Myrrh, frankincense and incense
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Travel through time with two ancient perfume materials: myrrh and frankincense. The story of both starts millennia before they became part of the nativity we know today.
Egyptians used myrrh as medicine and as part of their embalming solution. If you visit the Egyptian Halls of the British museum you can still catch the myrrh aroma emanating from the exhibits. But the name ‘myrrh’ comes from the Hebrew mōr (“bitter”). Later in the Magi gifts it came to symbolize the mortality of the baby messiah (gold was a symbol of him being the king of kings and frankincense represented the divine nature of the baby). It’s quite ingenious as myrrh does smell “human”: it has a dark, almost indolic dense sweet leathery aroma.
Frankincense (aka olibanum) is now a popular perfume theme in the 21st century but for millennia has been a sacred material supposedly capable of carrying prayers to the God(s) when lit in a censer. It’s often confused with or called ‘incense’. However incense can be any aromatic resin or mix of resins, spices or wood chips rich in oils that will produce fragrant fumes when lit.
This edit includes perfumes in which these materials have been used: from ancient incense stories to modern functional blends void of metaphysical reverence.