I can only imagine mankind’s earliest use of incense. Was it the same day that fire was discovered, or was it the day after? Since that beginning, the fragrant smoke of ancient fires has risen in rhythm with the sun, the moon, and the tides: the heartbeats of life on earth.
The burning of candy gums, resins, woods, and plants has taken hundreds of lovely, diverse cultural kinds, lots of which persist today. Ancient Egyptians burned offerings to the sun god, Ra, on his daily trek across the heavens. Frequent references to the usage of incense within the Old Testament counsel that the Jews have used it since very early times. Fashionable Hindus burn camphor and incense earlier than the image of Krishna. The Greeks burned sweet incenses to make sacrifice and prayer more settle forable to the gods. Little use of incense is evident in Islamic traditions, and incense was unknown in early Buddhism, opposed as it was to external dogma. However, public and private use of incense has now turn into widespread amongst Tibetan, Japanese, and Chinese Buddhists. By the fourteenth century, it had develop into part of many of the established Christian rituals, and continues to be used for such ceremonies as high mass, processions, and funerals. Fashionable pagan and neopagan practices additionally involve highly developed ritual uses of incense. In Native American faith, sage, candy grass, yerba santa, uva-ursi, cedar, and tobacco are burned ceremonially for purifying oneself and one’s surroundings, for sending up prayers to the Nice Spirit, and for connecting with one’s spirit helpers—the unseen forces that assist humans.
Besides its place in ceremony and faith, incense is commonly used simply to evoke a mood or create an atmosphere for shopping, leisure, romance, or residence relaxation. It’s a psychological stimulant that can bathe abnormal occasions and activities in a particular glow.
Incense makes use of many botanical products which cannot be liquefied or distilled into a perfume. Tree barks and saps, gums, resins, roots, flowers, fragrant leaves, and needles can be mixed in myriad ways to create a rising, mood-enhancing bouquet of fragrant smoke. The botanical ingredients may be purchased, grown, or gathered from the wild.
Incense can take many varieties, from simple, loose ingredients to be thrown on glowing coals to ornately shaped cones, cylinders, sticks, or coils. All are enjoyable to make and luxuriate inable to use. All except loose incense consist of four basic ingredients: an aromatic substance or mixture, a burnable base, a bonding agent, and a liquid to vary the bonding agent into a glue. Coloring agents may be added as well.
Aromatic. Any herb, spice, or botanical powder that gives off a pleasingly scented smoke when burning. These embody many kinds of wood (resembling sandalwood and juniper) and bark (similar to cinnamon) as well as some leaves. The smoke from burning herbs smells totally different from the recent or dried herb itself. To test the perfume of herb smoke, drop a small amount of the dried herb on a sizzling piece of charcoal. I’ve never heard of an herb whose smoke was toxic, although sure mushrooms can produce narcotic fumes. Essential oils also will be substituted for the fragrant plant materials; once more, test on scorching charcoal.
Base. A substance that burns readily with both a pleasing aroma or no aroma at all. The bottom aids within the burning of the fragrant and sometimes enhances or tempers the scent. The preferred bases are powders derived from woody plants: sandalwood, cassia, vetiver, willow, evergreen needles, and charcoal. You can also make the wood powders yourself by processing sawdust in your blender for two minutes on high speed. Talc or clay is usually added to sluggish the rate of burning, however I don’t recommend talc because it will possibly cause respiratory irritation. Potassium nitrate (saltpeter, available at drugstores) could also be added to a base to ignite it more quickly and evenly.
Bonding agent. A resin or gum that holds the aromatic and base together. Bonding agents that burn well without giving off poisonous smoke and are readily available include agar, karaya, gum arabic, and tragacanth. Of these, tragacanth is the binder most often recommended, and I find that it’s the best to work with and offers the most effective results for formed incense.
Liquid. Water is best and cheapest, though artistic incense makers may not be happy when there are a lot more attention-grabbing liquids to use: wine, brandy, herb waters, olive oil, and tinctures, to mention just a few. I haven’t observed a significant distinction in both the odor or the burnability of the incense.
Coloring agents. The easiest way to color incense is with food coloring, however plants also can provide natural colors: for instance, red sandalwood for red, willow for brown, safflower for yellow, and charcoal for black.
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