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Use this botanical as an aromatic in your incenseCopal

(Bursera odorata)

  Chunks of black copal Chunks of white copal

Description: Copal is sometimes called 'Mexican Frankincense' due both to its appearance and uses.  Copal comes in three basic types: black (pictured on the left), white (pictured on the right) and golden (not pictured).  Black copal is often considered the more desirable, but all three give a wonderful scent.  Black is a heavier, richer scent, while white (aka copal blanco) is is lighter but still penetrating.  Although white is sweeter in scent than black (aka copal negro), golden copal is said to be the sweetest of all.

Use: Copal is very similar to frankincense in many regards and the two can be used as substitutes for one another.  Copal is well suited for use in cones, sticks, cylinders, coils, cutouts, powdered incense and loose incense.  In other words, you can use it in any incense you plan to make.  As with most resins, using too much can produce a very thick, heavy smoke.  Respect its power and use copal in small quantities.

Copal is easy to powder.  Just as with many other resins, you may occasionally find some wood attached to the resin you buy.  That wood can be scraped away and used in your incense as well.  Although black copal is usually found in larger pieces than white, both are soft enough to be powdered with a mortar and pestle.  Remember to sift the powder before using it in your incense.

General Information

True copal came originally from Mexico, but it's now grown in other parts of the world as well.  It was a critical aromatic for pre-Columbian civilizations from Mexico to South America.  Considered highly sacred, it was placed in censer.  In Aztec tradition blood from the offering priest or king might be added to the smoldering copal.  A gift of magickal vision was often the goal of such rituals, and copal was an important part of the ceremony.

Traded up and down the length of Central and South America, it likely served in a similar role to Frankincense in Arabia.  It was a catalyst for trade and exploration that brought various people together in the ancient world.

Black copal is often associated with the night and with grounding forces.  Different varieties of copal can be used together as well as individually.  The combination of black and white copal is not only aromatically pleasing, but it also offers a symbolic depth to your incense.  Black copal might be best suited for cleansing and grounding work, while white might be preferred for empowering or love rituals.

According to Susanne Fischer-Rizzi, the most magickally powerful copal comes from trees that have been struck by lightning.  Good luck in locating some, but if you do please let us know what it's like!

References used and recommended reading (click title for more information):

The Complete Incense Book by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi (ISBN 080699987X)

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham (ISBN 0875421229)

Wylundt's Book of Incense by Steven R. Smith (ISBN 0877288690)

Copyright 2004 Carl Neal. Used by Mother's Hearth with permission.

All information and text on these pages is copyright Little Pagans 2004, except where otherwise stated.
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