Copal is the aromatic resin from the Copalquahuitl tree (bursera bipinnata). This sacred resin was used in religious rites and healing rituals. Here are 5 things to know about Copal:
- Copal is from the Bursera Bipinnata tree, which grows from Mexico to Central America. In Nahuatl, this is called “copalquahuitl,” the “copal tree.” In Nahuatl, copal is “copalli.”
- It is used for healing. The truly magical scent of copal is immediately relaxing, balancing the body. This can reduce blood pressure as well as increase concentration. The scent has also been used as a treatment for insomnia and headaches as well as increasing one’s creativity. It can be drunk as a tea, sweetened with honey, as a treatment for respiratory problems.
- It is used as an adhesive and binder. Copal resin is found in mosaics from ancient Mexico, often used to adhere turquoise and other precious stones. It is also used as a binder for pigments in murals. The murals at Bonampak, for example, utilized copal as a binder for the pigment, making them encaustic murals as opposed to frescoes.
- It comes in different colors. Copal Blanco, white copal, is usually the highest quality. The smoke from this copal is white and billows out. Copal Blanco has been associated with honoring Tlaloc, the rain deity, as the white clouds of smoke call out for rain. There is also yellow, black and red copal.
- It is used in ritual. When copal burns, magnificent clouds of fragrant white smoke
billow out. The white smoke is sometimes called “the white lady,” and the smoke itself is considered evidence of the dialogue between the heavens and the earth. The column of smoke is transformed into the axis, or center, of the world, representing the turning of the universe and all of the beings.
In the Jade Oracle deck, the divination for drawing the card Copalli is: When you choose copal, you are asked to make an offering. The deities are ready to hear you, ready to communicate with you.
How to use it: Light the charcoal with matches or lighter for about 20 seconds until it self-ignites. Use tongs to hold it up (never hold it with your fingers alone or you might get burned). Place the lit charcoal in a bowl or incense burner filled with sand or dirt. Let the charcoal warm for a few minutes. (It turns gray around the edges when it is ready). Now you are ready! Add a small amount of resin on top of the charcoal. The resin will burn and soon release essential, aromatic oils through the smoke. Put more copal on the charcoal as it burns out and smoke decreases. If you do not have charcoal, here is a great place to get it.
Ritual uses: Use copal as a smudge to cleanse before ritual. Perfect for honoring ancient Mexican deities and for Day of the Dead ceremonies. A truly beautiful way to begin your reading with The Jade Oracle!
How to break it into smaller pieces: Put the copal into a small freezer baggie. Freeze it overnight. While still in the baggie, hit it with hammer or mallet to break into small pieces.
How to clean your hands after using: Put a splash of olive oil in your palm and rub it between your hands. Then apply a small amount of liquid hand soap or dish soap to your oiled hands. Rub until you do not feel the stickiness anymore, then rinse with warm water.
Where to purchase Copal: You can purchase superior quality white and black copal from our store!
Anne, a native Texan, visited the borderlands during the 1970’s and 1980’s, but after a trip to Mexico City in 1990, she began annual sojourns and research trips criss-crossing the country of Mexico and into Central America. Her doctoral studies centered on Mesoamerican spiritual practices and the Cihuateteo, divine women honored by many ancient Mexican cultures. She and Veronica Iglesias created The Jade Oracle deck with deities and symbols from ancient Mexico to bring this wisdom to a new generation.
A faculty member in Women’s Studies, English and Religious Studies, Dr. Key is the co-founder of the independent press Goddess Ink and co-editor of two anthologies: Stepping Into Ourselves: An Anthology of Writings on Priestesses and Heart of the Sun: An Anthology in Exaltation of Sekhmet. She has two memoirs, Desert Priestess and Burlesque, Yoga, Sex and Love: A Memoir of Life Under the Albuquerque Sun. Anne resides in Albuquerque with her husband, his two cats and her snake.
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