Scientific Name: Protium copal

Plant Family: Burseraceae

Other Names: sak pom, pom, pomte

The use of copal in Maya ceremonies can be seen as far back as the tale of the dawning of the first day in the Popul Vuh, an ancient Maya creation myth:

An here is the dawning and showing of the sun, moon and stars. And Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Mahucutah, and True Jaguar were overjoyed when they saw the daybringer. It came up first. It looked brilliant when it came up, since it was ahead of the sun.

After that they unwrapped their copal incense, which came from the east, and there was triumph in their hearts when they unwrapped it. They gave their heartfelt thanks with three kinds at once:

Mixtam Copal is the name of the copal brought by Jaguar Quitze.

Cauiztan Copal, next, is the name of the copal brought by Jaguar Night.

Godly Copal, as the next one is called, was brought by Mahucutah.

The three of them had their copal, and this is what they burned as they incensed the direction of the rising sun. They were crying sweetly as they shook their burning copal, the precious copal.

Tedlck, Dennis. 1986. Popul Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. 181.

Copal incense is still burned in Maya ceremonies today. According to tradition, the copal resin is to be collected when the moon is full to insure that the resin can flow easily.
Medicine from copal is used to treat rheumatism, toothackes, and infections. It can also be placed over the entry wound of copal spines to remove them. The aromatic red seeds are also edible, tasting something like a mango.