Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Making (and re-making) of Song of Songs Incense Cones

Song of Songs perfume is made from ancient resins, so conceptually, it lends itself easily to an incense form.

I've blended together labdanum resin (a sticky paste, resembling tar), sandalwood, agarwood, frankincense, myrrh and rose petals to make this incense. I've even went the length of forming it with a little cone mold (this was the 4th batch of incense cones I've made, and I wanted the cones to be pretty, solid and uniform). And they sure were all of that!

However, the high ratio of resins created a serious technical problem: the incense would not burn through. That's no joke. You can't enjoy incense if it doesn't get consumed by the ember. The heat is what transfors its organic fragrant matter into smouldering smoke-perfume.

To fix this problem would have required breaking down all the beautiful cones, and adjusting the formula to add more woods that will help it burn through. This was not something I was excited about doing. So I put it aside for a long time. And even then, there is no way of guaranteeing that the formula will work (meaning: it might take more than one time of forming, drying, testing and breaking down again...). Not something I was looking forward to do.

Once I mustered the amount of willingness for this sisyphal work (which took a few good years, to be perfectly honest), I've done just that. This time I shaped them smaller, and all by hand again. They may not be as perfectly uniform as they were before; but at least they are funcitonal!

I'm burning one of these labour-intense cones as I type this. There is a bit of hit-and-miss in terms of how even it burns (some of the incense spots were not completely ground and they kinda block the ember). But it's ten times better than before.

Burning Incense Cone

As the ember consumes my little cone, it unleashes smoke that bring to mind ancient rituals from the beginning of mankind. While the perfume Song of Songs is utterly sensual, incense smoke is purely spiritual, assisting the soul to transcend above matter, and connecting one's breath to the beating heart at the depths of the dark waters of creation.

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