What Is Copal?
Copal is the name given to the aromatic resin derived from the sap or “blood” of certain trees from the Torchwood family that hardens when in contact with the air. A process of tree selection is done by “copaleros” or experts on discriminating whether the tree is robust and healthy enough for it to flow well throughout the harvesting season. Traditionally, cuts are done on the bark of the copal tree and a maguey stalk is placed underneath to receive the resin that will turn into the aromatic, sacred incense.
This aromatic resin was used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes. The term copal describes resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization between gummier resins and amber. The word copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning “incense”. To the pre-Columbian Maya and contemporary Maya peoples it is known in the various Maya languages as pom. Copal is used by a number of indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America as an incense and communal ceremonies.
Copal Scientific Name: Protium copal Common Name: Copal, Pom
Parts Used: Tree Resin
LEFT – Tree in Christchurch Botanical Gardens
RIGHT – Copal resin Copal oil Bits of copal for use
Origin Of Copal
The term Copal is from the Nahuatl language and the word is derived from “copalli,” which means incense; Nahuatl was the language of the Aztecs. In Belize, copal is used as incense and can be found in most market places in the country; they are sold in one pound blocks of resin in its most natural form, with complimentary pieces of dried bark, leaves and drunken baymen, wrapped in leaf parcels. The Maya and Latino people of Toledo, pieces of copal on coals for spiritual cleansing. Copal has been used in ancient Maya and Aztec ceremony as a ritual offering to the gods. The secondary and less well-known use of copal is as medicine. Throughout Mesoamerica, and especially in Mexico, copal has a long history of use that stretches for thousands of years in different prehispanic sites such as the Templo Mayor of the capital city of Tenochtitlan, the Cenote Sagrado in Chichen Itza, and the Laguna de la Luna in Toluca, Mexico.
Copal was highly valued and was used in different rituals, celebrations, and offerings throughout the year given the belief that the white smoke enabled communication with deities and several natural forces. Especially clearing away influences of the “evil eye” and for use in “spiritual cleansing”. The uses of copal in ancient Mexico and amongst native cultures nowadays can be divided into four functions: divinatory, preventive, therapeutic, and divine offerings.
The Otomi people “read” the copal’s smoke with the aid of a candle to diagnose disease; copal smudging is one of the most common preventive and therapeutic practices in traditional medicine; the Lacandon people craft receptacles dedicated to a particular god(des) in which copal is burned, thus “feeding” the divine abode of such deities. Copal’s importance was such that not only survived the arrival of the Spaniards but was adopted by them, becoming a common element in Church services.
What Are Copal Healing Properties?
Medical coiplaints included upper respiratory tract infections and also skin conditions ranging from scabies, fungal mycoses, dermatitis and impetigo. Education on hygiene was usually the order of the day even although the great expectation was for a magical injection of steroid and penicillin. Sadly, I found that my Western medicine knowledge was not appreciated and the next port of call was the bush doctor. The Kekchi view of Western medicine can be encapsulated in the words of a Mayan woman to me: “I come to you for fresh cold…but for real medicine I go to bush doctor.” She went on to explain that only a bush doctor could cure the serious illnesses such as snakebites, “dirty blood” and “fright.”
Uses – mainly for cleansing in ceremonies.
Also as an oil – see more here (CLICK). Copal is easily sourced – it can be used to great effect
In trainings and in my clincal practice – I use the implements below.
The original Belizean container can be substituted by anything that will be safe when moving it about.
The charcoal rounds and the Himalayan salt are laid down.
It takes a bit to light the charcoal – warning – it burns VERY hot and you can miss that it is already lit!
When lit, add a little copal and stand back – it is a beautiful smell.
You will be able to feel its effect!
Add in your own prayers/intentions and let loose!
This is one topic page within the ‘tools’ section in the Self Discovery course (CLICK) (we need to undo out own stories first).
How did I discover this?
Kept in my inner quest – always looking for the next piece of the puzzle. Advanced Spiritual training in February 2016 – Belize to compete my trainings as an Arvigo Self Care teacher. This forms the entry component of the Transformative Healing package (CLICK) (Acupuncture First Aid: Triage for TCM acupuncturists). Aimed at any who wish to take their journey deeper – clearance of old wounds/what blocks healing. There are so many more self help ways all traditional peoples cleared themselves. Maybe also look to spiritual bathing (CLICK) (a large part of my work – undoing the Reichian armour bands). Life is easier without constriction!