|Olibanum in a small vessel I bought to drink cold plum wine|
The lemony, coniferous scent of incense rising from a censer, swinging from a chain was by far my favorite aspect of a catholic upbringing. Frankincense and myrrh are some of the most beautiful smells I've ever known.
People burn incense to honor those they love but who no longer roam the Earth. Some people burn incense as offerings, like prayers streaming upward to the heavens. Incense is burnt to create an air of sacredness; to create an otherworldliness. I burn incense because I love smells and because a good incense helps me focus in meditation.
I wonder if the Three Wise Men hailed from modern-day Oman, the source of some of the best frankincense (aka olibanum) - a gum resin derived from the boswellia tree. The excellent Tennendo incense makers in Japan offer sticks made from Omani frankincense. The scent is particularly citrus-sharp and slightly sweet. Not entirely unlike church incense yet not the same either.
|Frankincense incense by Tennendo|
I burn pure frankincense and myrrh (another tree-derived gum resin) on charcoals designed specifically for this purpose. The result is slightly overwhelming; large streams of smoke billow out, filling the room and scratching my throat. Ecclesiastical censers effectively scent the large cavernous spaces of cathedrals so I suppose secular, domestic incense appreciation requires an appropriate scale-back. I've learned to reserve the burning of gum resin to the terrace, allowing the scent to waft inside sporadically and surrounded by gusts of fresh air. I wonder if my neighbors smell the smoke. I wonder if Bethlehem of two thousand years ago smelled anything like Echo Park this afternoon.
|Avignon perfume and incense by Comme des Garcons|