Fragrance of the Month – January 2021
When your 14-year old daughter asks you to refill her lighter either you are raising an incense lover, or you need to question your parenting. As our house regularly smells of incense even when I’m not burning it myself, we know the former is true. Whether or not the latter is also true is for our children to decide, and as the eldest two are in their late 20s I’m sure we would have heard about it by now if they had any grudges to bear.
What we can say is that we have rules for burning incense safely in our house: never leave burning incense unattended, keep it away from curtains and the like, and place the incense holder on a hard flat surface. Most importantly in our own situation, our youngest daughter is mature and responsible so we feel we can trust her with these rules. She chooses to use a long handled lighter designed for lighting gas hob rings and barbecues and she only burns her incense in a smoke box as she feels this seems safer than an open tray. When I was her age I would have probably burned the house down if I got near a lighter.
A favourite incense fragrance in our house is white sage, a fragrance that is frequently associated with the use of smudge sticks in cleansing rituals. Smudge sticks are tightly bound wads of herbs that have been dried for the purpose. As such, they give off a lot of smoke which is wafted around the room and blown gently into corners and is said to dispel bad energies and unwelcome spirits.
Traditional, Hand Rolled Incense
When used just for fragrance, smudge sticks are a bit of an overkill and that is where incense comes in. Our most popular incense brand is Satya, an incense that is hand-rolled using traditional methods with a masala blend. That doesn’t mean your house is going to smell of curry, although that’s never a bad thing in my opinion. The word “masala” refers to a blend of natural ingredients that have been ground to a paste. In the making of incense masala this can include flowers and herbs as well as spices. The resulting product is then rolled onto thin sticks of bamboo. You can see a video of how Satya incense is made here.
The late Shri K.N. Satyam Setty, founder of Srinivas Sugandhalaya (BNG) LLP, the company behind the Satya brand, used this technique following his study of the practices of medieval monks. The resulting incense is, at least in my opinion, of far superior quality than certain other brands that are dipped in perfume and can smell quite chemical in comparison.
Reputed Benefits of White Sage
Many wonderful (and sometimes a bit wild) properties are attributed to white sage. As well as its use to dispel bad energy and unwelcome spirits, claims are also made that white sage is purifying, improves mood, soothes stress, aids and improves quality of sleep (don’t fall asleep while it’s lit!), boosts cognition, raises energy levels, and neutralises the positive ions that (it’s claimed) cause symptoms of asthma, allergies and bronchitis. I’m not a doctor or a herbalist, so I suggest you don’t take these claims too seriously without doing your own research and discussing it with someone with professional qualifications in such matters. What I can tell you with confidence is that it smells really, really good.
Describing a smell is not easy. For me, smells are either nice, or they’re not. I have a very good sense of smell, but I’m not one of those people who can pick out individual aromas from a blend. Not in food, not in wine, not in incense. For that reason, I have a tendency to favour those fragrances that are named after their main ingredient. What I can say is that white sage tends to appeal to people who like woody fragrances. In other words, it smells more herbal than floral. People who buy white sage also often purchase sandalwood, rosemary, cinnamon, and patchouli. Satya describe the inspiration and mood of white sage as “Sheltering under a tree during a passing shower”. What a lovely image!
In our gift shop in Hull, white sage incense is one of our fastest sellers, bowing only to the classic incense fragrance, Nag Champa. We stock the Satya brand of white sage in sticks, dhoop cones, and backflow cones, so regardless of your favourite burner (we have those too!) we have a white sage for you.
Last week I addressed the question, “What is Fair Trade?” and talked about how we at Near & Fair approach the 10 Principles of Fair Trade as set out by the WFTO. Next week’s theme is “Close to Home”, so it might be a tad self-indulgent, but when you enjoy what you’re doing it’s hard to keep it to yourself!
Take care everyone,
First box of white sage incense courtesy of Satya, second box of white sage incense courtesy of Ancient Wisdom, hand rolling masala by Satya, Salvia Apiana (white sage plant) courtesy of Wikipedia, incense burners courtesy of Ancient Wisdom. All other photos are our own.
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