In ancient Egypt, myrrh in particular among many aromatics was used in the preparation of mummies; in fact, some etymologists trace the word “mummy” back to “myrrh.” Besides its practical function in embalming and sterilizing corpses, it also had religious significance, for fragrance was believed to be a messenger by which the living reached out to the souls of the dead in the nether world. It is no surprise then, that incense should have been used for funeral rights. Sandalwood was burnt in the cremation of the Buddha, and when Christ died, a blend of aloeswood incense and myrrh was prepared. (A blend of several aromatic substances was often used for funeral rights, producing a stronger fragrance than the burning of a single substance.)

- from "The Book of Incense" by Kiyoko Morita

Myrrh (?), n. [OE. mirre, OF. mirre, F. myrrhe, L. myrrha, murra, Gr. ; cf. Ar. murr bitter, also myrrh, Heb. mar bitter.]

A gum resin, usually of a yellowish brown or amber color, of an aromatic odor, and a bitter, slightly pungent taste. It is valued for its odor and for its medicinal properties. It exuds from the bark of a shrub of Abyssinia and Arabia, the Balsamodendron Myrrha. The myrrh of the Bible is supposed to have been partly the gum above named, and partly the exudation of species of Cistus, or rockrose.

False myrrh. See the Note under Bdellium.


© Webster 1913.

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