I had a very sheltered childhood. In my childhood naivety though it was blissfully happy. There were ups and downs but I never thought there was anything else. I was happily spoilt by two sets of adults both trying to raise me as best as they knew how: My parents of course. Hardworking, young and energetic struggling to get ahead. My maternal grandparents on the other hand were more traditional, and having gone through WW2 and a civil war were much more cautious and protective and even though not richer in terms of dollars they didn’t seem to struggle nearly as much. Perhaps those years of war, famine and deprivation had taught them how to make do with what you have.
I was taught a Christian idea of spirituality, although it was never talked about as such. God was in heaven and was in control of everything, he had pre-ordained everything. I remember being toilet trained (yes I have a long memory) and my Grandmother telling me God wanted me to wipe myself properly, and this was highly motivating for me. As a little aside, my ancestors pagan ways still had a hold of my Grandmother who believed that thunderstorms were God communicating with us. I was brought up watching the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston and The King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter. I was particularly moved by the masterful use of music to highlight and make certain parts of the movie more potent, Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus healing someone.
At the sweet age of five I remember asking my Grandmother if could be Jesus. I don’t remember her response but I’d imagine she wouldn’t be harshly dismissive. She might have encouraged me to be kind and compassionate but at the same time pointing out I can’t be someone else. She taught me the simplest of prayers that I was still using up until I was 18 or so. It went something like this…
My dear Lady, please keep me safe, keep my Mum and Dad safe, keep my Grandmother and Grandfather safe
… or something along those lines.
Now that I am recalling those times I realise my Grandmother was my first spiritual teacher. I was lucky in many ways to have the Grandmother I did. She not only lived life in a non-modern Western way, her life was intuitive devoid of any goals other than to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and clothes on your back. Her ideas were not simplistic as I thought of them previously but humble. She was told how things are and she never thought to question those ideas, after all who was she to question others.
My Grandmother also came, more or less, from a pre-Victorian, or even medieval-like society. When I stayed on the Island my Grandmother was born and raised on back in 1976-77 there was still no running water, no plumbing apart from in the major town, and TV was only on for 2 or 3 hrs a day. I can’t imagine how difficult things would have been when she was a child … more correctly difficult for a child brought up in a high-income country in the late 20th century. Church was always a place of power and awe. Every Sunday I was dressed in my best clothes and we’d walk to Church, a good kilometre or so. My Grandad was a communist so there was no way he was going to take us to church. My Dad was either sleeping, working as a Chef he often didn’t get home until the early hours of the morning, or was already getting ready for work, and Mum would sometimes come with us. I understood the awe that the church held for my Grandmother. The stained glass windows tamed the brilliant Aussie sunlight to a soft golden-red tone, the ornate chandeliers, and icons combined with the tall ceilings made the interior palatial, indeed God’s palace. The sweet scent of frankincense, intoxicating whose plumes of smoke would rise higher and higher taking my imagination along to another world. Ever since a child and still to this day frankincense has always brought me strong memories, emotions, feelings.
When as a young adult I started a new phase in my spiritual journey and I started buying incense I tried to find that intoxicating frankincense smoke from church. I tried some really good frankincense incense sticks and while they were all reminiscent of the fragrance I remember as a child none of them had that intense aroma. Until one day one of my Aunties told me that they burn frankincense in a resin form over charcoal. I had no idea where to find that until I found a church supply store. It’s a lot easier to find these days.
There are different scents I use for different moods and occasions. Whenever I meditate for spiritual reasons I always burn Nag Champa, for healing I use Sandalwood or Jasmine, and for grounding and cleansing I use rose. There are lots of other scents which you can find at this blogs sponsor The Holistic Sage.
For a great description of incense and its origins have a look at The Origins of Incense and Aromatherapy