The Ancient Traditions Of Incense For Spirituality, Calm And Health
If you walk into a yoga hall, aromatherapy spa, or a modern salon, you're likely to find an incense stick, cone, or coil burning. Even though incense is burned in many places nowadays, several ancient traditions and beliefs are associated with it.
For centuries, incense has been burned for religious, spiritual, health, or ceremonial reasons. Its origin dates back to the Vedic period in India. And there are several traditions and rituals dotting its history. If you’re wondering what they are, you’re right where you should be!
Keep reading to learn about incense, its usage throughout history, all its ancient traditions, and how it is used in modern times.
What is Incense?
Available in a variety of forms, incense is a plant-based material that emits a pleasant aroma when burned. Some incense oils and additional chemicals are also often added to it to enhance the smell.
One of the most famous forms of incense includes incense cones and sticks. Other prevalent forms are coils, loose powders, and cones. Common scents include sandalwood, jasmine, rose, lavender, citronella, etc.
Ancient Traditions of Burning Incense and What They Mean
As mentioned before, incense has long been associated with traditions. Check out what some of them are:
1. Ancient Egyptians Used Incense For Fumigating Tombs
Incensed resin balls have been found in certain prehistoric Egyptian tombs in El Mehsana. There’s also evidence of Frankincense and Myrrh in some old tombs of Egypt. Egyptian priests used these to remove the unpleasant smell of a dead body.
Moreover, the temple Deir-al-Bahari in Egypt has carvings on its walls that depict the use of incense in Egypt. This documentation is one of the oldest, leading to a widespread belief amongst academicians and historians that incense originated in Egypt in the Old Kingdom.
2. Incense was used in India during the Vedic period
One of the oldest mentions of incense usage comes from the Rigveda and the Atharveda, two famous ancient Hindu religious texts. During those times, priests and sages used it frequently. Indian incense, known as agarbatti or dhoop, was common in temples and ashrams.
Later on, Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical system, also promoted incense use. Incense was believed to bring about mental and physical healing. Ayurvedic doctors would often combine incense with some oils to perform aromatherapy on patients and treat them.
This Ayurvedic use quickly transformed into a widespread household practice in India. Burning incense at home is common in Indian homes even today.
Other religions like Buddhism also encouraged incense use and spread it throughout Southeast Asia. Today, most practising Buddhists burn incense in some form in their homes or while meditating or worshipping.
3. Indus Valley Civilisation Records Also Show The Use Of Incense
Indus Valley Civilization people used incense for spiritual purposes as far back as 3300 BCE, according to a number of records. They used several herbs like Cyprus, Frankincense, and Sarsaparilla seeds to make incense.
4. Incense Found A Significant Usage In Ancient China
Chinese religious traditions warranted the use of incense around 2000 BCE. Many cultures of the country used incense from the Neolithic times. After that, during the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, incense became significantly commonplace. During the Song dynasty, ceremonial usage gained popularity.
5. Japanese People Have Been Using Incense For A Lot Of Purposes
Incense was first brought to Japan by Buddhist monks, but it soon became ubiquitous. The Japanese started using it for spiritual and cultural reasons. For Japanese Samurai warriors, incense became a way to perfume their bodies and helmets before a battle. Moreover, it was also considered a symbol of nobility and strength.
6. Babylonians, Romans, And Greeks Used Incense Spiritually
Incense has travelled to the Mediterranean and Middle-eastern regions through extensive spice trade routes. Babylonians used it for worshipping divine entities. From there, incense burning spread to Rome and Greece, where people used incense for spiritual and recreational reasons.
7. Jews Have Also Used Incense Religiously
Jewish temples around the world use incense either regularly or ceremoniously. Jewish incense, too, uses Frankincense and a variety of other natural aromatics to enhance the spiritual experience.
8. Muslims Use Incense For Spiritual, Cultural, And Health Reasons
While Islam forbids idolatry and extravagant lifestyle, burning incense is encouraged. Middle-eastern Islamic practises historically made use of Bakhour, a form of incense.
It is also believed that the Prophet used Bakhour and asked his followers to use it too. He even divulged the medicinal properties of incense and promoted its usage for treating diseases like pleurisy.
Some Muslims believe that incense can ward off evil and negative energy. It is used for the purification of the Kaaba as well.
These were some of the most famous instances of incense burning and usage throughout history. Now that you’re familiar with these ancient traditions, you should learn more about the modern usage of incense and why you should use it in your home too.
Burning Incense In Modern Times
Incense burning has become a common practice in most places these days. From aromatherapy spas to regular households, burning incense can be spotted everywhere. There are a variety of reasons why people burn incense. Here are some:
The spiritual uses of incense are pretty diverse. People belonging to religions like Hinduism and Buddhism burn incense as a part of worship rituals. On the other hand, Catholic churches burn it to promote positive energy and a connection to the divine.
Burning incense can genuinely enhance your spiritual experience too. It adds a sense of peace and calms your spirit, making you feel balanced. Moreover, since your sense of smell is stimulated, you may feel more involved in your spiritual practice. So the best time to burn incense can be when you worship
Meditation requires feeling relaxed and focused, and burning incense can help you do both. The aroma of incense, especially of scents like lavender, rids you of anxiety and calms your nerves. This makes you more concentrated while you meditate.
Because of these properties, incense is widely used while meditating. In most meditation halls or Yoga classes, you can easily find burning incense radiating off a soothing aroma.
Aromatherapy has become quite the rage in modern times, but it originated thousands of years ago, probably in Asian countries. Today, many aromatherapy clinics use incense sticks, cones and coils to execute the therapy and perform healing.
Aromatherapy can help you get rid of insomnia, stress, anxiety, pain, and even digestive issues. It can even help soothe sore joints and act as a palliative care option for patients with terminal diseases. Therefore, you can get a range of health benefits through incense without significant side-effects.
What could be aesthetically pleasing about burning incense? If you just had that question, you aren’t alone. A lot of people don’t understand the aesthetic appeal of burning incense. However, just one incense stick or cone can instantly add a rustic and traditional charm to your space.
Moreover, incense always needs to be burnt using incense holders or burners. These days, burners come in a variety of styles and colours which act as decorative elements.
One of the most intriguing and beautiful designs include backflow incense burners. These project the incense smoke to make it look like a waterfall. If you’re looking for a similar burner, take a look at our backflow waterfall incense burner. It’ll surely add some extra oomph to your space.
Relief from Headache
As stated before, incense can help you relax and calm down. This quality makes it excellent for people who are usually under a lot of stress. It can help reduce stress-induced headaches too. According to Ayurveda, a special incense made using Nag Champa fragrance helps cure headaches.
Warding Off Bugs
Certain types of incense made of Eucalyptus or Citronella can help you get rid of bugs and mosquitoes. Although this method isn’t foolproof, it is an excellent way to keep your space fresh and free of unwanted insects.
Enhancing Intimate Desire
Some incense fragrances made of natural aphrodisiacs like jasmine can increase your romantic desire. Many couples also use incense during fun time because a stimulated sense of smell can enhance the experience by miles.