Incense is an aromatic biotic material that comes from flowers, roots, seeds, and tree bark resins. That word incense is derived from Latin meaning through and smoke. The term is a reference to the material, not the aroma that is produced. There are two primary types of incense: “direct-burning” or “Indirect-burning”.
In ancient times, religions would associate their gods with fragrant plant materials and the natural environment. They believed the aroma drove the demons away and encouraged the Gods to appear as well as used incense to banish foul odors.
The Meaning In The Eastern Hemisphere
In the Eastern hemisphere, incense is made from agarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver. These woods are harvested and ground with a large mortar and pestle and then water is added, creating a paste. Potassium nitrate is mixed with the paste which helps the material burn evenly. The mix is processed and sold for burning.
In India, this is called the agarbattior incense stick, which is the incense mix on a bamboo stick. The Chinese extrude the mix by way of a sieve which forms curled or straight strands, similar to small noodle. They are then dried and burned.
The extruded pieces are left to dry, creating straight sticks called joss sticks. Incense paste is shaped into Chinese alphabet characters or maze-like shapes that have been formed in molds. These are burned in patterns and it is believed they bring good fortune.
Their Meaning In The Western Hemisphere
Today, there are churches in the Western hemisphere that continue to use the product that comes from tree bark gum. A sticky gum is applied to family Christmas trees and the resin puts off a wonderful holiday scent and seals the cuts on the tree to protect it. The resin hardens fast in dry climates and can be cut off and harvested, creating a grain. That grain is carried and then sprinkled over a burning fire to release the fragrance.
Incense And Their Important Role
For many of the world’s religions, incenses have always had an important role. Such as the Arabian Peninsula and Somali coast, frankincense, myrrh, and Lebanon cedars produce resin. On the ancient Egyptian’s expeditions over upper Africa, they would import the resins to be used for daily worship before Amon-Ra, the sun God. It was also used during rites given at burials with the belief that the incense smoke that rose was lifting dead souls and sending them to heaven. T
Egyptians made cosmetics and perfumes from this material by mixing them with blended spices, herbs, oils or unguents. And the Babylonians used incense when they prayed or performed rituals in an effort to manifest the gods and when they performed exorcisms or to heal their people. The resins they preferred were cypress, fir, and pine trees.
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