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  

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Foundations of Incense: Sandalwood

In the next several entries I plan to quickly explore the materials that have formed the basis of incense historically as well as those that modern incense makers use regularly.  One of the most important incense ingredients historically is sandalwood.

There are 5 different varieties of sandalwood that are used in scented products, although only 3 of those have commonly been used in modern times.  Indian yellow sandalwood (santalum album) has historically been a preferred base material for incense in Asia and Africa.  Even in modern times, sandalwood is burned in every form from large pieces in fires to powdered bits in incense sticks and cones.  The biggest consumer of sandalwood, by far, is the perfume industry.  Sandalwood is a key ingredient in many popular perfumes.  Once you work with the fragrance for a while you will begin to recognize it in colognes and perfumes.  The popularity of sandalwood over the centuries has led to its endangered status in India, the motherland of incense.  International treaties have reduced the trade in sandalwood from India to the realms of bootleggers.  For some years now the only sandalwood from India that was legally available in the USA was from existing stockpiles.  It is now virtually impossible to get real sandalwood from India in the USA, although there are many imitation products sold under the label of “Indian sandalwood”.

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KENNY KLEIN FOUND GUILTY

My apologies for posting this on an incense blog, but I thought this information was too important to wait for other channels.  Yesterday, April 6, 2017, a jury in New Orleans found Kenny Klein guilty on 20 counts of possession of child pornography.  He was immediately taken into custody.  Sentencing is scheduled for April 20.

 

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Heating Incense

I talked about the honored history of the incense pellet as well as how to make your own at home.  The final key, of course, is actually using the incense. The basic act of heating pellets is the same as any other “non self-combusting” incense (how’s that for a mouthful?). 

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Ancient Incense: Pellets (making them!)

Last time I talked about the likely origins and historic use of incense pellets, but the real joy in discussing incense making is to actually make incense!  Making incense pellets is easy and fun, but it can be messy so plan for that.  I recommend that you make incense in an area with a floor you can mop.  If you make incense pellets in a carpeted area, it’s a good idea to put down some cardboard or a drop cloth to ensure no honey causes damage.  Unlike recipes for self-combusting incense (like sticks and cones) incense pellet recipes can be freely modified to fit your needs and the materials you have on hand. 

I strongly suggest that you wear gloves while making incense.  This is especially true with incense pellets.  Pellets are most often made with honey as a binder, but natural jams are also used (avoid any that contain corn syrup or artificial flavors).  Let’s start with a recipe (all ingredients should be finely powdered).

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Ancient Incense: Pellets (history)

As Pagans, most of us are very familiar with using “loose” incense on charcoal or an incense heater.  Most of us are also very familiar with incense sticks, cones, coils and other shapes of “self-combusting” incense.  You might be familiar with the best known ancient incense from Egypt called kyphi, but kyphi was developed long after incense had become widely used in many cultures.  You might not be familiar, however, with what is very likely the first form of manufactured incense; the pellet.  Although there is no definitive historic proof, it seems logical that this would be the first form of manufactured incense since it is seemingly an outgrowth of herbal medication.

As knowledge of herbal medicine grew, and practitioners grew more skilled, the first “pills” began to appear.  These were remedies blended from a variety of herbal medicines and bound together into pellet form, often by the addition of honey as a binder and a sweetener.  At some point someone (whether by design or by accident) placed one of the herbal pills near a heat source and discovered that certain blends give off wonderful aromas.  Incense making was born!

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The Elements of Incense

This is the first entry in Carl Neal's new blog, "Incense Magick." Entries for "Circle of One" can still be found in the archives of Carl Neal's writing on PaganSquare.

I started making incense in 1995. Since then I have taught thousands of people to make incense in various workshops and classes and tens of thousands through my books, web sites, and You Tube channel. I obsessively research incense and read every book I can find on the topic. Over the years of speaking with various practitioners and students, as well as reading many “magick 101” books, I have learned that most people regard incense as representative of the element of either fire or air (or occasionally both). For decades now I have respectfully disagreed.

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  • John Zelasko
    John Zelasko says #
    Hello Carl! I joined the website just this evening and was delighted to see there was another incense fanatic like myself. My fasc

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Love for Orlando

I am going to delay the next article in the series "Blurring the Lines of Community" for an obvious reason.

The LGBT community has been deeply wounded.  That community has been the inspiration of many of the things we have been trying to do over the years in the Pagan Community.  I have often held up the LGBT Community as an example of what can be accomplished by a repressed, suppressed, and marginalized community.  Same sex marriage is now the law of the land.  Battles over equal rights continue, but the LGBT Community has done an amazing job over the last few decades of moving the discussion from one of pure hate and complete lack of understanding to an emerging view in America that their members are simply other members of the larger community.  There is still far to go, but the LGBT inspiration has had a massive impact on the Pagan Community and how we are now attempting to become more accepted by the legal system and American society as a whole.  There would be no "Pagan Pride Day" if it weren't for the LGBT Community blazing a trail for us.  

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