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This is an incense boat that is held by a thurifer or boat boy.

Boat boy or boat bearer are terms used for a junior Acolyte position found in Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. The role of a boat boy is to assist the thurifer (the senior Acolyte who carries the thurible) during services in which incense is used.

The boat bearer carries the boat (a small metal container) which holds the supplies of incense. The boat has a small spoon inside which is used to transfer the grains of incense onto the red-hot charcoals in the thurible. Although at times the boat bearer transfers the incense himself, more usually he simply holds the boat open as the priest performs this task.

Whilst the thurifer may carry the boat himself, most thurifers find it more convenient having a boat bearer assisting them. The thurifer will usually want the boat bearer standing close by on his left - indeed, in some churches it is the custom for the thurifer to rest his left hand on the boat bearer's shoulder as he holds or swings the thurible with his right hand.

References

A thurifer and boat girl.

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