E. Rezvan

MAE (Kunstkamera), RAS, St. Petersburg, Russia

E‑mail: efim.rezvan@mail.ru


M. Rezvan

MAE (Kunstkamera), RAS, St. Petersburg, Russia

E‑mail: mrezvan@kunstkamera.ru


Arabian Spices and Rites of Passage

Abstract. The article is devoted to the interpretation of the Magi gifts Gospel story from the point of view of the “Qur’anic ethnography”. The Gospel text is easily complemented by the Qur’anic descriptions of caravans led by the stars through the night. The Magi who, as we now know, came from Dhofar and offered Jesus “gold, incense and myrrh” (in fact, the incense of spring assembly, the incense of autumn assembly and the myrrh) offered the Divine baby what they brought for sale. The Arabian frankincense has a wide range of useful properties, important for the treatment of diseases of the respiratory and digestive systems, skin, etc. It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, a beneficial effect on the human nervous system… However, these properties are not enough to explain the fact that for millennia people were willing to pay for frankincense huge amounts of money. Meanwhile, a series of the ancient sources report the use of the various types of frankincense primarily in the rites of passage. These sources indicate at least two key ceremonies in which the Arabian frankincense was used — this is the birth of a person and his death. In the opinion of a number of leading specialists, the “expulsion” of the foetus from the mother's womb is the main trauma that determines the development of neuroses. Today, a number of specialists consider to be practically proved the influence of the mother's psychological and physical state and her experience during pregnancy and childbirth on the subsequent behaviour of the offspring (at the genetic and hormonal level), not only in the first generation, but also in the future. In the Ancient Middle East leaving of life was also unthinkable without these substances (primarily myrrh). Thus the Gospel story brings to us the age-old medical experience and wisdom.

Keywords: Arabian frankincense, field work, Oman, Dhofar, Jordan, the Incense route, the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible as the historical sources, Magi, the Qur’anic ethnography, rites of passage

Acknowledgment. The article was prepared as part of the research under the RFBR grant No. 18‑09‑00100 “The Qur’anic Ethnography 1. Material Culture of the Qur’an”.

DOI: 10.31250/1238-5018-2019-25-2-3-8


  • Bukharin, М. D. (2009), Aravija, Vostochnaja Afrika i Sredizemnomor'e: torgovye i istoriko-kul'turnye svjazi [Arabia, East Africa and the Mediterranean: Connections Through Trade, History and Culture], Мoscow: Vostochnaja literatura.
  • Grof, S. (1985), Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Müller, W. W. (1997), “Namen von Aromata im antiken Südarabien”, in: A. Avanzini (ed.) Profumi d'Arabia, Rome: Brteschneider, pp. 193—210.
  • Piotrovsky, М. B. (1991), Koranicheskie skazanija [The Quranic Lore], Мoscow: Nauka.
  • Rakhimov, R. R. (2007), Koran i rozovoe plamja: razmyshlenija o tadzhikskoj kul'ture [The Quran and the Pink Flame: Reflections on Tajik Culture], St. Petersburg: Nauka.
  • Rank, O. (2004), The Myth of the Birth of the Hero: A Psychological Exploration of Myth, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Rank, O., Lieberman, E. J. (1993), The Trauma of Birth, New York: Dover Publications.
  • Research Abstract Book. First International Conference on Frankincense and Medical Plants: Recent Advances in Research and Industry (2018), Muscat: Sultan Qaboos University.
  • Rezvan Е. А. (2016), Turkestan (Series “My World of Islam”, Vol. 1), St. Petersburg — Almaty: OOO “KMBH”.
  • Rezvan, E. (2018), “‘Men too, and beasts and cattle — diverse are their hues’: towards the Qur’anic ethnography”, Manuscripta Orientalia, vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 3—25.
  • Rezvan М. Е. (2008), “‘Obshhenie s horoshimi ljud'mi byvaet podobno muskusu’ ili Muskus, predveshhajushhij slavu [“‘Association with good people may at times be likened to musk’ or Musk as harbinger of glory”] in: M. Rezvan (ed.) Rahmat‑name, St. Petersburg: MAJe RAN, pp. 299—305.
  • Rezvan М. Е. (2013), “Palomnichestvo kak funkcija transportnogo koridora (po materialam jekspedicij MAJe RAN 2008—2011 gg.) [“Pilgrimage as a function of a transport corridor (based on expedition materials from Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences 2008—2011)”] in: R. Rakhimov, M. Rezvan (eds.) Central'naja Azija: tradicija v uslovijah peremen, issue 3, St. Petersburg: MAJe RAN, pp. 244—269.
  • Subbotsky, E. V. (2005), Rebjonok otkryvaet mir (The Child Opens the World), Moscow: Smysl, St. Petersburg: Piter.
  • Van Gennep, A. (1960), The Rites of Passage, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

 Received by the Editorial Board: 21.02.2019


Copyright © 2010-2016 Manuscripta Orientalia. All rights reserved.

Sign In