From time immemorial, fire, scent and air have been used to invoke a feeling of harmony and balance and to both enliven and pacify the natural spirits of the universe. The historical pairing of candles and incense is also deeply rooted in ritual and religious ceremony. Today, we all get to enjoy these delights, and can combine both to create a "uniquely you" ambiance of gentle light and pleasurable scent. Whether it be for religious or secular purposes, the power of these two items, particularly in combination, is undeniable.
In the religious sense, candles and incense have been paired since their creation. It appears that incense was originally developed in Egypt and its ritual use then either developed independently or spread throughout China and to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other parts of southeast Asia. It is used extensively in Buddhist rituals around the world, as well as in Chinese Taoist and Japanese Shinto rituals. Incense is said to be useful for purifying a space, and for bringing forth buddhas, demons, and other deities for various ritual uses.
In ancient Taoist ceremonies, for instance, Joss sticks were burned, along with candles, before a shrine as an offering. Incense and candles were often also burned out of doors or in open windows as an offering to the Gods above.
In Tibet, tremendous amounts of strong incense are often burned together with butter lamps or candles in order to create a powerful, transcendent space for pujas and other rituals.
Christian ceremony, too, often features the use of candles and incense, for very similar purposes as in Eastern religions. Rarely will one experience a Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox ritual that does not include the burning of multitudes of beautiful, grand and ornate candles for the purposes of purifying the space and for offering supplications up to heaven, as well as the burning of incense in censers to symbolize the prayers of the participants rising up to heaven with the smoke.
So, we can see that, for whatever reason, the pairing and use of incense and candles has been a natural part of the creation of ritual space and offerings for many thousands of years. Perhaps this is because candles allow one to provide the energy and offering of fire to deities without the space and maintenance needed to build a proper fire, and incense consecrates a space and creates smoke which rises up, bringing the energy of the minerals and plants to the heavens. Or perhaps this combination of sacraments simply makes sense on a universal humanistic level.
Based on all of these things, it is not at all surprising that the combination of candles and incense is completely natural (and often quite luxurious, as well) What incense offers in terms of scent is analogous to the soft, flickering light of a candle. Incense creates a pleasant, relaxing scent, while candles sooth the eyes and provide soft, relaxing lighting. So, in combination, just these two simple items and a little bit of fire can transform any room into a calming and peaceful sanctuary. While neither aim to overpower, both candles and incense are impossible to ignore. They are the subtle presences in the corner of the room, lending a touch of tranquil ambiance to any setting.
A contemporary reference to this ancient combination can be seen in Prince's hit song, "Incense and Candles." In it, the troubadour calls to his lover, who he's been waiting for all night long, to come into a room he's prepared with incense and candles. Clearly looking for love, the voice is that of seduction, and it is the ambiance created by these items that he believes will make his conquest complete. "Circles of flowers or pyramids of sand," he sings, "Violet colored diamonds, you've got to understand." And quite honestly, who among us can claim to be a better authority in the nuance of ambiance than Prince?
So, whether you are looking to create an atmosphere in which to do meditative or ritual practice, or whether you just want to relax after a hard day at work, you can hardly go wrong with the combination of incense and candles. They are relatively inexpensive ways to construct and create a space in just a few moments that will allow your mind and your senses to unwind and open up. Add in a hot bath, or perhaps some soothing music, and you will be surprised how quickly the troubles of even the hardest day will disappear and float off into space. Head on over to our Candle Shop
and our Incense Shop
and put together the perfect ambiance for your space!