The Gift of Kings

‘And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense and myrrh.’ Matthew 2:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the account of the Adoration of the Magi only appears in Matthew’s gospel. The gifts have been interpreted with a spiritual meaning: gold for Kingship, frankincense symbolic of divine status and myrrh as a symbol of death. At the time of the birth of Christ gifts of frankincense and myrrh were almost as valuable as gold. Today the value of gold has far outstripped that of these incenses. The incenses presented to Christ by the Magi are thought to have come from the deserts of Oman

The earliest references to frankincense and myrrh were in Ancient Egypt. The 5th Dynasty Egyptian King Sahure (died 2475 BC) is depicted in a relief in his mortuary temple tending a Myrrh tree in his garden . And in the temple of the Egyptian Queen Hatsheput (1507 – 1445 BC) there is a mural depicting frankincense trees. The roots of actual frankincense trees were found during excavations at this temple. According to histories they both travelled to the land of Punt and Queen Hatsheput brought back frankincense trees in her shipment of flora and fauna, where as King Sahure is reported to have included myrrh in his cargo. Traces of both frankincense and myrrh have also been found on Egyptian mummies,used in the embalming process

There are continual references to both incenses in the Old Testament – The use of frankincense is recorded in sacrifices and myrrh was used as a rare perfume and anointing oil. In the New Testament both were given as gifts at the Birth of Christ, and Myrrh was also offered at Jesus’ death and used to wrap his body at his burial

Due to these religious references both incenses are still used today in religious celebrations. Frankincense is seen as a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven and myrrh is used to prepare the sacramental ‘Chrism’ in both Western and Eastern Churches

In his famous Histories Herodotus describes the harvest of frankincense from trees in South Arabia and the danger of the venomous snakes that inhabited these trees

And Pliny the Elder in his Natural History wrote about the harvest of myrrh

Frankincense or Olibanum is the aromatic resin of the Boswellia tree, found mostly in Yemen, Oman and the Sudan.  The more opaque the appearance the better the quality of the incense. The are four main species of Boswellia and the resin from each of the four is available in various grades depending on the time of harvest. Myrrh is also a natural gum or resin extracted from the thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, native to South Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia and Eritrea and parts of Ethiopia. The resin is yellowish in colour but sometimes clear or opaque and darkens with age with white striations

 

 

 

 

Frankincense Tree                                      Myrrh Tree

Today both frankincense and myrrh are used as essential oils and in aromatherapy and in medicine. Frankincense is said to have numerous health properties including the relief of chronic stress and anxiety, pain and inflammation and boosting immunity and potentially in the fight against certain types of cancer, although there is further research to be undertaken. Initial trials found that frankincense essential oil was found to kill cancer cells in a petri dish. Frankincense is also still used for making perfume and incense. It is also a valuable ingredient in skin care products for aging and dry skin. At the Great English Outdoors, one of our staple products is Frankincense and Geranium Moisturising Lotion. One of our most popular stocking fillers at Christmas is a wonderful hand made Frankincense and Myrrh Soap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myrrh is a natural antiseptic and is used in mouth wash and incorporated into healing dressings for minor skin ailments, it is also used by vets for healing wounds on animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical Illustration of Frankincense        Botanical Illustration of Myrrh
The production of myrrh is considered fairly stable however that of frankincense is under threat as change of land use,over exploitation of harvest and a destructive beetle are killing off the trees. Urgent action is needed to encourage the governments of Yemen, Oman and Sudan to protect the remaining Boswellia trees as part of their heritage

We sell our own range of raw incenses including pure Frankincense and Myrrh from Oman, to be sprinkled on an incense burner, both with delicate aromas to burn make your house smell wonderful over the Christmas festivities