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Where Did Incense Originate? [History & Symbolism Behind It]

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Written by: Tina Caro

Incense is widely used in witchcraft but is also used in our everyday life to cleanse our space, scent it a little bit but also create a relaxing atmosphere around us.

I bet you know that incense has ancient roots and origins, but do you know where it originated and how it is perceived in different cultures?

Knowing this is so important to truly get the mystic and esoteric power of incense, an easy, beginner-friendly tool to use to enhance your abilities to accept the blessings the universe has in store for you.

Without any further ado, let’s find out where incense originated from.


Incense has ancient origins, with its use traced back to several key regions and civilizations.

It was employed in ancient Egypt for religious rituals and offerings. Mesopotamians, including the Sumerians and Babylonians, also used incense in their religious practices.

China developed intricate incense-burning rituals and aromatic blends. In India, incense played a significant role in Hindu rituals and Ayurvedic healing.

Additionally, Greece, Rome, Arabia, and Japan all had their unique incense traditions, highlighting its universal appeal and diverse cultural significance.

What is incense?

Incense is the secreted product, oleoresin, from various plants that grow in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Horn of Africa; the bark is cut and the yellowish resin is collected. Tradition indicates a specific type of resin, that of Olibanum or Boswellia Sacra, but several varieties (B. Serrata, Frereana, Carteri, Papyrifera …) which, after drying, in ancient times, were burned in braziers. The resin is selected in different qualities, depending on the purity, color, and size of the grains and the environment in which the plants grow.

incense sticks by Tina Caro Magickal Spot
Copyright: Tina Caro

Today, incense is made into sticks, which when burned, produce aroma and which, in addition to resins, use aromatic woods, leaves, flowers, and berries.

Where did incense originate?

In the history of many populations, there is evidence of the use of scented barks and woods in religious ceremonies and in temples. This practice was likely done to ingratiate themselves with the Gods, but also in homes, in religious ceremonies.

It was the smoke that rose towards the sky, put in contact with the Hereafter. In the Bible and the Qur’an, there are references to its use as well as in many other ancient cultures.

The testimonies tell us of their use in Ayurvedic medicine, among the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Chinese, the American Indians, and let’s not forget the Incense Route, it was traded with spices and cities rose on the caravan routes for the importance of the flourishing trade. In ancient Egypt, a form of Kajal was prepared, combining the antiseptic qualities of makeup to prevent eye infections.

Periplous of the Erythreaen Sea map.

Incense is burned in Christian ceremonies. It was one of the gifts of the Magi to Jesus of Nazareth which, since ancient times, recalls the sacred effects of burning incense; the fumigation (use of fumes) of the resin, also linked to the cult of the Israelites, evokes introspection, mysticism, prayer, meditation and the encounter with the Divine.

Boswellia resin (frankincense / olibanum) was used to purify environments. This is one of the reasons for its use in churches, but also in funeral ceremonies, as it aids the release of the spiritual forces and accompanies the soul of the deceased in the world of the dead.

You can buy them on Etsy

Today, as then, incense is used in Ayurvedic medicine for the preparation of ointments against sores and skin rashes, in yoga, to promote meditation, in aromatherapy, to purify environments and for lung diseases as an antiseptic; in the West, in addition to its use in religious ceremonies, it is used in the pharmaceutical and perfume industries.

Incense fumigation is present in Traditional Chinese Medicine (moxa), in Indian medicine, in almost all spiritual and medical practices of the Eastern world, and among African and South American Shamans. From inhaling the perfume released and observing the smoke produced, emotions and thoughts are abandoned to enter the innermost spiritual world, made up of peace and encounter with the divine.

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The symbolism of fumigation and the use of incense

The symbolic value of incense is closely linked to purification and fumigation. Purification and fumigation in turn call the fire. Purification is inherent in creating an internal and external environment that favors a state of grace, that is, the possibility of turning to the highest component of our human being, the Spirit, and relating to the universal Divine Spirit.

The Spirit, this component of Fire of our being, is specific to man. It is what differentiates him from other living forms.

For this manifestation of the spiritual presence to be made possible, it is necessary that the corruptible aspects of the material world and of the emotional sphere, those that drag existence downwards and towards a state of disorder, agitation, conflict, mortality, are walked away.

Fumigation is the only means that allows this internal and external purification; a burning that promotes an ascent to heaven, a rise above the temporality and contingency of existence, contact with a universal dimension that overcomes both our attachment to the individual dimension and the temporal scanning of existence, once upon a time that stops.

Not any burning substance produces this state. The only one to which this quality is recognized is the Frankincense resin, it is the resin that must be placed in the censer and not the essential oil. It can be accompanied by other plants that share the same purifying qualities to strengthen their action.


Also read:
What Incense is Good for Studying? (& How To Do It)
What Incense is Good for Happiness? (& How To Do It)
What Incense is Good Against Anxiety? (& How To Do It)

For this, we find incense present in religious rites or otherwise used to promote the return to health, in the tradition of many populations. The state of health for man is a state where the negativities, visible and invisible, are removed and where its spiritual component finds its guiding place in our existence.

If you want to create a better future, attracting certain blessings and energy your way, and you would like to use magic but you don’t feel comfortable with casting the spell yourself, don’t forget I can help you with my spell casting service!

Tina Caro

Tina Caro is a witch with more than 10 years of experience, a yogi, an astrologer, and a passionate supporter of all things holistic! She’s also an owner of the website Magickal Spot where she discusses a variety of her favorite topics.

Magickal Spot has helped thousands of readers worldwide, and she’s personally worked with hundreds of clients and helped them manifest desires to have a happier and more abundant life.

tina caro new about me photo

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