Yup, I’m an incense addict!

There’s no real way to get around it, so rather than try to play it down I’ll just come right out and say it.  I’m an addict.  An incense addict!  It’s been a problem for years, and it’s a problem that I now have to deal with somewhat “in the closet” because my husband has horrible allergies and often times my addict affects him in a negative way.  Do you think I can get on an episode of “Intervention” for this?  Do I need an intervention?  I might.
All joking aside, I do have quite the collection of incense.  I’ve been collecting incense for years.  When I was a kid my Mom and my aunt both (to my recollection) would burn incense and I always liked it.  When I was about 12 or so I started to get into incense on my own as I was starting to explore Paganism and magick.  I’ve always been a very scent oriented person.  A smell can quickly pull me back into a memory of a place, a person, or a time in my life and sometimes these things are good, and sometimes not so good, but it’s an easy way to do it.

As an extension of my incense collection you should see my collection of my non-magickal oils, like my Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab oils.  I think I have three bottles of Samhain oil from them at this point because I can’t get enough and I’m always afraid I’ll run out because I wear it every day once mid-September hits.  The scent that just smells like “home” to me, that makes so comfortable and happy, is a blend of warm tonka bean and vanilla.  I don’t know why, but it does.

Incense is a little different.  I don’t know what it is about incense specifically but I can’t walk into a magickal shop and no buy some, especially if it’s custom or hand-blended incense specific to that shop.  I love to explore incense and the combinations that other people have found sing to their souls.

I’ve written about incense before and how it makes such a great tool for magick, manifestation, and divination.  It’s simple and it can be really inexpensive if you make it yourself.  Of course, you can also find very expensive custom blends and blends made from exotic resins, herbs, and oils from around the world that you would probably use very sparingly or only for special occasions {I have a few of those}.

The sight of the smoke rising from a pretty burner is enchanting.

The look of thick incense smoke filling a dark, candlelit room during meditation or ritual is spellbinding.

The simplicity of working magick with just incense and your will is empowering.

But I’ve learned some things along the way when it comes to incense. 

[sws_highlight hlcolor=”2ccf99″] 5 Tips and Thoughts on Incense [/sws_highlight]

[list type=”info”] [li]Use resin sparingly.  Resins burn very smokey and can set off very sensitive fire alarms.  They also tend to have a very thick and heavy scent, especially if they are treated resins, meaning they have oils added to them.  A little resin can go a long way and the scent of resins lasts long after you burn them.[/li] [li]Store your charcoal in an airtight container.  For me this is even more important that it might be for some other people given that I almost always live at or very close to the ocean.  If you’ve ever left your roll of incense charcoals open and exposed to the air for a period of time, you know how there can be times that you just can’t get them to light no matter how long you hold it in the flame.  The moisture in the air ruins the charcoal over time and if the air is particularly damp where you like {like near the water} you will find exposed coals don’t work.  I had a teacher once recommend keeping them stored in salt, but I never found that to work terribly well {the idea being the salt would draw out moisture, but I’ve never found that to work well for me}.[/li] [li]When you do burn incense on charcoal, start small.  By that I mean just use a little incense at a time and add more as you need it.  There’s nothing worse than overdoing it right off the bat because you can’t undo the smokey mess you made.  And, back to reins again, not only do they burn very smokey, but they can kill a charcoal.  Reins melt as they burn and if the coal isn’t properly lit the resin can start to harden and, for the most part, put out your coal or make it largely useless.  With resins it’s really important to make sure that your charcoal has lit completely {after you light it let it sit until it turns completely grey from the first layer of ash forming on it; that’s when you know the coal is really ready to use}.  Dried herbs burned on a piece of coal can easily be scraped or brushed off with an incense spoon if they are in the way.  [/li] [li]Different incense should be used for different things.  This is really important if you’re using incense for spiritual purposes.  The incense you get at the drug store or convenience store is not what you want to use for a meditation, ritual, or other spiritual work or offering.  While I know this is something that could be easily debated by some people I’ll just put it to you this way, incense is used most often as an offering to the Gods.  Sure, we use it in different spiritual aspects for different things, but not all incense is make equally and therefore not all incense is meant to be used the same.  If you’re going to do some really important prayer work or manifestation work and incense is your chosen tool to use for it, you should use something that either you made yourself or that you know is made with top quality ingredients {yes, that could mean having to spend a bit of money on quality}.  Strawberry scented incense sticks from the QuickStop that you paid $3 for 50 sticks is not the same as burning strawberry leaf itself.  Incense like that is fine for just scenting our home but for magick it’s bottom of the totem poll, so to speak.[/li] [li]If you prefer to use stick or cone incense, look for hand rolled/hand made incense.  This is a big deal for a few reasons.  Incense that are either stick or cone, especially of the mass produced variety, are made from fragrance oils and have been cut with a chemical called DPG {Di-Propylene Glycol}.  DPG helps to extend the scent of the fragrance oil and it also helps to create a more even burn.  Both incense sticks and cones are usually treated with DPG which is mixed in with the fragrance oils so when the cones and sticks are dipped they are scented and treated all at once.  These “blank” cones and sticks are often called “punks” and are usually sawdust formed into the cone shape or on a bamboo stick.  Magickal, huh.  However you can hand roll incense cones and sticks {usually made with a base of makko powder and herbs or sawdust} and that’s what you want to try and look for if you are going to use incense in that form.  Looking on places like Etsy for hand rolled incense can give you some results, and there are some companies that make natural incense commercially that are lovely {The Morning Star incense line by Nippon Kodo is one of my all time favs and usually reasonably priced}.[/li] [/list]

And here’s a little magickal bonus tip…
If you’re burning your incense specifically as a prayer or spell in and of itself, as in you’re burning it with intention for manifesting something, do it by an open window and let the smoke leave your space and carry the intentions and energies out to the heavens rather than trapping it in your home.

Carl Neal’s book “Incense: Crafting and Use of Magical Scents” is a great introduction to anyone interested in learning to make their own.  And of course there is the old standby of “Incense, Oils, and Brews” by Scott Cunningham that can’t be beat for recipes.

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  • Emily Allen
    July 13, 2012 at 3:23 am

    I recently bought some loose incense and I really need to buy charcoal to try it out. Making my own is going to have to be added to a list of future projects. I love DIY!

  • Carl Neal
    December 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Yay – another addict! Isn’t it amazing how addictive that little stream of smoke can become? I understand your delima as far as incense and significant others goes. My wife is a candle maker and (with few exceptions) almost any synthetic oils she uses in them drives me out of the house. Likewise, no matter how gentle of an incense I create, it always seems to bother her. LOL, we are both scent addicts but we need different delivery systems! It all works out though. She makes candles at one of the house, I make incense at the other. Love conquers all – even allergies! Nice to bump into another incense lover.

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