Monday, October 31, 2016

Review: Orthodox Incense

I got my first order of incense from today, and so far I'm really impressed.  They supply incense to Eastern Orthodox people for home religious use (to offer at ikons), mostly Greek and Russian, it looks like.   Like all Orthodox Church incense, these all have a base of frankincense, with other plant materials mixed in.  They are small pellets, about the size of a pea, covered in white chalky clay (to keep them from sticking together).  You drop the pellets onto charcoal.  Each pellet burns for about 10 minutes, producing a moderate amount of smoke.  More pellets=more smoke, but you have to keep re-feeding it for long lasting smoke.  It's actually really nice for ritual, because you can change scents as you go.

They sell incense made in two different monasteries; one on the Holy Mountain of Mt. Athos, a center of Greek monastic tradition, and some made at Holy Cross Monastery in WV.  In both places, the monks take turns praying "“Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner” as they make the incense; this is called the "ceaseless prayer" and is a common feature of Eastern Orthodox monastic practice.   Be aware of this if you plan to use it for ritual; there are some works I feel this would not be appropriate for, and some (like working with Greek ancestors) where I expect it to be a bonus feature.  

Here's a video of how it's made at a different Greek monastery (in MA), showing a lot of the ritual.  The powder at the beginning is ground frankincense resin.  The oil he pours out in a cross differs depending on what kind is being made.  The powder at the end is the clay, to keep it from getting sticky..

I chose the "create your own sample pack" which is your choice of 7 incenses for $15, plus I got a bonus pack.  I got a heaping tablespoon of each kind.  That's about 50 pellets for each kind.  VERY good price!

I placed my order Friday night and got it today (Monday).  They're located in Lykens (near Harrisburg).  If you're not in PA, it might take 3 days to get an order.  Contrast this with many Pagan suppliers:  In today's mail, I also got something from a "big name" Witch Supplies place I won't name, but that order I placed in early August, and was guaranteed delivery by late September.  (it's Halloween).

Here are the individual kinds I got, with my commentary on each:

Catacombs (Holy Cross):  This is a surprisingly sweet and femme smell, given the name.  Rose, vanilla, musk, and cedar.  Good for Hekate the red-footed maiden, I would think.  It's nice, but I probably won't order this again.

Seraphim (Mt. Athos):  VERY nice.  Light, slightly spicy, with an almost creamy base.  I can't identify what's in this one.  Maybe cinnamon and honey over the frankincense?  Fire-y, but in a cozy hearth way, not a raging bonfire.

Lindisfarne (Holy Cross): Lindisfarne is a holy island off the northeastern coast of England, near Edinburgh with a very old monastery on it.  Why does an Orthodox company have an incense named after a Celtic holy island?  You're guess is as good as mine, but it's a really nice incense.  Sandalwood, with some rose and musk.  Good for fairy magic, I would think.  I will order more of this one.

Batiushka (Mt Athos):  "Batiushka" is Russian for "little father" and is a term of endearment for a priest. This is very clean smelling, and sort of foresty.  Cedar maybe?  or balsam?  Smells kind of Christmasy.  It's nice, but not my favorite.  This was my "bonus" pack, not one of the ones I picked.

Garden of Gethsemane (Holy Cross): This is a very nice, floral, slightly spicy smell.  Lots of roses and a bit of ginger.  Smells like Spring.  Would be good for Kore-Persephone work.

Old Church (Holy Cross):  This is, IMO, the winner out of the bunch. Deep, rich, herbal and resinous.  This smells like a witch's cottage deep in the woods.  I will FOR SURE be getting more of this one.  I think it might be my go-to temple incense from now on.

Cherubim (Holy Cross): Honestly, this is VERY similar to Seraphim, but slightly less spicy and more creamy.

Panagia (Holy Cross): This is frankincense base with a strong damascus rose overtop.  Very Venus.   Nice, but nothing special.  It's pretty much like every other frankincense/rose incense I've used.  Smells very "churchy" to me.

Now that I'm slightly dizzy from huffing frankincense for an hour, I'll wrap up. is highly recommended by me.

If you try some, let me know what you think!