Each Thursday we look at the magical properties of different herbs, plants & spices, learning how we can use them to enhance our lives. Today we are going to be looking at the magical properties of Aloeswood.
Aloeswood (Aquilaria spp. or Gyrinops spp.) or aloeswood is not the most common name of this type of tree, but it is the common name of the incense that it produces.
You will find this incense mentioned in many religious and magical texts as aloeswood, aloes, lignan aloe, and lign aloes. It is quite a different plant from the lily-like aloe.
The immune system of the Aquilaria tree produces an aromatic resin when it is infected with a parasitic fungus, Phaeoacremonium parasitica. This resin is known as aloeswood, jinko, agarwood (not to be confused with agar) or oud. Agarwood seems to be more common in modern usage.
There are 15 identified species of Aquilaria or eaglewood and they are, for the most part, trees native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia and India. Aquilaria malaccensis is the species most well-known for producing the valued resin. This tree is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss and overcollection.
The Gyrinops genus was recently separated from the Aquilaria genus and consists of 9 species. These are also native to Southeast Asia and India and are called lign aloes trees or gahara. These lign aloes are also valued for their ability to produce the prized resin as an immune response to parasitic infection and they are also critically endangered.
Programs are underway to save these species including research devoted to sustainable cultivation of aloeswood/agarwood.
History and Folklore
Aloeswood is mentioned in many historic, religious and magical texts originating from Asia and its trading partners in the Middle East and along the Mediterranean. It also makes a significant appearance in European Grimoires. Aloes was used in traditional burial practice among Semitic peoples and Egyptians who combined them with other resins to anoint bodies in preparation for burial. Frankincense and especially myrrh are often mentioned in conjunction with aloeswood.
Aloeswood appears several times in the Bible including the mention that Nicodemus bought large quantities of the valuable resin, along with myrrh to anoint the body of Jesus before burial (John 19:39).
Using Aloeswood in Magick
Aloeswood is ruled by Jupiter or Mars and is useful for increasing the intensity of any energy raised for magical purposes. The scent also helps focus the mind on the task at hand while banishing obstructive energies, thus it is an extremely useful addition to any ritual incense.
Cornelius Agrippa in his Philosophy of Natural Magic provides a recipe for incense for suffumigation for the various planetary energies and the recipes for the Sun, Jupiter, Venus and Mars, all including lignum aloes.
He also mentions that the most powerful fumigant is that made up of the Seven Aromatics, each representing a different planet and says that lignum aloes that correspond to Mars. He also describes lignum aloes as the proper fume for Sagittarius.
Agrippa includes lignum aloes in a number of other incense recipes throughout the book, including those for summoning the spirits of Air and the dead or to lay unpleasant curses on houses.
Similar recipes are found in the 19th-century book The Magus by Francis Barrett
The Key of Solomon the King recommends fumigation with aloes among other things for the summoning of good spirits.
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