Friday, June 17, 2011

Letter-writing ritual: incense

Incense & candle

I know a lot of us have letter-writing rituals: one of mine is incense. I might write a quick postcard without lighting a candle and incense, but a letter always gets my favorite olfactory/atmospheric assistance. When I settle in to a long evening of letter writing (evening is my favorite time to write letters), I'll go through many different sticks, cones, logs, bricks, or what have you. Generally I light the candle first, and then light subsequent "flavors" of incense from the candle throughout the day or evening.

My favorite incense

Here are some of my very favorite kinds of incense. I guess this selection illustrates how much I favor spicy, woody scents; the floral, fruity, sweet ones are not for me. Clockwise from top left, my favorites are Piñon by Incense of the West, Paine's Red Cedar, Morning Star Cedarwood, Shokeido Magnificents Jewel Series: Sapphire/Devotion, and Nippon Kodo Kayuragi Aloeswood. The latter is the one that may be my very favorite, but it is a night-time scent... I will only light in in deep evening or dark, and often accompanies my last letter(s) of the night.

Paine's red cedar incense, burning

This is Paine's red cedar, which I've got burning right now.
I've explained to a lot of folks who ask if I write in cafes and the like: nope. I'm a homebody. I almost always write at home. Having my arsenal of pens, papers, and favorite incense at my disposal is all part of the full experience.

Do you burn candles or incense when you write letters? Do you have any favored rituals?


  1. You know, I don't....I just sit down and write. But I have to turn off the music because it is too distracting. But, come to think of it, some rituals would be nice...I am going to see what everyone shares....

  2. How interesting! I don't think that I have any particular letter-writing rituals, except that I like to be alone and to have things quiet when I write letters. I just can't write good letters when my family is around and about, too distracting, I guess.

  3. Oh I wish I could burn incense but it is a big no no with the parrots . No incense no burning anything period .My ritual is brew some warm or hot tea peppermint preferred and sit down and take deep breath and begin . Just like when I used to study .

  4. I like sound, when I'm writing letters. I listen to the radio on my ipad while I write (it has a better reception than my radio). Sometimes it's radio 4 or radio 4 extra, with dramatisations of Sherlock Holmes and comedy. Or sometimes it's Radio New Zealand. I always write with a cup of tea to hand. I never write outside home. I'm a homebody too.

  5. Interesting how much tea figures into it! I always have a beverage; water always, and tea or coffee with it in the morning, wine in the evening.

    I'm with Pamela and 365 - no music for me. Quiet is best. I love music, but I want to listen to it, not write... I can only do "background music" when I clean, do dishes, drive, etc. But I know lots of folks love their letter music or radio.

  6. Interesting! I used to burn incense (not especially for letter-writing) but worried that it might bother people in neighboring apartments. Because of all the scent allergies out there and the big deal being made about them, I even feel kind of guilty wearing perfume (but not guilty enough to stop!). Anyway, I understand why you like incense--the wonderful woody smell is overpowering and somehow also seems to make it easier to concentrate.

    By the way, stupid Canada Post (not the strikers but once again the company) has now stopped all mail collection and delivery. I had an order from JetPens that would've been arriving any day now, not to mention a couple of letters. It's driving me crazy!!

  7. Tea, chocolate, and candles are a must! I curl up into my cozy letter-writing chair with a warm blanket and put on some music or a movie that fits the recipient. I write exclusively in the evenings, for some reason any other time of day just doesn't work for me.

  8. I love that aloeswood incense. I still have the box, but the incense is long gone...I'll have to pick some up the next time I'm in Japantown.

    My letter-writing ritual is to have a clean table (room for my wayward lefty elbows) and some kind of beverage. Usually it's coffee as I write most often in the afternoon, but wine is good too.

    I like to write in coffee-shops but am often distracted by yakky people. Sometimes a cookie helps with that.

    And ideally, a good view...someplace for my eyes to rest while I'm thinking!

  9. I love your ritual. Sometimes I will light a candle if I write at the kitchen table to help create an ambiance conducive to letter writing. Sometimes my mood calls for music, but mostly I prefer silence. I write a lot of letters at my desk and selecting the right card or stationery and the right pen is probably as close to a ritual as I get.

  10. I love incense but sadly asthma prevents me from using it anymore. Lavender essential oil is my new aromatherapy. I also like to have some background music- instrumental and fairly quiet.

  11. Your letters just got that much more awesome. ;) I really like incense, but I don't have a lot so I don't use it very often. And I forget. I don't have a letter-writing ritual at all. I wonder now that I have a desk that I'll be able to set up in any way that I like that maybe I'll have some sort of ritual. In the last year it's been: "sit on couch, try to write letter before cat gets on lap, fail". (My cat won't leave my lap alone.) I'm also a big fan of candles. Is the candle anything special?

  12. Nope, this candle is nothing special. It was a "holiday" candle I got for half price recently - just another spicy, cinnamon-clove-like scent. I'm picky about my candle scents, too!