Incense is a mixture of aromatic organic substances that can be ignited and then spread a pleasantly judged scent. Incense is also referred to as the resin (olibanum) of the frankincense tree (Boswellia). The original meaning of the word incense is "weeping" (smoke to consecrate).
Incense is certainly used since 1700 BC, probably originally as a fragrance sacrifice. An incense sacrifice had the purpose of favoring the gods. The smell and the prayer rise with the smoke. A practical use of incense was the expulsion of rotting air. The blood and remnants of the animals sacrificing Jews were masked with the penetrating smell of incense.
Incense was and is mainly used in Europe in churches. Although the smell of the sacrifices still had to be driven away from the Jews, incense could be used to obscure the smell of wealthy buried in the church. The expression rich stinker may therefore find its origin here. Also during funerals and places of pilgrimage where people have had to come from far, the use of the odor-numbing incense does not seem a coincidence.
The resins and oils were unaffordable for ordinary people, because they had to be imported from outside Europe. Apart from that, there was no cultivation of incense outside the church.
Since the 1960s, interest in Eastern cultures and religion has grown. In many countries like China, India, Tibet and Japan a lot of incense is used. In these countries incense is just as common as in the western world flowers in the home or the use of soap or perfume. With the interest also the import and use of oriental incense grew.