Mix together and burn on charcoal tabs
I don’t feel like writing a poem,
Instead, I will light the incense-burning vessel
Filled with myrrh, jasmine and frankincense,
And the poem will grow in my heart
Like flowers in my garden.
~According to a student of Hafis (15th century A.D.)
Violet and Company took about a year off, maybe a little more, while I remade our webstore. Now it is finished and the happy time of writing on the blog is back. This week we will start a series looking at frankincense, one of my favorite resins.
Here is a fun frankincense fact-during the times of the Pharaohs, the ancient Greeks and the Romans, most people didn’t know where frankincense and myrrh came from. Many stories floated around such as they were guarded by winged serpents. These things were held in secret in order to allow the countries where the frankincense and myrrh trees grew to have a monopoly on the market, making the resin trade very lucrative for them.
Rizzi-Fischer, Susanne (1998) The Complete Incense Book. Sterling Publishing, New York.
Photo by Violet and Company Incense
Joy comes in many shapes and sizes every day. Sometimes it is just a delight in seeing a friend or hearing favorite music. Whatever brings you joy, do it and do it often. When you are happy and joyful, others are more inclined to be so too! Joy is a gift you give to yourself and to others around you…
Scent helps to bring joy and change perspective. Try taking an incense break or smelling a favorite perfume or essential oil. Keep a little bit of resin in your desk at work or your car and do some scent therapy whenever needed. It can really make a difference in your day!
Frankincense is a wonderful scent to use for meditation. It is calming and helps to focus. Frankincense is also great for studying, writing, creating a calm space and creating a peaceful atmosphere. There are many other uses for Frankincense, but if you are smoke sensitive or just prefer using different methods than incense and pure resins, consider essential oils! We have wonderful oil burners at Violet and Company Incense and you can easily get the benefits of Frankincense using essential oil, a little water and an oil burner. What a great way to enhance your mediation!
“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.”
― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Without rests, music would not be music, it would just be a continual stream of noise. Without quiet time, we would not be able to regroup and relax. Silence is a very important and sometimes lacking thing in our lives.
I recently had to visit San Francisco, and was overwhelmed by the noise, activity and busyness of the city. Everywhere I went there was a car running, a person talking, a bus stopping with a loud hiss of hydraulic brakes. At night, the BART blew its whistle every 15 minutes until midnight, when either it stopped or I fell asleep. When I got back to my home in a small town, I was thankful to sit down on my back porch and hear absolutely nothing but the beating of my heart and the soft padding of my cats paws as she walked across the deck. If you live in a city like San Francisco, there is always some sort of noise that breaks through and disturbs quiet moments. If you live with others there may always be someone asking a question or talking to you about something. No matter what your situation today, there is almost always something or someone who fills the quiet time with noise.
Sometimes we don’t realize how inundated we are by sound. It is nice, once in awhile, to just go into a quiet place where you can be alone, and sit. Think whatever thoughts there are to be thought, listen to your own breathing and the comforting beat of your heart. It is nice to burn a nice, subtle incense during these times. I prefer VIVA Mainichi-Koh by Nippon Kodo. Koh means Sandalwood and Mainichi means “everyday”. This is just a subtle, everyday scent that inspires relaxation and joy and is perfect for enjoying quiet times.
Cone, Resin and Powder
Incense can be found in many forms. It is most often seen as sticks or cones. Last blog we talked about stick and coil incense. This time I’d like to address cone, resin and powder incense.
Cone Incense: Cone incense is one of the most common forms of incense in the Western world. Cone incense is made of the same things that stick incense is made of: ground woods, gums, resins, herbs and aromatic oils. There is also a combustion agent added. Some use saltpeter, some use charcoal. Others use a natural substance called Makko, which comes from a tree. Because there is no wood core in cone incense, the chemical make up is a bit different than the stick incense, and there is no wood to mingle with the stick. For this reason, the smell of cone incense can be slightly different than the stick. If you are used to a stick incense and would like to try the same aroma in a cone form, be aware it may not be exactly the same experience you are used to.
Resin Incense: Resin incense is hardened sap from trees, bushes, shrubs.
It is one of the oldest and most natural forms of incense. Resin incense is what is called a “non-combustible” incense, meaning that you must put it on something that is burning in order for it to burn and release its aroma. Frankincense resin, Myrrh resin, Ylang Ylang as well as Rose resin all come from trees, shrubs and bushes. Resin is very hard and can be broken up to burn smaller pieces. Resins are not only used in meditation, resins are used by some in rituals. Different resins can have different meanings or purposes depending on which ritual is being performed.
powdered incense photo courtesy of Modern Dryad incense
Powder Incense: Powder incenses are simply either resins or incense materials such as roots, bark, flowers, etc. that have been ground into a powder (for example sandalwood powder). Some, such as the sandalwood powder and the many incense powders at Modern Dryad Incense, are also non-combustible and must be burnt on charcoal or another burning medium, such as Makko (see above).
There are some self-igniting incense powders that are pre-prepared. These include powders such as the Medicine Buddha Incense Powder, Dragon’s Blood and Come Hither Powder. Violet and Company doesn’t carry these, but you can find them on the internet. We at Violet and Company would recommend visiting Modern Dryad Incense to try some of their cones and powders.
This blog is by no means exhaustive and there is much more to be explained about the complex and ancient forms of incense. Hopefully, this is just a start and you will be able to learn more in the future.