We’ve been chattering about incense this week, but before we leave that interesting topic, and get back to our church crochet and summer gardens, one word about buying the best. Sometimes the complaints about incense use stem from the product being inferior, and leaving an acrid taste in the back of the throat and a lot of coughing. First, make sure the thurible is clean inside the burning chamber. Then get the best charcoal and make sure to leave the wafers or briquettes in the plastic trays in a dry place. Charcoal will absorb odors and humidity. I recommend this Char-Lite product which is available from most suppliers (Egan’s, Will & Baumer, Tally’s, Baker Brothers, etc.). There are 100 wafers per box-a bargain.
Incense has been around since B.C. days and comes in a lot of forms: powdered, nuggets, cones, sticks, Chinese coils,etc. Incense can be in pure form like sage or sandlewood or other plant extracts and barks, or made with a mixture of essential oils, gum arabic, resins, perfumes, and other components. Incense can be burned on charcoal or wood. Charcoal gives a steadier, even heat and is what is needed for the thurible. Incense comes with wonderful names like Priory, Jerusalem, Tsarina, Tudor Rose, Byzantine. The Greek Orthodox church makes exceptional, floral-scented incense. Holy Transfiguration has one called Royal Violet which is spectacular-and offers other “single note” florals such as rose (several varieties), jasmine, etc. and uses pure frankincense as its base. The incense is of a very pure and high quality. Have a look at this link. http://www.thehtm.org/catalog/index.php?cPath=38&osCsid=57561c60ee22b37e3c6501604e86152f
But my all-time favorite incense is made by English monks at Elmore Abbey and is called “Glastonbury”. It has a nice clean smell, is suitable all year ’round and is worth the trouble to obtain. The giftshop at Walsingham stocks it or you can get it at the Abbey Gift Shop at this link http://www.theabbeyshop.com/product_info.php?products_id=511
The monks at Elmore, sadly are but a few these days. Prinknash Abbey also produces very nice incense, among other products, and have produced some glorious music on CD with the nuns of Stanhope Abbey (more on this later). Stanhope Abbey was the inspiration for Rumer Godden’s novel In this House of Brede ( a must-read). I recently learned that Talacre Abbey has closed- lack of vocations to the cloistered life- very sad. The vestments and lace which came out of those convents must be seen to be believed. (More on convent lace later). So it is a great thing to buy incense from the abbeys and support these communities.
So, even if you usually “choke on the smoke”- please try Glastonbury and you will be pleasantly surprised. I was a Methodist (and you can bet there was no smoke on Sundays) for 44 years before being confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1995, and I became an incense devotee in about 2 weeks. So there is hope for those who fear the smoke!