Types of Incense

Incense has been used for spiritual, aesthetic, and therapeutic purposes. Even up to this present time, the use of incense is still the same and that is because of pleasant atmosphere created where the scent enhance the ambiance in the home. Through the years, incense evolves into different types that vary in forms, scent, shape and the way it is burn.

For religious ceremonies, powder incense is used. If the surroundings are only enhanced, the preparation is too convenient. This requires a separate heat source.

Incense spices are very important ingredients and as mentioned in the biblical scents, these are imported from foreign lands in China and Lebanon. These are planted in these countries.

There are many types of incense. They were used in different parts of the ancient world such as Tibet, Egypt, Europe, America, and East Asia.

Tibetan Incense – A common style of incense found in Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. It represents the Tibetan culture. It has a characteristic of earthy or herbal scent which contains more than 30 ingredients. This incense differs from others because it has no stick inside which make it purer. Tibetan incense originates either from traditional monastery or medical college/hospital formulation.

Tibetan Incense
Incense Offering (c) massimoconti

Indian incense – It is commonly known as agarbatti in Hindi and other Indian languages. Incense making is a tradition of India way back millennia. The unique scent of Indian incense cannot be found in other parts of the world. It began in India by a uniform and codified system of incense making. As mention in Vedic texts, incense is used for masking odors and creating pleasurable odors.

Bhutanese incense – All throughout history, making and burning of incense have been a vital part of the culture of Bhutanese Buddhist. Bhutan has been using incense for many reasons. Some of these include devotion, meditation as well as healing and purification. Thus, without doubt that incenses are a deeply rooted element in the daily life of Bhutanese.

Egyptian Incense – In Ancient Egypt, burning of incense was central to the worship of the Egyptian gods and every day in the temples, large quantities of incense were burned. One of the most popular varieties on incense used in Egypt was the Kapet since the Old Kingdom. This type of incense has pleasing scent and can heal snake bites, cure bad breath and asthma. It was recorded in the Ebers Papyrus (1500BCE) the one recipe for this type of incense. The ingredients of this incense were homegrown but many had to be imported.

Chinese Incense – Another type if incense is that of China. Known as xiang, incense was used by the Chinese cultures starting from Neolithic times from the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. The local incense was considered a poor man’s incense so that during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220) there was increased trade and acquisitions among fragrant foreign incense materials.

Japanese incense – It is another type of incense that came from China along with Buddhism in the year 538 CE. It was initially imported from China but later on it began to make its own. There were other ingredients used by the Japanese choosing their scent or properties in Traditional Chinese Medicine. They import also from India and South East Asia. The two most important ingredients in Japanese incense are the Agarwood that incense sink in water which is also known as jinko in Japan and the other one is Sandalwood which is the most calming incense ingredients and lends itself well to meditation. There are also other ingredients such as kyara and mekko.

Indian incense (nativeamericans) – The source of some famous incense in the west is India as their items and products were deeply transported on the revival of 60s every time shops and new owners of stores had to burn incense sticks. Native Americans like burning of incense because of its pleasing and sweet aroma making it a best therapeutic remedy. But there was also a tradition of incense burning also in ancient Americas. As for several Americans in the new generation, they believe that incense only come from India; period.

There are also other type of incense used in many religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and others.

Buddhist incense – The Buddhist incense holds an invaluable role in East Asian Buddhist ceremonies and rites including the Taoist of Chinese and Shinto shrines of Japanese. This is one way of purifying surroundings, bringing forth an assembly of buddhas, bodhisatives, gods, demons, and the like. In the Buddhist temples, the inner spaces are scented with coiled incense that is hung in the ceiling or on special stands. At the temples, worshippers burn sticks of incense and bow to the statues. The formula and scent of the incense sticks in the temples vary widely in various temples throughout Asia.

Christian Incense – In Christianity, incense has been employed in worship since antiquity particularly Eastern Christian churches, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican and Lutheran churches. The smoke of burning incense is interpreted in the Roman Catholic Church as a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven. While in the Catholic rites, the thurifer is swung to incense people or objects, which is done in three swings representing the Holy trinity.

In celebration of the Eucharist, incense is used in Christian worship in particular at Solemn Vespers, Solemn Evensong, funerals, consecration of a church or altar and other services. Incense is used at virtually every service in the Orthodox Church. Many formulation of incense is currently used in Christianity with frankincense, myrrh, styrax, copal, or other aromatics.

Christian Incense
Christian Incense burner. Photo: bibleandscience.com

Hinduism incense – In Hinduism, the use of incense is a traditional practice in all pujas, prayers, and other way of worship. Within the Hindu tradition, as a part of their daily ritual worship, incense is offered to God in his deity forms such as Krishna and Rama. The way it is done is by rotating the sticks thrice in a clockwise direction.

Islam incense – Incense in Islam is not used during worship but used throughout the Islamic World to remind the believers of the rewards in Paradise. In some Muslim countries, Olive tree leaves are burn as incense.

Neopaganism incense – In Neopaganism, incense is used in their rituals to represent an element of air. It is also used in the spell and rituals.

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