I think a lot about smell, as you might have guessed from my having written a magazine article about it for an offbeat quarterly. Today I find myself musing about odors, ritual, and sacred spaces.
It's no surprise that incense and its ilk are associated with religio-magical practices beyond written history. its ability to mark and recall deep memories is well-attested, and the entire practice of aromatherapy is based on its power to subtly alter moods at an almost pre-conscious level. Beyond sacred circles, geometrically-bewitching architecture, or striking acoustics, making a place sacred starts with making it smell different.
I realized this, as it happens, while waving a burning smudge of white sage around my campsite at dusk, muttering "repel ghosts," a meme-worm picked up from Basquiat via my art-friend Superchief Jeronimo. The phrase felt like the right thing to say at the time, but I had no intentions of a supernatural nature: I just wanted the damn mosquitoes to back off.