Incense: Wikis


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Burning incense

Incense (Latin: incendere, "to burn")[1] is composed of aromatic biotic materials, which release fragrant smoke when burned. The term incense refers to the substance itself, rather than to the odor that it produces.

Many religious ceremonies and spiritual purificatory rites employ incense, a practice that persists to this day. Incense is also used in medicine and for its aesthetic value. The forms taken by incense have changed with advances in technology, differences in the underlying culture, and diversity in the reasons for burning it.[2]



Incense sticks at Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong

The use of incense dates back to biblical times and may have originated in Egypt, where the gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies. It was also used by the Pharaohs, not only to counteract unpleasant odors, but also to drive away demons and gratify the presence of the gods, as they believed.

The Babylonians used incense extensively while offering prayers to divining oracles. In India, some 2000 years BCE, various writings mention 'perfumers' and 'incense sellers'. Evidence suggests oils were used mainly for their aroma. Incense spread from there to Greece and Rome. It was imported into Ancient Israel in the 5th century BCE to be used in religious offerings.

Brought to Japan in the 6th century by Chinese Buddhist monks, who used the mystical aromas in their purification rites, the delicate scents of Koh (high-quality Japanese incense) became a source of amusement and entertainment with nobles in the Imperial Court during the Heian Era 200 years later.

During the 14th century Shogunate, samurai warriors would perfume their helmets and armor with incense to achieve a proud aura of invincibility. It wasn't until the Muromachi Era during the 15th and 16th century that incense appreciation (Kōdō) spread to the upper and middle classes of Japanese society.


Some commonly used raw incense and incense making materials (from top down, left to right) Makko powder (抹香; Machilus thunbergii), Borneol camphor (Dryobalanops aromatica), Sumatra Benzoin (Styrax benzoin), Omani frankincense (Boswellia sacra), Guggul (Commiphora wightii), Golden Frankincense (Boswellia papyrifera), Tolu balsam (Myroxylon toluifera), Somalian myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), Labdanum (Cistus villosus), Opoponax (Commiphora opoponax), and white Indian sandalwood powder (Santalum album)

Throughout history, a wide variety of materials have been used in making incense. Historically there has been a preference for using locally available ingredients. For example, sage and cedar were used by the indigenous peoples of North America.[3] This was a preference and ancient trading in incense materials from one area to another comprised a major part of commerce along the Silk Road and other trade routes, one notably called the Incense Route.

The same could be said for the techniques used to make incense. Local knowledge and tools were extremely influential on the style, but methods were also influenced by migrations of foreigners, among them clergy and physicians who were both familiar with incense arts.[2]


Natural solid aromatics

The following fragrance materials can be employed in either direct or indirect burning incense. They are commonly used in religious ceremonies, and many of them are considered quite valuable. Essential oils or other extracted fractions of these materials may also be isolated and used to make incense. The resulting incense is sometimes considered to lack the aromatic complexity or authenticity of incense made from raw materials not infused or fortified with extracts.

Woods and barks

Seeds and fruits

Resins and gums


Roots and rhizomes

Flowers and buds

Animal-derived materials

Liquid aromatics

Many essential oils and artificial fragrances are used for scenting incense. Incense deriving its aroma primarily from essential oils is usually cheaper than that made from unextracted raw materials. Even cheaper are artificial fragrances used in incense, which are derived from chemical synthesis. Liquid aromatics are usually added to a base formed from charcoal powder.

Essential oils

Artificial scents

Combustible base

Charcoal based cone incense

The combustible base of a direct burning incense mixture not only binds the fragrant material together but also allows the produced incense to burn with a self-sustained ember, which propagates slowly and evenly through an entire piece of incense with such regularity that it can be used to mark time. The base is chosen such that it does not produce a perceptible smell. Commercially, two types of incense base predominate:

  • Fuel and oxidizer mixtures: Charcoal or wood powder forms the fuel for the combustion. Gums such as Gum Arabic or Gum Tragacanth are used to bind the mixture together while an oxidizer such as Sodium nitrate or Potassium nitrate sustains the burning of the incense. Fragrant materials are combined into the base prior to formation as in the case of powdered incense materials or after formation as in the case of essential oils. The formula for the charcoal based incense is superficially similar to black powder, though it lacks the sulfur.
  • Natural plant-based binders: Mucilaginous material, which can be derived from many botanical sources, is mixed with fragrant materials and water. The mucilage from the wet binding powder holds the fragrant material together while the cellulose in the powder combusts to form a stable ember when lit. The dry binding powder usually comprises about 10% of the dry weight in the finished incense. Makko (抹香・末香 incense powder), made from the bark of the tabu-no-ki tree (Machilus thunbergii) (Jpn. 椨の木; たぶのき), is perhaps the best known source of natural plant-based binder. In India a resin based binder called Jigit is used. In Nepal, Tibet, and other East Asian countries a bark based powder called Laha or Dar is used.


Incense is available in various forms and degrees of processing. They can generally be separated into direct burning and indirect burnings types depending on use. Preference for one form or another varies with culture, tradition, and personal taste.

Indirect burning

Indirect burning frankincense on a hot coal

Indirect burning incense, also called non-combustible incense,[4] is simply a combination of aromatic ingredients not prepared in any particular way or encouraged into any particular form, leaving it mostly unsuitable for direct combustion. The use of this class of incense requires a separate heat source since it does not generally kindle a fire capable of burning itself and may not ignite at all under normal conditions. This incense can vary in the duration of its burning with the texture of the material. Finer ingredients tend to burn more rapidly, while coarsely ground or whole chunks may be consumed very gradually as they have less total surface area. The heat is traditionally provided by charcoal or glowing embers.

The best known incense materials of this type in the West, are frankincense and myrrh, likely due to their numerous mentions in the Christian Bible. In fact, the word for "frankincense" in many European languages also alludes to any form of incense.

  • Whole: The incense material is burned directly in its raw unprocessed form on top of coal embers.
  • Powdered or granulated: The incense material is broken down into finer bits. This incense burns quickly and provides a short period of intense smells.
  • Paste: The powdered or granulated incense material is mixed with a sticky and incombustible binder, such as dried fruit, honey, or a soft resin and then formed to balls or small pastilles. These may then be allowed to mature in a controlled environment where the fragrances can commingle and unite. Much Arabian incense, also called Bukhoor or Bakhoor, is of this type, and Japan has a history of kneaded incense, called nerikō or awasekō, using this method.[5] Within the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition raw frankincense is ground into a fine powder and then mixed with various sweet smelling essential oils.

Direct burning

Incense coils hanging from the ceiling of an East Asian temple

Direct burning incense also called 'combustible incense',[4] generally requires little preparation prior to its use. When lit directly by a flame (hence the appellation) and then fanned out, the glowing ember on the incense will continue to smolder and burn away the rest of the incense without continued application of heat or flame from an outside source. This class of incense is made from a moldable substrate of fragrant finely ground (or liquid) incense materials and odorless binder.[2] The composition must be adjusted to provide fragrance in the proper concentration and to ensure even burning. The following types of direct burning incense are commonly encountered, though the material itself can take virtually any form, according to expediency or whimsy:

  • Coil: Extruded and shaped into a coil without a core. This type of incense is able to burn for an extended period; from hours to days and is commonly produced and used by Chinese culture
  • Cone: Incense in this form burns relatively fast. Cone incense containing mugwort are used in Traditional Chinese medicine for moxibustion treatment.
  • Cored stick: This form of stick incense has a supporting core of bamboo. Higher quality varieties of this form have fragrant sandalwood cores. The core is coated by a thick layer of incense material that burns away with the core. This type of incense is commonly produced in India and China. When used for worship in Chinese folk religion, cored incensed sticks are sometimes known as Joss sticks.
  • Solid stick: This stick incense has no supporting core and is completely made of incense material. Easily broken into pieces, it allows one to determine the specific amount of incense they wish to burn. This is the most commonly produced form of incense in Japan and Tibet.
  • Loose powder: The incense powder used for making indirect burning incense is sometimes burned without further processing. They are typically packed into long trails on top of wood ash using a stencil and burned in special censers or incense clocks.
  • Rope: The incense powder is rolled into paper sheets, which are then rolled into ropes, twisted tightly, then doubled-over and twisted again, yielding a two-strand rope. The larger end is the bight, and may be stood vertically, in a shallow dish of sand or pebbles. The smaller (pointed) end is lit. This type of incense is highly transportable and stays fresh for excessively long periods of time. It has been used for centuries in Tibet and Nepal.

Direct burning incense of these forms is either extruded, pressed into forms, or coated onto a supporting material.


Drying cored stick incense, Vietnam

Although the production of direct and indirect burning incense are both blended to produce a pleasant smell when burned, the two differ in their composition due to the former's requirement for even, stable, and sustained burning.


Indirect burning incense does not have any stringent requirements except for achieving pleasant smell when lit. Mixture of incense materials can be combined by powdering the raw materials and then mixing together with a binder to form pastes, which are then cut and dried into pellets.

Incense of the Athonite Orthodox Christian tradition are made using similar methods by powdering frankincense or fir resin, mixing it with essential oils. Floral fragrances are the most common, but citrus such as lemon is not uncommon. The incense mixture is then rolled out into a slab approximately 1cm thick and left until the slab has firmed. It is then cut into small cubes, coated with powder clay to prevent adhesion, and allowed to fully harden and dry.[6][7] The product visually resemble cubes of Loukoum.


Poor quality cored incense. Note that the sticks are uneven in thickness and the supporting cores remain even after combustion of the incense

It is quite the opposite for direct burning incense. On top of producing a pleasant scent when burnt, this type of incense must burn completely to a cool white ash with a stable ember. Ideally the incense should burn slowly and evenly with no trace of the supporting core after burning. In order to obtain these desired combustion qualities, attention has to be paid to certain proportions in direct burning incense mixtures:

  • Oil content: Resinous materials such as myrrh and frankincense must not exceed the amount of dry materials in the mixture to such a degree that the incense will not smolder and burn. The higher the oil content relative to the dry mass, the less likely the mixture is to burn effectively. Typically the resinous or oily substances are balanced with "dry" materials such as wood, bark and leaf powders.
  • Oxidizer quantity: The amount of chemical oxidizer in gum bound incense must be carefully proportioned. Too little, and the incense will not ignite, too much, and the incense will burn too quickly and not produce fragrant smoke.
  • Mixture density: Incense mixture made with natural binders must not be combined with too much water in mixing, or over-compressed while being formed. This either results in uneven air distribution or undesirable density in the mixture, which causes the incense to burn unevenly, too slowly, or too quickly.
  • Particulate size: The incense mixture has to be well pulverized with similar size of particulates. Uneven and large particulates will result in uneven burning and may smell inconsistent when burned.
  • Binder: Water soluble binders like makko (抹香・末香) have to be used in the right proportion to ensure that the incense mixture does not crumble when dry but also that the binder does not take up too much of the mixture [2]

Some direct buring incense are created from incense blanks. This form is made of unscented combustible dust and then immersed into any kind of essential or fragrance oil. It was made popular in American Flea markets by vendors who wanted their own style and often known as "dipped" or "Hand-dipped". This form requires the least skill and equipment to manufacture since the blanks are pre-formed upon purchase.

Compressed forms

Incense mixtures can be extruded or pressed into shapes. Small quantities of water are combined with the fragrance and incense base mixture and kneaded into a hard dough. The incense dough is then pressed into shaped forms to create cone and smaller coiled incense, or forced through a hydraulic press for solid stick incense. The formed incense is then trimmed and slowly dried. Incense produced in this fashion has a tendency to warp or become misshapen when improperly dried, and as such must be placed in climate controlled rooms and rotated several times through the drying process.

Cored sticks

In the case of cored incensed sticks several methods are employed to coat the sticks cores with incense mixture:

  • Paste rolling: A wet malleable paste of incense mixture is first rolled using a paddle into a long thin coil. When this is done a thin stick is then put next to the coil and rolled together until the stick is center in the mixture and a correct thickness of the incense stick is achieved. The stick is then cut to the right length and dried. [8]
  • Powder coating: Coating is used mainly to produce cored incense of either larger coil (up to 1 meter in diameter) or cored stick forms. The supporting material, either thin bamboo or sandalwood slivers, are soaked in water or a thin water/glue mixture for a short time. The bundle of thin sticks are then evenly separated then dipped into a tray of incense powder, consisting of fragrance materials and occasionally a plant based binder. The dry incense powder is then tossed and piled over the stick while they are spread apart. The sticks are then gently rolled and packed to maintain roundness while repeatedly tossing more incense powder onto the sticks. Three to four layers of powder are coated onto the sticks, forming a 2 mm thick layer of incense material on the stick. The coated incense is then allowed to dry in open air. Additional coatings of incense mixture can be applied after each period of successive drying. Incense sticks that are burned in temples of Chinese folk religion produced in this fashion can have a thickness between 1 to 2 cm.[9] [10]
  • Compression: A damp powder is mechanically formed around a cored stick by compression similar to the way uncored sticks are formed. This form is becoming more commonly found due to the labor cost of producing powder coated or paste rolled sticks.

Burning incense

An Oriental Orthodox congregation in India processes outside its church with palm fronds on Palm Sunday with incense.

For indirect burning incense, pieces of the incense are burned by placing it directly on top of the heat source or on a hot metal plate in the censer or thurible.[11]

In Japan a similar censer called a egōro (柄香炉?) is used by several Buddhist sects. The egōro is usually made of brass with a long handle ( e?)) and no chain. Instead of charcoal, makkō powder is poured into a depression made in a bed of ash. The makkō is lit and the incense mixture is burned on top. This method is known as Sonae-kō (Religious Burning).[12]

For direct burning incense, an end of the incense is held against a flame or a heat source until the incense begins to turn into ash at the burning end. Flames on the incense are fanned out and the incense is allowed to burn on its own.

Cultural variations

Chinese incense

Incense at a temple in Beijing, China

For over two thousand years, the Chinese have used incense (xiang "fragrance; aroma; perfume; spice; incense") in religious ceremonies, ancestor veneration, Traditional Chinese medicine, and daily life.

As with Japanese incense (see below), agarwood (chenxiang 沈香) and sandalwood (tanxiang 檀香) are the two most important ingredients in Chinese incense.

Along with the introduction of Buddhism in China came calibrated incense sticks and incense clocks (xiangzhong 香鐘" incense clock" or xiangyin 香印 "incense seal").[13] The poet Yu Jianwu 庾肩吾 (487-551) first recorded them: "By burning incense we know the o'clock of the night, With graduated candles we confirm the tally of the watches."[14] The use of these incense timekeeping devices spread from Buddhist monasteries into Chinese secular society.

Indian incense

Indian incense can be divided into two categories: masala and charcoal.

Masala incenses are made by blending several solid scented ingredients into a paste and then rolling that paste onto a bamboo core stick. These incenses usually contain little or no liquid scents (which can evaporate or diminish over time).

Charcoal incenses are made by dipping an unscented "blank" (non-perfume stick) into a mixture of perfumes and/or essential oils. These blanks usually contain a binding resin that holds the sticks' ingredients together. Most charcoal incenses are black in color.

Jerusalem temple incense

Ketoret was the incense offered in the Temple in Jerusalem and is stated in the Book of Exodus as a mixture of stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense.

Tibetan incense

Tibetan incense refers to a common style of incense found in Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. These incenses have a characteristic "earthy" scent to them. Ingredients vary from cinnamon, clove, and juniper, to kusum flower, ashvagandha, or sahi jeera.

Many Tibetan incenses are thought to have medicinal properties. Their recipes come from ancient Vedic texts that are based on even older Ayurvedic medical texts. The recipes have remained unchanged for centuries.

Japanese incense

Stacks of incense at a temple in Japan

Agarwood (沈香 Jinkō) and sandalwood (白檀 Byakudan) are the two most important ingredients in Japanese incense. Agarwood is known as "Jinkō" in Japan, which translates as "incense that sinks in water", due to the weight of the resin in the wood. Sandalwood is one of the most calming incense ingredients and lends itself well to meditation. It is also used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The most valued Sandalwood comes from Mysore in the state of Karnataka in India.

Another important ingredient in Japanese incense is kyara (伽羅). Kyara is one kind of agarwood (Japanese incense companies divide agarwood into 6 categories depending on the region obtained and properties of the agarwood). Kyara is currently worth more than its weight in gold.

Uses of incense

Incense, being an article familiar to humanity since the dawn of civilization, has meant different things to the different peoples who have come to use it. Given the wide diversity of such peoples and their practices, it would be impossible to form an all-inclusive list of the ways in which incense has come to be used, since the methods and purposes of employment are as diverse and nuanced as those who have employed it.

Practical use of incense

Mosquito repellent used in China, India, Canada, Korea, and Japan are usually manufactured in coil form and burned in a similar manner as incense

Incense fragrances can be of such great strength that they obscure other, less desirable odors. This utility led to the use of incense in funerary ceremonies because the incense could smother the scent of decay. Another example of this use, as well as of religious use is the Botafumeiro, which, according to tradition, was installed to hide the scent of the many tired, unwashed pilgrims huddled together in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

The regular burning of direct combustion incense has been used for chronological measurement in incense clocks. These devices can range from a simple trail of incense material calibrated to burn in a specific time period, to elaborate and ornate instruments with bells or gongs, designed to involve and captivate several of the senses.[15]

Incense made from materials such as citronella can repel mosquitoes and other aggravating, distracting or pestilential insects. This use has been deployed in concert with religious uses by Zen Buddhists who claim that the incense that is part of their meditative practice is designed to keep bothersome insects from distracting the practitioner. Currently, more effective pyrethroid-based mosquito repellant incense is widely available in Asia.

Incense is also used often by people who smoke indoors, and do not want the scent to linger.

Aesthetic use of incense

Many people burn incense to appreciate its smell, without assigning any other specific significance to it, in the same way that the forgoing items can be produced or consumed solely for the contemplation or enjoyment of the refined sensory experience. This use is perhaps best exemplified in the kōdō (香道?), where (frequently costly) raw incense materials such as agarwood are appreciated in a formalized setting.

Religious use of incense

Incense burning at a temple in Taipei

Use of incense in religion is prevalent in many cultures and may have their roots in the practical and aesthetic uses considering that many religions with not much else in common all use incense. One common motif is incense as a form of sacrificial offering to a deity, for example, Chinese jingxiang (敬香 "offer incense [to ancestors/gods]).

Incense and health

Incense smoke contains various contaminants including gaseous pollutants, such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) [4–8], and absorbed toxic pollutants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and toxic metals). The solid particles range between ~10 and 500 nm. The emission rate decreases in the row Indian sandalwood > Japanese aloeswood > Taiwanese aloeswood > smokeless sandalwood.[16] There is no question that those contaminants are carcinogenic and can cause respiratory diseases, but the risk of those depends on the exposure.

Research carried out in Taiwan in 2001 linked the burning of incense sticks to the slow accumulation of potential carcinogens in a poorly ventilated environment by measuring the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (including benzopyrene) within Buddhist temples. The study found gaseous aliphatic aldehydes, which are carcinogenic and mutagenic, in incense smoke.[17]

A survey of risk factors for lung cancer, also conducted in Taiwan, noted an inverse association between incense burning and adenocarcinoma of the lung, though the finding was not deemed significant.[18]

In contrast, a study by several Asian Cancer Research Centers showed: "No association was found between exposure to incense burning and respiratory symptoms like chronic cough, chronic sputum, chronic bronchitis, runny nose, wheezing, asthma, allergic rhinitis, or pneumonia among the three populations studied: i.e. primary school children, their non-smoking mothers, or a group of older non-smoking female controls. Incense burning did not affect lung cancer risk among non-smokers, but it significantly reduced risk among smokers, even after adjusting for lifetime smoking amount." However, the researchers qualified the findings by noting that incense burning in the studied population was associated with certain low-cancer-risk dietary habits, and concluded that "diet can be a significant confounder of epidemiological studies on air pollution and respiratory health."[19]

Frankincense has been shown to cause antidepressive behavior in mice. It activated the poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety and depression.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "The History of Incense". Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d David Oller. "Making Incense". 
  3. ^ Adrienne Borden and Steve Coyote. "The Smudging Ceremony". 
  4. ^ a b Mark Ambrose. "How to Make Incense". 
  5. ^ Taji Asjikaga. "Incense blending". 
  6. ^ Athonite style incense from the US, 
  7. ^ Incense, 
  8. ^ Making Incense, December 18, 2006, 
  9. ^ 台灣宏觀電視TMACTV 代代相傳 新港香藝文化, 
  10. ^ 製香過程, July 20, 2009, 
  11. ^ P. Morrisroe. Transcribed by Kevin Cawley.. "Catholic Encyclopedia". 
  12. ^ Japanese-Incense. "Buddhist Incense - Sonae ko". 
  13. ^ Bedini, Silvio A. (1963). "The Scent of Time. A Study of the Use of Fire and Incense for Time Measurement in Oriental Countries". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: American Philosophical Society) 53 (5). doi:10.2307/1005923. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  14. ^ Schafer, Edward H. (1963). The Golden Peaches of Samarkand, a Study of T'ang Exotics. University of California Press. p. 155.
  15. ^ Silvio A. Bedini. "Time Measurement With Incense in Japan". 
  16. ^ Siao Wei See et al. "Physical characteristics of nanoparticles emitted from incense smoke" Science and Technology of Advanced Materials 8 (2007) 25 free download
  17. ^ Lin, J M; L H Wang (1994-09). "Gaseous aliphatic aldehydes in Chinese incense smoke". Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 53 (3): 374-381. ISSN 0007-4861. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  18. ^ "National Institutes of Health". 
  19. ^ Linda C. Koo Cancer Research Laboratory, Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society, Hong Kong, et al.. "Is Chinese Incense Smoke Hazardous to Respiratory Health?". 
  20. ^ ""Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain", The FASEB Journal, 20 May, 2008.". 

Further reading

  • Silvio A. Bedini. (1994). "The Trail of Time : Time Measurement with Incense in East Asia". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37482-0

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

INCENSE, 'the perfume (fumigation) arising from certain resins and gum-resins, barks, woods, dried flowers, fruits and seeds, when burnt, and also the substances so burnt. In its literal meaning the word "incense" is one with the word "perfume," the aroma given off with the smoke (per fumum2) of any odoriferous substance when burnt. But, in use, while the meaning of the word "perfume" has been extended so as to include everything sweet in smell, from smoking incense to the invisible fresh fragrance of fruits and exquisite scent of flowers, that of the word "incense," in all the languages of modern Europe in which it occurs, has, by an opposite process of limitation, been gradually restricted almost exclusively to frankincense (see Frankincense). Frankincense has always been obtainable in Europe in greater quantity than any other of the aromatics imported from the East; it has therefore gradually come to be the only incense used in the religious rites and domestic fumigations of many countries of the West, and at last to be properly regarded as the only "true" or "genuine" (i.e. "franc") incense (see Littre's Fr. Diet. and Skeat's Etym. Dict. of Engl. Lang.).3 The following is probably an exhaustive list of the substances available for incense or perfume mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures: - Algum or almug wood (almug in I Kings X. II, 12; algum Incensum (or incensum thuris) from incendere; Ital. and Port. incenso; Span. incienso; Fr. encens. The substantive occurs in an inscription of the Arvalian brotherhood (Marini, Gli Atti e Monumenti de' fratelli Arvali, p. 639),but is frequent only in ecclesiastical Latin. Compare the classical suffimentum and suffitus from suffio. For "incense" Ulfila (Luke i. 10, 11) has retained the Greek Ovµiaµa (thymiama); all the Teutonic names (Ger. Weihrauch; Old Saxon Wirec; Icel. Reykelsi; Dan. Rogelse) seem to belong to the Christian period (Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, i. 50).

2 The etymological affinities of Obw, Obos, thus, fuffao, funus, and the Sans. dhuma are well known. See Max Mailer, Chips, i. 99.

3 Classical Latin has but one word (thus or tus) for all sorts of incense. Libanus, for frankincense, occurs only in the Vulgate. Even the "ground frankincense" or "ground pine" (Ajuga chamaepitys) was known to the Romans as Tus terrae (Pliny), although they called some plant, from its smelling like frankincense, Libanotis, and a kind of Thasian wine, also from its fragrance, Libanios. The Latino-barbaric word Olibanum (quasi Oleum Libani), the common name for frankincense in modern commerce, is used in a bull of Pope Benedict IX. (1033). It may here be remarked that the name "European frankincense" is applied to Pinus Taeda, and to the resinous exudation ("Burgundy pitch") of the Norwegian spruce firs (Abies excelsa). The "incense tree" of America is the Icica guianensis, and the "incense wood" of the same continent I. heptaphylla. in 2 Chron. ii. 8, and ix. 10, ii), generally identified with sandalwood (Santalum album), a native of Malabar and Malaya; aloes, or lign aloes (Heb. ahalim, ahaloth), produced by the Aloexylon Agallochum (Loureiro), a native of Cochin-China, and Aquilaria Agallocha (Roxburgh), a native of India beyond the Ganges; balm (Heb. tsori), the oleo-resin of Balsamodendron opobalsamum and B. gileadense; bdellium (Heb. bdolah), the resin produced by Balsamodendron roxburghii, B. Mukul and B. pubescens, all natives of Upper India (Lassen, however, identifies bdolah with musk); calamus (Heb. kaneh; sweet calamus, keneh bosem, Ex. xxx. 23; Ezek. xxvii. 19; sweet cane, kaneh hattob, Jer. vi. 20; Isa. xliii. 24), identified by Royle with the Andropogon Calamus aromaticus or roosa grass of India; cassia (Heb. kiddah) the Cinnamomum Cassia of China; cinnamon (Heb. kinnamon), the Cinnamomum zeylanicum of the Somali country, but cultivated largely in Ceylon, where also it runs wild, and in Java; costus (Heb. ketzioth), the root of the Aucklandia Costus (Falconer), native of Kashmir; frankincense (Heb. lebonah), the gum-resin of Boswellia Frereana and B. Bhau-Dajiana of the Somali country, and of B. Carterii of the Somali country and the opposite coast of Arabia (see "The Genus Boswellia" by Sir George Birdwood, Transactions of the Linnean Society, xxi. 1871); galbanum (Heb. helbenah), yielded by Opoidia galbanifera (Royle) of Khorassan, and Galbanum officinale (Don) of Syria and other Ferulas; ladanum (Heb. lot, translated "myrrh" in Gen. xxxvii. 25, xliii. i i), the resinous exudation of Cistus creticus, C. ladaniferus and other species of "rock rose" or "rose of Sharon"; myrrh (Heb. Tar), the gum-resin of the Balsamodendron Myrrha of the Somali country and opposite shore of Arabia; onycha (Heb. shelheleth), the celebrated odoriferous shell of the ancients, the operculum or "nail" of a species of Strombus or "wing shell," formerly well known in Europe under the name of Blatta byzantina; it is still imported into Bombay to burn with frankincense and other incense to bring out their odours more strongly; saffron (Heb. karkom), the stigmata of Crocus sativus, a native originally of Kashmir; spikenard (Heb. nerd), the root of the Nardostachys Jatamansi of Nepal and Bhutan; stacte (Heb. nataf), generally referred to the Styrax officinalis of the Levant, but Hanbury has shown that no stacte or storax is now derived from S. officinalis, and that all that is found in modern commerce is the product of the Liquidambar orientalis of Cyprus and Anatolia.

Besides these aromatic substances named in the Bible, the following must also be enumerated on account of their common use as incense in the East; benzoin or gum benjamin, first mentioned among Western writers by Ibn Batuta (1325-1349) under the name of lubdn d'Javi (i.e. olibanum of Java), corrupted in the parlance of Europe into benjamin and benzoin; camphor, produced by Cinnamomum Camphora, the "camphor laurel" of China and Japan, and by Dryobalanops aromatica, a native of the Indian Archipelago, and widely used as incense throughout the East, particularly in China; elemi, the resin of an unknown tree of the Philippine Islands, the elemi of old writers being the resin of Boswellia Frereana; gumdragon or dragon's blood, obtained from Calamus Draco, one of the ratan palms of the Indian Archipelago, Dracaena Draco, a liliaceous plant of the Canary Island, and Pterocarpus Draco, a leguminous tree of the island of Socotra; rose-malloes, a corruption of the Javanese rasamala, or liquid storax, the resinous exudation of Liquidambar Altingia, a native of the Indian Archipelago (an American Liquidambar also produces a rose-malloes-like exudation); star anise, the starlike fruit of the Illicum anisatum of Yunan and south-western China, burnt as incense in the temples of Japan; sweet flag, the root of Acorus Calamus, the bath of the Hindus, much used for incense in India. An aromatic earth, found on the coast of Cutch, is used as incense in the temples of western India. The animal excreta, musk and civet, also enter into the composition of modern European pastils and clous fumants. Balsam of Tolu, produced by Myroxylon toluiferum, a native of Venezuela and New Granada; balsam of Peru, derived from Myroxylon Pereirae, a native of San Salvador in Central America; Mexican and Brazilian elemi, produced by various species of Icica or "incense trees," and the liquid exudation of an American species of Liquidambar, are all used as incense in America. Hanbury quotes a faculty granted by Pope Pius V. (August 2, 1571) to the bishops of the West Indies permitting the substitution of balsam of Peru for the balsam of the East in the preparation of the chrism to be used by the Catholic Church in America. The Sangre del drago of the Mexicans is a resin resembling dragon's blood obtained from a euphorbiaceous tree, Croton Draco. Probably nowhere can the actual historical progress from the primitive use of animal sacrifices to the later refinement of burning incense be more clearly traced than in the pages of the Old Testament, where no mention of the latter rite occurs before the period of the Mosaic legislation; but in the monuments of ancient Egypt the authentic traces of the use of incense that still exist carry us back to a much earlier date. From Meroe to Memphis the commonest subject carved or painted in the interiors of the temples is that of some contemporary Phrah or Pharaoh worshipping the presiding deity with oblations of gold and silver vessels, rich vestments, gems, the firstlings of the flock and herd, cakes, fruits, flowers, wine, anointing oil and incense. Generally he holds in one hand the censer, and with the other casts the pastils or osselets of incense into it: sometimes he offers incense in one hand and makes the libation of wine with the other. One of the best known of these representations is that carved on the memorial stone placed by Tethmosis (Thothmes) IV. (1533 B.C.) on the breast of the Sphinx at Gizeh.l The tablet represents Tethmosis before his guardian deity, the sun-god Re, pouring a libation of wine on one side and offering incense on the other. The ancient Egyptians used various substances as incense. They worshipped Re at sunrise with resin, at mid-day with myrrh and at sunset with an elaborate confection called kuphi, compounded of no fewer than sixteen ingredients, among which were honey, wine, raisins, resin, myrrh and sweet calamus. While it was being mixed, holy writings were read to those engaged in the operation. According to Plutarch, apart from its mystic virtues arising from the magical combination of 4 X 4, its sweet odour had a benign physiological effect on those who offered it.' The censer used was a hemispherical cup or bowl of bronze, supported by a long handle, fashioned at one end like an open hand, in which the bowl was, as it were, held, while the other end within which the pastils of incense were kept was shaped into the hawk's head crowned with a disk, as the symbol of Re.' In embalming their dead the Egyptians filled the cavity of the belly with every sort of spicery except frankincense (Herod. ii. 86), for it was regarded as specially consecrated to the worship of the gods. In the burntofferings of male kine to Isis, the carcase of the steer, after evisceration, was filled with fine bread, honey, raisins, figs, frankincense, myrrh and other aromatics, and thus stuffed was roasted, being basted all the while by pouring over it large quantities of sweet oil, and then eaten with great festivity.

How important the consumption of frankincense in the worship of the gods became in Egypt is shown by two of its monuments, both of the greatest interest and value for the light they throw on the early history of the commerce of the Indian Ocean. One is an inscription in the rocky valley of Hammamat, through which the desert road from the Red Sea to the valley of Egypt opens on the green fields and palm groves of the river Nile near Coptos.. It was cut on the rocks by an Egyptian nobleman named Hannu, who states that he was sent by Pharaoh Sankhkere, Menthotp IV., with a force gathered out of the Thebaid, from Coptos to the Red Sea, there to take command of a naval expedition to the Holy Land of Punt (Puoni), "to bring back odoriferous gums." Punt is identified with the Somali country, now known to be the native country of the trees that yield the bulk of the frankincense of commerce. The other bears the record of a second expedition to the same land of Punt, undertaken by command of Queen Hatshepsut, 1600 B.C. It is preserved in the vividly chiselled and richly coloured decorations portraying the history of the reign of this famous Pharaoh on the walls of the "Stage Temple" at Thebes. The temple is now in ruins, but the entire series of gorgeous pictures recording the expedition to "the balsam land of Punt," from its leaving to its returning to Thebes, still remains intact and undefaced.4 These are the only authenticated instances of the export of incense trees from the Somali country until Colonel Playfair, then political agent at Aden, in 1862-1864, collected and sent to Bombay the specimens from which Sir George Birdwood prepared his descriptions of them for the Linnean Society in 1868. King Antigonus is said to have had a branch of the true frankincense tree sent to him.

Homer tells us that the Egyptians of his time were emphatically a nation of druggists (Od. iv. 229, 230). This characteristic, in which, as in many others, they so remarkably resemble the 1 Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs, i. 77-81, 414-419.

2 Plutarch, De Iside et Osiride, c. 52. In Parthey's edition (Berlin, 1850) other recipes for the manufacture of kuphi, by Galen and Dioscorides, are given; also some results of the editor's own experiments.

3 Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, i. 493; ii. 49, 398-400, 414-416.

4 Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs, i. 303-312.

Hindus, the Egyptians have maintained to the present day; and, although they have changed their religion, the use of incense among them continues to be as familiar and formal as ever. The kohl or black powder with which the modern, like the ancient, Egyptian ladies paint their languishing eyelids, is nothing but the smeeth of charred frankincense, or other odoriferous resin brought with frankincense, and phials of water, from the well of Zem-zem, by the pilgrims returning from Mecca. They also melt frankincense as a depilatory, and smear their hands with a paste into the composition of which frankincense enters, for the purpose of communicating to them an attractive perfume. Herodotus (iv. 75) describes a similar artifice as practised by the women of Scythia (compare also Judith x. 3, 4). In cold weather the Egyptians warm their rooms by placing in them a brazier, "chafing-dish," or "standing-dish," filled with charcoal, whereon incense is burnt; and in hot weather they refresh them by occasionally swinging a hand censer by a chain through them - frankincense, benzoin and aloe wood being. chiefly used for the purpose.' In the authorized version of the Bible, the word "incense" translates two wholly distinct Hebrew words. In various passages in the latter portion of Isaiah (x1. - lxvi.), in Jeremiah and in Chronicles, it represents the Hebrew lebonah, more usually rendered "frankincense"; elsewhere the original word is ketoreth (Ex. xxx. 8, 9; Lev. x. 1; Num. vii. 14, &c.), a derivative of the verb hitter (Pi.) or hiktir (Hiph.), which verb is used, not only in Ex. xxx. 7, but also in Lev. i. 9, iii. 11, ix. 13, and many other passages, to denote the process by which the "savour of satisfaction" in any burnt-offering, whether of flesh or of incense, is produced. Sometimes in the authorized version (as in 1 Kings iii. 3; 1 Sam. ii. 28) it is made to mean explicitly the burning of incense with only doubtful propriety. The expression "incense (ketoreth) of rams" in Ps. lxvi. 15 and the allusion in Ps. cxli. 2 ought both to be understood, most probably, of ordinary burnt-offerings. 2 The "incense" (ketoreth), or "incense of sweet scents" (ketoreth sammim), called, in Ex. xxx. 35, "a confection after the art of the apothecary," or rather "a perfume after the art of the perfumer," which was to be regarded as most holy, and the imitation of which was prohibited under the severest penalties, was compounded of four "sweet scents" (sammim),3 namely stacte (nataph), onycha (sheheleth), galbanum (helbenah) and "pure" or "fine" frankincense (lebonah zaccah), pounded together in equal proportions, with (perhaps) an admixture of salt (memullah). 4 It was then to be "put before the testimony" in the "tent of meeting." It was burnt on the altar of incense by the priest every morning when the lamps were trimmed in the Holy Place, and every evening when they were lighted or "set up" (Ex. xxx. 7, 8). A handful of it was also burnt once a year in the Holy of Holies by the high priest on a pan of burning coals taken from the altar of burnt-offering (Lev. xvi. 12, 13). Pure frankincense (lebonah) formed part of the meat-offering (Lev. ii. 16, vi. 15), and was also presented along with the shew bread (Lev. xxiv. 7) every Sabbath day (probably on two golden saucers; see Jos. Ant. iii. 10, 7). The religious significance of the use of incense, or at least of its use in the Holy of Holies, is distinctly set forth in Lev. xvi. 12, 13.

The Jews were also in the habit of using odoriferous substances in connexion with the funeral obsequies of distinguished persons (see 2 Chron. xvi. 14, xxi. 19; Jer. xxxiv. 5). In Amos vi. 10 "he that burneth him" probably means "he that burns perfumes in his honour." References to the domestic use of incense occur in Cant. iii. 6; Prov. xxvii. 9; cf. vii. 17.

The "marbles" of Nineveh furnish frequent examples of the offering of incense to the sun-god and his consort (2 Kings ' See Lane, Mod. Egyptians, pp. 34, 41, 1 39, 187, 438 (ed. 1860).

I See Wellhausen, Gesch. Israels, i. 70 sqq., who from philological and other data infers the late date of the introduction of incense into the Jewish ritual.

3 According to Philo (Opera, i. 504, ed. Mangey), they symbolized respectively water, earth, air and fire.

Other accounts of its composition, drawn from Rabbinical sources, will be found in various works on Jewish antiquities; see, for example, Reland, Sacr. vet. Hebr. pp. 39-41 (1712).

xxiii. 5). The kings of Assyria united in themselves the royal and priestly offices, and on the monuments they erected they are generally represented as offering incense and pouring out wine to the Tree of Life. They probably carried the incense in the sacred bag so frequently seen in their hands and in those also of the common priests. According to Herodotus (i. 183), frankincense to the amount of 1000 talents' weight was offered every year, during the feast of Bel, on the great altar of his temple in Babylon.

The monuments of Persepolis and the coins of the Sassanians show that the religious use of incense was as common in ancient Persia as in Babylonia and Assyria. Five times a day the priests of the Persians (Zoroastrians) burnt incense on their sacred fire altars. In the Avesta (Vendidad, Fargard xix. 24, 40), the incense they used is named vohu gaono. It has been identified with benzoin, but was probably frankincense. Herodotus (iii. 97) states that the Arabs brought every year to Darius as tribute woo talents of frankincense. The Parsees still preserve in western India the pure tradition of the ritual of incense as followed by their race from probably the most ancient times.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata afford evidence of the employment of incense by the Hindus, in the worship of the gods and the burning of the dead, from the remotest antiquity. Its use was obviously continued by the Buddhists during the prevalence of their religion in India, for it is still used by them in Nepal, Tibet, Ceylon, Burma, China and Japan. These countries all received Buddhism from India, and a large proportion of the porcelain and earthenware articles imported from China and Japan into Europe consists of innumerable forms of censers. The Jains all over India burn sticks of incense before their Jina. The commonest incense in ancient India was probably frankincense. The Indian frankincense tree, Boswellia thurifera, Colebrooke (which certainly includes glabra, Roxburgh), is a doubtful native of India. It is found chiefly where the Buddhist religion prevailed in ancient times, in Bihar and along the foot of the Himalayas and in western India, where it particularly flourishes in the neighbourhood of the Buddhist caves at Ajanta. It is quite possible therefore that, in the course of their widely extended commerce during the one thousand years of their ascendancy, the Buddhists imported the true frankincense trees from Africa and Arabia into India, and that the accepted Indian species are merely varieties of them. Now, however, the incense in commonest use in India is benzoin. But the consumption of all manner of odoriferous resins, gum resins, roots, woods, dried leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds in India, in social as well as religious observances, is enormous. The grateful perfumed powder abir or rand y is composed either of rice, flour, mango bark or deodar wood, camphor and aniseed, or of sandalwood or wood aloes, and zerumbet, zedoary, rose flowers, camphor and civet. The incense sticks and pastils known all over India under the names of ud-buti (" benzoin-light") or aggar-ki-buti (" wood aloes light") are composed of benzoin, wood aloes, sandalwood, rock lichen, patchouli, rose-malloes, talispat (the leaf of Flacourtia Cataphracta of Roxburgh), mastic and sugar-candy or gum. The abir and aggir butis made at the Mahommedan city of Bijapur in the Mahratta country are celebrated all over western India. The Indian Mussulmans indeed were rapidly degenerating into a mere sect of Hindus before the Wahabi revival, and the more recent political propaganda in support of the false caliphate of the sultans of Turkey; and we therefore find the religious use of incense among them more general than among the Mahommedans of any other country. They use it at the ceremonies of circumcision, bismillah (teaching the child "the name of God"); virginity and marriage. At marriage they burn benzoin with nim seeds (Melia Azadirachta, Roxburgh) to keep off evil spirits, and prepare the bride-cakes by putting a quantity of benzoin between layers of wheaten dough, closed all round, and frying them in clarified butter. For days the bride is fed on little else. In their funeral ceremonies, the moment the spirit has fled incense is burnt before the corpse until it is carried out to be buried. The begging fakirs also go about with a lighted stick of incense in one hand, and holding out with the other an incense-holder (literally, "incense chariot"), into which the coins of the pious are thrown. Large "incense trees" resembling our Christmas trees, formed of incense-sticks and pastils and osselets, and alight all over, are borne by the Shiah Mussulmans in the solennial procession of the Mohurrum, in commemoration of the martyrdom of the sons of Ali. The worship of the tulsi plant, or holy basil (Ocymum sanctum, Don), by the Hindus is popularly explained by its consecration to Vishnu and Krishna. It grows on the four-horned altar before the house, or in a pot placed in one of the front windows, and is worshipped every morning by all the female members of every Hindu household. It is possible that its adoration has survived from the times when the Hindus buried their dead in their houses, beneath the family hearth. When they came into a hot climate the fire of the sacrifices and domestic cookery was removed out of the house; but the dead were probably still for a while buried in or near it, and the tulsi was planted over their graves, at once for the salubrious fragrance it diffuses and to represent the burning of incense on the altar of the family Lar. The rich land round about the holy city of Pandharpur, sacred to Vithoba the national Mahratta form of (Krishna)- Vishnu, is wholly restricted to the cultivation of the tulsi plant.

As to the 6bea mentioned in Homer (Il. ix. 499, and elsewhere) and in Hesiod (Works and Days, 338), there is some uncertainty whether they were incense offerings at all, and if so, whether they were ever offered alone, and not always in conjunction with animal sacrifices. That the domestic use, however, of the fragrant wood 660v (the Arbor vitae or Callitris quadrivalvis of botanists, the source of the resin sandarach) was known in the Homeric age, is shown by the case of Calypso (Od. v. 60), and the very similarity of the word 660v to Kos may be taken as almost conclusively proving that by that time the same wood was also employed for religious purposes. It is not probable that the sweet-smelling gums and resins of the countries of the Indian Ocean began to be introduced into Greece before the 8th or 7th century B.C., and doubtless XiOavos or X q /3avw-rOs first became an article of extensive commerce only after the Mediterranean trade with the East had been opened up by the Egyptian king Psammetichus (c. 664-610 B.C.). The new Oriental word is frequently employed by Herodotus; and there are abundant references to the use of the thing among the writers of the golden age of Attic literature (see, for example, Aristophanes, Plut. 1114; Frogs, 871, 888; Clouds, 426; Wasps, 9 6, 861). Frankincense, however, though the most common, never became the only kind of incense offered to the gods among the Greeks. Thus the Orphic hymns are careful to specify, in connexion with the several deities celebrated, a great variety of substances appropriate to the service of each; in the case of many of these the selection seems to have been determined not at all by their fragrance but by some occult considerations which it is now difficult to divine.

Among the Romans the use of religious fumigations long preceded the introduction of foreign substances for the purpose (see, for example, Ovid, Fast. i. 337 seq., "Et non exiguo laurus adusta sono"). Latterly the use of frankincense ("mascula thura," Virg. Ed. viii. 65) became very prevalent, not only in religious ceremonials, but also on various state occasions, such as in triumphs (Ovid, Trist. iv. 2, 4), and also in connexion with certain occurrences of domestic life. In private it was daily offered by the devout to the Lar familiaris (Plaut. Aulul. prol. 2 3); and in public sacrifices it was not only sprinkled on the head of the victim by the pontifex before its slaughter, and afterwards mingled with its blood, but was also thrown upon the flames over which it was roasted.

No perfectly satisfactory traces can be found of the use of incense in the ritual of the Christian Church during the first four centuries.' It obviously was not contemplated by the 1 This guarded statement still holds good. Compare Duchesne, Christian Worship (Eng. trans., 1904), ch. ii., "The Mass in the East," v. "The Books of the Latin Rite," and xii. "The Dedication of Churches." author of the epistle to the Hebrews; its use was foreign to the synagogue services on which, and not on those of the temple, the worship of the primitive Christians is well known to have been originally modelled; and its associations with heathen solemnities, and with the evil repute of those who were known as "thurificati," would still further militate against its employment. Various authors of the ante-Nicene period have expressed themselves as distinctly unfavourable to its religious, though not of course to its domestic, use. Thus Tertullian, while (De Cor. Mil. 10) ready to acknowledge its utility in counteracting unpleasant smells ("si me odor alicujus loci offenderit, Arabiae aliquid incendo"), is careful to say that he scorns to offer it as an accompaniment to his heartfelt prayers (Apol. 30; cf. 42). Athenagoras also (Legat. 13) gives distinct expression to his sense of the needlessness of any such ritual ("the Creator and Father of the universe does not require blood, nor smoke, nor even the sweet smell of flowers and incense"); and Arnobius (Adv. Gent. vii. 26) seeks to justify the Christian neglect of it by the fact, for which he vouches, that among the Romans themselves incense was unknown in the time of Numa, while the Etruscans had always continued to be strangers to it. Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine and the Apostolic Constitutions make no reference to any such feature either in the public or private worship of the Christians of that time. The earliest mention, it would seem, occurs in the Apostolic Canons (can. 3), where the OvjAa,ua is spoken of as one of the requisites of the eucharistic service. It is easy to perceive how it should inevitably have come in along with the whole circle of ideas involved in such words as "temple," "altar," "priest," which about this time came to be so generally applied in ecclesiastical connexions. Evagrius (vi. 21) mentions the gift of a Ouµaari pcov by the contemporary Chosroes of Persia to the church of Jerusalem; and all the Oriental liturgies of this period provide special prayers for the thurification of the eucharistic elements. The oldest Ordo Romanus, which perhaps takes us back to within a century of Gregory the Great, enjoins that in pontifical masses a subdeacon, with a golden censer, shall go before the bishop as he leaves the secretarium for the choir, and two, with censers, before the deacon gospeller as he proceeds with the gospel to the ambo. And less than two centuries afterwards we read an order in one of the capitularies of Hincmar of Reims, to the effect that every priest ought to be provided with a censer and incense. That in this portion of their ritual, however, the Christians of that period were not universally conscious of its direct descent from Mosaic institutions may be inferred perhaps from the "benediction of the incense" used in the days of Charlemagne, which runs as follows: "May the Lord bless this incense to the extinction of every noxious smell, and kindle it to the odour of its sweetness." Even Thomas Aquinas (p. iii. qu. 83, art. 5) gives prominence to this idea.

The character and order of these historical notices of incense would certainly, were there nothing else to be considered, justify the conclusion hitherto generally adopted, that its use was wholly unknown in the worship of the Christian Church before the 5th century. On the other hand, we know that in the first Christian services held in the catacombs under the city of Rome, incense was burnt as a sanitary fumigation at least. Tertullian also distinctly alludes to the use of aromatics in Christian burial: "the Sabaeans will testify that more of their merchandise, and that more costly, is lavished on the burial of Christians, than in burning incense to the gods." And the whole argument from analogy is in favour of the presumption of the ceremonial use of incense by the Christians from the first. It is natural that little should be said of so obvious a practice until the fuller development of ritual in a later age. The slighting references to it by the Christian fathers are no more an argument against its existence in the primitive church than the similar denunciations by the Jewish prophets of burnt-offerings and sacrifices are any proof that there were no such rites as the offering of incense, and of the blood of bulls and fat of rams, in the worship of the temple at Jerusalem. There could be no real offence to Christians in the burning of incense. Malachi (i. 11) had already foretold the time when among the Gentiles, in every place, incense should be offered to God. Gold, with myrrh and frankincense were offered by the Persian Magi to the infant Jesus at his birth; and in Revelation viii. 3, 4, the image of the offering of incense with the prayers of the saints, before the throne of God, is not without its significance. If also the passage in Ambrose of Milan (on Luke i. i 1), where he speaks of "us" as "adolentes altaria" is to be translated "incensing the altars," and taken literally, it is a testimony to the use of incense by the Christian Church in, at least, the 4th century. But the earliest express mention of the censing of the altar by Christian priests is in "the works," first quoted in the 6th century, attributed to "Dionysius the Areopagite," the contemporary of St Paul (Acts xvii. 34).

The Missal of the Roman Church now enjoins incensation before the introit, at the gospel and again at the offertory, and at the elevation, in every high mass; the use of incense also occurs at the exposition of the sacrament, at consecrations of churches and the like, in processions, in the office for the burial of the dead and at the exhibition of relics. On high festivals the altar is censed at vespers and lauds.

In the Church of England the use of incense was gradually abandoned after the reign of Edward VI., until the ritualistic revival of the present day. Its use, however, has never been abolished by law. A "Form for the Consecration of a Censer" occurs in Sancroft's Form of Dedication and Consecration of a Church or Chapel (1685). In various works of reference (as, for example, in Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vol. viii. p. 11) numerous sporadic cases are mentioned in which incense appears to have been burnt in churches; the evidence, however, does not go so far as to show that it was used during divine service, least of all that it was used during the communion office. At the coronation of George III., one of the king's grooms appeared "in a scarlet dress, holding a perfuming pan, burning perfumes, as at previous coronations." In 1899, on the appeal of the Rev. H. Westall, St Cuthbert's, London, and the Rev. E. Ram, St John's, Norwich, against the use of incense in the Church of England, the archbishops of Canterbury (Dr Temple) and York (Dr Maclagan) supported the appeal. Their decision was reviewed by Chancellor L. T. Dibdin in the 10th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the exposition given by Sir Lewis Dibdin of the whole question of the use of incense in the Church of England may here be interpolated. (G. B.) Incense in the Church of England. - Mr Scudamore (Notitia Eucharistica, 2nd ed. pp. 141-142) thus describes the method and extent of the employment of incense at the mass prior to the Reformation: "According to the use of Sarum (and Bangor) the priest, after being himself censed by the deacon, censed the altar before the Introit began. The York rubric directed him to do it immediately after the first saying of the Introit, which in England was thrice said. The Hereford missal gives no direction for censing the altar at that time. The middle of the altar was censed, according to Sarum, Bangor and Hereford, before the reading of the Gospel. According to Sarum and Bangor, the thurible, as well as the lights, attended the Gospel to the lectern. Perhaps the York rubric implies that this was done when it orders (which the others do not) the thurible to be carried round the choir with the Gospel while the Creed was being sung. In the Sarum and Bangor, the priest censed the oblations after offering them; then the space between himself and the altar. He was then, at Sarum, censed by the deacon, and an acolyte censed the choir; at Bangor the Sinistrum Cornu of the altar and the relics were censed instead. York and Hereford ordered no censing at the offertory. There is reason to think that, notwithstanding the order for the use of incense at every celebration, it was in practice burnt only on high festivals, and then only in rich churches, down to the period of the Reformation. In most parishes its costliness alone would preclude its daily use, while the want of an assistant minister would be a very common reason for omitting the rite almost everywhere. Incense was not burnt in private masses, so that the clergy were accustomed to celebrations without it, and would naturally forego it on any plausible ground." The ritual of the mass remained unchanged until the death of Henry VIII. (Jan. 28, 1547). In March 1548 the Order of the Communion was published and commanded to be used by royal proclamation in the name of Edward VI. It was the precursor of the Prayer Book, and supplemented the accustomed Latin service by additions in English to provide for the communion of the people in both kinds. But it was expressly st'.ced in a rubric that the old service of the mass was to proceed without variation of any rite or ceremony until after the priest had received the sacrament, that is, until long after the last of the three occasions for the use of incense explained above. But on Whitsunday 1549 the first Prayer Book of Edward VI. came into use under an Act of Parliament (2 and 3 Ed. VI. ch. 1, the first Act of Uniformity) which required its exclusive use in public worship so as to supersede all other forms of service. Another Act, 3 and 4 Ed. VI. ch. 10, required the old service books to be delivered up to be destroyed. The first Prayer Book does not contain any direction to use or any mention of incense. It has been and still is a keenly controverted question whether incense did or did not continue to be in ceremonial use under the first Prayer Book or during the rest of Edward VI.'s reign. No evidence has hitherto been discovered which justifies us in answering this question in the affirmative. The second Prayer Book of Edward VI. (1552), published under the authority of the second Act of Uniformity (5 and 6 Ed. VI. ch. 1), contains no reference to incense. Edward VI. died on the 6th July 1 553. Queen Mary by statute (1 Mary, sess. 2, ch. 2) abolished the Prayer Book, repealed the Acts of Uniformity and restored "divine service and administration of sacraments as were most commonly used in England in the last year of Henry VIII." The ceremonial use of incense thus became again an undoubted part of the communion service in the Church of England. A proclamation issued (December 6, 1553) directed the churchwardens to obtain the proper ornaments for the churches; and the bishops (at any rate Bishop Bonner, see Visitation Articles 1 554, Cardwell's Doc. Ann. i. 149-153) in their visitations inquired whether censers had been furnished for use. Mary died on the 17th of November 1558. On the 24th of June 1559 the second Prayer Book of Edward VI. (with a few alterations having no reference to incense) was again established, under the authority of the third Act of Uniformity (1 Eliz. ch. 2), as the exclusive service book for public service. There is no evidence of the ceremonial use of incense under Elizabeth's Prayer Book, or under the present Prayer Book of 1662 (established by the fourth Act of Uniformity, 13 and 14 Charles II. ch. 4) until the middle of the 19th century; and there is no doubt that as a ceremony of divine worship, whether at the Holy Communion or at other services, it was entirely disused. There are, however, a good many instances recorded of what has been called a fumigatory use of frankincense in churches, by which it was sought to purify the air, in times of public sickness, or to dispel the foulness caused by large congregations, or poisonous gases arising from ill-constructed vaults under the church floor. It seems also to have been used for the purpose of creating an agreeable perfume on great occasions, e.g. the great ecclesiastical feasts. But this use of incense must be carefully distinguished from its ceremonial use. It was utilitarian and not symbolical, and from the nature of the purpose in view must have taken place before, rather than during, service. Of the same character is the use of incense carried in a perfuming pan before the sovereign at his coronation in the procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey. This observance was maintained from James II.'s coronation to that of George III. In the general revival of church ceremonial which accompanied and followed the Oxford Movement incense was not forgotten, and its ceremonial use in the pre-Reformation method has been adopted in a few extreme churches since 1850. Its use has been condemned as an illegal ceremony by the ecclesiastical courts. In 1868 Sir Robert Phillimore (Dean of the Arches) pronounced the ceremonial use of incense to be illegal in the suit of Martin v. Mackonochie (2 A. and E. L.R. 116). The case was carried to the Privy Council on appeal, but there was no appeal on the question of incense. Again, in 1870, the ceremonial use of incense was condemned by Sir Robert Phillimore in the suit of Sumner v. Wix (3 A. and E. L.R. 58).

Notwithstanding these decisions, it was insisted by those who defended the revival of the ceremonial use of incense that it was a legal custom of the Church of England. The question was once more elaborately argued in May 1899 before an informal tribunal consisting of the archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Temple) and the archbishop of York (Dr. Maclagan), at Lambeth Palace. On the 31st of July 1899 the archbishops decided that the liturgical use of incense was illegal. The Lambeth "opinion," as it was called, failed to convince the clergy against whom it was directed any better than the judgments of the ecclesiastical courts, but at first a considerable degree of obedience to the archbishops' view was shown. Various expedients were adopted, as, e.g., the use of incense just before the beginning of service, by which it was sought to retain incense without infringing the law as laid down by the archbishops. There remained, nevertheless, a tendency on the part of the clergy who used incense, or desired to do so, to revert to the position they occupied before the Lambeth hearing - that is, to insist on the ceremonial use of incense as a part of the Catholic practice of the Church of England which it is the duty of the clergy to maintain, notwithstanding the decisions of ecclesiastical judges or the opinions or archbishops to the contrary. (L. T. D.) Manufacture. - For the manufacture of the incense now used in the Christian churches of Europe there is no fixed rule. The books of ritual are agreed that Ex. xxx. 34 should be taken as a guide as much as possible. It is recommended that frankincense should enter as largely as possible into its composition, and that if inferior materials be employed at all they should not be allowed to preponderate. In Rome olibanum alone is employed; in other places benzoin, storax, lign, aloes, cascarilla bark, cinnamon, cloves and musk are all said to be occasionally used. In the Russian Church, benzoin is chiefly employed. The Armenian liturgy, in its benediction of the incense, speaks of "this perfume prepared from myrrh and cinnamon." The preparation of pastils of incense has probably come down in a continuous tradition from ancient Egypt, Babylonia and Phoenicia. Cyprus was for centuries famous for their manufacture, and they were still known in the middle ages by the names of pastils or osselets of Cyprus.

Maimonides, in his More Nevochim, states that the use of intense in the worship of the Jews originated as a corrective of the disagreeable odours arising from the slaughter and burning of the animals offered in sacrifice. There can be no doubt that its use throughout the East is based on sanitary considerations; and in Europe even, in the time when the dead were buried in the churches, it was recognized that the burning of incense served essentially to preserve their salubrity. But evidently the idea that the odour of a burnt-offering (cf. the «vlo-ns ?Sus aiir d of Odyss. xii. 369) is grateful to the deity, being indeed the most essential part of the sacrifice, or at least the vehicle by which alone it can successfully be conveyed to its destination, is also a very early one, if not absolutely primitive; and survivals of it are possibly to be met with even among the most highly cultured peoples where the purely symbolical nature of all religious ritual is most clearly understood and maintained. Some such idea plainly underlies the familiar phrase "a sweet savour," more literally "a savour of satisfaction," whereby an acceptable offering by fire is so often denoted in the Bible (Gen. viii. 21; Lev. i. 9, et passim; cf. Eph. v. 2). It is easy to imagine how, as men grew in sensuous appreciation of pleasant perfumes, and in empirical knowledge of the sources from which these could be derived, this advance would naturally express itself, not only in their domestic habits, but also in the details of their religious ceremonial, so that the custom of adding some kind of incense to their animal sacrifices, and at length that of offering it pure and simple, would inevitably arise. Ultimately, with the development of the spiritual discernment of men, the "offering of incense" became a mere symbolical phrase for prayer (see Rev. v. 8, viii. 3, 4). Clement of Alexandria expresses this in his well-known words: "The true altar of incense is the just soul, and the perfume from it is holy prayer." (So also Origen, Cont. Gels. viii. 17, 20.) The ancients were familiar with the sanitary efficacy of fumigations. The energy with which Ulysses, after the slaughter of the suitors, calls to Euryclea for "fire and sulphur" to purge (literally "fumigate") the dininghall from the pollution of their blood (Od. xxii. 481, 482) would startle those who imagine that sanitation is a peculiarly modern science. There is not the slightest doubt that the censing of things and persons was first practised as an act of purification, and thus became symbolical of consecration, and finally of the sanctification of the soul. The Egyptians understood the use of incense as symbolical of the purification of the soul by prayer. Catholic writers generally treat it as typifying contrition, the preaching of the Gospel, the prayers of the faithful and the virtues of the saints. (G. B.)

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a fragrant composition prepared by the "art of the apothecary." It consisted of four ingredients "beaten small" (Ex 30:34-36). That which was not thus prepared was called "strange incense" (30:9). It was offered along with every meat-offering; and besides was daily offered on the golden altar in the holy place, and on the great day of atonement was burnt by the high priest in the holy of holies (30:7, 8). It was the symbol of prayer (Ps 1411,2; Rev 5:8; 8:3, 4).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Incense is a fuel that is burned to make a smell. It can be used for many purposes, for example, during rituals in some religions. Incense can be used to make a place smell better or to help improve mood.


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