Kyphi (Kaput) Ancient Egyptian Temple Incense

This is the recipe recorded on the walls of the temple at Philae*.  I chose this source for several reasons: first and foremost, it is the source that is closest to the original culture, time, and intended setting that is also the most-complete.

The recipe of Philae contains a complete list of ingredients used (including exact amounts) as well as methods of production; it is also specifically stated to be used for temple rituals. Another reason was that this recipe had the benefit of centuries-worth of prior research, study, and experimentation as compared with earlier recipes, such as the recipe recorded in the Papyrus Harris I.

Finally, I considered the great historical importance of the temple at Philae. A sacred place to the Egyptians, Philae was the site of a Ptolemaic-period temple dedicated to the goddess Aset (Isis) which became the last bastion of pharaonic religion in history; the temple was not closed by the Christians until well after their rise to power.

*Philae was the site of an extensive temple complex in Egypt. (Manniche, 1999, p. 51)

To make Kyphi or Kapet:

1  Start by mixing the following ingredients together in a large bowl, in order:

  • 8 T ground frankincense
  • 8 T ground myrrh
  • 4 t ground mastic
  • 4 t dried & ground calamus root
  • 4 t dried lemon grass
  • 4 t dried mint leaves
  • 4 t dried & ground juniper berries
  • 4 t ground cinnamon

This dry mixture is then set aside for later use.

2.  Next, mix the following ingredients together in a bowl or other container with an airtight lid:

  • ½ C raisins
  • 1 C wine (or enough to just cover the raisins completely)
  • 1 T honey

3.  This wet mixture is then set aside to steep for 5-7 days. While the wet mixture is steeping, be sure to check it periodically, stirring it and adding enough wine to keep the raisins covered since they will absorb the wine as they steep.

4.  When the wet mixture is finished steeping, pour it into a food processor (or mortar) and macerate until well-blended into a smooth fruit paste.

5.  When the fruit paste is suitably blended, stir in 6 T honey and pour the mix into a pot, setting it to a low simmer and stirring every so often.

6.  Once the mixture reduces by about half, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool to just above room temperature.

7.  When the wet mix is cooled enough, pour it over the dry mix prepared earlier.

8.  Work the wet and dry mixes together until they form a consistent dough. If you need to add extra moisture to help form the dough, add a little extra honey; be careful not to add too much moisture, as doing so will prevent the dough from curing and thus ruin the batch!

9.  Once the dough is mixed evenly, you can begin rolling it into small pellets, placing them onto parchment- or wax paper-lined trays to cure. Pellets should be about the size of a fingertip, and no bigger than your thumbtip.

10.  When all the dough has been rolled into pellets, place the trays in a warm, dry place to cure – this can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, depending on your location and climate.

11.  After the pellets have finished curing, store them in an airtight container with a light dusting of powdered benzoin to keep them from sticking to each other.

The pellets should be good for 6-12 months. Be aware that the incense is made of all-natural materials and thus can grow mold if not properly stored.

To burn the incense:
Use charcoal disks (obtainable from most New Age, herbalist, or hookah shops) in a heat-safe container half-filled with salt or sand. This incense produces a good deal of smoke, and should not be used in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, or around smoke alarms. An average household fan should be enough to disperse the smoke if necessary.