Frankincense

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Wigington, Patti. "Frankincense." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2016, thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024. Wigington, Patti. (2016, September 3). Frankincense. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024 Wigington, Patti. "Frankincense." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024 (accessed September 20, 2017).
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The Magic of Frankincense

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Frankincense has been used for thousands of years. Photo Credit: Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Frankincense is one of the oldest documented magical resins – it’s been traded in northern Africa and parts of the Arab world for nearly five thousand years. This resin, harvested from the family of trees, appears in the story of the birth of Jesus. The Bible tells of the three wise men, who arrived at the manger, and “opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Frankincense is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well as in the Talmud. Jewish rabbis used consecrated frankincense in ritual, particularly in the ceremony of Ketoret, which was a sacred rite in the Temple of Jerusalem. The alternate name for frankincense is olibanum, from the Arabic al-lubān. Later introduced to Europe by Crusaders, frankincense became a staple element of many Christian ceremonies, particularly in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

According to History.com, "At the time Jesus is thought to have been born, frankincense and myrrh may have been worth more than their weight in the third gift presented by the wise men: gold But despite their significance in the New Testament, the substances fell out of favor in Europe with the rise of Christianity and fall of the Roman Empire, which essentially obliterated the thriving trade routes that had developed over many centuries. In the early years of Christianity, incense was expressly forbidden because of its associations with pagan worship; later, however, some denominations, including the Catholic Church, would incorporate the burning of frankincense, myrrh and other aromatic items into specific rites."

Back in 2008, researchers completed a study on the impact of frankincense on depression and anxiety. Pharmacologists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said evidence indicates that the aroma of frankincense might help regulate emotions such as anxiety and depression. Research shows that lab mice exposed to frankincense were more willing to spend time in open areas, where they typically feel more vulnerable. Scientists say this indicates a drop in levels of anxiety.

Also as part of the study, when the mice were swimming in a beaker that had no way out, they "paddled longer before giving up and floating", which scientists link to antidepressive compounds. Researcher Arieh Moussaieff said that the use of frankincense, or at least, its genus Boswellia, is documented back as far as the Talmud, in which condemned prisoners were given frankincense in a cup of wine in order to "benumb the senses" prior to execution.

Ayurvedic practitioners have used frankincense for a long time as well. They call it by its Sanskrit name, dhoop, and incorporate it into general healing and purification ceremonies.

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.

Kat Morgenstern of Sacred Earth says, "Since ancient times the clean, fresh, balsamic fragrance of Frankincense has been utilized to as perfume - the very word perfume derives from the Latin 'par fumer' - through the (incense) smoke, a direct reference as to the origin of the practise of perfuming. Clothes were fumigated, not only to give them a pleasant smell, but also to cleanse them. Perfuming is a cleansing practice. In Dhofar not only clothes were perfumed, but other articles such as water jugs were also cleansed with smoke to kill bacteria and energetically purify the vessel of life-giving water, just as smudging is practiced today as a method of cleansing ritual objects and purifying the aura of participants as vessels of the divine spirit."

 

*A cautionary note regarding the use of essential oils: frankincense oils can sometimes cause a reaction in people with sensitive skin and should only be used very sparingly, or diluted with a base oil before using.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Frankincense." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2016, thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024. Wigington, Patti. (2016, September 3). Frankincense. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024 Wigington, Patti. "Frankincense." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/magic-and-folklore-of-frankincense-2562024 (accessed September 20, 2017).