Z is for Zanzibar Copal

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Zanzibar Copal is a resin exuded from the Jatoba tree (Hymenaea courbani) and other species of the same family, which grow in South America. It is also found in East Africa (Hymenaea verrucosa). The word Copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning “incense”, and it has been highly prized since pre-Columbian days as an incense for sacred ceremonies and purification.

Copal comes in different colour versions and forms; it ranges from a harder pale translucent yellow through to a more amber like colour. In fact Copal describes the intermediate stage of polymerisation and hardening between the gummier resins and amber, and is often found encasing insects just like amber. The hard yellow Copal is the less expensive, with the white, milky, stickier substance more expensive and more highly prized. By the 18th Century, Europeans found it to be a valuable ingredient in making a good wood varnish. It became widely used in the manufacture of furniture and carriages.

Copal is also found in New Zealand, where it is known as Kauri gum, in Japan, Colombia and Madagascar. Copal can be easily distinguished from genuine amber by its lighter citrine colour and its surface getting tacky with a drop of acetone or chloroform.

All the different types of Copal have a slight sweetish aroma but each one has unique properties. However, in general they have the following magical properties and associations.

Copal is masculine in gender, and is ruled by the Sun and the element of Fire. It’s magical powers are love and purification. You can use a piece of Copal to represent the heart in poppets. Burn Copal for any kind of cleansing or purification ceremony as well as using in love spells.

Copal from Madagascar. With spiders, termites, ants, Elateridae, Hymenoptera, Cockroach and a flower.

Copal from Madagascar. With spiders, termites, ants, Elateridae, Hymenoptera, Cockroach and a flower.

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