Strange Fires, Weird Smokes and Psychoactive Combustibles: Entheogens and Incense in Ancient Traditions. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 42(4), 485-49

This paper seeks to emphasize what may be the most primary mode of altering consciousness in the ancient world: namely, the burning of substances for inhalation in enclosed areas. While there is abundant literature on archaic uses of entheogenic plants, the literature on psychoactive incenses is quite deficient. From the tents of nomadic tribes to the small meditation rooms of Taoist adepts, the smoldering fumes of plants and resins have been used to invoke and banish and for shamanic travels since humanity mastered fire. The text provides details of primary “incense cults” while highlighting some commonalities and shared influences when possible. Further speculation suggests that selective burning of certain substances, such as mercury and sulphur, may have contributed to their lasting use and veneration in alchemy from India and China to the Arabian and European protochemists. This article would have a companion online database for images and further examples of ingredients in various incenses from China to ancient Greece.


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