Here’s a good incense source from NLM.

Take particular note of the first comment. The charcoal used is critical. Many people (and choirs in masse) are under the impression that they are allergic to incense. Some of them actually are—but most are not. Rather, they have a reaction to bad charcoal! The self-lighting stuff will work in a pinch, but should not be used for a proper liturgy. Smokey Mary’s smoke room has an electric table-top burner on which they light up regular briquettes of Kingsford to stoke the thuribles there. I’d even go the extra step and get natural, less-processed charcoal. This can be obtained rather easily at places like Whole Foods.

All the hypoallergenic incense in the world will not help if you are burning it on bad charcoal…

12 thoughts on “Incense

  1. Fr Chris

    I was amused by that article, in part because I’m a hookah aficionado, and 3 Kings coals are very popular for that.

    You’re right about self-lighting coals — they really do get to many people. Exotica Coals are quite nice for natural coals and might be a little more manageable than BBQ briquets. They are square and easy to saw up into smaller pieces. They are also long-burning.

  2. Christopher

    I recommend the unprocessed kind for bbq as well :) Seriously, this is an important point. Nonetheless, I’ve discovered that Frankincense tends to choke me up, and I live with that as the smell is heavenly.

  3. Joe Rawls

    Thanks a lot for this lead. I’m one of the token thurifers at my parish (smoke a big four times per year)and there are always people who do the last act of Camille at the prospect of incense. Of course, some of them are probably liberal Low-Church types looking for any excuse.

  4. Derek the Ænglican

    There is of course the old story of the priest who tried reintroducing the thurible to the coughing and spluttering of large portions of the congregation and choir—till he revealed that it had been filled with dry ice…

    Probably apocryphal, but still funny :-D

  5. John-Julian, OJN

    It has always amazed me that there should be such a world-wide epidemic of allergy-to-incense which developed on in the last few hundred years. Apparently for almost 1500 years that allergy was unheard of anywhere in the world — then all of a sudden it’s an epidemic! Wonder if the Center for Disease Control should be contacted?

    I remember the words of a bishop years ago when a parishioner complained about the incense. He said, “Madam, in the after-life there are only two smells: incense or brimstone. You need to get used to one or the other.”

  6. Michelle of Heavenfield

    Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. Wave it in someone’s face and they will cough and sputter. It happens to me every time I dump a ice bucket full of dry ice. Not particularly funny really…

    It probably is apocryphal though since dry ice smoke hugs the ground and will not drift upwards. It would obviously be ‘funny’ smoke.

  7. Christopher

    Fr. John-Julian,

    I suspect that this may be the case, the development of allergy, due to the huge increase in all sorts of airborne chemicals we live with which do affect our immune system.

  8. The Postulant

    That particular story may be apocryphal, but I do know a priest who had an empty thurible carried in procession. He wanted to see how much of the usual coughing and spluttering was genuine. His verdict: not much.

  9. Derek the Ænglican

    M reminds me that she and a former rector actually tried the dry ice trick a while back. They just had a dry-ice thurible at the back of the church (not in anyone’s face) and got a number of complaints that the incense was too strong…

  10. tobias

    Amen to good charcoal. I can also commend the use of pure frankincense, which is available from a number of herbal supply shops and costs about a quarter of what the fancy brands with added flavors do. I usually buy it in five-pound bags at a discount, and it generates few complaints, and still “smells like church” without any cloying floral effects. (One can also use copal resin for a piney scent. Also quite reasonable.)

    And btw, in MY days in the smoke room at St Mary’s, the burner was gas fired, and the thurible held between six and nine full size briquets. Fr Garfield used to have to warn me about instinctively bracing myself with my left foot forward before censing the congregation… ;-)

  11. Fenella Holt

    You lot and your pathetic attempt at humour have totally destroyed ANY faith I may have had left. I do not go to church any more – mostly because of you, but have recently thought I would benefit from another try. NO MORE though. I live in a lovely apartment building where I’ve been very happy for several years until a recently new caretaker began burning incense. She is a lovely person, and I have nothing against her personally, but I honestly would prefer it if she smoked 60 black cigarettes a day, with all the windows shut. The effect on my breathing is scary. I am not a hypochondriac – far from it. This pollution is destroying my life.

Comments are closed.