Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dragon's Blood!

We are talking about a plant, not the blood of a real dragon, OK?

Actually, we are talking about several types of plants that has been called "Dragon's Blood" over the centuries. A more common one that has been naturalized here in the U.S. is Dracena Draco, also known as the dragon tree, is a vulnerable plant endemic to the arid, rocky mountain ranges of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and Cape Verde. This is the plant shown in the picture above. It is commonly cultivated as a houseplant and garden specimen, but there are very few naturally-occurring plants remaining in its narrow ecological range. The dark red sap of Dracaena draco was regarded for centuries in European legends as “the blood of dragons”, and was often used for its supposed magical and medicinal qualities. This resin is still used today to produce incense and varnishes used to stain and polish wood.

Much confusion existed in ancient times regarding the source and identity of dragon's blood. The resin of Dracaena species, "true" dragon's blood, and the very poisonous mineral cinnabar (mercury sulfide) were often confused by the Romans. Apparently, they had a tendency to call anything that was bright red "dragon's blood". In ancient China, very little distinction was made among the types of dragon's blood from the different species. Even today, both Dracaena and Daemonorops resins are still marketed today as dragon's blood.

Dragon's Blood was obtained as dried garnet-red drops from Dracaena draco, a tree native to the Canary Islands and Morocco by traders in the 15th century. a resin came from its wounded trunk or branches. Dragon's blood is also obtained by the same method from D. cinnabari, which grows on the island of Socotra. This resin was traded to ancient Europe via the Incense Road.

Dragon's blood resin is also produced from rattan palms in the Indonesian islands and is known there as jerang or djerang. It is harvested by breaking off the layer of red resin that surrounds the unripe fruit of the rattan. It is then rolled into solid balls before being sold.

Dragon's blood was used as a dye and in medicine for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems in the Mediterranean area. Many considered the resin as a sort of cure-all, using it for such things as general wound healing, a coagulant, diarrhea, fevers, dysentery, ulcers in the mouth, throat, intestines and stomach, as well as an antiviral for respiratory and stomach viruses, and eczema. It was also used in medieval ritual magic and alchemy.

The species of Dracaena draco and Dracaena cinnabari were also used as a source of varnish for 18th century Italian violinmakers and has been included in an 18th century recipe for toothpaste! Even today, it is still used as a varnish for violins, in photoengraving, as an incense resin, and as a body oil. It is still used for ceremonies in India. The Chinese use it to make red varnish for wooden furniture, coloring the surface of writing paper for banners and posters, for weddings and Chinese New Year.

In American Hoodoo, African-American folk magic, and New Orleans voodoo, it is used in mojo hands for money-drawing or love-drawing, and is used as incense to cleanse a space of negative entities or influences. It is also added to red ink to make "Dragon's Blood Ink", which is used to inscribe magical seals and talismans.

In folk medicine, dragon's blood is used externally as a wash to promote healing of wounds and to stop bleeding. It is used internally for chest pains, post-partum bleeding, internal traumas and menstrual irregularities. Many of the modern day plants that are harvested as Dragon's blood, however, contain anticoagulant properties and using it for stopping bleeding is not recommended.

In neo-pagan witchcraft and new age shamanism, it is used to increase the potency of spells for protection, love, banishing and sexuality.

It is also commonly distributed as "red rock opium" to unsuspecting would-be opium buyers, though it contains no opiates and has only been shown to have mildly intoxicating effects.

Now that you know a little history and current uses for Dragon's Blood.

Dragon's blood also comes as a fragrance oil, not really made from the dragon's blood plant but a nice facsimile of the incense that the resin produces. I use this dragon's blood fragrance oil in my soap and bath products for a unique, fragrant change of pace. Recently, I've made a batch of dragon's blood soap that will be ready for sale in the first half of October.

It smells great, no spells have been cast over it for protection, love, banishing, sexuality or any other neo-pagan/shaman spells. It doesn't contain any of the medicinal properties previously mentioned. It DOES contain what all my other soaps contain...soapy blessings. It's a great bar of great smelling handmade soap that doesn't dry out your skin too.

Interested in placing a reserve order of Dragon's Blood soap? Contact me at one of my shop sites! :)


Josefine said...

Looks great!

Jim said...

Thanks for this great history and description of this resin and fragrance. Happy soaping!