Definitions

Copal

Copal

[koh-puhl, -pal]

Copal is a type of resin produced from plant or tree secretions, often taken from members of the genus Copaifera. The term is particularly identified with the forms of aromatic tree resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as a ceremonially burned incense, as well as for a number of other purposes. More generally, the term copal can also be used to describe resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between more 'gummy' resins and amber. The word copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning "incense". To the pre-Columbian Maya and contemporary Maya peoples it is known in the various Mayan languages as pom (or a close variation thereof), although the word itself has been demonstrated to be a loanword to Mayan from (proto-)Mixe-Zoquean languages.

It is sometimes likened to, or substituted for, amber and put in jewellery.

Copal is still used by a number of indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America as an incense and during sweat lodge ceremonies. It is available in different forms. The hard, amber-like yellow copal is a less expensive version. The white copal, a hard, milky, sticky substance, is a more expensive version of the same resin.

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