This price is for 12 handrolled lovingly created pellets nested in a Gold Tin with bits of red Kua Myrrh, also included is a packet of Triple Myrrh, a blend of Yemeni, Kua, and Suhul Myrrh
For thousands of years, The island of Socotra has had a reputation as being one of the most enigmatic and fascinating places on earth. It's name comes from the Sanskit dvipa (island) amd skhadhara (providing bliss). Situated at the entrance of the Red Sea the island broke away from the supercontinent of Gondwana during the Miocene epoch (20.5-5.5 million years ago) and has been inhabited by humans and their ancestors for at least 2.6 million years. The island is honeycombed with caves. One crosses the island from one side to the other. The caves have long passageways and handholds in the solid rock worn smooth by their use over the ages These passages lead to secret springs and chambers whose walls that have layers upon layers of drawings depicting antlered men, ships, strange beast and geometric patterns. Over the millennia land bridges which would have allowed migration of people, plants and animals between both Africa and the Arabian peninsula have come and gone with the rising and falling of the oceans. Tsunamis and high tides brought some species from Africa to the island but for the most part, Socotra and its inhabitants were left to develop in isolation.
Underground Trail in the rock worn smooth by the passage of thousands of years of use
Cave Paintings near a rare water source in a Socotra Cave
Tree on Socotra
Socotra's long isolation and fierce heat, drought and particular microrhizal network have combined to create a unique variety of plants to help the soil and the islands inhabitant cope with living these conditions. Since written history, Socotra has had a reputation as a place for superior incense ingredients. Particularly its Myrrh (Commiphora kua) and Dragon's Blood (Dracaena cinnabari) which are unique in having peculiar spicy, bitter almond notes. Socotra's Myrrh is the least bitter of all known myrrhs and its Dragon's Blood the most sought after for its deep crimson color. The exact location of where incense trees were growing was a highly guarded secret in ancient times. It is reasonable to believe that the high quality Myrrh that the Egyptians sent out expeditions to acquire was sold through the trading centers in Punt (Somalia) but was gathered on Socotra.
Ancient Egyptian Voyage to Punt
Myrrh is one of the oldest and most renown incense ingredients. In every civilization around the world that has rituals containing myrrh it is associated with death, the moon, women's purification rituals and thereby the great goddess herself. Recent ethnobotanical research has suggested that plants like juniper, mugwort, and myrrh were used by small groups of people in ritual settings in caves and as medicine before the end of the last ice age. As the glaciers melted and the tribes dispersed over a wider area the ritual use and associations of these plants lingered and became embedded in mythology and fairy tale.
Myrrh would certainly have been used by an ancient woman for medicine and very like have been part of the woman's mysteries rituals taking place in the caves on Socotra When taken orally, Myrrh is a potent abortifacient as it induces labor. It stimulates the uterus, uterine bleeding, increases menstrual flow and helps expel afterbirth. Applied as a balm myrrh helps to lessen the pain of childbirth. It can be rubbed on the perineum to aid in stretching and then used on the umbilical cord to prevent infection. This knowledge would have been kept in story as an oral tradition by the initiated and their descendants as they spread across the world. The metaphors used in the stories would explain Myrrhs association with the moon (the menstrual cycle), women's purification rituals, death and new birth. The use of myrrh is childbirth is one of the reasons the Egyptians used it in embalming. They regarded the laying of the deceased in the coffin as a "regressus ad uterum" (He returned to the womb). It is significant that it was a woman, Queen Hatshepsut, who personally sailed to Punt in order to obtain Myrrh trees fir her temple gardens.
Which leads us to the best known, strange and disturbing myth of Myrrha which first appeared in writing around 500 BC in Greece. According to a retelling by Ovid the story goes like this: Myrrha (Smyrna) was the beautiful daughter of the King and Queen of Cyprus. She didn't want to get married and rejected all suitors. Because of this the Furies (the ancient earth goddesses), caused her to be filled with desire for her own father. Myrrha burned from the inside out for her passion for her father. Myrrha attempted suicide by hanging herself but her childhood nanny walked in on her suicide attempt and decided to help her find a way to have intercourse with her father. There was an important celebration of the woman's mysteries coming up and married women gathered together as part of the rites of the festival and didn't sleep with their husbands. This provided the opportunity for Myrrha's nurse to tell the King that there was a young girl who had a crush on him and wanted to bed him. The King was intrigued. He got drunk and for twelve straight nights, he made love with Myrrha under the cover of darkness. On the morning of the twelve night he woke up sober and seeing his daughter in his bed and realizing what he had done, he was horrified and tried to kill Myrrha. He chased her for nine months all the way through the Arabian peninsula to the island of Socotra. When she couldn't run anymore, Myrrha crying tears prayed to the gods to end her suffering and asked to be changed into another form of life because "If I live, I pollute the lives of those around me, If I die, I will pollute the dead" One of the gods granted her request "For even as she prayed, the earth closed over her legs; roots grew out and stretching forth obliquely from her toenails, forming a foundation for the trunk, her bones got harder and changed into hardwood, her blood turned into sap and her outstretched arms became large branches, her fingers smaller ones and her soft skin turned into bark...and her tears became drops of myrrh"
Myrrha was pregnant with a child and now that she had been turned into a tree there was no way for the child to be born. the tree trunk swelled and tightened against Myrrha, and she experienced agonizing pain. The goddess of childbirth, Lucina, came to her aid "Lucina stood by the suffering branches, and laid her hands on them, speaking words that aid childbirth. At this the tree split open and from the torn bark, gave up its living burden, and the child cried. The naiads laid him, Adonis, on the soft grass, and anointed him with his mother's tears". There are two other versions of Adonis's birth. One where the tree is struck with an arrow and bursts open and another where a wild bore tears open the trees with his tusks.
During the period when this misogynist Myth was created, Greece was in a significant transitional phase. It was the end of the archaic age and the beginning of the Greek classical period. The Greeks were turning away from the influences of the great goddess religions and their society was turning into a strict patriarchy. Women's status got worse, and laws on gender segregation were implemented. It was at this time that the Greek playwright Aeschylus 467 BC wrote: "let the women stay at home and hold their peace." The Greeks were particularly distancing themselves from ancient Egyptian, religious, social mores which were now seen as decadent. Myrrh resin held a position of the highest esteem in Egyptian society and was associated with death and burial-embalming rituals but also with sexual freedom as this poem shows:
Revel in pleasure while your life endures
And deck your head with myrrh.
Be richly clad
In white perfumed linen, like the god,
Annointed be, and never weary grow
In eager quest of what your heart desires-
Do as it prompts you....
Ancient Egyptian text "Lay of the Harper"
It is significant that it is the Fates, the ancient earth goddesses, the goddesses of the old ways, that cause young Myrrha to fall in love with her father which was perceived in classical Greek society as immoral but the ancient Egyptians did not have a taboo against incest. In terms of Egyptian culture fertility of the land and of the people was a foremost preoccupation. In ancient time childbirth mortality was high. The child died at childbirth, or the mother, or both. This led to the practice of giving birth before marriage. Young women who were commoners joined groups of musicians/singers/dancers to get pregnant and see the world. The daughters of the nobility had a similar rite of passage within the temple confines and the daughter of the lower nobility served the provincial temples and on estates. Those who passed the test by giving birth to a healthy baby and staying alive would have been highly prized young women ready to enter into a marriage contract.
The Greek Myrrha myth appears to be a perversion of a much older tale that was used to pass on the knowledge of Myrrh's medicinal uses during childbirth. A tale of a well-loved daughter who becomes pregnant by her father or another close male relative and has a difficult birth. The midwife tries to alleviate her suffering and bring on the birth by using myrrh. It is not clear if the myrrh works or if the child needs to be delivered through cesarean section. Never-the-less, the child is born but unfortunately, the mother does not survive. The child does survive and is anointed with powerful antimicrobial and anti fungal myrrh balm.
I chose the ingredients that make up this blend with the intention to honor our ancestors, the ancient sage women, who used myrrh as women's medicine and to place the living tree, plant spirit in the context of the environment of the sacred island of Socotra. Many of the ingredients were used in women's medicine as abortifacients but in smaller doses, they have potent healing properties. The knowledge of the correct dosage would have been part of the wisdom passed down from healer to healer.
Commiphora Kua-(Myrrh) from the island of Socotra
Boswellia socotrana-(Frankincense) One of the six Frankincense species unique to the island of Socotra often found living in proximity of the Myrrh trees. It is used in women's medicine to treat post partum depression
Dracaena cinnabari(Dragons Blood)-Growing in the area of the Myrrh trees. Best known as a blood red die and ink, Dragon Blood is also used in women's medicine as an abortifacient and to stop post partum bleeding
Acacia spp-Acacia is one of the DMT containing plants that is found growing in groves along with Myrrh trees on Socotra and throughout Arabia and Africa. There seems to be a relationship between these two trees and most likely the wider desert ecosystem as a way to cope with the extremely hot, dry conditions.
Peganum harmala(Syrian Rue)-This plant is also often growing along with Acacia trees and it contains an MAOI inhibitor which helps to unlock the medicine found in the Acacia trees. It is best known as an incense to ward off the evil eye. In women's medicine it is used to bring on menses and as an abortifacient.
Prunus dulcis var. amara (Oil of Bitter Almond-pussac acid free)- Bitter almond, along with Myrrh, were the key ingredients in the perfume oil "Metopium" which is known as "the perfume of ancient Egypt". One of the reason it was so poplar in Ancient Egypt is that it helps to protect against UV radiation damage. In women's medicine bitter almond oil is used to remove stretch marks, calm the nervous system and as an abortifacient.
Rolled in (Dracaena cinnabari) dragons blood and (Prunus mahaleb) mahleb cherry powder-a traditional Middle Eastern spice whose healing properties and scent are similar to bitter almond.