Monday, July 7, 2008
There's just something so calming, so alluring about incense. But why?
I burn these all the time, and they smell absolutely wonderful. I love going into a delightful-smelling shop and picking out a handful of incense for only a couple bucks. They offer such a variety for such a low cost! And the incense burners are just as unqiue and original.
Incense have been around for centuries, burning specifically in India, China, and Japan for many purposes: religious, aesthetic, and healing/medical. They were one of the objects of trade even used on the Silk Road. Those in North and South American used them later on for the same purposes as well.
I found a website that offers a list of benefits for using incense:
-Smell is a sense that is heavily connected to memory: "Most human senses have very complicated nerve processes that send information to the brain. Unlike the others, the sense of smell is "directly wired" to the brain. The left half of your brain controls your right hand, but your left nostril is connected to the left side of your brain. The sense of smell is an ancient trait and incense provides a quick connection to your brain. Memory and smell are heavily intertwined. Certain smells can transport us back in time to a memorable place or event."
-It is a powerful meditation tool: "The gentle scents of sandalwood and cinnamon can bring greater depth to your meditation with the wonderful aftereffects of the lingering scent. In fact, many types of high-quality (and quite expensive) Japanese incense are an integral part of the meditation habits of people worldwide. This incense may actually create a biochemical reaction, which impacts the meditation experience."
-Incense can help with spiritual practicies and rituals, as it was in earlier years: "Incense is used to cleanse and create sacred space, as an offering both on and off the altar, a way to create a magickal atmosphere, and a way to help the practitioner achieve specific mental states."
-They mask other odors or just add a delightful smell to your enviornment.
-They repel insects: "Incense made from materials such as citronella can repel mosquitoes and other aggravating, distracting or pestilential insects."
-To mask unpleasing odors: "This utility led to the use of incense in funerary ceremonies because the incense could smother the scent of decay. Another example of this use, as well as of religious use is the Botafumeiro, which, according to tradition, was installed to hide the scent of the many tired, unwashed pilgrims huddled together in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela."
So for those of you who don't burn incense, try it! If you like the smell of candles, incense are just as good, but cheaper and more unique in appearance! Even watching the trail of smoke that emits from the top is entertaining. Coiling smoke looks very cool and can be very mesmerizing.
A while back, a good friend of mine who lived in China for a few months gave me a big bundle of incense. They look so much more sophisticated than the simple ones we buy back home. I haven't burned them yet just because they seem like a pricey souvenier! But I bet if I did burn them, they'd smell amazing, and maybe they'd inspire some deeper thought. Who knows?
If you do burn incense, why do you like it? What are your favorite smells? Overall, do we like/dislike incense and why?