and other items.
In ancient Egypt, myrrh was often used as an offering to the goddess Isis, so if you’re doing a ritual calling upon her for assistance, incorporate myrrh into your celebration.
If you’re feeling stressed out, try this: burn some myrrh nearby to help relax and calm your nerves. Another great option? You can also put it in a pouch and place it under your pillow, to bring about restful and peaceful sleep.
Add myrrh to healing sachets for workings related to wellness. If someone who is ill can tolerate the scent, try placing some myrrh in a tin or bowl of water over a heat source, to create a scented atmosphere in the sickroom.
Use myrrh in incense blends such as Full Moon Incense or a fiery summer incense blend to burn at Litha or Beltane.