Published on November 28, 2012 by Casey
Copal is an important ceremonial herb of Mexico and Central America, long used as a sacred incense by the Maya, Nahuatl (Aztec), and Zoque peoples. It is not actually a plant but a plant product, being the resin of the torchwood family of trees (which are sometimes also referred to as “copal trees” in Mexico.) “Copal” is a Spanish variant of the Nahuatl word copalli, meaning “incense.” The Mayan names for copal resin are pom, poom, or poomte. Copal played a very important role in the ancient Mayan religion; copal was considered the food of the gods and was burned as offerings to them. Today, although few if any Maya or Nahuatl people continue to worship the old gods, copal is still used for ritual purification and other traditional ceremonies, and is often burned at mainstream Mexican celebrations such as the Day of the Dead.
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