The sun, the moon, and the stars arrived on Earth bringing copal with them, such is the importance of this sacred sap, says the Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation book, a document that has been preserved since the Spanish conquest.
The neighboring ‘cousin’ tribe of the Maya were the Aztec and they had a different creation mythology that claimed the primordial gods Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl made the Earth from the bloodthirsty goddess Tlaltecutli, and then they transformed themselves into four cosmic trees, representing the four quarters of the universe. Emanating divine energies & forces, these sentient trees uphold the heavens, stabilize the Earth and create a passageway into the underworld with their roots, all the while, we humans must feed Tlaltecutli her much craved blood.
In the Mayan mythologies, Xibalba, God of the Underworld is about to order the death of Xquic, one of his overlord’s daughters, but Xquic convinces the henchman who would carry out the sacrifice, rather to use copal as a substitute for her blood. Copal and blood become interchangeable substances.
Copal resin sweats and bubbles, like blood, prior to transforming itself to a heavy sweet smoke and can be offered to the Gods (in the place of human blood). Indigenous people are intrigued with blood and copal is considered the blood of trees. To maintain a balanced, harmonious cosmos, free of chaos, the Gods demand offerings. In this way we are able to appease the God/dess and communicate with the Otherworld.
Copaleros, those who extract copal, continue to harvest this sacred resin in a manner similar to their ancestors. Choosing designated areas in the forest landscapes of their home, and cautious to rotate their chosen trees every few years, copaleros use a wooden mallet and large metal knife, with prayers and respect, they place a small cut into the tree. Below these abrasions, which appear to ‘bleed’, the resin is caught, as it oozes from the tree trunks, by large maguey spikes held in place with rope.
For the ancient indigenous people of Central America, trees are sentient & Holy and there is an ongoing relationship of reciprocity between them with humans. These sacred trees offer their sap as sacrificial blood. The Bursera Bipinnata tree, which grows throughout Central America, continues to be the most desired source of the much coveted white copal. In Nahuatl, this tree is called copalquahiitl. Another favored type of copal, more yellowish in color and resembling frankincense in scent, is harvested from the Protium Copal tree.
Copaltemaliztl, “the act of burning of copal,” is a ritual grounded in Central American religious practices. Revered throughout that geographic region, copal is used in a ritualistic way to cure ailments of the body, mind and spirit.
Imagine then you have lit your charcoal, having placed it in a heat proof container called a popoxcomitl, as you prepare to burn and offer copal. As this hallowed sap burns, you take in the sweet resinous scent of this magnificent being. With white smoke billowing out and swirling around, you feel uplifted. Known as the ‘white lady’, you can sense she is dialoguing with the Gods, heartily petitioning the heavens on your behalf.
According to visionary and healer, Maestro Pablo Amaringo Shuna, copal or what he lovingly called an ‘empire of spirits’ deeply cleanses the aura. Akin to an opaque metal that needs to be polished, it helps us to shine again. It is the incense of the rainforest, used since ancient times, used since before the world became disharmonious. Copal takes away negative and dense stains on a person’s aura, pulling away all the discord, sending it up into the atmosphere, where the trees will receive our ‘sickness’ and transmute this heaviness, allowing for our renewal.
The truly magical scent of copal brings about relaxation, balancing the body. This can reduce blood pressure as well as increase concentration. The scent has also been used as a treatment for insomnia and headaches. It can also expand the mind and increase a person’s creativity.
Juan Manuel, a Mexican medicine man who’s is called ‘El Indio’ says, this copal medicine has the power to evoke other worlds through its fragrance. “The sense of smell is the sense that never sleeps. Hence the aromas evoke memories – perhaps reminiscences- or function as direct thresholds to the depths of consciousness.” –Ancestral Mexico
El Indio, with a group of healers known as Ancestral Mexico, offer copal ceremonies in the Yucatan where you will experience smudging of the heavenly copal medicine around your body, as well, orally ingest this sacred sap in the form of copal tea. According to their ancient teachings, this form of medicine can awaken memories of who you are, where you come from, your true relationship with creation, with everything in the cosmos and galaxy, with Earth and all living beings that inhabit this place. The tea awakens one’s DNA, heals ancestral issues that reside deep in the bones, aids the stomach & intestinal tract and helps with respiratory ailments.
Itz is a Mayan word for all Holy liquids such as dew, blood, semen, holy water, resins, sweat, tears, candle pitch and tree sap- such as copal. Itz is a vital force, what is commonly known as chi energy, but what the Mayan call ch’ul. Cosmic sap flows from the World Tree and is offered to us as sacramental medicine to fortify our ch’ul.
Itz is also a word that can translate to magic. Itzamna, a Mayan God, was the first sorcerer of creation. A Mayan medicine person is called an Itzam or one who makes Itz, the holy substance that can be used to contact other worlds.
Both the Maya and Aztec cultures consider a person’s 52nd birthday to be an auspicious day, it is known as the new fire. On my new fire, I traveled to the Yucatan to have a copal ceremony with El Indio & the Ancestral Mexico family. At a sacred cenote, they built me an elaborate altar, dedicated to the four directions as they called on all the forces of the cosmos to come and bless me. They surrounded me with the white lady as they sang & danced and they sent all our collective prayers to the heavens. We drank copalli. In the end, they gifted me a small bit of fresh copallli blanco; a treasure.
In due time, the copal spoke to me. With my own store pile of copal resin from my beloved homeland of Belize, I was moved to create copal tincture for tea-making, a product which I’ve called ITZ Copal, so that I can continue to drink copal tea and offer it to my clients. May we ALL awaken to the true memory of WHO we are and WHY we are here.
This sacrificial blood of the trees has been with us since the dawn of time and it is here now to assist us with the personal challenges we all face in remembering our interconnectedness.
If you would like to work with a bottle of ITZ Copal, goto http://www.moonflowermedicine.love/shop/copal
Denai Grace Seacombe-Fuller, Cihuatochtli, is a Mama of five, Tarot Guide, Acolyte of IxChel, spiritual healer, flower essence practitioner, flower alchemist and student of Nahualism.