Witch’s guide to Frankincense

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Green Hojari (frankincense) burning in an ancient Etruscan incense bowl

Frankincense is an aromatic resin that is obtained from various species of the Boswellia tree species. It is widely used in the West both in the world of the occult and Christianity.

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Frankincense (Boswellia) tree

The name ‘frankincense’ is from the French: ‘franc encense’ meaning incense of high quality. There are many types of frankincense some of which are poor quality. The finest frankincense comes from Oman.

The very finest frankincense is ‘Green Sultan Hojari’ and is very expensive and sometimes impossible to obtain outside the Middle East – occasionally it can be obtained from specialist suppliers lucky enough to have contacts in Oman who have access to this precious commodity.

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‘tear drops’ of Green Sultan Hojari, just 10g costs around £25

Royal Green Hojari is undoubtedly the next best – it is expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as ‘Green Sultan’.

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Royal Green Hojari – price around £20 for 25g

There is also a Silver Hojari or ‘White’, but Green is superior in aroma. Silver is a good general quality grade.

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Silver Frankincense granules

Most commonly sold is the lower grade frankincense. The aroma is nothing like the finest grades, but for general use is far more economical. This grade is also ideal for use as a ‘base’ for incense blends; of course, you could use Green Sultan, but it would be like mixing the finest French wine with Pepsi …..somewhat of a waste!

Red Frankincense is seldom seen, but its aroma is unlike most frankincense varieties almost like musk.

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Red Frankincense ‘teardrops’

Black Frankincense is generally greyish in colour rather than black, the scent is good, but does not compare to the highest grades. It is usually exported – the Arabs buy green.

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Black Frankincense granules.

So, to sum up: VERY occasionally treat yourself to Royal Sultan Hojari if you can find and afford it, use Royal Green Hojari when you need to smell very high-quality frankincense or maybe for that special ritual. Use Red or Black when you want something different from your frankincense collection and the general quality for everyday rituals, esbats and blending.

….and finally, I suppose I should say something about how to burn it. You can use incense charcoal disks for all grades of frankincense, but maybe with Sultan and Royal Green, you may wish to treat it with the utmost respect by burning it the Japanese way with odourless charcoal covered with rice stalk ash and with a mica place resting on the ash upon which to place a small amount of this green treasure. This is the best way to burn incense if you wish to go to the trouble – many incense lovers in Arab countries use electric incense burners, but for me, this just lacks some ancient and special quality – a bit like the difference between the light of a full moon and an electric street lamp, although to be fair, it works just as well as the Japanese method and is easier.

Check out our supplier lists here!

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Roman lady with child making an offering of incense to the Gods

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