One of our students found a recipe for homemade Egyptian incense, called Kyphi (Kapet). It was one of the most popular types of temple incense used in ancient Egypt.
Kyphi is the Latin version of the Greek transcription of the Egyptian word Kapet.The first reference to Kyphi is in the Pyramid texts which date to the 5th and 6th dynasties of ancient Egypt. There is no recipe or ingredients listed, but it does state that it was a luxury enjoyed by Pharaohs in the afterlife.
The earliest recipe for Kyphi Ebers Papyrus in 1500 BC was used to purify the home and to give clothes a pleasant fragrance.
In the Papyrus Harris I, which records the donations made by Ramesses III to some temples. This included 6 of the ingredients from the Edfu recipe gifted to temples to make the Kyphi incense. The ingredients listed were mastic, pine resin (or wood) camel grass, mint, sweet flag and cinnamon. It is assumed that the recipe would also include wine, honey and raisins, but these items the temples would have been able to source these items. It does not list the recipe or preparation method.
Plutarch - The Greek writer and philosopher visited Egypt during the first century BC, He had access to a text by Manetho from the third century AD, called " Preparation of Kyphi - Recipes" there are no copies of this. According to Manetho the ingredients are not added at the same time and ground, but added one at a time as magical texts are read aloud.Plutarch also confirms that Kyphi was drunk to cleanse the body and was thought to bring restful sleep and vivid dreams.Plutarch said that ancient Egyptian priests burnt incense 3 times a day in temple: frankincense at dawn, myrrh at midday, and Kyphi at dusk.
In the temple of Edfu, built in the first century BC, there are two recipes for Kyphi inscribed on the walls of the temple, one of them includes synonyms for the ingredients and notes of explanation. The difference between both recipes is only the quantities used. There is also a recipe on the walls of the Temple of Philae - the same ingredients, but different quantities.
These recipes and preparation is very complex, with a lot of ingredients included. The mastic, pine resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint and cinnamon are ground together in a pestle and mortar, the liquid residue is thrown away then the cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels and peker are ground to a powder and added to the mastic mixture. To this combined mixture, they added wine, then left for 5 days. the mixture would then be boiled, until it is reduced by 1/5th, honey and frankincense are then added and reduced by 1/5th the mixtures are then added together, adding then the ground myrrh. This would then be made into small pellets to burn as incense.
The list of ingredients from the Edfu temple -
Raisins, wine, honey, frankincense, myrrh, mastic, pine, resin, sweet flag, aspalathos, camel grass, mint, cyperus, juniper berries, pine kernels, peker & cinnamon.
I was shown a recipe by a fellow student whom had made some Kyphi incense, so I decided to try it for myself....
Kyphi incense recipe:
1/2 tsp Frankincense
1 tablespoon red wine
1/2 tsp Benzoin
1 tsp sandalwood
1/4 tsp myrrh
1/4 tsp juniper berries
1/4 dragons blood
1/4 tsp orris root
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Soak raisins in red wine overnight.Using pestle and mortar, individually grind sandalwood, juniper berries, orris root and cinnamon, place in a large wooden or ceramic bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
Using pestle and mortar, individually pulverise, the frankincense, benzoin, myrrh and dragons blood into small granules. Add the resins and gums to dry mixture. Drain red wine from raisins, discard liquid, mash raisins in pestle and mortar. Add the raisins and honey to the dry mixture, knead thoroughly, with your hands, the form into pea sized balls. spread out on wax paper for two weeks turning every few days to aid the drying process. once cured store in a sealed bag or jar and smoulder over charcoal.