Yesterday, a question came up on Elaion Facebook concerning incense. The original discussion focussed on processed incense and incense made from (cow) dung, but the part useful to know for this post is that I prefer resin incense over processed incense. The question then came up on how I burn resin tears and I posted pictures of my solution. I wanted to share this solution with you as the idea seemed to be a real eye-opener for people.

Generalizing, there are three types incenses: stick and spiral incense, cone incense, and raw resins and gums. Stick incense direct-burning, meaning you only need to light it once, and the glowing coal at the end helps burn the rest of the incense. Stick incense  is made from a moldable substrate of fragrant finely ground (or liquid) incense materials and odourless binder, pressed onto a holder. In other words, it is ground up resin (or gum), to which a binder is added, which covers a piece of bamboo. Some kinds of stick incense do not have a burnable center but are pressed into sticks without a core. Spiral incense only differs from stick incense in that rather than being a slender stick, it will curl. Cone incense only differs from stick incense in form, and it never has a burnable center.

Raw resins and gums are indirect-burning, meaning they require a separate heat source in order to stay lit. They are also generally unprocessed, are not prepared in any particular way, or encouraged into any particular form. In general, the tears came off of the trees they come from, are sometimes cleaned a bit, and then sold. They can also be bought in powdered from or a paste. In general, powder burns more intense, but less long than tears. Past incense is made from powdered or granulated incense material which is then mixed with an--incumbustible--binder such as honey or a softer type of resin and then formed into balls.

Hellenism knows a lot of incense types, all of them raw; the Orphic tradition made use of three types of resins, and a lot of burnable plant materials known as aromatics. There are also some specialty aromatics found listed with the surviving hymns. Last year, I made a list of all the incenses and the Gods they were burned for. Now, orphism hardly is the be all, end all, of incese use, but it's good to know, regardless.
indirect-burning incense is difficult to keep lit, and the usual way of burning them is on a piece of charcoal. Charcoal is notoriously unreliable, however, and it smokes, which makes it undesirable for indoor use. My personal solution to this is a home-made burner, with an oil-burner base. On top of that, I use one side of a tea sieve. The distance between the flame of the tealight in the holder and the sieve is absolutely perfect for burning incense tears. Gums, however, drip through the sieve so in order to burn softer resins and gums, you need to wrap a piece of aluminium foil around the outside of the sieve. It needs to be on the outside, because on the inside, the aluminium foil does not get hot enough to melt the resin.

I'll end this post with a few pictures, and hope this solution works for you. I am not a fan of processed incense, because you never know what it was processed with. I try not to eat processed foods, nor eat processed drinks (as much as I can avoid it, of course), so why give something processed to the Theoi? In my practice, it makes no sense.