For most of us who grew up in the 1960s, it was an incredible formative time that we will never forget. For those who did not experience the decade for themselves, but who study it, draw inspiration from it, and continue to mine veins of thought and spirit that first opened so many years ago, it was also a wonderful time. The hippie counterculture was born in the mid-1960s and continued to gain momentum until the mid-1970s, by which time it had apparently vanished. But the currents of time and popular culture preserved and carried certain accepted truths, belief systems, subcultures, worldviews, and philosophies from the 1960s throughout the years. So much so, that for many the 60’s are still very much alive in many ways. One area is the New Age, the holistic health movement that is essentially based on values ​​and attitudes born in that magical decade, and one of the elements of that belief system is aromatherapy. As with many of these elements, aromatherapy, the belief that an aroma can change human consciousness, was born in the 1960s with the rise in popularity of incense.

A little story:

When the counterculture first flourished on the West Coast in the mid-1960s, frankincense was a little-known rarity used by some independent religious groups, some advanced individuals, and, of course, the Catholic Church. It was not a common sight to see for sale at any major department store or other commercial outlet, and it was not easy to find the point. What brought it to its first early warning stage was the large number of travelers to the east. The religions and philosophies of India, Japan, Tibet, and China had become all the rage in the new movement, and it was a rite of passage for many to take a trip east, hang around, and bring back some necessary items. One of these new needs was the incense made in these exotic lands.

Bringing it all back home:

As it became more popular, frankincense began to appear for sale as an import in fashion and clothing stores in areas that had a sizable hippie population. It was appreciated for its smell, the pleasure that smoke gives when one is in an altered state, but above all for a property for which it had been used since time immemorial: to hide other undesirable odors. These unwanted odors had in the past been the odors of humans in their massive unwashed forms. This is one of the reasons why churches used sweet smelling resins that spewed voluminous clouds of smoke; of course, there were other reasons as well. But in the 1960s, those who had started smoking marijuana had a problem: the smoke from the weed was spicy and revealing, and it was something to be careful about. One way to solve the problem was with strong incense that was imported from abroad. Soon, small bronze incense burners and incense cones became part of the necessary equipment in the abode of any self-respecting drug addict. And in this way, the incense acquired an undeserved and inaccurate image that has never quite moved.

What is that smell?

In the decade we call the 60s, which really lasted until the early 70s; You could walk into a boudoir store, an imported clothing store, a comic book store, and various combinations of these, and enjoy the rich and strongly sweet fragrance of incense. In the popular mind, it was associated with the use of illegal drugs, so much so that there are still those who are not quite sure that the smell is not in itself illegal when they smell incense. Fortunately, as the 1970s progressed, the use of incense began to spread to more conventional homes and community spaces, thus losing much of this stigma. Instead, it has been associated with the New Age movement and its various permutations. The growth of aromatherapy allowed the market for incense to grow, and soon the product could be found everywhere, even in popular candle and furniture stores.

Some of the favorite scents available in that first decade of popularity were sandalwood, patchouli, jasmine, and lavender. These were the fragrances that came out of the shops, apartments, and porches wherever a group of counterculture followers found themselves, call them hippies, freaks, or adventurers. At first these were straightforward recipes, but in the process of expanding their lines, incense makers like Nag Champ and Gonesh brought out more and more mixes and made them available in cones and as incense sticks.

What’s it for?

As mentioned, one of the oldest uses of incense was to cover up other smells. In churches and gathering places where pilgrims and travelers gathered after long periods without access to basic hygiene, it was useful to be able to light a brazier of fragrant resins and drive away odors. Other uses of incense were symbolic (the smoke rising to the heavens reminded believers of the eventual ascent of the soul to its creator at the time of death) and psychological and medicinal. Fragrances had long been noted to have an effect on the human psyche, and this effect was intensified in the 1960s by the use of certain psychotropic substances. All of these uses of incense were intensified and raised to a new level during the early years of its revival and use in the 1960s.

What has it come to?

These days, frankincense has largely outgrown its connection to the drug culture of the 1960s, although there are still some lower socioeconomic groups that have that association in mind. Rather, it has been connected to the idea of ​​holistic healing, higher consciousness through the senses, and pure pleasure. The variety and quality of both imported incense and those made in the United States is truly incredible. Along with the growth of online life and communication technologies, there has been a growth in a subculture of incense hobbyists who collect rare and expensive products from around the world and review them along with their less expensive examples for the many. who love to read. About them. The result of the effort of a few travelers and members of the counterculture in the 1960s to popularize these delicacies for the smell has been that they are easy to find, of higher quality, and that they have been divorced from the more negative ones. connotations.