My first memory of scent is the scent of livani (aka mosholivano which is a greek incense made from frankincense and flowers/herbs) through the house which my mother would burn on a sunday to honour the blessed dead and/or ancestors as well as cleanse the house of malignant and negative forces. It was a lesson in sensory magick and that it triggered a heightened state of spiritual connection. Whenever I smelled that scent I felt the ancestors were near and that I was wrapped up in a blanket of protection. These days the smell of livani connects me to my ancestors and Gods through the communion of scent due to burning it as a regular part of my magical and spiritual devotions.
Resins in Ancient Greece, specifically plant resins, were used in religious and ceremonial rites such as frankincense and myrrh as noted by Theophrastus and mastic as noted in the Hymns of Orpheus. Burning resins as an incense was seen as a way to communicate with Diety and feed them as well as acknowledging their presence through scent. In Ancient Greece incense was burned not only to please Deity but as an accompaniment to rituals which were religious, civic and family-centric in nature. They were also used in festivals of Ancient Greece to mark each phase of said festival, from procession to prayer to sacrifice. Incense burners were seen as a staple in Ancient Greek sanctuaries and they burned resins for purification and as a pure offering.
Resins in modern practice like in ancient practice are burned as an incense using a censor or thirable on a shrine or altar. Many modern Greeks burn it in their homes in an incense holder for their deceased relatives and Greek Orthodox churches burn thirables of incense at every ceremony. When my father passed away according to Greek tradition I had to walk around the hearse carrying his coffin, three times with lit livani before it made its way to church. All family members were gathered and watched, taking in the scent to purify his journey, as well as cleansing his last residence.
Many modern witches, magicians and reconstructurists also burn resins as part of their religious or magical practice whether it be in ceremony, ritual, spell work, meditation or as a way for them to trigger what they are seeking through the use of scent.
My last sojourn to Greece I stayed on the island of Chios which is known for their mastic resin from the Schinias region tree on the island’s south. This resin which is hard crystallised drops is collected from trees in the summer in the Schinias region when they are hit with an iron tool. This practice has been occurring for over 2500 years and continues to this day. The resin is used in incense as well as medicines, cosmetics, embalming and cleaning products. The whole island’s economy relies on this resin not only as a product, but as a tourist draw. I remember buying a few boxes of mastic as gifts and a keep sake. When I returned from my trip I chewed it (as it was the first gum in Ancient Greece) and also used it in my incense blends, as well as gifted it to a few family members and friends much to their delight.
Burning resins can promote feelings of centred calm, can engage and open the mind whilst assisting in connection to spirit and Deity during ritual, spiritual and meditative practices.
I like to make my own incense blends and predominately use resins which I either use on their own or mix with other resins, herbs, oils or flowers. The act in itself of choosing the resins and using a mortar and pestle to crush the resins and then blend any additional ingredients, is very alchemical in its process for me and is a devotional act I employ regularly. As someone who burns resins as part of my daily Hellenic practice as a devotee to Hekate, I have spent years experimenting to create the right blends for Her with Her various titles I venerate and for assorted purposes.
When blending resins for magical, ritual or spiritual use, I suggest you research and find those which resonate with you and your workings and devotionals. I also suggest you burn them in a heatproof container such as a heat proof thirable, dish or cauldron and ensure there is adequate ventilation.
As stated above, burning resins is a huge part of my practice to Hekate and as such have created a list of resins I have found resonate with her workings which I have shared below:
Plant Resins for Hekate by *Setjataset
Balm of Gilead
Please note certain resins can be harmful or toxic if ingested, inhaled or placed on skin.
As always please research and check all the resins you will be handling before working with them to ensure you do so in a safe manner.
(C) *T. Georgitsis 2020