There's nothing quite like the warm, wafting smell of incense to transport you to a more heightened state of awareness. Indeed, the experience is so universal, you can find it in almost any religious tradition. It creates a sense of peace and calm, and for many people, brings a sense of connection to the Divine. Similarly, there is a long tradition of using incense for physical and mental healing, which only now is beginning to be backed up by modern studies.
The use of frankincense goes back for thousands of years, and yet the methods of harvesting and burning it have changed very little. The bark of the Boswellia tree is cut, causing the sap to ooze to the surface. Once that sap has dried, the bits of resin, called "tears", are ready for harvest.
Frankincense is a great tool for cleansing and preparing a sacred space, as it is often used in rituals involving protection and spirituality. It is a great aid when you are doing any sort of magical work where you need a little extra oomph.
Remember: never leave burning incense unattended. Follow the same safety rules that you would when burning a candle.
I thought incense only came in cones or sticks? Cone and stick incense is certainly popular and widely available, but they require binder material to hold their shape and burn evenly. Resins are a purer, more natural choice.
Why don't they smell very much? Smelling the resin while it is still in the bag is not ideal. Like most resins, it won't release their full fragrance until it is burned. The best way to do this is to place a charcoal tablet on a fire-safe surface (a metal bowl with a layer of sand in the bottom is ideal). Once the charcoal is smoldering nicely, sprinkle the resin on its surface, and you will be rewarded with the full power of its rich, exotic aroma.
How can I enjoy these resins if I am sensitive to smoke because of breathing problems? Although burning resins on charcoal is traditional, it can produce more smoke than some people are comfortable with. If you find yourself in this position, find a small oil warmer, such as is often used in aromatherapy- the type that uses a tea light candle to warm and diffuse scented oils. In this case, you'll need to put an _un_-scented oil in the top (vegetable oil works well). This protects the dish from overheating once the candle is lit. Then place a small amount of resin in the oil, and light the candle. As the oil warms up, the resin will release its fragrance into the air, but with no soot or smoke to irritate you.