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Offerings of Frankincense and Copal, Cedar, Rose, Fruits, Cinnamon and Sustainability

This post has been updated.

In an effort to look into sustainable practices and corresponding incenses from the Americas, we will be exploring substitutes for frankincense incense. At the moment, cedar, rose, coconut, fruits and cinnamon incense all look to be promising for sustainability.

Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Atlas Cedar) male cones in Arboretum La Alfaguara, public domain image
Cedrus libani var. atlantica (Atlas Cedar) male cones in Arboretum La Alfaguara
public domain image

Aromatic cedar wood or cedar oil was used in ancient times with sacred offerings. Cedar was an important building material for ancient temples. Cedar has become one of our favorite incenses.

Rosa gallica, Parque Gasset de Ciudad Real, Spain, public domain image
Rosa gallica, Parque Gasset de Ciudad Real, Spain
public domain image
Roses, and the beautiful scent of roses, have been associated with Goddesses, Goddess festivals and divine feminine for thousands of years. Rose is a very appropriate Goddess offering; either dry, fresh, or incense form.

Basket of fruit, public domain image
public domain image

Fruits, as found in the Goddess Fortuna's cornucopia, may be offered as fresh fruit, a juice libation or as incense. Many fruits and nuts were known in Roman times, including:

almond
apple
apricot
cherry
coconut
fig
grape
hazelnut
lemon
orange
pear
pineapple
plum
pomegranate
raspberry
strawberry
walnut
watermelon

Although Temple of Fortuna dot com has recommended frankincense as an offering, after a decade of its use, we began searching for regional alternatives from the Americas. This started when we acquired a sample of copal, and lit it alongside the traditional frankincense incense for several weeks in a row.

However, after burning this incense, we found ourselves looking deeper into sustainability.

We discovered that many wood species available for purchase easily and inexpensively may actually be endangered, according to various online resources. Included as threatened, or possibly threatened, according to various online sources:

frankincense
sandalwood
palo santo
copal (copal includes several species of trees)

These are all popular and widely available aromatic woods, yet no evidence is shown that any of these trees are grown sustainably and commercially, as are fruit and nut trees known to our kitchens and dining rooms. We then chose to explore cinnamon and cinnamon-blend incense, and our favorite of these has included coco-cinnamon and cinnamon rose.

Cinnamon and Cassia according to geographical locations, public domain image
Cinnamon and Cassia according to geographical locations
public domain image

Cinnamon is a well known, cultivated tree that is protected and sustainable as a crop, probably because of its long tradition of culinary uses. Cinnamon, synchronicitously, was highly valued in ancient Rome, and some resources associate cinnamon with a Temple to Peace, and possibly a Temple to Jupiter.

Although cinnamon was the first incense we explored as a sustainable substitute, we continue to seek sustainable alternatives to frankincense. It makes sense to think about substituting sustainable botanicals when we use aromatic incenses for sacred space. Until and unless we have access to our own, locally grown frankincense tree, we will continue to work with cedar, rose, fruit, cinnamon and other abundant botanical offerings.

resources:

Origin and emergence of the sweet dessert watermelon, Citrullus lanatus
Harry S. Paris
Annals of Botany, Volume 116, Issue 2, August 2015, Pages 133–148,
academic.oup.com/aob/article/116/2/133/180059#87719473

Roman pineapples? | Plant-Lore
plant-lore.com/news/roman-pineapples

Rosalia (festival) - Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalia_(festival)

Lebanon Cedar - Livius
livius.org/articles/misc/cedar

A history of fruit
localhistories.org/fruits.html

Legends, myths and folklore of the coconut palm tree and its use
earthstoriez.com/india-coconut-myth-folklore

In 50 Years, Frankincense Could Be Snuffed Out
atlasobscura.com/articles/frankincense-resin-is-endangered

Why We Need to Stop Using Palo Santo
forageandsustain.com/why-we-need-to-stop-using-palo-santo

Saving the East Indian sandalwood tree
botany.one/2013/07/saving-the-east-indian-sandalwood-tree

Aromatic Copals - Copal
biodiversidad.gob.mx/v_ingles/use/copales/copal_ingles.html

The Temple of Peace in Rome By Pier Luigi Tucci
books.google.com/books/about/The_Temple_of_Peace_in_Rome.html?id=Q3Q6DwAAQBAJ

Orphic Hymns - Theoi Classical Texts Library
theoi.com/Text/OrphicHymns1.html

Incense of the World - Incense on the Way (cinnamon search)
incenseontheway.com

Indian Incense Online (cinnamon search)
ishopindian.com/Indian-Incense