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what is incense?

Forums ► Misc Topics ► what is incense?
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what is incense?
Post # 1
Someone, anyone. Who ever is reading this thank you. I just wanted to ask a question. What is incense and how do you use it? My mom got some at a voodoo shop and new Orleans and was asking me about it.
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Re: what is incense?
By: / Novice
Post # 2

They are a lot like a candle. You burn them slowly and let the smoke fill the room with scent.

They can be used just to make a room smell good or as an offering. There are a few other things it can be used as since incense can be made of herbs.

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Re: what is incense?
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 3
Incense can be made of a variety of things.

The low quality stuff is more often than not just enough charcoal (charred wood type of charcoal, most often) to sustain an ember. The scent in the cheap stuff is often a synthetic scent oil or powder, poured over or mixed in the medium.

Higher quality incense has a better charcoal content, and will have more natural aromatic ingredients, even if those ingredients happen to be essential oils in some cases. But more often, wood scents (such as sandalwood) will be actual powdered wood; herbal or spice scents will be the actual herbs or spices, floral scents will be dehydrated and powdered petals (though this is also where some essential oils will come into play), and there may be actual resins mixed with the medium.

So what is incense and how is it made?

Stick and cone incense is made when all of the materials are mixed together with water to form a paste called dhoop in India. I do not know the different terms for the stick type, but cone incense from India is often called dhoop cones, as it is formed of just the paste in stead of being applied around a stick. The paste is formed, and allowed to dry thoroughly. It has enough of a base medium to sustain an ember and slowly burn the aromatic component.

There are, of course, other types of incense. There is a powdered type, made to sustain an ember, but it remains a powder. These are used mainly in dishes full of sand or ash. A stamp is sometimes used, but no matter; a trench is created for the incense powder. One end is ignited, and the ember slowly burns to the other end.

Another type of incense is loose incense, which does not sustain its own ember. It is added in small amounts atop a burning coal. The mass-produced coals which are called self-igniting are impregnated with an ignition agent, typical saltpeter. It is not safe to breathe the smoke from this during the lighting process. Some people will use am ember from a fire, or something like bamboo charcoal. The latter options are either more involved to acquire (having a fire with quality of fuel and time burning enough to have embers to use) or more expensive (in the case of bamboo charcoal) than the self-igniting discs.

One more type of incense is simply using a dry stick of aromatic wood, such as palo santo or sandalwood. An end is lit, typically with a candle, and the stick is tilted to establish an ember. The not-lit end is pressed into a base, such as a small dish of sand, and the ember slowly smoulders down the wood.
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Re: what is incense?
By: / Knowledgeable
Post # 4
I forgot to add that the low-quality incense typically has a lot of filler, such as paper pulp. The cellulose will help sustain the ember, but it will certainly affect the scent.

So use of incense: The only type I did not describe use is the dhoop-based incense, the most common type which is sold as sticks or cones. One end is lit ether just enough to ignite an ember, or enough to catch fire. The fire is extinguished, and the incense smoulders. Tradition or belief may dictate whether the flame is doused, blown out, or allowed to go out on its own.

In magic and mystic practices, incense fills a variety of symbolic roles. Some religions teach that the smoke carries prayers to the gods. It's also used to represent the element air. The specific scent can be used for its particular correspondence in whatever work a person is doing.

Ah! And before I forget, there's another type of similar item which I do not personally consider incense, but it is also used while smouldering, and in some mystic practices: smudge sticks. Smudging is the use of a bundle of herbs, lit at one end, and extinguished to smoulder. There are many practices which now incorporate smudging.
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Re: what is incense?
By: Moderator / Adept
Post # 5
In years long ago, incense was more valuable than diamonds. It is now very cheap to buy, and is the only incense I use, the two listed below.. Just to show you how valuable those two types of incense were, remember the story of the "three wise men" who brought the most valuable gifts in the world to the baby Jesus;-
Gold; Frankincense; and Myrrh.
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Re: what is incense?
Post # 6
Thank you! that was helpful.
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Re: what is incense?
Post # 7
Thank you so much!
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