History of Incense

For people getting tired of candles or oil diffusers, there is another option many forget about: incense! It provides a smokier scent and a low price point for those looking to add another element to their living space. Incense has a rich history and is easy to find almost anywhere.

There are also tons of different types of incense, ranging from lavender, patchouli, sage, stress relief, sandalwood and a ton more. It is easy to try a bunch of different types and the prices of each stick of incense are usually quite cheap.

The history of incense is closely tied to spirituality and meditation. The root of the word actually came from the Latin word incender, meaning to burn something. It was widely used in India and parts of southern Asia around 2000-3000 BC. The first documented use of incense was reportedly in ancient China where it was used for worship and prayer, but now India has become the top producer. Originally, it was a blend of different herbs and plants that would smell good when they burned, including cinnamon and sandalwood. It is said that there were buildings designed specifically for burning it. Incense also plays a key role in Hindusim and has for thousands of years. Later into the 14th and 15th centuries, incense spread into Japan and the Mediterranean.

Buddhist monks also connect different natural elements with different scents of incense.

  • Ether, or fruit, is connected to star anise.
  • Water is connected to sandalwood, aloeswood, cedarwood, cassia, frankincense, and myrrh.
  • Earth is connected to turmeric, vetivert, ginger, costus root, valerian, spikenard.
  • Fire is connected to clove.
  • Lastly, air is connected to patchouli.

Clearly, there are tons of different types of incense that represent many things.

Incense comes in multiple different forms. The most popular type that is commonly seen is the long stick. It is dipped in the different scents and sticks up out of a certain holder. To light this type, and many other types, you light the tip until it catches on fire and turns red, and then blow it out. It then burns slowly and releases the fragrant smoke. There are also dhoops, which are raw incense condensed into small cones, which are burned the same way but look a bit different. There are also incense matches for something quicker.

Be sure to support those communities with a deep rooted history when practicing their traditions as a way to bridge the gap even if it’s with a small purchase of your go-to incense.

Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, with your favorite kind of incense!


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