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“History and Origins of incense Burning ”

Plant derived aromas are used in a great variety of ways, giving rise to many customs. A day without fragrance, so the saying went in Ancient Egypt was a day lost. Frankincense was burned in the morning, Dammar at noon and carefully blended incense called Kyphi  in the evening. Kyphi was said to be the incense for relaxation and the mild evenings of an ancient Egyptian city were filled with sweet, aromatic and sensual billowing’s from thousands of homes, combining into a symphony of fragrances with great variety of nuance. It conveyed peace and tranquility to those inhaling it a wonderful idea. The sweet, spicy, aromatic clouds of this fragrant smoke do great justice to the expression ‘nectar of the gods’.

Sensitivity to detail plays a special role in both the spiritual and secular life of the Japanese that it’s natural to expect them to have developed an incense burning culture of sophisticated aesthetics. Respect for life and the joy of BEING find their expression in a tradition where the most precious aromatic plants such as eagle-wood and sandalwood are burned in tiny portions with precision-made utensils. Sensory delight stimulating the imagination leads to the high art of kōdō. In kōdō there is a fragrance ceremony in which selected individuals seek to intensify both their awareness and inspiration.


Incense burning traditions among-st the Native Americans see a cosmic presence in power plants like white and gray sage, juniper and cedar, helping restore people’s contact with nature as a whole and with the Great Spirit. So impressive is this panorama that the rediscovery of such a fascinating medium and its reintroduction to our civilized Western culture becomes imperative.

We can dissolve the reactive patterns of extreme pain, compulsion, constriction or even fear by performing appropriate incense rituals. It is interesting to note how what we perceive is usually judged in absolute terms. A person will say ‘this does not smell good believing that he or she has made an objective statement. It becomes more obvious when the enthusiastic response of the next person to the same fragrance shows up the first opinion for what it really is, is purely subjective. Incidentally this endless polarizing of good versus bad is also the territory out of which the esoteric religions have developed. Dictating guidelines as to what should be called good or evil. In this context pleasant scents correspond to the divine while a foul smell is considered to be the work of the devil. Quite probably we carry a primeval motivating experience in our instinctive center. In terms of human development this experience extends back to the Stone Age.

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