Macás, Ecuador, 2012
What is it? Copal is a hard aromatic resin that comes from a rainforest tree found throughout the Central and South American tropical rainforest.
What is it used for? The Amazonian people of Ecuador burn copal in their homes as it is a very effective insect repellent. Copal is also believed to have supernatural powers. Many Shuar and Kichwa people believe that bad spirits can be transmitted through air or wind in certain places and that this can lead to an illness called mal aire. Burning copal is thought to act as powerful protection against mal aire.
How is it harvested? Copal resin is collected by cutting into the tree with a machete so that the resin flows out as a liquid. As soon as it comes in contact with the air, the resin hardens.