Incense is a beautiful and sensual way to create a comfortable environment. It can also be used for healing, meditation, or just making an ambiance in your home. Its sticks have been around for centuries and offer a variety of scents from spicy to floral to musky. Let’s take a look at its history and how it has evolved through different cultures and religions.
The History of Incense
Its history is fascinating. The earliest use was for aromatherapy and to create an environment that promotes relaxation or meditation. It can be seen in many different cultures throughout the world. Still, its most common uses are religious ceremonies, including acts of worshiping deities, celebrating holidays, cleansing one’s self before prayer, and as a way to pay homage to the dead.
It’s believed that the earliest use was in Ancient Mesopotamia, where it was burned to appease their gods during ceremonies. They created a god named Gula, who protected people from diseases caused by demons such as plague or fever.
They would burn frankincense and other herbs to help purify the air and protect themselves from disease-causing spirits. The Ebers Papyrus says, “taking two parts sweet flag [Acorus Calamus], one part each Cyperus rotundus and Lotos [Zyphir lutea], equal amounts pure resin [exudation from trees] with 24 parts of sandalwood, these are to be ground together and mixed with honey.”
This use can also be seen in Ancient Egypt, where they would burn it during religious ceremonies. It was used as a way for the Pharaohs to communicate with their gods, including Osiris, who is often depicted holding an Ankh, which is thought to represent Incense.
They would wear it around their necks so that when they communicated or died, he could help them cross over into heaven by making sure there were no evil spirits following them.
The Egyptians believed that burning frankincense helped purify the body and soul, allowing one’s self to commune directly with God without having priests act as intermediaries between mortals and deities.
Types of incense
- Pure Incense – composed of dried herbs and resin, which are combined with a sticky substance such as honey or vegetable gum.
- Compressed- often created with bamboo sticks, and fragrance oils rolled around in the sticky substance.
- Paste Incense – This is a common type that uses charcoal and fragrance oils.
Ways to Use It
- Moxa, which is smoking the herb directly on or just above glowing charcoal.
- Dipping; which involves placing a small amount into hot coal to create smoke and allowing it to rise through water for cooling before inhalation.
- Rolling; this method uses thin pieces of wood, cardboard, or paper that are rolled around powdered incense to absorb its properties when burned. The sticks can be left plain or decorated with exotic paintings and patterns.
In addition to these traditional ways of smoking, there are now a variety of types that use it, including its cones and sticks, which all offer their unique benefits.