Precious incense, valuable as gold, once the privilege of gods and kings. An entire civilisation’s wealth was built on trade in aromatic herbs, resins and spices. In the ancient word, incense and fragrance permeated almost every aspect of life, from sacred ceremony to everyday affairs. To the ancients, fragrance was nectar for the gods and a sweet scent indicated the presence of angels. Aromatic spirals of smoke were a path for prayers, self-realisation and enlightenment.
Frankincense and myrrh, two of the most important incense substances, were gifts to the infant Christ in honour of his holy status. Ayurvedic texts from India recommend incense to prevent infection, purify the environment and stimulate prana, the life force. It restores harmony to body and mind and increases goodness. One of the most important was sandalwood, a symbol of longevity. Buddhism had always used incense to support meditation and the journey of the soul to perfection. Native Americans use it in sacred ceremony and healing, smudging the sick. The Mayans, Incas and Aztecs burned Copal, a gift from the gods, while the Incas dedicated it to their sun god. The Mayans burned it at sunrise to honour the power of the sun. Herbal medicine was long revered by the Mayans as a way to heal and protect the body.
The Romans used aromatics to pamper and stimulate the senses. Ancient China used it in homes, clothing & temples. The Japanese to refine and tame the senses, for pleasure, as an incence offering to buddha & different stages of spiritual development. In Arabia fragrance permeated every area of life and to mark special occasions such as birth and marriage. Incense was used in Egypt to treat the sick and is one of the oldest healing practices, still used in ayurvedic medicine and many indigenous cultures today. The painful parts of the bodies are exposed to the fragrant smoke. They relax and soothe, ease pain and muscle tension, are good for respiratory illnesses and insomnia and restore emotional balance
Sandalwood – best quality comes from Mysore region India. Takes more than 25 yrs for the wood’s fragrance to develop and has more than 4,000 yrs of recorded use. This powerful, magical scent is one of the oldest known perfume ingredients and is a balm for a troubled soul. It quietens the mind and stills the soul creating a feeling of inner peace and feeling one with the world. It is delicate and uplifting, helps loosen rigid attitudes and cynicism and encourage spontaneity and freedom of self-expression. Works well with any fragrance. Clears a heavy atmosphere. In India & Tibet it’s used to treat tension headaches and emotional weariness. Relaxing Sandalwood is an immunity booster and provides protection during times of vulnerability. Soothing and anti-inflammatory, it helps stress-related conditions such as irritability and insomnia and turbulant emotional states. Penetrates deeply into the emotional world.
Frankincense slows and deepens breathing helping restore inner calm. It has an ethereal fragrance that touches the emotions and opens the heart. It is one of the most powerful cleansers and has been used to freshen clothes or heavy atmospheres. Associated with sacred ceremony it purifies area for prayer or meditation and is a potent antiseptic. Frankincense and myrrh are two of the oldest incense substances and have many healing properities. Frankincense aids in cellular renewal and helps to heal both emotional and physical wounds. It improves circulation, lowers a fever and reduces toothache and rheumatic pain. It is calming and deepens the breathing so is a traditional remedy for opening up the airways and alleviating bronchial conditions. It’s spiritually uplifting and deepens mystical experience. It reaches the darkest corners of the psyche to heal old emotional scars, restore faith and encourage optimism.
White sage – traditionally used in cleansing and purification rituals. Holding an object in the smoke is believed to clear away old energy patterns and make it as good as new. Sage is one of nature’s most potent antiseptics and a traditional symbol of wisdom. It has been valued since antiquity for its cleansing and healing powers.
Myrrh – is calming and promotes healing on many levels. In the ancient world is was used for pain relief and treatment of wounds. Because it reduces inflammation and encourages skin to heal, it is useful for skin problems such as acne and eczema. In asia, women traditionally bathed in the myrrh resin smoke for beautiful skin. On an emotional level its useful for worry, anger, fear and agitated states. It brings peace and inner calm and restores harmony and happiness. In Arabic countries its used for stomach tension. Also helps to heal the past. Combines well with rose.
Rose – eases emotional pain and helps restore confidence after disappointments. Calming effect on the nerves.
Ritual – elevate your life from the ordinary to something extraordinary by creating a sacred space, burning incense & performing rituals. Rituals connect us to life and the bigger picture, divinity, god or your higher self. They are a time to reflect, give thanks and ask for guidance and support. An altar or shrine is a good place to do this.
(Incense and scent in the home : holy smoke. Raje Airey and Charlott Melling 2003)