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Incense can generally be separated into two main types: "indirect-burning" and "direct-burning".
Indirect-burning incense (or "non-combustible incense") is not capable of burning on its own, and requires a separate heat source.
During the 14th century Shogunate, a samurai warrior might perfume his helmet and armor with incense to achieve an aura of invincibility (as well as to make a noble gesture to whomever might take his head in battle).
It wasn't until the Muromachi Era during the 15th and 16th century that incense appreciation (kōdō) spread to the upper and middle classes of Japanese society.
Incense is used for aesthetic reasons, and in therapy, meditation, and ceremony.
It may also be used as a simple deodorant or insectifuge.
Indirect-burning incense, also called "non-combustible incense", is a combination of aromatic ingredients that are not prepared in any particular way or encouraged into any particular form, leaving it mostly unsuitable for direct combustion.
Incense was burnt to counteract or obscure malodorous products of human habitation, but was widely perceived to also deter malevolent demons and appease the gods with its pleasant aroma.
Resin balls were found in many prehistoric Egyptian tombs in El Mahasna, furnishing tangible archaeological substantiation to the prominence of incense and related compounds within Egyptian antiquity.
Finer ingredients tend to burn more rapidly, while coarsely ground or whole chunks may be consumed very gradually as they have less total surface area.
The heat is traditionally provided by charcoal or glowing embers.