Even when still living in the city, we burned incense in the house because we found it relaxing. Well, at least, that’s how Speedy and I feel about burning incense. Sam and Alex don’t like them and neither do they enjoy the smell of aromatic oil in burners — they hate fragrances including body cologne and the most they can tolerate is soap scent.
But incense and aromatic oil serve a good purpose. See, we have cats. Sometimes, when the windows have been kept closed for a long time, like when it rains for days, there is a distinct animal smell that stays even after the windows have been thrown open for hours. I’m not a fan of air fresheners in cans so I burn oil or incense instead. With the windows open to prevent the stuffy feeling from permeating the rooms, I light a couple of incense sticks and they do the work well. The hell with what die-hard wanna be environmentalists say.
Incense, of course, is heavily associated with religious mysticism. They were used by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans before Chinese monks brought them to Japan after which incense burning became a staple in Buddhist rituals. Interesting trivia, really, but the more practical information has to do with kinds of incense. Kinds? Yes, incense sticks are made with different materials.
Expensive incense contain solid aromatic materials such as wood barks (cassia, sandalwood, cedar), fruits (star anise, vanilla beans) and resins (camohor, myrrh, Dragon’s blood). If you have read Happy Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or seen the film version, you’ll recall that scene where Dumbledore and Harry visited Horace Slughorn to convince him to return to Hogwarts to teach. When they entered the house, there was a bright red substance on the ceiling that looked like blood. Slughorn later admitted it was dragon’s blood. When you’re in the midst of reading or watching Harry Potter, it is easy to take something like that literally and conclude that dragon’s blood must mean what it says especially since dragons had been previously introduced in book four of the Harry Potter series.
However, it is also possible that the dragon’s blood referred to in the story is actually the bright red resin taken from several varieties of trees. Dragon’s blood was used as dye and medicine by the ancient Romans, Greeks and Arabs and as varnish by 18th century Italian violin makers. Dragon’s blood is also an ingredient for making incense although we still have to find commercially available incense sticks that count Dragon’s blood among the ingredients. For now, we have to content ourselves with the kind that contains essential oils derived from flowers. They’re cheaper but not lacking in fragrance. That’s rose-scented incense in the photo.
Do all incense come in the form of sticks? No, actually. You’ll find incense coils as well (found some in Unimart last Saturday) which are hung before lighting (see photo). Okay for temples, I suppose, but too much for a house. And the thought of how to catch the ash that falls boggles my mind.