Incense: Natural Air Freshener for Your Casa

K. Emily Bond

Photo by K. Emily Bond
Street vendors the world over specialize in one or some of the following: sunglasses, sweet or savory treats, scarves and shawls, t-shirts of the tourist or hippie variety, handbags of the knock-off variety…you get the idea. The merchants I come across in the calles in Spain are no different. When it comes to buying incense, however, there are some key distinctions.

Where I live, there are countless holy and saint’s days, usually celebrated with a solemn procession followed by a marching band and accompanied by altar boys swinging big silver-plated censers (canisters used for burning incense). As such, smelling hints of frankincense, myrrh, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon and vanilla in the air is a fairly regular occurrence. 

Many people in Seville bring these wonderful smells into the home by purchasing baggies of freshly pulverized natural elements found in the countryside and burning them in censers called hornos de la cartuja, earthenware pots shaped like mini-chimneys.

The resulting smell can be a bit reminiscent of midnight mass. But, or so I’m told, the practice of using the hornos in the home is more effective at freshening the air than your standard wall plug-in, which can smell a bit fake, almost chemical.

I haven’t purchased a horno myself yet (since I have a toddler and I’m completely paranoid about burning anything in mi casa), but my neighbor sometimes burns incienso in hers -- usually on holy days. When she does, I open all my windows and allow the breeze to bring those heady scents into my home. It’s true. They are great air fresheners.

When I do buy my horno and incense, I’ll have to keep it simple. Perhaps lavender on its own or rosemary with vanilla … whatever combo I end up with, I’m happy that the ingredients will be 100% natural and local.

Do you use incense as an air freshener in your home?

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