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(Juniperus communis)


Description: Juniper is an evergreen tree that grows in many parts of the world.  A low growing conifer tree, Juniper is one of the very oldest sources for incense.  Juniper is a very prickly tree, so handle its foliage with gloves.  It has more of a mounding or spiking habit than a classic tree shape, so it is often mistaken for a bush.

Use: Juniper is one of the oldest sources for incense.  Its use extends beyond written history, but archeologists have found signs of juniper use in very ancient sites.  The simplest way to utilize juniper is to drop foliage (needle) covered branches onto a low fire.  Dried branches can be stripped along 1/2 their length and then the remaining foliage can be ignited.

Most parts of the juniper tree can be used in incense.  Although most famous for its berries, the foliage, wood and especially the resin are excellent in incense.  Juniper resin is difficult to locate and its costly since the tree produces very little.  To use juniper as a base material, you should use the wood.  As an aromatic, you can use the other parts - especially the berry.  Juniper berries are extremely fragrant, so use sparingly.

Juniper berries are relatively easy to powder when properly dried, as are the needles.  Just be warned that juniper needles have many sharp points and can easily stick you.  Although you can powder them in a mortar and pestle, a grinder or mill is really a better choice.  Sift juniper carefully before rolling or making powder incense.

General Information: Known to many ancient cultures, juniper has always been associated with magick, life and protection.  Juniper is even purported to assist prophecy and psychic energy.  Juniper is one of the most widely used of all aromatics.

Juniper is also famous for the use of its berries in alcohol.  The so-called "slo-berry" in gin is the juniper berry.  The distinct flavor of the berry is very clear with a single taste.  And tasty it is.

Juniper is associated with the sign of Fire.  It goes well in incense dedicated to the sign of Fire, but is a great choice to use in any blend that needs a subtle evergreen scent.  Juniper has a definite evergreen note, but with a unique scent all its own.

Unlike a lot of traditional incense plants, juniper grows well in most parts of the USA (Canada too I believe), not to mention Europe and beyond.  Live plants can be purchased at most local nurseries and grown with little effort.  Berries can take as long as three years to mature and you will need both male and female plants.  Ask at the nursery for detailed instructions on growing juniper in your part of the world.

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)

The Complete Book of Herbs: A practical guide to growing & using herbs by Lesley Bremness (ISBN 0670854506)

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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