As we know, Chinese people love to burn incense, and Taoist are also famous for this practice. Most people see it as the offerings to gods, like the gods just like the smell or smoke, but that is actually not what it is about. Here you will know about what is the meaning behind incense burning and why it works or what is actually going on when you do so.
Purpose of Incense
Incense is a timer, it sets the time when it starts to burn, the timer stops when the burning is stopped. There is a handle for you to hold or “stab” int the pot, which is the red part of the incense. The incense itself has nothing sacred or holy, it is the Taoist that uses it who makes the incense a special and magical tool, because it went through the process to magicalized it into a special incense, the incense that the gods at the altar accepts and agreed is THEIR timer medium. That means, any other incense burnt and stabbed into THIS pot will not work because the gods never said these are the incense for talking to “them”.
Incense that are consecrated/chick’d 勅 at the altar is approved by the gods and to be used as a timer. You burn the incense then it sets the session of communication between you and the gods to begin. You can talk, you can do magic, you do request help, as long as the incense is burning you can keep going. Once the incense is out, the connection is cut just like a phone hung up and the connection is disconnected.
Different Type of Incense Burning
There are many types of incense that we burn and uses, such as the most commonly seen incense sticks, the coils, the cone, and even powdered incense. They are all used for telling the gods a message, and the incense itself doesn’t have anything magical, so don’t be too concerned about the physical property of them.
We use the stick incense for a communication timer, it is a standard for communicating, talking, and it’s straight forward. You can also read up on the yellow vs red incense post to learn more about these.
The incense coil burns for a longer time, about 2-4 hours each coil, so it is used when we need the gods around for a longer session. Compared to the sticks that are like 30mins be default. We will use this type for god invoking, FU writing, and so on.
There is the incense cone, which burns fast and the smoke grows bigger and bigger like a boost. This incense type is used when we need the god to do something for us with a speedy and powerful manner, like a RUSH or URGENT matter. For example, we are sending exorcism magic over by distance, helping someone urgently, this will be used as a booster incense.
If we cannot find or cannot have one type of these, we can always replace it with something else, it’s not like we cannot use another form of timer to tell the same message – even a stopwatch can be used. The fact is, most people are not going to feel too convinced if you tell them to use their watch with a timer as incense, it just doesn’t look proper. Therefore, we keep using the traditional tools, and it is actually quite nice to have the incense smell at home too.
Everyday, a disciple should be burning incense at their own altar two times a day. One for morning when you wake up, and one before you go to sleep, just like saying good morning and good night to your gods. With this basic incense, we call it “Ching” incense, you will add in all your heart spells into the incense by holding the incense up your heart level, and then recite the spells in your heart, then stomp the left foot when you are done with one. After every heart spell is stomped into the incense, you put the incense into the pot and bow. This “ching” incense connects to all the powers that you could connect to, and send your greetings to all the gods you can reach. It’s important to let the gods know you exist!
Before you have your own altar setup, you can request to burn incense at our altar once a while to build a good connection too. At least you have “someone” (god) looking after you!
What if you don't burn incense at all? Well, your altar gets "cold", just like a relationship gets cold when you don't talk and interact, then it will slowly fade out and die. Taoist MUST burn incense but not limited to the physical incense, its about the heart to talk to the gods, to communicate and interact with them, and not just treat them like nothing. Even you burn 10000 incense a day, it doesn't work if your heart is not there for the gods. The main point is your trust, faith and determination for the gods, and not the actual incense itself.
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