HISTORY OF INCENSE
By Michael Mansary
History has it that many cultures have used incense in the past for sacred and healing purposes. It was believed from ancient times that powerful aroma from burning incense could heighten the human senses of smell and sight. These can be smell or aroma from herbs, leaves, spices, twigs, or aromatic woods which are able to produce such a rare sensory pleasure. Before the advent of Christianity thousands of years ago, choice plants, herbs and spices that gave the most beautiful aroma were commonly traded as very highly desirable commodities. The Arabian Frankincense for example was more valuable currency than gold or silver for many years in the past.
The term Incense refers to the aromatic biotic material itself and not the aroma the material produces. Incense is a composition of aromatic plant materials that are often combined with essential oils but differs from culture to culture. There are two main types of incense which are Direct-burning and Indirect-burning. Direct-burning which can also be referred to as combustible incense is one lit directly by a flame and then fanned or blown out, leaving behind an ember that smoulders and releases the fragrance. An example of Direct-burning incense is paste formed around a bamboo stick or a paste extruded into a stick. Indirect-burning also referred to non-combustible incense is usually not capable of burning on its own but will require another heat source in order to release fragrance.
Incense can be used for many purposes which includes religious ceremonies such as purification, spirituality, meditation, to repel insects, aromatherapy, to remove bad smells, and just for the fun of using incense. For thousands of years the Native North Americans used to burn herbal smoke mixtures during ceremonial cleansing and healing rituals such as smudging – a common name given to sacred smoke bowl blessing.
The ancient people always are in the habit of allowing the fragrance from incense to cleanse their homes, calm their minds, and relax their bodies. They also go on to use incense burning to create for themselves a spiritual atmosphere in order to heighten their awareness.