Stacte, like Onycha, is another mysterious ingredient mentioned in the Christian bible, Exodus 30:34:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy; and you shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you; it shall be for you most holy. And the incense you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves; it shall be for you holy to the Lord. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”
The reference doesn’t give us any indication as to what Stacte is, so like Onycha, we begin again with the name itself, which is an English translation of the Hebrew word “nataph,” later revised to “ha’tzori”, both of which mean “to drip” or “in drops,” and still later evolved to “balm” or “balsam.” From here we can dig further…
Around the world Stacte is thought to be one of the following ingredients:
Storax Balsam – a viscous liquid balsam from the Turkish Storax tree, liquidambar orientalis.
Mecca Balsam – a viscous liquid balsam from a balsam tree found growing in the Palestine area.
Myrrh Balsam or Myrrh Oil – the liquid result of pressing fresh myrrh resin, or a more complex process of extracting the oils from fresh myrrh resin. These appear the more likely candidates as the true Stacte. Let us refer to some ancient writings to justify this:
Theophrastus, an ancient Greek botanist, describes Stacte as:
“From the myrrh, when it is bruised flows an oil; it is in fact called “stakte” because it comes in drops slowly.”
In Nigel Groom’s book, “Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Ancient Arabian Incense Trade”, the author’s research suggests that others, such as the Greek physician Dioscorides, declare the manufacture of Stacte as follows:
“… having bruised the myrrh and dissolved it in oil of balanos over a gentle fire, they pour hot water on it; and the myrrh and oil sink to the bottom like a deposit; and as soon as this has occurred, they strain off the water and squeeze the sediment in a press.“
The Gerrhaean tribute to Antiochus III in 205 BC included one thousand talents of frankincense and two hundred of “stacte” myrrh.
The ancient Roman historian Pliny in his famous work “A Natural History,” describes stakte as, “the liquid which exuded naturally from the myrrh tree before the gum was collected from man-made incisions.” Though it’s noted he may have thought so because this resin would be richer in oil and therefore better suited to an extraction process.
In summary, research shows no ancient writings of Stacte being Storax balsam or the elusive Mecca balsam, but much points toward Stacte being either the natural exudate from the Commiphora tree prior to any manmade harvesting, or the liquid result of pressing fresh myrrh resin, or the liquid result of an extraction process such as Dioscorides describes.
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