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.
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.
Royal Green Hojari is undoubtedly the next best – it is expensive, but nowhere near as expensive as ‘Green Sultan’.
There is also a Silver Hojari or ‘White’, but Green is superior in aroma. Silver is a good general quality grade.
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.
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.
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.
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One thought on “Witch’s guide to Frankincense”
This was an interesting read. I would like to add if I may, that Frankincense trees like the Boswellia Sacra that produce the Royal Sultan Green Hojari produce also red, white, brown and variations on those colors based on time of year harvested and which cut the resin is taken from. For instance, the first cut is usually the lowest grade and used minimally except for essential oils and mixtures in incense. The 2nd cut usually consists of finer grade and can produce milky white, clear, yellow and light brownish green tones. The 3rd cut, and usually the highest cut on the newest branches produces the highest grade, the Green Hojari, which can range from yellow, light and dark green to blue tones. It’s a remarkable plant, and definitely deserves our praise and respect.
As far as “black frankincense”, that is actually a completely different species called Boswellia Neglecta, which unlike the Sacra which lives in Oman and Yemen, is cultivated in Somalia and Ethiopia. I even have my own Boswellia Neglecta plant growing under heat and light in New England.Would love to chat more about frankincense anytime, its my passion.