Ceremonial Uses of Incense
THE BENEFITS OF INCENSE
- To Relieve Depression and Stress , Aromatherapy has been proven to elevate mood and promote relaxation
- As an Aphrodisiac, Perfume and incense are famous throughout history for releasing passion and creating an amorous mood
- As a Meditation Aid, The soothing scent of incense can link the mind to higher states of consciousness
- For Dreams, Lucid dreaming is enhanced when incense is burned with intent before sleep
- To Cleanse the Atmosphere, Burn incense for psychic and physical house cleaning, or just to change the mood in your home
- To Stimulate any Desired Mental State, The mind can be most easily trained when conditioned to respond to olfactory stimuli
Increases the Quality and Joy of Life
- Incense in Balinese Trance Dance
INCENSE AS AN OFFERING
"But to love me is better than all things; if under the night stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me,
invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent Flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom."
- Nuit, The Book of the Law
EASTERN SPIRIT CALLING INCENSE
"I breathe in the cool incense smoke from the metal brazier while thinking about a poem for my dear friens Lu Wa. My sandalwood-hearted
companion spits out plum blossoms of smoke, looking like a cloudy fog of the other world.
Perhaps it's the soul of my friend the old mountain man in the smoke's dense patterns?"
- Kan Po, in memoriam (undated)
In ancient times the lands of the far east used incense in rites to summon the spirits and shield newly-departed souls from the influence of demons and evil powers . Allusions to its use in various strange rituals may be found in old dramas and romances. One special incense from China was said to have the power to call up human spirits. This was the wizard incense mentioned in an ancient love song:
"I have heard of the magical incense that summons the souls of the absent; Would that I had some to burn in the nights when I wait alone!"
This incense is also mentioned in the Chinese book, Shang-hai-king. It was called Fwan-hwan-hiang, in Japanese , Hangon-ko, or "spirit calling incense". It was made in the "District of the Ancestors" situated by the Eastern Sea. According to the sages, to summon the spirit of any dead person or even that of the living, one need only kindle some of this magical blend and pronounce certain words, while keeping the mind fixed on the memory of that person desired. Then "in the smoke of the incense, the remembered face and form would appear". The burning of any incense is supposed to summon invisible spirits. These come to devour the smoke. They are called Jiki-ko-ki, or "incense eating spirits"
There are numerous paintings and representations in Japanese art depicting a ghostly presence manifesting in the rising smoke emanating from elaborate censers.
AT THE FIRE
Coals from a outdoor fire can also be used to burn incense. Using a stick or fire tool place a live coal or smoldering piece of kindling into your censer. When outdoors a flat or indented rock can be used as a censer. Then you can proceed to burn your incense on the glowing embers as usual.
To purify and bless all who enter sacred space , place the censer at the portal or entry place. As each person to step over the censer allowing the smoke to waft up. Women can let the smoke scent their dancing skirts and veils.
When building a sacred fire , before laying the wood, place an offering of incense, flower petals or spices on the earth. This can be done artistically in a pattern or design that reflects your intent for the ceremony.
"Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these 'materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odours. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent's sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun."
- Ovid, Metamorphosis
Incense delights the eye as well as the nose. As smoke rises mysteriously to the heavens, it bears our prayers aloft. Decide what incense you will be burning; Do you have a special intent you wish to help manifest with burning this sacred smoke? A prayer you wish the smoke to carry?
Have your heat resistant bowl or censer ready with sand or ash in it. Using earth or sands from a sacred place is wonderful. Tiny shells and beach or volcanic sand are also lovely.
Take a tablet of charcoal and hold it by the corner, the silver type will allow you plenty of time to light it andpace it before the heat gets to your fingers. The golden will begin to “sparkle” when you light it and the ignition process happens very quickly, so light it and place it down in the censer quickly. Tweezers or chopsticks may also be used for this. The best way to light it outdoors is with a “wind resistant” lighter wand sold in most grocery and hardware stores. It is always nice to use a candle flame and incorporate the lighting of the charcoal with your ceremony.
Now wait. …Meditate upon your intent or the purpose of the incense. Wait until the coal is really glowing and white on the outside, red, inside. Blow on it and watch it glow, a creature of fire coming to life. Be patient. If you place the incense too soon the coal will go out.
Place the foil upon on thered hot charcoal and then place the incense into it. You can shape the foil like a small "boat" or cup as well.
Again, have patience…. It will soon begin to melt andbubble, and release the wondrous fragrances .
If beautiful billows of scented smokeis desired, such as in smudging or blessing ceremonies, place the incense directly on or touching the side of the charcoal
Now you may cleanse yourself and your home with the sweet smoke. Always keeping mind your intent.
- To bring Peace
- To bring Healing
- To Cleanse the Energy
- To create Sacred Space
- To give Thanks
- To create a Sensuous Mood - To make an Offering to Spirit
It is a wonderful idea to Cense your home often. Light your incense as above and simply carry your censer from room to room. Focus on the energy you want it to contain. Banish negativity and blockage, banish worry and stress. Invite in peace, harmony and joy. Soon your dwelling will acquire a lasting sacred scent for the burning of resins creates a lingering perfume that builds over time.