Concocting- What to do when your sources disagree?
I’ve mentioned before that research is one of the most important parts of how I create an incense blend. But to be honest, sometimes I get stuck. Like, really stuck.
Let’s take myrrh for example. I’ve always used it to represent the feminine principle, as opposed to the sharp masculinity of frankincense. I wanted to use it as a base for my full moon incense for that reason, but I decided to go through some books and websites to see if I could confirm that that would be appropriate.
Basically, I opened a research wormhole for myself. For example, in Magical Herbalism: The Secret Craft of the Wise (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick Series), Scott Cunningham attributes myrrh to the very male Sun energies, but also to (traditionally feminine) water. In Wylundt’s Book of Incense by Steven Smith, it is attributed to Sun and fire, both male. These books are a little older and more respected than some of the other books I have, so this is a bit troubling. I do more research. The Magick of Aromatherapy: Use of Scent for Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit, by Gwydion O’Hara agrees with the Sun/fire correspondence, but gives a secondary correspondence of Jupiter/water. Huh?
In Magical Aromatherapy: The Power of Scent (Llewellyn’s New Age Series), Scott Cunningham changes his attribution to Saturn and water. This is getting a bit closer. Lexa Rosean also attributes it to Saturn in The Encyclopedia of Magickal Ingredients: A Wiccan Guide to Spellcasting. Hmm.. This still just isn’t the way I tend to use it. Ah ha! In The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick), Cunningham lists it in the correspondence tables in the back under Moon. Vindication!
But wait, shouldn’t more people agree on this before I just see what I want to see? On to the Interwebz!
Oh man. Oh. Man. I don’t know why I thought to find some sort of agreement here. We’re all over the board. One thing that’s interesting, is that my favorite herbalist on YouTube, MirthAndReverence attributes myrrh with a lot of feminine qualities in this video. Ok, that’s a little more like how I’ve always used it. That feels somewhat better.
Could the discrepencies be because there are really 2 varieties of myrrh that are commonly found? There’s Commiphora Myrrha, which is your basic, garden variety myrrh. However, I’ve been using ‘sweet myrrh’, aka opoponax, which comes from Opopanax Chironium, a relative of myrrh. It’s called sweet myrrh, because it’s… well.. sweeter. Regular myrrh is more astringent in scent. Maybe this is the crux of the confusion right here!
I can certainly understand how the more astringent myrrh could be seen as masculine, and how the gentler scent of sweet myrrh could be seen as feminine.
What it basically comes down to, then, is having a personal experience with the smoke of the sweet myrrh that I intend to use. And that’s what I did. I lit a charcoal, settled in, and lightly meditated on what I was sensing while I dropped a small nugget of sweet myrrh onto the charcoal. There is a slight astringency, but overall it seems like a kinder, gentler counterpart to frankincense. It’s a little deeper and doesn’t quite assault the nostrils so much. (I’ve never been an enormous fan of frankincense, and will only use it sparingly in my blends as it tends to completely take over.) There’s still a sense of the sacred in the scent, but it’s not so overpowering and aggressive. The scent really just FEELS right for what I’m going to be using it for. When I add in a pinch of sandalwood, which is going to be the other part of the base, I have a moment of bliss, feeling the creamy gentleness of the combined scents wash over me. A smaller pinch of mugwort, all in the name of testing, and some woodier, herbier notes emerge.
THIS! This is why I do this. I spend hours and hours trying to come up with the perfect blend, and when it goes right, it goes SO right. So that’s what it comes down to. All the research and agonizing only took me so far. What really got me to the end was CONNECTING with my ingredients. That can only be done when you go to your silent center, and question what’s right for you.
I’ll be making this blend on the next full moon, and it will be for sale at our Etsy shop shortly thereafter. 🙂