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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in incense

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Myrrh

It’s true that frankincense is the most famous incense resin, it is almost automatic when you say “frankincense” to want to immediately say “and myrrh”.  In antiquity the two were in nearly equal demand.  Although used more for the making of perfumes, myrrh was frequently burned in the same manner as frankincense.  While frankincense is a fairly simple scent to work with, myrrh presents far more complications.  Frankincense is a sweet, bright scent.  Myrrh is a complex, dark scent that can easily overpower other scents.  If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops you know that I am an advocate of spending time with individual incense ingredients.  Sometimes by listening to your ingredients they will tell you things that they’ve told to no other person.  Myrrh has a lot to say and is worth devoting the time.

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  • Hearth M Rising
    Hearth M Rising says #
    I have never combined myrrh with sandalwood but will try it (over charcoal). I do like the smell of myrrh, but find few spellcast

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Frankincense

While sandalwood is arguably the most traditional base material for incense, perhaps no ingredient’s name is better known than frankincense.  Its fame is based on more than just its place in the story of Christ’s birth in the New Testament book of Matthew.  In fact, frankincense plays an important role in ancient history that begins thousands of years before the beginning of the Common Era.  Frankincense was one of the key products shipped on the famed “silk road” of the ancient world.  It was a source of great wealth and, as a result, also a product of mystery and intrigue.  Even today the locations of many of the traditional groves that produce the highest quality frankincense remain a closely guarded family secret.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The magic of: Frankincense & Myrrh

The magic of: Frankincense & Myrrh

Frankincense

A resin from the Boswellia tree, a deciduous tree that grows on rocky outcrops.

As with all resins when burnt on charcoal it makes a lot of smoke but I have to say I think this is my favourite resin scent and again as with most resins it works well for cleansing and purifying.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sandalwood

In the next several entries I plan to quickly explore the materials that have formed the basis of incense historically as well as those that modern incense makers use regularly.  One of the most important incense ingredients historically is sandalwood.

There are 5 different varieties of sandalwood that are used in scented products, although only 3 of those have commonly been used in modern times.  Indian yellow sandalwood (santalum album) has historically been a preferred base material for incense in Asia and Africa.  Even in modern times, sandalwood is burned in every form from large pieces in fires to powdered bits in incense sticks and cones.  The biggest consumer of sandalwood, by far, is the perfume industry.  Sandalwood is a key ingredient in many popular perfumes.  Once you work with the fragrance for a while you will begin to recognize it in colognes and perfumes.  The popularity of sandalwood over the centuries has led to its endangered status in India, the motherland of incense.  International treaties have reduced the trade in sandalwood from India to the realms of bootleggers.  For some years now the only sandalwood from India that was legally available in the USA was from existing stockpiles.  It is now virtually impossible to get real sandalwood from India in the USA, although there are many imitation products sold under the label of “Indian sandalwood”.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Heating Incense

I talked about the honored history of the incense pellet as well as how to make your own at home.  The final key, of course, is actually using the incense. The basic act of heating pellets is the same as any other “non self-combusting” incense (how’s that for a mouthful?). 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ancient Incense: Pellets (making them!)

Last time I talked about the likely origins and historic use of incense pellets, but the real joy in discussing incense making is to actually make incense!  Making incense pellets is easy and fun, but it can be messy so plan for that.  I recommend that you make incense in an area with a floor you can mop.  If you make incense pellets in a carpeted area, it’s a good idea to put down some cardboard or a drop cloth to ensure no honey causes damage.  Unlike recipes for self-combusting incense (like sticks and cones) incense pellet recipes can be freely modified to fit your needs and the materials you have on hand. 

I strongly suggest that you wear gloves while making incense.  This is especially true with incense pellets.  Pellets are most often made with honey as a binder, but natural jams are also used (avoid any that contain corn syrup or artificial flavors).  Let’s start with a recipe (all ingredients should be finely powdered).

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Ancient Incense: Pellets (history)

As Pagans, most of us are very familiar with using “loose” incense on charcoal or an incense heater.  Most of us are also very familiar with incense sticks, cones, coils and other shapes of “self-combusting” incense.  You might be familiar with the best known ancient incense from Egypt called kyphi, but kyphi was developed long after incense had become widely used in many cultures.  You might not be familiar, however, with what is very likely the first form of manufactured incense; the pellet.  Although there is no definitive historic proof, it seems logical that this would be the first form of manufactured incense since it is seemingly an outgrowth of herbal medication.

As knowledge of herbal medicine grew, and practitioners grew more skilled, the first “pills” began to appear.  These were remedies blended from a variety of herbal medicines and bound together into pellet form, often by the addition of honey as a binder and a sweetener.  At some point someone (whether by design or by accident) placed one of the herbal pills near a heat source and discovered that certain blends give off wonderful aromas.  Incense making was born!

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