When you hear “frankincense and myrrh”, you may think of the mythology around the birth of Jesus. But these two resins have a history long before that poor old carpenter-rabbi-mystic, and far outside of the Jewish tradition. Still, the Christmas season provides a good excuse to talk about them.
When I was a Catholic boy, we were told that frankincense and myrrh were among the wise men’s gifts because they were used for the anointing of the dead. It’s right there in “We Three Kings”: “Myrrh is mine: Its bitter perfume / Breaths a life of gathering gloom / Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying / Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”
What a Christmas time bummer: “Hey, Baby Jesus, we’re already getting ready for your torture and death by crucifixion!” The unhealthy side of Christianity, that.
But in fact, both frankincense and myrrh were used in ritual incense, not just in death rites.
And both have long been respected for their healing properties. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, frankincense and myrrh are often used together and applied externally to move “stagnant” Blood and Qi. Myrrh is slightly warming and moves the Blood (seen as a more yin form of Qi in TCM) while frankincense is slightly cooling and moves the Qi, so they make great partners to get things moving.
One place that they are often seen together is as two of several herbal ingredients in a type of lineament called dit da jow, used by martial artists to treat bruises and other traumatic injuries. These injuries are seen in TCM as a blockage of the flow of Blood and/or Qi.
Since making a bottle of jow takes about a month of soaking the herbs, while the essential oils are available at my local organic market, I’ve often used a combination frankincense and myrrh (with some other EOs) as a convenient yet powerful alternative to dit da jow.
This spell uses these stagnation-busting powers on a higher level, to free stuck energy. Can’t move on from some emotional trauma? Feeling stuck in a life circumstance? Feel like the flow of your life energy is constricted? This is a spell you can use.
This is a burning ritual. It will create a small amount of fragrant smoke. While most people will find it pleasant, it may overwhelm the sensitive. And it may set off smoke detectors; don’t work under one, and open a window.
- Frankincense and Myrrh
- Either a small amount of the resins themselves, or the essential oils. It’s nice to work with the resins themselves, and the action of grinding them helps put energy into the spell, but if you need to work some magic now the essential oils are probably easier to find. The frankincense or myrrh oil you get at your local health food store is most likely blended with jojoba oil as a carrier. That is fine, EOs are so powerful that a few drops of a diluted blend will still pack plenty of power, and the carrier oil will help the burning.
NOTE: Over-harvesting and climate change are making the production of frankincense, especially the Boswellia sacra and Boswellia papyrifera species, a sustainability issue. If you’re using a substantial amount of frankincense I urge you to take the time to research the issue and to seek out suppliers using sustainable practices.
- I like to use basket-type coffee filters (they make a disk when flattened out) for this sort of work. They’re about the right size, burn well, are inexpensive, are food-grade, and they’re already in my kitchen where I have my herbs. They have the proverbial thousand-and-one uses! But you can use any clean-burning paper.
- Pen or pencil
- Normally I like to use a fountain pen for spell writing, to give things a sense of occasion — but it will leak through a coffee filter if you use that as your paper. You can back it up with a folder paper towel, or use a ball-point pen, pencil, crayons, your own magickal ink, or whatever you would prefer to write or draw with.
- Bowl or other vessel for burning
- A metal bowl with sloping sides has the advantage that you can turn it to help the packet burn completely.
On a physical level, frankincense and myrrh make a powerful injury treatment — but if you’ve sprained your ankle, applying them to your elbow will not help. For best results, you must localize and specify where the blockage is and the desired result. What sort of energy is stuck — romantic, financial, emotional, career? What specifically will it look like when the blockage is removed?
Building the Spell
If using frankincense and myrrh resins, you will need to powder them. You will only need a pinch or two of each — the total amount is less than the size of a dime. Take a piece, wrap it in a paper towel, and strike it with a hammer to break it into smaller pieces; use a mortar and pestle to reduce the resins to powder.
Summarize the specific desired result of this working in a sentence, or a drawing or sigil if you prefer; and write or draw it on the paper.
Place the resin into the paper and twist the paper around it; or place about ten drops each of frankincense and myrrh oil on the paper.
Place the paper in the bowl.
At least five times, chant:
Free the flow
Let it go
With harm to none
This will be done
My life energy
Moving in synergy
Stagnation is gone
The blockage withdrawn
Continue the chant until you feel the spell is charged, then set the paper alight. You may wish to continue the chant as it burns; or you may wish to silently focus your thoughts on the specific desired outcome.
Allow the paper and powder or oils to burn completely, and the smoke to dissipate. The scent will remain behind as a deep sensory reinforcement; when you walk into the room where the smell lingers, take the opportunity to remind yourself of the intention you are working towards.
As the stagnation dissipates and the energy starts to flow in the hours and days following the spell, and you feel your freedom of action increase, consider what actions will bring you toward the desired result. Remember, magick helps those who help themselves; while a working begins with a spell or ritual that is fairly short in time, the working itself is a long-term process which must be maintained.