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GUM AMMONIAC - AMMOHNIAKÓN - ΑΜΜΩΝΙΑΚΟΝ

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Ammohniakón (ammoniacom; Gr. ἀμμωνιακόν, ΑΜΜΩΝΙΑΚΟΝ), gum ammoniac is an incense resin which is used in the rituals of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, as an offering to Gods, primarily to Zefs-Ámmohn (Zeus-Ammon; Gr. Ζεύς-Ἄμμων). It is appropriate for offerings to Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς), the sons of Zefs, and others.


Amun

During the Egyptian New Kingdom, Amun 
was thought of as chief of the Gods. He was identified with the accomplishments of the Pharaohs, after the defeat of the Hyksos rulers of Egypt. The Hyksos rulers were oppressors of the people, therefore Amun was known as the protector of the poor and less fortunate. The Pharaohs built lavish temples in his honor. Eventually, Amun became identified with Ra, the sun God, and thus became known as Amun-Ra.

The Kushite tribes of the Libyan desert worshiped a God who appeared in the guise of a ram and protected their flocks. The Egyptians perceived that this God was none other than Amun, the king of Gods. The word Amun or Ammon comes from the Egyptian amoni meaning 'shepherd' or 'to feed.' Or, it may have meant "the hidden."

There was an oracular shrine of Amun at the Siwa Oasis, the Oasis of Ammonium, in the Libyan desert. This place was west of Memphis, the capitol of Egypt. There was a plant which grew abundantly in close proximity to the temple complex which yielded an amazing resin. They burned this resin as an offering to Amun. The resin takes it's name from the God, and is known as Ammohniakón.


Zefs-Ámmon in the Hellenic World

When the Greeks made headway into Egypt, they recognized that Amun was the form in which Zefs appeared to the Egyptians, therefore they called him Zefs-Ámmohn. When we see depictions of Zefs-Ámmon, his appearance is quite similar to other statues of Zefs, but he bears the horns of a ram and he may be addressed as Kærovátis (Cerobates; Gr. Κεροβάτης), "horned God." The Romans called him Jupiter-Hammon.

"Moreover, most people believe that Amoun is the name given to Zeus in the land of the Egyptians (Cf. Herodotus, ii.42), a name which we, with a slight alteration, pronounce Ammon. But Manetho of Sebennytus thinks that the meaning 'concealed' or 'concealment' lies in this word. Hecataeus of Abdera, however, says that the Egyptians use this expression one to another whenever they call to anyone, for the word is a form of address. When they, therefore, address the supreme God, whom they believe to be the same as the Universe, as if he were invisible and concealed, and implore him to make himself visible and manifest to them, they use the word 'Amoun;' so great, then, was the circumspection of the Egyptians in their wisdom touching all that had to do with the Gods." [1]

The shrine to Zefs-
Ámmohn was visited by Alexander the Great, who traveled through the desert at great hardship. Alexander found the temple, according to the legend, by following birds. His purpose was to consult the oracle that resided there. [2] 

A famous myth of Zefs-Ámmohn and Iraklís (Herakles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς) is found in the Histories of Iródotos (Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος):

"Such Egyptians as possess a temple of the Theban Jove, or live in the Thebaïc canton, offer no sheep in sacrifice, but only goats; for the Egyptians do not all worship the same Gods, excepting Isis and Osiris, the latter of whom they say is the Grecian Dionysus. Those, on the contrary, who possess a temple dedicated to Mendes, or belong to the Mendesian canton, abstain from offering goats, and sacrifice sheep instead. The Thebans, and such as imitate them in their practice, give the following account of the origin of the custom: -- 'Heracles,' they say, 'wished of all things to see Jove, but Jove did not choose to be seen of him. At length, when Heracles persisted, Jove hit on a device - to flay a ram, and, cutting off his head, hold the head before him, and cover himself with the fleece. In this guise he showed himself to Heracles." Therefore the Egyptians give their statues of Zeus the face of a ram: and from them the practice has passed to the Ammonians, who are a joint colony of Egyptians and Ethiopians, speaking a language between the two; hence also, in my opinion, the latter people took their name of Ammonians, since the Egyptian name for Zeus is Amun. Such, then, is the reason why the Thebans do not sacrifice rams, but consider them sacred animals. Upon one day in the year, however, at the festival of Zeus, they slay a single ram, and stripping off the fleece, cover with it the statue of the God, as he once covered himself, and then bring up the statue of Jove an image of Heracles. When this has been done, the whole assembly beat their breasts in mourning for the ram, and afterwards bury him in a holy sepulchre." [3]


Gum-Ammoniac as a Religious Offering and other Uses

Gum ammoniac or ammohniakón is a most unusual plant resin gathered from the perennial herb, Dorema ammoniacum. The plants are quite tall, six to nine feet high, and are common to many areas such as in parts of Persia. Unlike other resins which are gathered by scoring the plant, gum ammoniac is collected after the herb is naturally scored by insects. The resin is dried and it is appropriate to use it as an incense-offering to Zefs and to other Gods. 
Ammohniakón gives off a powerful bouquet when burned; many people find it unpleasant. When combined with other resins, however, it takes on a different character, amplifying the other fragrances of the entire mixture. It has very masculine aroma, not to be ignored.



Ammohniakón
 has medicinal value. When eaten, it is said to be secreted by the bronchial surfaces and help with expectoration. It is believed to be useful for bronchitis, asthma, and colds. It has also been used to relieve 'hard swellings,' applied as a plaster. DISCLAIMER: Take these medicines at your own risk. The author is not a medical doctor, cannot prescribe anything, and does not accept responsibility for any harm these medicines may produce. If the reader wishes to try these substances, please obtain product of pharmaceutical grade. Medicinal use of these substances is only presented for the interest of the reader.

Ammohniakón is used in gilding as a binder to hold gold to paper or parchment in the art of making illuminated manuscripts. Although there are other substances that can be used for this application, ammohniakón is superior in that it is known to remain active (as a glue) for 900 or more years and is fast to apply.

Ammohniakón is also known by the following names: gum ammoniacum, gum amoniacu, gum hammaniacum, and gum armoniac. It should be noted that three very different substances have been variously called "ammoniac." These are 1) gum ammoniac, the subject of our discussion. Further we find 2) sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride), from the same region but not the same product. And finally 3) bole armeniac, something entirely different: a clay-like earth from Armenia with medicinal qualities.

Ammohniakón is sometimes confused with another incense resin, galbanum (Ferula gummosa), which is mentioned in Hellenic as well as Biblical texts. Ammohniakón is also confused with asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), also known as hing, a resin used in Indian cooking as a substitute for onions. (Asafoetida was used as a substitute for the famous spice of ancient times, Silphium - also a Ferula, which is believed to have been made extinct by over-harvesting. It is still used in Apician cooking for this purpose.) Perhaps the "relation" of these two plants to true ammohniakón is more a confounding of names, for yet another ferula, Ferula Tingitana, is commonly called "African ammoniac."

 

Incense for Zefs or Zefs-Ámmohn

Prepare 3 parts high quality frankincense, 1 part gum ammohniakón, 2 parts stýrax resin (benzoin), and one-half part dried oak leaves. All the resins and oak leaves should be powdered and thoroughly mixed together.

 




Old Recipe for Expectorant Pills 

Take of dried root of squills, in fine powder, 1 scruple; gum ammoniac, lesser cardamom seeds in powder, extract of licorice - 1 drachm. Form them into a mass with simple syrup. This is an elegant and commodius form for the exhibition of squills, whether for promoting expectoration, or for the other purposes to which that medicine is applied. The dose is from 10 grains to 1 scruple, three times a day. [4]

DISCLAIMER: Take these medicines at your own risk. The author is not a medical doctor, cannot prescribe anything, and does not accept responsibility for any harm these medicines may produce. If the reader wishes to try these substances, please obtain product of pharmaceutical grade. Medicinal use of these substances is only presented for the interest of the reader. 


Sources for Ammohniakón

Soma Luna:

http://www.somaluna.com/prod/gum_ammoniac.asp?m=20

 

Alchemy Works carries Ammohniakón and many other herbs and resins. The owner is very knowledgeable and helpful:

http://www.alchemy-works.com/incense_gum_ammoniac.html

 

You can also purchase Ammohniakón from gilding supply houses but this author cannot recommend any (I haven't tried any of them).


Further Information Regarding the Egyptian Amun

For a more thorough discussion of Amun, see the following article:

http://www.egyptianmyths.net/amon.htm

 

For Help Using This or Any Incense  

Incense: A Primer and Sources


NOTES:

[1] Ploutarkhos Pærí Ísidos kai Osíridos (Isis and Osiris; Gr. Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος) Section 9 (354c-d). Trans. Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936, in the volume entitled Plutarch's Moralia in Sixteen Volumes, Vol. V, published by William Heinemann (London, England UK) and Harvard Univ. Press (Cambridge, MA USA). We are using the 1969 edition where this quotation may be found on p. 25. 

[2] Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian, Book III, Chapters 3 and 4.

[3] Iródotos (Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος) Histories, Book II, Chapter 42, trans. George Rawlinson between1858-1860, found here in Herodotus The HistoriesEveryman's Library 234, Knopf, (New York and Toronto)1997, pp.144-145.

[4] Household Cyclopedia of General Information, 1881.


GLOSSARY
NOTE: A list of abbreviations can be found on this page: GLOSSARY HOME.

Ámmohn - (Ammon; Gr. Ἄμμων, ΑΜΜΩΝ) Lexicon entry: Ἄμμων, ωνος, , the Libyan Zeus, Ζεὺς Ἄ.: said to be Egyptian, Hdt.2.42; Ἄμμωνος (κέρας), = κορωνόπους:—fem. Adj. Ἀμμωνίς, ίδος, Libyan, Ἀ. ἕδρα seat of Ammon, i. e. Libya: Subst. Ἀ., , name of state-trireme:—also Ἀμμωνιάς, άδος: Ἀμμωνιακός, ή, όν, ἀπάτη, esp. Ἀ. ἅλας kind of rock-salt:—κή, , Ferula marmarica:—κόν, τό, gum-ammoniacum. (L&S p. 84, left column, edited for simplicity.)

Ammohniás - (Ammonias; Gr. Ἀμμωνιάς, ΑΜΜΩΝΙΑΣ) Ἀμμωνιάς, άδος, or Ἀμμωνις, ίδος, ἡ (Ἄμμων) of or belonging to Jupiter Ammon, i.e. African. (A Lexicon Abridged from Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon, 1869, Clarendon Press [London, England], where this quotation may be found on p. 40.)


A NOTE ABOUT OIL LAMPS, CANDLES, AND INCENSE: In Hellenic religion, candles are symbolic of the light of the Gods, the fire of Æstía (Hestia), the fire of Íphaistos (Hephaestus). 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.*


*Serendipity: 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 primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. "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)



Photographs on this page:


Amun: Public Domain. Photograph has been cropped. Source: File:Amun.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

Alexander at the Temple of Ammon: This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. Scan credit: http://karenswhimsy.com/public-domain-images/

Gum Ammoniac: Photo taken by author of this essay who releases it into the public domain
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Dorema ammoniacum: Public Domain. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dorema_ammoniacum_-_K%C3%B6hler%E2%80%93s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-201.jpg

Zeus-Ammon Museo Barracco: Foto credit: LalupaPermission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License. The image has been altered; the background has been removed.



The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kosmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς)
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