For my challenge of crafting traditional incense using only botanicals native to the Pacific Northwest I decided to try my hand at not just one, but two kyphi recipes: Hawthorn Rose and Rocky Mountain. My recipes were crafted with Pacific Northwest botanicals using the traditional Egyptian method; a labour-intensive process which requires a month’s time to make and cure.
Kyphi is a solid compound incense of herbs and resins in a base of fruits soaked in honey and wine and formed into small bricks or pills. Kyphi incense was burned for evening prayers and as a folk medicine in ancient Egypt as long as 4000 years ago and, as a few of the original written recipes have survived, it is still burned today.
First I ground up all the ingredients and split them into wet (berries and oils) and dry (herbs and resins) for each blend. The dry mixtures were left to mingle for about a week and a few days before the week was up I added local Similkameen wildflower honey and my homebrewed devil’s club-huckleberry mead to the ground juniper berries of the Rocky Mountain blend and the hawthorn berries and rosehips of the Hawthorn Rose blend. In ancient Egypt they would’ve used juniper berries and/or raisins to form the wet base along with the honey and the wine. Once blended, the wet mixtures are left to soak up the liquids for a few days so the fruits become a sticky paste.
After the few days the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. I use my hands because the mixtures are too thick to stir with a spoon. The finished blends are then stored in air-tight containers for two weeks to fully incorporate all the textures and fragrances.
And then I shaped each blend into small bricks with my fingers and placed them on racks to cure and dry for another two weeks. I like to shape them into bricks instead of pills even though pills are easier because I think the pill shape makes kyphi look like animal droppings — it’s just a weird thing I have. I covered the tops of the kyphi bricks lightly with sheets of wax paper to keep off the dust and it worked beautifully.
Once the bricks have cured and are no longer crumbly and sticky to the touch, they are ready to package and share with the world. Because they contain essential oils, they will only smell better as they are left to age and the high sugar and alcohol contents act as natural preservatives for a long shelf life.
Hawthorn Rose Kyphi Incense
A rich floral kyphi crafted with ambrosial native berries, flowers, roots, barks, and resins. Wild rose petals and sweet flag root mingle with sickly sweet bee propolis and wild cherry resins in a base of hawthorn berries and rosehips traditionally blended with honey and homebrewed honey wine.
Rocky Mountain Kyphi Incense
A complex Pacific Northwest kyphi recipe of fragrant evergreen forests and snowcapped mountains. Wild harvested Western Redcedar, Western Hemlock, and Spruce needles with local Pine resins in a base of Juniper berries traditionally blended with honey and homebrewed honey wine.