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Of smoke and unguents: Health affordances of sacred materiality

Carroll, T; (2019) Of smoke and unguents: Health affordances of sacred materiality. In: Parkhurst, A and Carroll, T, (eds.) Medical Materialities: Toward a Material Culture of Medical Anthropology. (pp. 178-192). Routledge: London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

In ancient medical practice, materia medica could be taken through various means. It could be digested orally, taken as tea, stuck in various orifices of the body, or burned. Plant resins, such as storax, frankincense and myrrh were part of a common repertoire of medicinal substances regularly employed in health regiments. Frankincense and myrrh resin is s are still regularly used in much the same way – burned as incense – however the medical implications of this practice are often lost on the contemporary lay viewer. Looking at both the historical and contemporary practice, this chapter investigates the use of incense in Orthodox Christian liturgical practice. Its widespread use in the liturgy was introduced, at least in part, as a general health policy concerning the purification of air against airborne disease. Contemporary interpretations of incense, however, tend to emphasise the health of the soul rather than the health of the body. The chapter proposes that the permeable nature of the human body allows such substances – which can easily penetrate through bodily orifices – to hold great importance for the health of both body and soul.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Of smoke and unguents: Health affordances of sacred materiality
ISBN-13: 9781138314290
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.routledge.com/Medical-Materialities-To...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10086803
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