Thursday, 16 September 2010

Incensed or uplifted?

Whatever your views on the Pope and Catholicism, there’s one thing that seems to unite people of all religions. In fact, believers and non-believers alike are joined in their universal love of incense.

Evidence suggests that incense was first used by the Egyptians. According to Wikipedia, “the gums and resins of aromatic trees were imported from the Arabian and Somali coasts to be used in religious ceremonies.”  The resin’s fumes were thought to signify a manifestation of the presence of gods.

Incense subsequently became prevalent in East Asian Buddhist ceremonies, and in Chinese Taoist and Japanese Shinto shrines. In Christian practice, especially in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Christian churches, the smoke from burning incense is a symbol of the prayer of the faithful rising to heaven. The origin of this practice probably comes from earlier Temple traditions in Judaism. Hindus and Muslims also use incense during their worship.

Fragranced incense is employed in Neo-Pagan rituals too, where magical properties are associated with specific botanical extracts.  Frankincense, for instance, is burned for purification, spirituality and is associated with the sun and masculine powers. Myrrh exudes spiritual qualities as well, but is also linked to healing, attraction and has feminine powers.

A couple of years ago, a report by international scientists in the FASEB Journal investigated the resin of the Boswellia tree, commonly known as frankincense, and discovered that it contains incensole acetate. Apparently, this substance lowers anxiety levels and has a naturally anti-depressant effect. The scientists’ work may well help us to understand diseases of the nervous system and to develop a new class of mood-lifting pharmaceuticals.

However, if you prefer to feel good the natural way, we’ve some uniquely aromatic, less overwhelming alternatives to joss-sticks at ShopCurious. From the finest quality Arabian incense to an exotic gold, frankincense and myrrh gift set (great for Christmas), these organic botanical products from Zarvis London will have you oohing and aahing in olfactory ecstasy.

Frankinsence has always been a prized commodity - enough of a curiosity to make an unusual gift for the newborn Messiah. But never mind the symbolic meaning, just inhale the divinely scented fumes and you’ll easily smell why the Pope is such a fan.

Will you?

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