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Edfu Kyphi

The Temple of Horus at Edfu was built between 237 BCE and 57 BCE on the
location of a legendary battle between Horus and Set, where temples have stood since
2660 BCE. It is the best preserved ancient temple in Egypt. It was built by the
Ptolemeic dynasty, which originated in Macedonia and built temples for the native
Egyptian priesthood as a way of currying their favor. By this time, the priesthood was
aware that the oral tradition and papyrus records they had depended upon might not,
in times of upheaval, be sufficient for preserving crucial information about ritual, so
they inscribed this information on the sandstone of the Temple. The recipes at the
Temple are thus the most detailed that have come down to the present day. This
recipe comes from the walls of the so-called Laboratory Room located in the
Temple's Great Hall.
Having worked out the ancient recipe's proportions, I grind
mastic, amber, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, and
cinammon, adding them one at a time in a specific order. This
forms what is called the base, which is moistened with oasis
wine and steeped overnight in a copper bowl, as described in the
Temple. Separately, the raisins are soaked in oasis wine and then
ground; they are mixed with the base and left to steep for
another five days. The excess wine is gently boiled off. Then the
frankincense and honey are mixed together, boiled to reduce
their volume by 1/5, and quickly mixed with the base. The
boiling removes water and causes the honey to crystallize upon
cooling. The material is left to rest overnight. Finally the myrrh
is ground and added, and the kyphi dried gently, which takes several days. As you can
see, this recipe not only calls for a number of ingredients but is quite involved. I use
all natural ingredients; no fragrance oils or synthetics even come near it. They are
mixed together in a high-fired ceramic bowl and a copper bowl with a wooden
spatula to preserve their potency. This kyphi is thus completely different from the
stuff commonly sold as such. It is not some dead agglomeration of sawdust and
fragrance oils. It is the real deal, as close to the ancient reality as we moderns can get.
The scent of this kyphi is sweet, with a honey undertone
throughout. The smell is extremely pleasant and makes you want
to take big breaths of it. The frankincense quickly rises to the
fore, which distinguishes this from the other two kyphi versions
I have made, and then the lemon-drop scent of the camel grass
announces itself. The Edfu kyphi is much smokier than the
other kyphis because the honey is boiled instead of just being
added. The smoke makes it especially good for consecrating
objects or a room. The smell is somehow narcotic and brings to mind forgotten days
of the past, creating a comforting space. I believe this is the frankincense working.
Especially notable about this kyphi is the importance of sound. You can hear it
cooking or simmering as it volatilizes. Breathing it in, one becomes aware of one's
breath. The sleepiness that all the versions of kyphi cause is here joined by hearing
voices talking quietly instead of seeing visions. As the frankincense recedes and the
myrrh takes over, you can feel the shift from day to night that is associated with
kyphi. This would make this kyphi especially good for works focusing on transition,
especially gradual ones. The myrrh here gives one the sensation of being comfortably
walled in. The cinnamon at the close is purifying, and one awakens refreshed. This
kyphi makes a wonderful contrast to Galen's and Dioscorides' kyphi. To my mind,
this is the most sound-centered of the three and the one that best focuses on the
transition from day to night. I am very proud of the way this kyphi has come out.
Please note that it requires charcoal to burn, since it is composed of pure ingredients
and has no charcoal filler.

Dioscorides' Kyphi
Recipes for the incense used to usher in the night in ancient Egyptian temples to Ra
have often been preserved thanks to medicine. Dioscorides was a Greek born in 40
CE in what is now Turkey, then part of the Roman Empire. He studied medicine in
Egypt and was a physician in Nero's Roman Legion, which gave him much
opportunity to see other cultures. This recipe comes from his five-volume De Materia
Medica on "the preparation, properties, and testing of drugs," which describes how
plants were used medicinally in various cultures. His work is thought to be the first
systematic Western herbal and covers over 600 different plants (as well as a few
mineral and animal substances). Kyphi is the only compound drug in his book, which
implies its importance, and as in the case of the Galen recipe, we must be grateful to
physicians for preserving another recipe for this ancient Egyptian incense.
Dioscorides' book was lost to Europe but preserved in the Muslim world [thus he is in
Muslim dress in the picture]. Arabs reintroduced his work to Europeans a millenium
Like Galen's recipe, the ingredients in this
first-century kyphi include raisins, wine, and
honey, as well as sweet flag, aspalathos, camel
grass, and cyperus tuber. The major difference
is in the proportions and in the addition of
myrrh and pure resin and the subtraction of
asphaltum. This recipe also includes a period
of steeping in the middle of the process that the Galen recipe does not. No fragrance
oils or synthetics come anywhere near this kyphi. The ingredients are mixed in a
high-fired ceramic bowl with a wooden spatula to preserve their potency. Following
the ancient Egyptian custom, ingredients are added one at a time in a specific order to
the base of chopped raisins.
The result is a much sweeter incense than is produced by the
Galen recipe. At the start, the scent is almost candy-like. It
provokes the appetite but is satisfying as well. As the scent
develops, it blossoms into a spicy resinousness. The myrrh note
is surprisingly strong, given the very small amount of myrrh
actually called for. According to the Talmud, wine was added to myrrh to make it
more fragrant, and this recipe bears that out. The impression is of an Oriental
perfume. Gradually the scent matures into a heavily resinous and spicy aroma that
seems to open the back of one's mouth. Users have described visions evoked of
serpentine shapes (rivers, snakes, winding roads, canes, hooks, curved beams) and
water-associated images (boats, docks). The smoke was easier to see with one's eyes
shut, when it was revealed to be quite extensive and sinuous. At the last, the scent is
majestic and expansive. The way this incense unfolded gave me the impression of
watching an entity go from playful childhood to powerful maturity. It makes a
wonderful contrast with Galen's kyphi and is good for developing the more visual
aspects of the psychic.
Traditionally kyphi was rolled into pills, but I have left it in a loose crumble so that
you can make whatever size pellets you want. This is nowhere near as smokey as one
would expect, given the honey included. It must be burned on a piece of charcoal, as
it contains only pure ingredients, not charcoal of its own. I also have Galen's
kyphi and Edfu kyphi.

Galen's Kyphi
This recipe is from Galen (129-210 CE), Greek physician and philosopher who
studied in Egypt but lived most of his life in Rome. Galen was the primary means
through which West Europeans learned about the medicine of Hippocrates. In those
days, the incense used in ancient Egyptian temples to usher in the night had come
into medicinal use for the treatment of lung ailments and snake bites, so physicians
were important in helping to preserve the knowledge of it. In "On Antidotes," Galen
cited a recipe for kyphi that he said was recorded by Rufus of Ephesus (110-180 CE),
the physician of the Emperor Trajan. This ancient recipe outlines the proportions for
raisins, wine, honey, asphaltum, bdellium, camel grass, sweet flag, cyperus tuber,
saffron, spikenard, aspalathos, cardamom, and cassia.
I use all natural ingredients for this kyphi; no fragrance oils or synthetics even come
near it. Some ingredients, like the saffron, are extremely expensive, which accounts
for the high price of this incense. They are mixed together in a high-fired ceramic
bowl with a wooden spatula to preserve their potency. Following the ancient Egyptian
custom, I add the wine-dampened, ground ingredients one at a time in a specific order
to the base of chopped raisins and honey.
The result is a very complex combination of light
sweetness, spice, and resin with dark undertones. This
is a subtle incense that is not as smokey as one would
think, considering the honey and the dried fruit, which
are usually added to give smokiness to incense and to
create a way for the scents to hang in the air. The scent
is *extremely* relaxing and great for astral work; it is
also recommended for rituals conducted at night. It
makes a wonderful contrast to Dioscorides' kyphi. To my mind, this is the
moreMoon of the two.
Traditionally kyphi was rolled into pills, but I have left it in a loose crumble so that
you can make whatever size pellets you want (I suggest smallish ones, no larger than
a blueberry, as this incense is volatilized slowly on account of the asphaltum). If the
material is not moist enough to stick together, add a few drops of honey and mix with
a silver or wooden spoon. Proportions will not be put out of joint by doing this, since
the recipe calls simply for "sufficient" honey. Please note that it requires charcoal to
burn, as it is composed of pure ingredients and contains no charcoal filler. I also
have Dioscorides' kyphi and Edfu kyphi.

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