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 (Hephaestus). 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]



Lexicon Entry: λἰβᾰνος [ῐ], ὁ, frankincense-tree, Boswellia 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.). [4]

Frankincense, subs. Ar. and P. λιβανωτός, . Incense for burning: P. and V. θῡμἰᾱμᾰτα, 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 Orphéfs. It remains one of the most elegant and precious offerings to this day, appropriate for the rituals of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion.

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 the use of frankincense as incense carries such weight that it has a particular legitimacy and precedence.

Pythagóras (Gr. Πυθαγόρας), philosopher-mathematician and priest of Apóllohn (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 (Ílios; Gr. Ἥλιος) and the love set in his heart by Venus (Aphrodíti; Gr. Ἀφροδίτη) for Leucothoë (Lefkothǽa; Gr. Λευκοθέα). In the myth, Sol had witnessed the love between Venus and Mars (Arís; Gr. Ἄρης) and revealed it to Vulcan (Íphaistos; Gr. Ἥφαιστος). Venus caused Sol to fall in love with Leucothoë, whose sister Clytie (Klytía; Gr. Κλυτία) 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 flower, following his every movement. [11]

The religious custom of burning incense for any reason 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 (133 CE-190 CE), a sentiment abhorrent to Ællinismόs as impious (i.e., that a suppliant's gift, an expression of his Ǽrohs [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:

" 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, yet even the lowest grades are very sublime.


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 Thæóphrastos (Theophrastus; Gr. Θεόφραστος) of Æræsós (Eresos; Gr. Ερεσός), the successor of Aristotǽlis (Aristotle; Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης) 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 Vigaar 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 hojary, hojari, houjari, hogary, hawjari, 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 hojary, nagdi (najdi, nejdi), silver, hasiki, 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. sacra, B. 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. Tear is a term that simply refers to the shape of the solidified resin as it drops from the cuts in the tree. Generally, lighter color and large chunks sell for a higher price. It most be noted that the entire grading process of incense from Oman and Yemen is unclear, and consistent 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 extraordinary.


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 frankincense

Ogaden frankincense, Boswellia 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 (the resin found by this author is of a brownish color). 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:

The Orphic Hymns and Frankincense

Frankincense (lívanon; Gr. λίβανον) is requested in the Orphic Hymns twenty-two times, that is, if we include the hymns which include a combination of mánna (Gr. μάννᾰ) with frankincense, and a list of those hymns follows. Mánna is sometimes translated as frankincense, but this does not seem to be accurate.

28. Ærmís [Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς]

65. Áris [Ares or Mars; Gr. Ἄρης]

73. Daimohn [Daemon; Gr. Δαίμων]

62. Díki [Justice; Gr. Δίκη]

63. Dikaiosýni [Equity or Justice; Gr. Δικαιοσύνη]

8. Ílios [Helios or the Sun; Gr. Ἥλιος] (livanománna)

66. Íphaistos [Hephaestus or Vulcan; Gr. Ἥφαιστος] (livanománna)

12. Iraklís [Heracles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς]

38. Kourítæs 2 [Curetes 2; Gr. Κουρῆτες]

39. Korývas [Corybas; Gr. Κορύβας]

77. Mnimosýni [Mnemosyne or Memory; Gr. Mνημοσύνη]

76. Mousai [The Muses; Gr. Μοῦσαι]

82. Nótos [The South Wind; Gr. Νότος]

4. Ouranós [Sky or The Heavens; Gr. Οὐρανός]

75. Palaimohn [Palaimon; Gr. Παλαίμων] (powdered)

79. Thǽmis [Themis; Gr. Θέμις]

22. Thálassa [The Sea; Gr. Θάλασσα] (livanománna)

37. Titánæs [Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες]

72. Týkhi [Tyche or Fortune; Gr. Τύχη]

80. Vorǽas [Boreas or the North Wind; Gr. Βορέας]

81. Zǽphyros [Zephyrus or the West Wind; Gr. Ζέφυρος]

20. Zefs Astrapaios [Zeus, Author of Lightning; Gr. Διὸς Ἀστραπαίος] (livanománna)

The use of frankincense as a high quality varnish

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:

Iródotos and the flying serpents

In the history of Diódohros Sikælióhtis (Diodorus of Sicily; Gr. Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης), we find a description of dark red poisonous serpents amongst the frankincense trees (Library of History Book III.46-47).

Iródotos (Herodotus; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος), the historian, also describes these creatures:

"The frankincense they procure by means of the gum 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 which will drive them from the trees." (Iródotos Histories Book III.107, trans. George Rawlinson, 1858-1860; found here in the 1997 Everyman's Library/Knopf edition on p. 276)

But Iródotos 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.

Alexander the Great and frankincense

When Alǽxandros (Alexander the Great; Gr.Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας) was a boy, his tutor Læohnídis (Leonidas; Gr. Λεωνίδης) scolded him 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, Alǽxandros 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.' "

(Πλούταρχος Βίοι Παράλληλοι, Life of Alǽxandros 25.4-8, trans. John Dryden in 1683.)

Alǽxandros' father, Phílippos II (Philip the Second of Macedon; Φίλιππος Β΄ ὁ Μακεδών), held a banquet of which one of the guests was the Syracusan physician, Menecrates, who committed the hubris of comparing himself to Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) 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.)"

(A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, edited by William Smith, 1880, entry: Menecrates)


When Howard Carter opened the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh 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.'

Medical uses of frankincense

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 frankincense is believed to possess.

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 but this author is not an expert on the medical use of frankincense and cannot take responsibility for the results of anyone's experiments.

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. The resin is anti-inflammatory and analgesic (B-boswellic acid).

6. The resin is useful for some nervous disorders including forgetfulness, lethargy, emotional fatigue, nervousness, and stress.

7. Used as an oil in diffusers or as a chest rub, frankincense 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, frankincense is said to be useful to subdue a cough.

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

10. Frankincense is used internally to heal joints and improve mobility.

11. Frankincense is taken internally for arthritis.

12. Frankincense, taken internally, is said to be useful for gastro-intestinal problems; it stimulates appetite and digestion, and stops diarrhea and vomiting.

13. Frankincense has been taken internally for menstrual pains and urinary tract infections.

14. Frankincense is chewed to strengthen the teeth and gums.

15. A solution made from frankincense can be used as an eyewash, said to sooth the eyes and aid in eye infections.

16. Pliny claimed that frankincense is an antidote to hemlock poisoning.

Please visit this page: Glossary of Frankincense in Ancient Greek Religion.

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


[1] Φιλόστρατος Τὰ ἐς τὸν Τυανέα Ἀπολλώνιον 1:31, trans. F. C. Conybeare, M.A., 1912.

[2] It is also said that it was Apóllohn who had fallen in love with Leucothoë. Ovid seems to equate Sol (Helios) with Apollo, not so unusual in later authors, and this is especially evident when he turns to the story of Klytie.

[3] Summarized from Ovid, Metamorphoses, beginning 4.170.

[4] The word designates the tree only, not the resinous gum.

[5] This word originally meant simply “incense” but the use of frankincense was so ubiquitous that it came to mean the gum of the Boswellia tree.

[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] Διογένης Λαέρτιος Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων, 8.13, trans. C. D. Yonge, 1853.

[9] Ἡρόδοτος Ἱστορίαι Book I.183.

[10] Ἡρόδοτος Ἱστορίαι Book II.86.

[11] Ovid Metamorphoses beginning 4.170.

[12] Ἀθηναγόρας Legatio 13, Public Domain.

[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] Latin Dictionary, Lewis and Short, 1879, p. 776, middle column, within the entry beginning Franci.

[18] Latin Dictionary, Lewis and Short, 1879, p. 918, right column.

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

* 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.

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, Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic 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, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).

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.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

Transliteration of Ancient Greek

Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

PHOTO COPYRIGHT INFORMATION: The many pages of this website incorporate images, some created by the author, but many obtained from outside sources. To find out more information about these images and why this website can use them, visit this link: Photo Copyright Information

DISCLAIMER: The inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) with the views of by the external sources from which they were obtained.

Further, the inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) by of the contents or views of any external sources from which they were obtained.

For more information:

For answers to many questions: Hellenismos FAQ

© 2010 by All Rights Reserved.


Web Analytics Made Easy - StatCounter
free hit counters