Archives For Frankincense

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. This week, I unleash the special yuletide holiday hounds (they’re like the regular hounds, but with festive accessories) and bring you a collection of links that leans towards matters seasonal.

That’s all I have for now, I hope all my readers have had/will have a festive holiday season, whatever your faith or tradition.

Just months after a team of neuroscientists found that frankincense biochemically relieves anxiety, a new team of researchers have come forward to say that there is a link between heavy incense use and respiratory cancers.


Frankincense resin.

“In a study of more than 61,000 ethnic Chinese living in Singapore who were followed for up to 12 years, the investigators found a link between heavy incense use and various respiratory cancers. The findings are published in the medical journal Cancer.”

So just how much incense burning constitutes “heavy” usage?

“Study participants who used incense in their homes all day or throughout the day and night were 80 percent more likely than non-users to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the entire respiratory tract. The link between incense use and increased cancer risk held when the researchers weighed other factors, including cigarette smoking, diet and drinking habits.”

In other words, the occasional stick of incense at home or at a ritual probably won’t give you cancer, but if you live in a constant haze of sweet smelling smoke, you might want to cut back a bit (especially if you have other increased risk factors). The study also said that incense posed no overall effect on lung cancer risk, but increased risks of upper respiratory cancers.

“This association is consistent with a large number of studies identifying carcinogens in incense smoke,” Friborg’s team writes, “and given the widespread and sometimes involuntary exposure to smoke from burning incense, these findings carry significant public health implications.”

So with incense, as with many other things, moderation is the key. Treated as a spiritual tool, and not as a daily air freshener, most people should be safe from increased cancer risk. You won’t be imperiling anyone’s life with cancer if you “light up” at your next ritual gathering.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The Pagan-friendly Gaea Retreat Center in Kansas, host of the annual Heartland Pagan Festival, is branching out and allowing a music festival to take place on its grounds for the first time.

“…after enduring several board meetings, Yager and his staff finally convinced the proprietors to embrace the Gaea Retreat and Music Festival, which begins at noon today. “We’ve spawned into this weird festival where it’s a mesh of cultures. We have introduced education through imagery by focusing on things like the environment, free energy, energy conservation alternatives, performing arts,” he says.”

Earth Rising, Inc., the legal entity that runs Camp Gaea, is trying to move past its infamous local past (which involved a legal battle over its permit), and reputation as a haven for Pagans and nudists. Though it remains to be seen if Camp Gaea can transform a music festival into a place to “find that realm of evenness and spiritual soundness.” While I fully attest to the spiritual power of live music, I’m not sure “evenness” and “spiritual soundness” is what you aim for.

The Claremont Institute reviews “Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography”, by Alberto Manguel, and praises it as a book written with “intelligence and curiosity”.

“Manguel’s intent is to show that, for over 2,500 years, countless members of the species have found “in these stories of war in time and travel in space…the experience of every human struggle and every human displacement.” The Iliad and Odyssey, which can be thought to represent the two great metaphors of life, a battle and a journey, are the “books which, more than any others, have fed the imagination of the Western world.” In the 8th century A.D., Byzantine schoolchildren were still expected to have much of the Iliad by heart. Six hundred years later, during the Renaissance, Homer remained the cornerstone of every ambitious library.”

According to the review, Manguel does a good job of making the argument that Homer is just as relevant today as he was in antiquity, a poet who described “every secret happiness and every hidden sin.” A paperback edition of the book is due out in March of 2009.

A quick update on the “Satanic Panic Alive and Well in North Carolina” story, a judge has lowered the bail amount for Joy Suzanne Johnson, after her public defender argued that the charges against her made “no sense” and that there is a complete lack of “corroborating evidence”.

“The woman who is accused of aiding and abetting her husband in a sexual assault case and an alleged kidnapping and cane beating persuaded a Superior Court judge Thursday to reduce bail.”

Meanwhile, things aren’t looking too good for the prosecution as more and more details about the case emerge. A state assistant distract attorney said that “some if not all of the charges may need to be modified”. To catch up on this story, here is part one, and part two of my ongoing coverage.

Expect your local spiritual supply store to have a run on frankincense, Israeli scientists are claiming that the resin can ease depression and anxiety (at least in mice).

“Pharmacologists in Israel have found that frankincense, a whitish resin tapped from the veins of a shrubby tree, relieves anxiety and depression, at least in mice. In an article to be published next month in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere report that the active ingredient in frankincense lights up brain receptors that play a role in the perception of warmth on the skin and might help regulate emotion.”

While covering this story, the New York Times visits a local occult shop, and finds that the employees aren’t surprised in the least by this news.

“Any kind of magic you’re doing,” Ms. Cabral said, “frankincense would be great for any kind of happiness, or success, or attention, even.”

So if things are getting a little stressed at your circle, coven, or grove, be sure to light up (some frankincense)!

This weekend will see a dance festival in Miami to celebrate the survival of West African Yoruban culture and religion.

“This weekend, Coconut Grove will celebrate a culture created in Cuba during the slave trade. The Yoruban culture and the religion Santería, or Regla de Ocha, which was brought to Cuba by the Yorubans of West Africa, are the by-products of slavery, according to Ifé-Ilé’s Artistic and Executive Director Neri Torres. With dance workshops and seminars, the Ifé-Ilé Afro-Cuban Dance & Music Festival will bring context to Miami residents. “Today, [the Yoruban culture] is still the root of Cuban culture in terms of art, music and the way we talk and gesture,” said Torres, who founded Ifé-Ilé in 1996.”

For more information about this event, head over to the Ifé-Ilé web site.

In a final note, The Esoteric Book Review takes a look at the recently released “Witch School 3rd Degree” by Rev. Donald Lewis-Highcorrell, and is disturbed by some of what he finds there.

“I was disappointed to note subtle distinctions being made which imply Correllians are better than other Wiccans and should not be surprised by the bad behaviour of non-Correllians. This smacks a bit of cultish behaviour … the return to sniping at Wicca was a little tedious and unnecessary … the last part of the book becomes a bit cultish and for me loses the plot…”

Sniping at other traditions of Wicca? Superior attitudes? Cultish behavior? Doesn’t sound like a very positive or affirming way of running a religious tradition. Nor is this the first time such accusations have been made. It should be interesting to see if Witch School responds to the claims made in the review.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!