Incense Magick: Art & Ritual of Incense

Incense fanatic Carl Neal walks you through the joys, wonders, and science of making and using natural incense. From making your first basic cone to creation and use of elaborate incense rituals, Incense Magick is your guide to the sometimes secretive world of incense and incense making. Every article explores different facets of incense, incense making, ingredients, rituals, tools, or techniques.

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Carl Neal

Carl Neal

  Carl Neal has walked a Pagan path for 30 years. He is a self-avowed incense fanatic and has published 2 books through Llewellyn Worldwide on the topic. For many years (and even occasionally these days) he was a vendor of altar tools and supplies which led him to write The Magick Toolbox for Red Wheel/Weiser  
Making Incense With Makko or Tabu No Ki

If you’ve ever done online research into incense making, you’ve almost certainly come across references to a mysterious material called “makko”.  Some places online even insist that you can’t make your own incense without it.  There is a lot of confusing information out there about makko, and I’m sadly to blame for a bit of that, so this is an effort to clear up the mysteries that surround makko.

The first thing I need to say is that is that you do NOT need to have makko to roll your own incense.  Makko is only one of many different “binders” that are available to modern incense makers.  In fact, makko isn’t the best choice for every incense making project.  In this age of online ordering, makko is a lot easier to locate than it was just a decade ago, but if you want to make your own incense you have lots of options beyond makko.  That being said, just what is makko and how is it used?  But first, a confession…

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Transform A Frog (or other critter) Into An Incense Burner In 3 Easy Steps

For this project, you don’t have to limit yourself to animals.  Any ceramic piece can be used as long as it meets a few basic requirements.  Oh, didn’t I mention that I was talking about ceramic frogs, not the biological kind.  You can turn lots of different ceramic pieces (and even some glass or stone pieces) into very cool incense burners as long as the piece 1) the piece is hollow, 2) it has an opening near the top, 3) it has an opening in the bottom that is at least 1 inch in diameter.  Smaller pieces will work faster and easier than large ones, but ultimately any size will work.

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My Favorite Incense Books: The Trail Of Time by Dr. Silvio Bedini

Not only is The Trail of Time one of my very favorite incense books, it’s also one of the few academic books on the topics that’s available in English.  Dr. Bedini uses the pages of this book to shine a light on a nearly forgotten aspect of human history.  Before the advent of reliable mechanical clocks, humans used a wide variety of ways to keep time, especially during the hours of darkness when the sun could not be used as a reference.  Candles, water, sand, rope, and other materials were often utilized in an attempt to keep time when the sun was uncooperative.  The many ways that incense was employed to keep time is fascinating and has inspired me to attempt a variety of projects of my own.

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My Favorite Incense Books: The Complete Incense Book by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi

There are a lot of useful, and entertaining, books about incense.  One of my favorites is The Complete Incense Book.  Published in 1998, this was one of the first additions to my personal incense library.  It is organized geographically and takes the reader on a tour of incense from around the world.  As the author moves through each region, she discusses the history of incense, as well as the ingredients that originate from that area.  She offers an assortment of incense recipes for each region as well.  While the recipes are all for “loose” incense, they are varied and quite interesting.

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Incense Molds

Since I made my first natural incense cone, I have quested for a decent incense mold.  For many years, there was nothing at all on the market.  In those early days, I made my own latex cone mold and taught others how to do it.  Making molds isn’t something I want to devote a lot of time to, so I’ve continued checking and testing virtually every mold I can find anywhere in the world.  My conclusion?

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Incense Heresy

Have you ever had 2 different types of incense that you think would be great together?  Me too.  That’s what has led to my “incense sin”.

This is my confession.  I have done something that might be interpreted in the incense world as genuine heresy.  If you aren’t an incense person, this might not seem significant, but if you are an incense person I hope you won’t hate me for what I have done.  I especially hope so since I’m very pleased with the result.

I feel like the incense version of Dr. Frankenstein.

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3 Techniques For Making Joss Incense Sticks

There are three basic shapes for self-combusting incense.  There are cones, masala sticks, and joss sticks.  Most incense users are familiar with the cone.  It is the shape I generally teach first to new incense makers.  Masala sticks are probably the most common form in North America.  Masala sticks have a wooden rod (usually bamboo) to support the stick.  Although the wooden rod can cause significant problems when the incense burns, it really is the most popular form on this side of the world.  The other type of incense stick is the joss stick.  Unlike a masala stick, the joss stick has no wooden rod.  It is just a solid stick of incense.

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