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And when Apollonius approached and saluted him, the king addressed him in the Greek language and invited him to sacrifice with him; and it chanced that he was on the point of sacrificing to the Sun as a victim a white horse of the true Nisaean breed, which he had adorned with trappings as if for a triumphal procession.  But Apollonius replied:  "Do you, O king, go on with your sacrifice, in your own way, but permit me to sacrifice in mine."  And he took up a handful of frankincense and said:  "O thou Sun, send me as far over the earth as is my pleasure and thine, and may I make the acquaintance of good men, but never hear anything of bad ones, nor they of me."  And with these words he threw the frankincense into the fire (καἱ εἰπὡν ταῦτα τὁυ λιβανωτὁν ἐς τὁ πῦρ ὅκεν), and watched to see how the smoke of it curled upwards, and how it grew turbid, and in how many points it shot up;  and in a manner he caught the meaning of the fire, and watched as it appeared of good omen and pure.  Then he said:  "Now, O king, go on with your sacrifice in accordance with your own traditions, for my traditions are such as you see."   [1]

The Goddess Venus (Aphrodite) was furious with Sol (Helios the Sun) for exposing her love affair with Mars (Ares) to her husband Vulcan (Hephaestos).  To avenge herself, she made Sol  [2]  fall in love with Leucothoë.  Sol disguised himself as Eurynome, Leucothoë's mother, to gain entrance to Leucothoë's chamber.  He then united with her.  But her sister, Klytie, had fallen deeply in love with Sol.   The jealous girl revealed the affair to her father, who then buried Leucothoë alive.   By the time Sol discovered the punishment of her father, Leucothoë had died.  Unable to awaken his beloved with light, Sol swore to revive the girl and make her rise to the sky.  He covered her in the nectar of the Gods.  The body of Leucothoë melted away and filled the soil with its fragrance, and out of the earth arose the frankincense tree,  for this land of Persia burns with the sun, and therefore frankincense is associated with the Sun.  When Sol refused to forgive Klytie, she died of sorrow and the God changed her into the heliotrope, a flower which follows the sun. [3] 


FRANKINCENSE  (Greek: libanos, λἰβᾰνος)

Lexicon Entry:  λἰβᾰνος [ῐ], ὁ, frankincense-treeBoswellia Carterii, Hdt.4.75, Thphr.HP9.4.2, Dsc.1.68, etc.; ἱερὀδακρυς λ. Melanipp.I.5.    II.= λιβανωτὀςfrankincense in which sense it is feminine in Pi.Fr.I 22.3, E.Ba.I 44 (lyr.); but masculine in PCair.Zen.69.13 iii B.C., AP6.23I (Phil.), 9.93 (Antip. Thess.), Edict. Diocl. ('Αθηνα 18.6, Tegea); indeterminate in Sapph. Supp.20C.2, S.Fr.1064, Anaxandr.41.37, SIG 247ii 19 (Delph., iv B.C.).   [4] 

Frankincense,  subs.  Ar. and P. λῐβᾰνωτὀς (ed. libanotos), ὁ.  Incense for burning:  P. and V. θῡμἰᾱμᾰτα (ed. thumiamata - incense), τἀ.   [5] 


Frankincense is the supreme fragrance and is likely mentioned in ancient texts with more frequency than any other incense-offering to Gods. One can find reference to its religious use in ancient Hellenic literature, very prominently in the Hymns of Orpheus.  It remains one of the most elegant and precious offerings to this day, appropriate for the rituals of Hellenismos.

In the opening to his article on frankincense, the Egyptologist A. Lucas states, 

"This has been regarded from a very early period, and is still regarded, as true or genuine incense." [6]  

A curious statement, that the very antiquity of frankincense as incense carries weight, giving its use as such a particular legitimacy and precedence.

Pythagoras, philosopher-mathematician and priest of Apollohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων),performed libations and sacrifices to Gods with "fumigations and frankincense" [7]  (instead of sacrificing animals).  

"He used to practice divination, as far as auguries and auspices go, but not by means of burnt offerings, except only the burning of frankincense." [8] 

In the writings of Herodotus (330 BC), the great traveler known as the "father of history," the Chaldæans of Babylon offered a thousand talents' weight (98,422 pounds) of frankincense to (Zeus)-Bel at his yearly festival. [9]  By 1 AD, 3000 tons of frankincense were exported to Greece and Rome from Southern Arabia.  Elsewhere in his Histories, Herodotus points out that frankincense was excluded from the mummification process [10], without giving a reason why.

There is connection in antiquity between frankincense and the sun.  Ovid tells the story of the creation of the frankincense tree and the heliotrope (a plant whose flower follows the sun) involving Sol (=Ilios=Helios=the Sun) and the love set in his heart by Venus (Aphrodite) for Leucothoë.  In the myth, Sol had witnessed the love between Venus and Mars (Ares) and revealed it to Vulcan (Hephaistos). Venus caused Sol to fall in love with Leucothoë, whose sister Clytie was jealous.  Clytie revealed the advance of Sol on Leucothoë to her father, who buried her alive.  Sol warmed the earth over Leucothoë and she arose as the frankincense tree.  Abandoned by Sol, Clytie became the heliotrope, following his every movement. [11]

The religious custom of burning incense of any kind dwindled with the rise of Christianity and the suppression of the older traditions, to which its use was greatly associated.  "The creator and father of the universe does not require blood, nor smoke, nor even the sweet smell of flowers and incense," [12] declared Athenagoras the Christian apologist (133CE-190CE), a sentiment abhorrent to Hellenismos as impious (i.e., that a suppliant's gift, an expression of his Ærohs [Eros; Gr. Ἔρως]), would not be welcomed by the Gods and that the practitioner of the ancient religion would imagine that their Gods needed anything).  Eventually such expressions as the use of incense were punishable by law:

"(Cod. Theod. xvi. ro. 4, 6), forbidding all sacrifices on pain of death, and still more by the statutes of Theodosius (Cod . Theod. xvi. 10.12) enacted in 392, in which sacrifice and divination were declared treasonable and punish-able with death; the use of lights, incense, garlands and libations was to involve the forfeiture of house and land where they were used; and all who entered heathen temples were to be fined."  [13

The use of frankincense later re-emerged, now in the dominant Christian church, following the seeming destruction of ancient Hellenic religion, but its use was not at the level of antique times.


How can you describe a fragrance?  Frankincense is so sublime that it is characterized with terminology not unlike that used for wine tasting.  Juliet Highet, in her wonderful book about frankincense, filled with beautiful photographs, describes Omani silver, a type of frankincense, with these words:  "...it is indeed a wonderful fragrance, warm, woody and balsamic, honeyed but not cloying, with an almost austere balancing note of pine and vetiver." [14]  You would think she was  painting a picture or trying to describe the qualities of ambrosia. Whenever I entertain guests and there is the lingering perfume of frankincense in the air, it always draws warm comments because people find it very pleasing.  But in the ancient world, it was believed that frankincense pleased the Gods, and we who worship still believe this today.

"In its literal meaning the word 'incense' is one with the word "perfume," the aroma given off with the smoke (per fumum) of any odoriferous substance when burnt.  But in use, while the meaning of the word "perfume" has been extended so as to include everything sweet in smell, from smoking incense to the invisible fragrance of fruits and exquisite scent of flowers, that of the word 'incense,' in all the languages of modern Europe in which it occurs, has, by an opposite process of elimination, been gradually restricted almost exclusively to frankincense."  [15] 


The origin of the word is uncertain. 

"Before 1398 fraunkencense, in Trevisa's translation of Bartholomew's De Proprietatibus Rerum; apparently from Old French frank genuine or true, and encens incense." [16]  Frank comes from the Latin Francus, of or belonging to the Franks. [17]  Incense comes from the Latin incensum, a setting fire to, lighting, incense. [18]

Another explanation sees the word as a combination of the Old French word franc meaning "pure" or "abundant," added to the Latin word incensum, meaning "to kindle." Still others say that it means "the incense of the Franks," because during the Crusades, the Franks re-introduced it to Europe.


Although there are affordable grades of frankincense, the highest quality resin is very, very costly, but in ancient times it was even more expensive. An average person could not afford it. One of the major reasons for the high price was that the resin was harvested from trees that only grew in distant areas. Therefore, the product was shipped, and generally taxed repeatedly as it passed from one country to the next. By the time it arrived in Greece or Rome, it had greatly compounded in price. We are very fortunate that contemporary shipping costs are much less. Truly, most anyone today can afford at least the lower grades of frankincense. But the highest grades still command a steep price. These highest grades of frankincense produce a fragrance that is so sublime it is almost otherworldly, truly a most worthy gift to the Gods we love.



Frankincense, an oleo-gum resin, comes from a deciduous, often shrub-like tree of the Burseraceae (balsam) family.  The genus is Boswellia, and various species within this genus are used to obtain the resin.  The tree has particular habitat requirements.  There was an attempt in Egypt around 1480 BC, detailed in the funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor, to import frankincense and myrrh trees and establish them for local use.  The rains destroyed the trees.  Moisture must be provided principally by mist, not rain (with the possible exception of B. frereana).  The trees tend to grow in very dry climates rich in limestone, often in crags where they cling to the rocks with a sucker-like appendage and little or no soil. 

In Dhofar, the area most famous for high quality frankincense, the tree is thought to be a gift from God, therefore they are not planted or watered deliberately.  The tree is scored using a tool called amanqaf (mengaff or minquaf), making incisions one and a half  to three inches long.  The bark is removed revealing the red inner core of the branch. The resin oozes out from ducts in this core, dries in the sun for ten days to three weeks, and is collected.  After having dried, the resin is semi-water soluble.  This method of acquiring the frankincense resin is essentially unchanged since ancient times as can be attested in the writings of Theophrastus of Eresos, the successor of Aristotle at the Peripatetic school, in his Enquiry Into Plants, IX.IV.

This family of trees has many sub-species and the one in question is the genus Boswellia. Although there are over twenty-five species of Boswellia, there are but a dozen used in the production of frankincense. The most common ones are as follows: Boswellia carterii (the Mohr madow tree) and Boswellia frereana (the yigaar tree) from Ethiopia, Somalia and Oman. Boswellia thurifera from Somalia and India. Boswellia papyrifera from Ethiopia, East Africa and the Sudan. Also there is Boswellia serrata, primarily from the Indian subcontinent. Boswellia neglecta is found in Kenya and India, but this author has never found any of the product.  Boswellia rivae, Ogaden frankincense, from Southeast Ethiopia.  The most famous variety of all is Boswellia sacra (called variously hojaryhojarihoujari, hogaryhawjari, hawjeri), which grows wild in Arabia, inland, flourishing in the limestone hills, plains and valleys from Hadramawt east to Dhofar.  It must be noted that there is confusion as to the scientific classification of the varieties of plants that produce frankincense, as it is difficult to differentiate between species.  Beyond the various species, the student will find additional mystery and obscurity concerning other qualities of frankincense as well.

Reading information about frankincense, you may encounter this: B. carterii Birdwood.  Is "Birdwood" a particular variety of this shrub?  No.  The two-part scientific name for frankincense was created by George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood (1832-1917).  The first species named was Boswellia carterii.  The initial word, Boswellia, immortalizes James Boswell, a friend of Samuel Johnson; carterii honors H.J. Carter, a surgeon who had been surveying the south Arabian coast. 

When you purchase frankincense, try to find out the scientific name and country of origin. Write these things on the container you put the incense in. This will help you to become familiar with the subtleties of difference between the various types. 



In discussions of frankincense from Oman and Yemen we encounter names such as hojarynagdi (najdi, nejdi), silverhasiki, and fusoos.  There exists thoroughly contradictory intelligence regarding these words.  Each of these terms are recommended, depending on the source, as "the best" frankincense.  Despite all these various names, the actually grading may be less dependent on fragrance than on other factors (see below).

The frankincense from Yemen (B. carterii) is very similar to the Omani, perhaps the same, but sold at a slightly lower price-point.  Sometimes you will see frankincense sold as Aden. Aden is a city in Yemen.

Hojary frankincense, indeed probably all the resin from Oman and Yemen, comes from Boswellia sacra, yet some experts say that B. sacraB. carterii, and possibly even B. thurifera, are all the same shrub. Others insist that B. sacra is the only frankincense tree found in this region (Dhofar) and is distinct from the other plants. Perhaps it is actually the particular characteristics of the region itself that somehow causes the difference in the fragrance and possibly even a difference in the appearance of the tree.

The frankincense is said to be graded by various factors such as the time of the year that the resin is harvested, the color of the resin, and the size of the "tears."  Generally, lighter color and large chunks are thought of as more valuable.  It most be noted that the entire grading process of incense from Oman and Yemen is unclear and reliable information about it has been illusory to this author.  One source told this author that frankincense from Oman is graded not so much by how pleasant the fragrance is but by basically two measures: size and characteristics.  The larger the tears, the higher the grade, the whiter tears more valuable, the browner less (with other colors complicating the process).  From this point of view, there are no "grades" of frankincense, only different sizes with different colors.

From my experience, it seems that any of the frankincense resin that comes from Oman and Yemen is quite distinct from frankincense from other parts of the world; it is unique and sublime.


Maydi frankincense.  Another famous type of frankincense is known as Maydi frankincense and it is collected from Boswellia frereana. This resin is also quite costly. It's fragrance is distinct from the Omani types. It may at first give you the impression of a more varnish-like fragrance, a little like eucalyptus, yet the more your experience deepens you will discover that it is very rich and elegant. It is the frankincense used by the Coptic Christian Church of Egypt.  There are supposedly seven or eight grades of maydi frankincense, some used as chewing gum.

Ogaden frankincenseBoswellia rivae, is a difficult resin to obtain in the United States although you can readily buy it in oil form.  The fragrance is incredibly rich, similar to the finer varieties of Boswellia serrata, a very heady perfume.  It is generally dark brown to reddish and black and is found in chunks.  Although it is somewhat costly, it is also a lovely gift to the Gods.  You can obtain this frankincense at Floracopeia.

Boswellia thurifera and Boswellia papyrifera.  The less expensive varieties of frankincense, such as Boswellia thurifera and Boswellia papyrifera have a more gum-like fragrance. This gum-like smell is difficult to describe but it is a fragrance that is common to most resin incense. If you could take away the distinguishing quality of a resin (regardless if it is frankincense, sandarac, myrrh or whatever), what is left is this gum-like odor that I am referring to. So, when I say that the modestly priced varieties of frankincense have more of this gum-like smell, it is really saying that they have less fragrance, the fragrance that masks the gum-like smell. But do not be deceived, because this is not to say that these types of frankincense are not worthy. They are ALL frankincense and they all have a pleasing fragrance. And there are subtleties and depth to every type, some of the reasonably priced varieties being quite sublime.


The frankincense from India, Boswellia serrata, known as Salai gugal, is one of my personal favorites, an exquisite and rich fragrance, again, quite different from the other varieties. Some call this olibanum. The etymology of the word, like frankincense, is uncertain.   Al-luba'n is Arabic for "milky" or "that which was milked," being that frankincense is milked as a sap from the Boswellia tree. Luba'n seems to have etymological ties with a Semitic root referring to "milky whiteness," purity, white.  Another possibility is that it may be a contraction of "oil of Lebanon," since frankincense was traded in Lebanon.


The issue of frankincense and olibanum adds yet another level of confusion to the classification of these resins. To many specialists, they are equivalents, i.e. they refer to the same resin. Furthermore, the term olibanum in the trade is sometimes used as a generic term meaning simply "incense,"  similar to the generic term "benjamin."  But some say that Boswellia resins can be classified by the citrus quality of their fragrance. This method of classifying says that those resins that have a distinctly lemon-like fragrance are frankincense while those resins that have a more orange-like fragrance are classified as olibanum. There is no universally accepted agreement about this, but I will admit that there does seem to be these lemon and orange associations. Some say that this orange-like fragrance is only found in B. serrata, therefore B. serrata is olibanum while the rest is frankincense, more lemon-like. I have even heard of some frankincense as having a lime-like smell. But there are yet other differences between the varieties that confuse the systems of classifying. So, it is really a matter of personal choice and one's ability to distinguish subtle aromas.

Unfortunately, there is much conflicting information about frankincense and olibanum. Despite the fact that it is confusing, I felt it better to present all the issues and leave it to the reader to do his or her best with it. The many varieties of incense exist in a fascinating world of fragrance and history. It is my hope that this discussion will encourage people to try the many resins available and offer them to the Gods and share the great beauty that they embody. Frankincense is one of the most splendid gifts our world offers, and a magnificent present to the divine Gods who bless our lives.


FOR ASSISTANCE in using frankincense as well as sources of where to purchase frankincense, visit this page:

Incense:  A Primer and Sources

 specifically suggest an offering of frankincense thirty-two times (if you include manna and livanomanna), more than any other incense. Aromatic herbs are requested twenty-three times, storax thirteen, Myrrh five.  Firebrands, crocus, and opium (for Sleep) are requested but once each. In the Taylor translation of the hymns, when he mentions manna (Greek: μάννᾰ), this is (possibly) powdered frankincense 
(Visit this page for issues with this word: ΜΆΝΝᾸ).  So, you can see that frankincense is used quite frequently. It could be argued that frankincense is the principle incense offering of Hellenismos.  It is suggested for the following hymns:

Apollo [manna]

Ares = (Taylor) Mercury

Artemis  = (Taylor) Diana [manna]

Asklepios [manna]

Astrapaios Zeus = (Taylor) Jove, as the Author of Lightning [livanomanna]

Boreas = (Taylor) North Wind


Dawn- = (Taylor) Aurora [manna]

Death [manna]


Erinyes [manna + storax]

Hephaistos = (Taylor) Vulcan [livanomanna]



Hygeia = (Taylor) Health [manna]


The Kouretes


Liknites Dionysos [manna]



Nike [manna]

Notos = (Taylor) South Wind


Palaimon (powdered)

Sea [livanomanna]

Silenos, Satyros, and the Bacchai [manna]

Sun [livanomanna]



Tyche = (Taylor) Fortune

Zephyros = (Taylor) West Wind


THE USE OF FRANKINCENSE AS VARNISH IN FINE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AND FURNITURE:  Frankincense (as well as other incense resins) is used as a varnish for high quality furniture.  This varnish is used in the production of the finest violins and other symphonic instruments.  Here are some recipes using various resins including frankincense:  http://www.jubilatores.com/varnish.html



In the history of Diodorus of Sicily, we find a description of dark red poisonous serpents amongst the frankincense trees (Diodorus Siculus Library of History Book III.46-47). Herodotus, who is called "the father of history," also describes these creatures:

"The frankincense they procure by means of the bum styrax, which the Greeks obtain from the Phœnicians; this they burn, and thereby obtain the spice.  For the trees which bear the frankincense are guarded by winged serpents, small in size, and of varied colours, whereof vast numbers hang about every tree.  They are of the same kind as the serpents that invade Egypt; and there is nothing but the smoke of the styrax (ed.Storax)which will drive them from the trees."  (Herodotus Histories Book III.107, trans. George Rawlinson, 1858-1860; found here in the 1997 Everyman's Library/Knopf edition on p.176)

But Herodotus has also been called "the father of lies" because some of his history is fantastic and scholars have found inconsistencies of dating etc.  His description of the flying serpents is an unforgettable narrative and indeed the details do not sound credible, but, amazingly, the story is based on fact.  Carpet vipers (echis) infest the mountains of Dhofar into the present time.  These snakes coil up and strike high, almost as though they were flying.  They are also said to leap onto victims from samur trees.  The bite is quite toxic and there is no known antidote.


When Alexander the Great was a boy, his tutor Leonidas scolded Alexander for excessive offerings of frankincense: "When you conquer the lands where these sweet things grow, then be extravagant with this perfume."  After conquering Gaza, the epicenter of the incense trade, Alexander remembered the incident:

"From hence he sent great part of the spoils to Olympias, Cleopatra, and the rest of his friends, not omitting his preceptor Leonidas, on whom he bestowed five hundred talents' weight of frankincense and an hundred of myrrh, in remembrance of the hopes he had once expressed of him when he was but a child.  For Leonidas, it seems, standing by him one day while he was sacrificing, and seeing him take both his hands full of incense to throw into the fire, told him it became him to be more sparing in his offerings, and not to be so profuse till he was master of the countries which those sweet gums and spices come from.  So Alexander now wrote to him, saying, ' We have sent you abundance of myrrh and frankincense, that for the future you may not be stingy to the Gods.' "  (Plutarch Parallel Lives, Life of Alexander 25.4-8, trans. John Dryden in 1683; found here in the 1992 Modern Library/Random House edition, edited and revised by Arthur Hugh Clough, entitled Plutarch's Lives: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans - Plutarch, Vol. II, p.159)

Alexander's father, Philip of Macedon, held a banquet of which one of the guests was the Syracusan physician, Menecrates, who committed the hubris of comparing himself to Zeus on account of his healing abilities.  "He was invited one day by Philip to a magnificent entertainment, where the other guests were sumptuously fed, while he himself had nothing but incense and libations, as not being subject to the human infirmity of hunger.  He was at first pleased with his reception, but afterwards, perceiving the joke, and finding that no more substantial food was offered him, he left the party in disgust. (Athen, Aelian, l. c.)"  (DGRBM Vol. II, entry: Menecrates, p. 1036, left column)


When Howard Carter opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, incense was found.  The chemist who examined the resin, A. Lucas, believed it to possibly be powdered frankincense rolled into balls.  When burned, Lucas found it still fragrant after 3,500 years, giving off a 'pleasant aromatic odour.' (Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries by A. Lucas, 1926)



Al-luba'n - Arabian

encens - modern French

dup-salai - Indian 

franc encens, 'true' or 'pure'- Old French

gum thus

khondros libanou,  'grain of frankincense' - Greek pharmaceutical term 

kundur - the Arabic scientific name for frankincense 

lbny - Arabian 

lebona - Hebrew, the word means 'milk-white' 

libanomancy - divination by use of incense 

libanos or libanoton - Greek: λἰβᾰνος 

libanus - Latin 

livanomancy = libanomancy - divination by use of incense

luban - 'milky' or 'white'- Arabian

manna - Greek: μάννᾰ; The meaning of the word manna is unclear; for some clarification, visit this page: ΜΆΝΝᾸ

mejmar or mejmari - Mejmar is the traditional Omani terra-cotta vessel for burning frankincense.

morbat - Arabian frankincense 

neter-sent, or 'nty w sntr , or s-ntr (see below), or ntyw- ancient Egyptian.  Some modern scholars believe that ntyw  was an inferior grade of frankincense, or not even frankincense at all, but myrrh 

olibanum (oleum libani) - another general term for frankincense, but for some it only refers to B. serrata

salai gugal - local Indian name for B. serrata 

shaharree luban - Arabian frankincense 

s-ntr - Egyptian, meaning 'that which makes God known' 

tear - term used to designate the drops of resin that form from cuts in the branches of the frankincense tree

tus -Latin 



The following list begins with the Greek word in Greek script, immediately followed by an English transliteration in parenthesis. [19]  For convenience, following this list,  is a listing of same words, now beginning with the English transliterations in alphabetical order. 

The Greek word libanos (λἰβᾰνος) seems to be the principle word used to represent the resin;  libanotos (λῐβᾰνωτὀς) is the term given in S.C. Woodhouse's English-Greek Dictionary[5]

λῐβᾰνᾶς (livanas or libanas), ὁ, = λιβανοπὠλης. PLond.3.604.281 (i A.D.), Sammelb. 410.1 (i/ii A.D.).

λῐβᾰνίδιον (livanithion or libanidion), τὀ Dim. of λἰβανος, Men.260 (ἴδιον cod.; corr. Bentl.).

λῐβᾰνίζω (livanizoh or libanizo), smell like frankincense,  Dsc.1.71, Gal.13.475.   

λιβάνινος (livaninos or libaninos) η, ον, made of frankincenseGloss.  II. frankincense-colouredPOxy.114.5 (ii A.D.).

Λῐβᾰνῖτις (Livanitis or Libanitis), ιδος, ἡ, title of Aphrodite, Luc. Ind. 3 codd.

λιβανοθήκη (livanothiki or libanothiki), ἡ, incense-box 

λῐβᾰνοκᾰια (livanokaia or libanokaia), ἡ, burning of incense

λῐβᾰνόμαντις (livanomantis or libanomantis), εως, ὁ, also ἡ, one that divines from the smoke of frankincense

λῐβᾰνοφόρος (livanophoros or libanophoros), ον, bearing frankincense

λίβᾰνος (livanos or libanos) [ῐ], ὁ, frankincense-treeBoswellia Carterii, Hdt.4.75, Thphr.HP9.4.2, Dsc.1.68, etc.;ἱερὀδακρυς λ. Melanipp.I.5.    II. = λιβανωτὀς, frankincense in which sense it is feminine in Pi.Fr.I 22.3, E.Ba.I 44 (lyr.); but masculine in PCair.Zen.69.13 iii B.C., AP6.23I (Phil.), 9.93 (Antip. Thess.), Edict. Diocl.('Αθηνα 18.6, Tegea); indeterminate in Sapph. Supp.20C.2, S.Fr.1064, Anaxandr.41.37, SIG 247ii 19 (Delph., iv B.C.).

λῐβᾰνόχροος (livanokhro-os or libanokhrous), ουν, frankincense-colored

λῐβᾰνώδης (livanohthis or libanodis) frankincense-like

λῐβᾰνὡτίδιον (livanohtithion or libanotidion), τὀ, Dim. of λιβανωτἰς, small censer

λῐβᾰνὡτίζω (livanohtizo or libanotizo), fumigate with frankincense, II. to be like frankincense

λῐβᾰνωτός (livanohtos or libanotos), ὁ,  also ἡ Men.Sam.Fr.I : --frankincense, the gum of the tree λἰβανος, used to burn at sacrifices

λῐβᾰνωτοφόρος (livanohtophoros or libanotophoros), ον, bearing frankincense

λῐβᾰνωτρίς (livanohtris or libanotris) ἰδος, ἡ, censer

μάννᾰ λιβάνος (manna livanos)  frankincense powder or granules (ed. or possibly frankincense mixed with manna.  See  ΜΆΝΝᾸ).


livaninos (libaninos; Gr. λιβάνινος η, ον) made of frankincenseGloss.  II. frankincense-colouredPOxy.114.5 (ii A.D.).

livanithion (libanidion; Gr. λῐβᾰνίδιον), τὀ Dim. of λἰβανος, Men.260 (ἴδιον cod.; corr. Bentl.).  

Livanitis (Libanitis; Gr. Λῐβᾰνῖτις,  ιδος, ἡ) title of Aphrodite, Luc. Ind. 3 codd. 

livanizoh (libanizdo; Gr. λῐβᾰνίζω)  smell like frankincense,  Dsc.1.71, Gal.13.475.

livanohthis (libanodis; Gr. λῐβᾰνώδης,  - ες)  frankincense-like

livanohtithion (libanotidion; Gr. λῐβᾰνὡτίδιον, τὀ, Dim. of λιβανωτἰς)  small censer

livanohtizo (libanotizo; Gr. λῐβᾰνὡτίζω)  fumigate with frankincense, II. to be like frankincense

livanohtophoros (libanotophoros; Gr. λῐβᾰνωτοφόρος,  ον)  bearing frankincense

livanohtos (libanotos; Gr. λῐβᾰνωτός,  ὁ,  also ἡ Men.Sam.Fr.I )  frankincense, the gum of the tree λἰβανος, used to burn at sacrifices

livanohtris (libanotris; Gr. λῐβᾰνωτρίς ἰδος, ἡ) censer

livanokhro-os (libanocrous; Gr. λῐβᾰνόχροος,  ουν)  frankincense-colored

livanokaia (libanokaia; Gr. λῐβᾰνοκᾰια  ἡ)  burning of incense

livanomantis (libanomantis; Gr. λῐβᾰνόμαντις,  εως, ὁ, also ἡ)  one that divines from the smoke of frankincense  [1]

livanophoros (libanophoros; Gr. λῐβᾰνοφόρος,  ον)  bearing frankincense

livanos (libanos, libanus, or libanotos) (Latin: libanus or tus  Livanos is the principle Greek word for frankincense.
 Lexicon Entry: λίβᾰνος [ῐ], ὁ, frankincense-treeBoswellia Carterii, Hdt.4.75, Thphr.HP9.4.2, Dsc.1.68, etc.;ἱερὀδακρυς λ. Melanipp.I.5.    II. = λιβανωτὀς, frankincense in which sense it is feminine in Pi.Fr.I 22.3, E.Ba.I 44 (lyr.); but masculine in PCair.Zen.69.13 iii B.C., AP6.23I (Phil.), 9.93 (Antip. Thess.), Edict. Diocl.('Αθηνα 18.6, Tegea); indeterminate in Sapph. Supp.20C.2, S.Fr.1064, Anaxandr.41.37, SIG 247ii 19 (Delph., iv B.C.).  

livanothiki (libanothiki; Gr. λιβανοθήκη,  ἡ) incense-box

manna livanos (manna libanos; Gr. μάννα λιβάνος)  frankincense powder or granules (ed. or possibly frankincense mixed with manna.  See  ΜΆΝΝᾸ).


Not only is frankincense a holy gift to the Gods, but it is a great boon to mankind.  The following is a list of medicinal qualities.  

Disclaimer:  This information has been copied from various lists and I cannot vouch for the ability to produce a cure.  If you do wish to experiment, I suggest doing further research and possibly consult your physician.  Frankincense for internal use must be sold as such.  Boswellic acids are said to have a very low toxicity. 

1.  the resin, applied as a salve, is used for rheumatism, wounds, and athletic injuries, said to be unsurpassed at healing skin abrasions, acne, dry skin, wounds and scars, and in general having a rejuvenating effect on skin.  It is antiseptic.

2.  the soot from burning the resin can also be used to treat wounds and cancerous lesions

3.  the smoke from the resin is said to be beneficial in general, said to be useful for a sick-room

4.  the smoke is said to cure some types of headaches

5.  it is anti-inflammatory and analgesic (B-boswellic acid)

6.  useful for various nervous disorders including aid in dispelling forgetfulness, lethargy, emotional fatigue, nervousness, and stress.

7.  as an oil in diffusers or as a chest rub, it is decongestant and helpful for colds, sinusitis, bronchitis, night coughing, asthma, emphysema, and laryngitis.  Inhaling frankincense is said to slow and deepen the breath and generally relax the patient.

8.  dissolved in milk it is useful for cough

9.  B. serrata is used extensively in Aryuvedic medicine. 

10.  internally for joints and mobility

11.  internally for arthritis

12.  useful internally for gastro-intestinal problems, stimulates appetite and digestion, stops diarrhea and vomiting

13.  internally for menstrual pains and urinary tract infections

14.  chewed to strengthen the teeth and gums

15.  a solution can be made into an eyewash, said to sooth the eyes and aid in eye infections

16.  Pliny claimed that it is an antidote to hemlock 

"It is curious to note that there is a prevailing belief that liturgical incense is bad for those with chest complaints, when in fact frankincense was traditionally used to treat exactly those conditions."  Myra Shackley from Food for the Gods: New Light on the Ancient Incense Trade

PERFUMERY: Frankincense has a long history of use in perfumes, with the most illustrious enthusiast being Cleopatra.  "Frankincense and myrrh produce the heaviest and longest lasting fragrances of any essential oil."  (Myra Shackley from Food for the Gods:  New Light on the Ancient Incense Trade)  Therefore, they are used as fixatives in perfumery, making fragrance last longer.  Approximately half of contemporary frankincense production is used in perfumes, aromatics and medicine.

A Noble Plea for Hojary Frankincense

If you pay attention to the availability of hojary frankincense, you likely have noticed that it is often unavailable.  It has become unprofitable to harvest frankincense in our modern world, particularly for the highest quality which comes from Oman.  The work is grueling and the market has diminished.  The ready accessibility of very inexpensive varieties of frankincense from other countries has put the Omani trader in a dilemma: few people are aware that there is any difference from one resin to another. The danger is recognized by the government in Oman and they have been working in concert with UNESCO with a program planting nurseries of frankincense trees.  It is thought locally that production of the resin could be increased ten-fold were there a market and willing workers.  If you believe that frankincense is pleasing to the Gods, make a point of purchasing a quantity.  Increased demand will help to assure there will always be resin available, and if you can afford it, buy the hojary or negdi which comes from Oman.  If it is impossible for you to afford on a daily basis, consider using this finest of frankincense for the most important festivals.

A NOTE ABOUT OIL LAMPS, CANDLES, AND INCENSE:  In Hellenic religion, candles are symbolic of the light of the Gods, the fire of Hestia, the fire of Hephaestos.  Incense is an offering to the Gods.  Although both candles and incense are enjoyable to us, please keep in mind their actual purpose; they are not merely "atmosphere."  The pleasure we derive from them is simply serendipitous. *


Abbreviations can be found here: Glossary Home Page

[1] The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus, Chapter 31, translated by F. C. Conybeare, M.A. in 1912, from the 1948 edition on p.89

[2]  It is also said that it was Apollo who had fallen in love with  Leucothoë.   Ovid seems to equate Sol (Helios) with Apollo, especially evident when he turns to the story of Klytie 

[3] Summarized after Ovid, Metamorphoses, beginning 4.170

[4] L&S p. 1047 left column.

[5] EGD p. 342

[6] Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries by A. Lucas, 1926; found in the 1959 Edward Arnold edition on p.111.

[7] Iamblichus The Life of Pythagoras 21.98, λιβανωτοῦ in the text.

[8] Diogenes Laertius The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book VIII: Pythagoras Chapter XVIII, trans. C. D. Yonge, 1853, Henry G. Bohn Publ. p.316.

[9] Herodotus Hist. Book I.183.

[10] Herodotus Hist. Book II.86.

[11] Ovid Metamorphoses beginning 4.170.

[12] Athenagoras Legatio 13.

[13] Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1910, Vol. 14, Entry entitled: Idolatry, p.288.

[14] Frankincense: Oman's Gift to the World by Juliet Highet, p.13, Prestel Publish., no date found in the book.

[15] Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1910, Vol. 14, Entry entitled: Incense, p.348.

[16] Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, entry: frankincense, 1988; found here in the 2000 Chambers Harrap Publishers edition entitled Chambers Dictionary of Etymology on p.406.

[17] LD p.776, middle column, within the entry beginning Franci.

[18] LD p.918, right column.

[19] The source for all of the words in this list: [4] L&S p.1047.

* We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primaril+y rests.  In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I callSerendipity, a very expressive word."  Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka,Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of 'a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of...."  (the Free Dictionary by Farlex)

REFERENCES:  The information in the above essay came from a variety of sources, including my own personal experience.  The books that proved most useful follow:

Frankincense: Oman's Gift to the World by Juliet Highet.  This is a large, coffee-table book with much hard-to-find information and a wealth of beautiful color pictures mostly taken in Oman.  I see this book as the best single book available on the subject.

Frankincense & Myrrh by Martin Watt and Wanda Sellar.   An informative book which you can get for a couple dollars used.

Vegetable Gums and Resins by F.N. Howes.  An old scientific book with a bulk of information about many different resins.

Food for the Gods - New Light on the Ancient Incense Trade edited by David Peacock and David Williams.  This is a scholarly collection of essays dealing primarily with archeology and  the ancient incense routes.

PLEASE NOTE:  Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods.  These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes.  While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally.  A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result.  The meaning of the myths is concealed in code.  To understand them requires a key.  For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level.  Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

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