Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ethiopian Incense - Frankincense and/or Myrrh?

by Liz


The smells were such a profound part of our experience in Ethiopia; the burning eucalyptus, the burning trash piles, the burning incense, the roasting coffee, the berbere. I brought back some incense and some berbere. It was a good start but I wish I'd thought it through a bit more. 


For one, I had nothing to burn this resin incense in. I also had no charcoal. Now, I'm trying to put it all together with an exhaustive internet search taking up my precious few hours of baby nap time. The goal - to make a presentation on Ethiopia to a local group here in town. I have music, I have berbere, I have art and crafts and books... the incense is a bit harder task.


From what I've found (and I may be wrong)... Frankincense is the primary incense used. Here is what one source said:

click herefor Ethiopian Frankincense @ the Hermitage


  • Frankincense is a sap or a gum of a tree and plays a big part in Ethiopian life. It is burned to clean the spirit in one’s house and to have tranquility and calmness. It is often used during meditation and prayer. 
  • Frankincense can also be used as a breath freshener. Chewing Frankincense cleans one’s teeth and gums.
  • It is said that Frankincense was offered to Jesus Christ when he was born since the stable in which he was born was unclean. 
  • Ethiopian’s also use Frankincense during cold and flu season. It is often burned to relieve cold and flu symptoms such as runny noises.

It requires charcoal and some sort of charcoal resistant burner. I remember having the opportunity to buy ceramic ones in Addis. Stupidly I did not. Its not an easy task finding either an attractive one or an Ethiopian one now that I'm back in the States. Add that to my wishlist with the Ethiopian Nativity set. I guess I'll just have to go back!

There are lots of places to buy incense; many of them cater to stoners and witches... I was looking for something a bit more authentic... so it came down between the Absynian Market which didn't look like it had been updated recently and the Greek Orthodox Holycross Hermitage of West Virginia. The father responded very promptly to my web inquiry so... the monks win.

Its so authentic it makes me feel just a little... unorthdox! Well, wouldn't be the first time!

I'll let you know how it goes!

3 comments:

Sunshine said...

I hope you found your burner, insence charcoal and Ethiopian insence supplier. If not you should call around Ethiopian/Habesha stores in Washington Dc and ask if they will ship it for you. Washington Dc has more Ethiopians than anyplace in the world besides Ethiopia and there are stores everywhere here!!! :-)

Sunshine said...

I hope you found a vendor for your insence, charcoal and burner. If not you should call around Ethiopian/Habesha stores in Dc. There are more Ethiopians here than anywhere else in the world besides Ethiopia and plenty of Ethiopian shops. Good Luck and God Bless!

Dylan said...

you can actually find francincense sold as a "spice" item in any Middle eastern/persian food store! they also sell brass censers for them, just get one, hook it up with chains and a keyring and add some gold bells for effect - adds amazing beauty and connection to our worldwide Christian brothers and sisters in this most beautiful symbol of Christian faith!