Friday, January 18, 2013

Incense Woods: Aloeswood, Sandalwood

Aloes, agarwood, also known as oud, oodh or agar, is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in Aquilaria and Gyrinops trees (large evergreens native to southeast Asia) when they become infected with a type of mold. It is a fragrant wood, valued in antiquity for its pleasing smell and recommended in magical textbooks for operations connected with the sun. The resin embedded wood is valued in many cultures for its distinctive fragrance, and thus is used for incense and perfumes. One of the main reasons for the relative rarity and high cost of agarwood is the depletion of the wild resource.

Bitter aloes, made from a different plant, is a purgative drug and therefore a symbol of spiritual cleansing, purgatory. 

Sandalwood is the name of a class of fragrant woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods they retain their fragrance for decades. As well as using the harvested and cut wood, essential oils are also extracted from the woods for use. Both the wood and the oil produce a distinctive fragrance that has been highly valued for centuries. Consequently, the slow-growing trees have been overharvested in many areas, causing the price of this important wood to skyrocket. Many herb shops now only sell Australian Sandalwood instead of true White Sandalwood traditionally called for, because it is more abundant. Several species of plants are traded as "sandalwood." Within the genus Santalum alone, there are more than nineteen species. Traders will often accept oil from closely related species, such as various species in the genus Santalum, as well as from unrelated plants such as West Indian Sandalwood (Amyris balsamifera) in the family Rutaceae or bastard sandalwood (Myoporum sandwicense, Myoporaceae). However, most woods from these alternative sources will lose their aroma within a few months or years.

The plant does not grow native in the US. Therefore, sandalwood is not one of the most traditional of hoodoo ingredients, but it has been long used in old-world magical spells and perfumes, and its usages carried over from this. In current practice, sandalwood or the essential oil of sandalwood is used in hoodoo style magic to bring blessings and purification. In planetary magic, it is usually considered to be a Mercury herb, also making it appropriate for aiding mental clarity, speed, communication, knowledge, commerce, transport and travel.

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