Saturday, March 27, 2010

Know your traditions: Burning incense

Worshippers place incense in the main censer at a temple in Taoyuan City. The offering of incense to gods and ancestors is central to Taiwanese folk religion; even in those temples that now discourage the burning of joss paper, the pious tend to hold three incense sticks in their hands when praying. In several places, you'll see incense sticks as thick as your thumb and as long as your forearm glowing and smouldering. A shrine where incense isn't burned throughout the day is indeed a strange - or neglected - place of worship.

According to this article:

"The burning of incense is considered a means for communicating with the spirits. It is said that when people hold a stick of incense in prayer before an image of a god their soul becomes transparent and the god knows what they are thinking... [It is believed] that fragrant scents attracted good spirits [and] smoke from incense carried the wishes of the supplicant to heaven."

A lot of incense is made from sandalwood, but as with joss paper, there are many different kinds for different purposes.

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