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What is incense? Where does it come from? How do you use it? In response to requests from our customers, we have compiled some information about church incense and how to use it.

What is incense?

From the Latin word, incendere, meaning "to burn," incense is a fragrant-smelling smoke produced by grains of various resins placed on burning charcoal in a censer; it is used in Roman Catholic and Eastern Liturgies during services and processions. Some say incense is used to recall one of the three gifts of the Wise Men to the Christ Child. Scripture commends its usage, particularly in Psalm 141, where prayers are said to be like incense.

What is frankincense?

Truly the king of incense. Frankincense has been used as long as humans have burned incense. Frankincense is the resin of a number of trees (genus Boswellia of the incense tree, or Burseraceae family) which is gathered by cutting the tree's bark. The juice of the tree dries and hardens, after which it is gathered and graded. Besides its importance as incense, frankincense has also been widely used for medicinal purposes. Oman and Somalia are chief sources of frankincense.

What is a Censer?

(Also called a thurible) - a vessel in which incense is burned on charcoal. A censer is usually carried in processions and recessionals by a special acolyte called a thurifer.

Cenacle Charcoal and Candle Incense Burners - Instructions for use

  1. Charcoal Incense Burners
    Place one tablet of charcoal in censer or incense burner. Ignite charcoal with match or lighter and get it glowing. Sprinkle a small amount of incense over the burning charcoal. Add more incense as it burns away. One tablet of charcoal will burn for approximately one hour. If shorter periods are required, break charcoal into smaller pieces.
    Important: Wrap up remaining charcoal tightly in foil provided to exclude air.
    Tip: Charcoal may be placed on a strip of tin foil before lighting; the foil can then be carefully lifted into the burner once lit. This will also help to keep your burner clean.
    Warning! When ignited, charcoal becomes red-hot, so do not touch directly. Ensure that the container is kept clear of any surface which could be damaged by heat.  A pair of charcoal tongs can be used to handle lighted charcoal.
  2. Candle Incense Burners
    For best results, and to help keep your burner clean, cover the grill with a small piece of tin foil, then place a small amount of incense on the tin foil. Light a night (‘tea’) light, and place under the grill.
  3. Incense sticks
    The most common sorts of incense burners for stick incense are "boats", long flat pieces of wood, stone, glass, or ceramic with an upward curve at one end. Stick incense can also be burned in wooden or stone pieces with holes drilled in to the top. Stick incense can even be burned in the ground outside as long as any flammable materials are moved away first. It is best not to burn incense outdoors when it is very windy, as sparks may come off during the lighting process and start a fire.

Fire Safety

WARNING: all types of incense burners become very hot when in use, so place on a flat, stable, heat-resistant surface and keep away from anything flammable!

Incense burns slowly, so it is easy to forget that it is still a live flame that must be treated with care and respect.  It is important to always be conscious of where your incense is and what it might come in contact with.

Always make sure that no part of burning incense comes in touch with wood or other flammable materials.  Never burn incense with anything directly above it, as the rising smoke can cause discolorations and possibly fire.  Incense burners themselves can also get very hot, so be careful not to place them on wooden surfaces or to touch metal burners after you have been burning incense in them.

Never leave burning incense unattended.  As with candles, don't leave the house while incense is still burning - if you need to put an incense stick out, bury the flame in sand or ash.  This will allow you to continue using the incense in the future.

In general, always keep in mind that when you are burning incense you are working with fire.  If used with a little bit of care and respect, incense is very safe and a wonderful tool for daily use!

Removable grills

Some or our charcoal burners contain a removable grill, which may be removed for cleaning by unscrewing or simply removing.  A cocktail stick can be useful for cleaning any tarry residue from the holes in the grill.


View our Incense and Incense Burners