Myrrh is native to the Middle East, North Africa and India. It has been used in spiritual ceremonies for thousands of years, thanks to its energy cleansing properties.
The Egyptians burned myrrh incense as an offering to the Sun God, Ra. They also used it for embalming, so that the soul could find its way back to the body and begin its journey to the afterlife.
Myrrh is thought to unite heaven and Earth. In Kundalini, it is used to strengthen the bond between Sahasrara (heaven) and Muladhara (earth).
The name “Myrrh” comes from the Arabic “murr”, which means bitter. But its meaning can be interpreted two ways: on the one hand, it refers to its bitter taste and, on the other, it alludes to the association of myrrh with pain because, although it was used in all kinds of ceremonies, it was primarily used in funeral homes.
Myrrh is an aromatic gum resin extracted from various trees in Northeast Africa, Arabia and Turkey. The Myrrh tree is a member of the Burseraceae family that features a disproportionately thick trunk which, when cut into, exudes a few droplets that contain between 25-45% resin, 3-8% essential oil, and 40-60% rubber.
In ancient times, myrrh was used for many different things. Notably, it was used in the manufacture of perfumes, ointments and medicines. This was because it was believed to cure almost everything, from simple cuts and scrapes to baldness. It was also used to treat wounds, gastric problems, diarrhoea or dysentery, as mouthwash, to lower fever, and to induce menstruation.
Due to its use in funerary arrangements, myrrh was associated with death in ancient cultures. Among the Romans, it was customary to offer those sentenced to die wine mixed with myrrh, since it was believed to have a certain narcotic effect, to numb them to the pain of dying.
The Egyptians used it in embalming: they filled empty bodies with powdered myrrh. This covered the scent of decomposing flesh and helped to preserve the corpse. Furthermore, it was believed that it prepared the person for the afterlife through the purification of the body.
The Jews made ointments of myrrh and aloe vera which they smeared on the corpses, before wrapping them in white canvas, for the preservation of bodies in funeral rites.
In Assyria, myrrh was burned at the head of the terminally ill, possibly with the idea of cleaning and disinfecting the space.
But myrrh also had its earthly uses. It was associated with wealth and luxurious lifestyles. It was a symbol of the wealthy classes, and its price was only within the reach of the deepest pockets. Just a single drop of myrrh converted an ordinary perfume into an exquisite and coveted fragrance. It was said that in Egyptian society, around 3,000 B.C., myrrh was the status symbol of the new rich.
On the other hand, myrrh was closely linked to love, pleasure and seduction. It was the perfume used to scent the sheets when preparing to make love. Women carried a small bag of myrrh under their dresses or between their breasts. Myrrh was used to perfume the beautiful young women who were chosen to be part of the harem. And future wives were anointed with myrrh for six months before being presented to the king.
Thus, myrrh has been present throughout history, in various different customs and traditions, right up until today.