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Incense

Incense (Lat., incendere, ‘to burn’). Substances which produce a sweet scent when burned, and are thus used in worship. Among many such substances are aloe, sandalwood, myrrh, frank-incense, balsam, cedar, and juniper. In China, incense (hsiang) was used to enhance appreciation and thus (especially in Taoism) to assist in the realization of the Tao—though incense was also used to ward off evil spirits or disease. In India, incense is used as an act of homage to the divine manifestation, especially in a temple. In early Judaism, incense may have been associated with the smoke of sacrifice: the Heb. ketoret is derived from √ktr, ‘cause to smoke’, which may be the smoke from a sacrifice (1 Samuel 2. 15). In Christianity, incense first appears in Christian worship c.500.

Incense is an important part of Hindu offerings, both in the home and in the temple. It forms a part of the daily ritual in invoking the presence of God in preparation for worship. In Buddhism, this ritual was transferred to the representations of the Buddha (or bodhisattvas) as a part of dāna.

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incense

in·cense1 • n. / ˈinˌsens/ a gum, spice, or other substance that is burned for the sweet smell it produces. ∎  the smoke or perfume of such a substance. • v. / inˈsens/ [tr.] perfume with incense or a similar fragrance: the aroma of cannabis incensed the air. DERIVATIVES: in·cen·sa·tion / ˌinsenˈsāshən/ n. ORIGIN: Middle English (originally as encense): from Old French encens (noun), encenser (verb), from ecclesiastical Latin incensum ‘something burned, incense,’ neuter past participle of incendere ‘set fire to,’ from in- ‘in’ + the base of candere ‘to glow.’ in·cense2 / inˈsens/ • v. [tr.] (usu. be incensed) make very angry: she was incensed by the accusations.

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Incense

INCENSE

Aromatic gum resins.

Frankincense and myrrh are taken from trees that grow in Dhufar, Oman, and in Hadramawt, Yemen. Recent archaeological discoveries confirm their export from about 3000 b.c.e. through an extensive commercial network. The trade, reaching as far as Rome and India, helped create considerable prosperity and interstate rivalry in southwest Arabia. Exports and prosperity declined when Rome made Christianity its official religion and the use of incense at funerals largely ceased.

See also dhufar; hadramawt.


Bibliography

Allen, Calvin H., Jr. Oman: The Modernization of the Sultanate. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

malcolm c. peck

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incense

incense, perfume diffused by the burning of aromatic gums or spices. Incense was used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome and is mentioned in the Old and the New Testaments. It is also found in the major religions of Asia. The Babylonians used it while praying in the 6th and 5th cent. BC and the Greeks used it as protection against demons during the 8th cent. BC The earliest clear record of its use in public worship in the Roman Catholic Church is c.500.

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incense

incense1 aromatic gum burnt to produce a sweet smell XIII; smoke of this XIV. ME. ansens, encens — (O)F. encens — ecclL. incensum, sb. use of n. of incensus, pp. of incendere set fire to, f. IN-1 + *candere cause to glow (candēre glow).
Hence vb. XIV.

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incense

incense2 †set on fire; inflame with wrath. XV. — OF. incenser, f. L. incens-, pp. stem of incendere (see prec.).

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