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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Sabbat Incense: Lammas

Most people I meet who are interested in making or using incense want to make sticks and cones.  That’s understandable since these are the most familiar commercial forms.  Many of us have a variety of nifty incense burners for these types of incense and they are simple to use.  Probably the next largest group of incense makers/users I encounter are, by many measurements, the exact opposite.  They prefer to mix aromatics in a “raw” form and use incense charcoal to heat whatever blend they mix.  There is a wonderful style of incense that fits right in the middle of these two extremes.  It’s easy to make and many people have everything needed in their cupboards right now.


I’ve written about incense pellets before.  They are a wonderful, ancient form of incense that are likely the first form of “processed” incense.  Incense sticks and cones aren’t particularly difficult to make, but they do require finely powdered ingredients and binders that aren’t found in everyone’s kitchen.  There is also a more significant learning curve to make sticks and cones that will perform well.  Pellets don’t have much of a learning curve but will still provide you with a more convenient, as well as unique, form that is far easier to handle and use than loose or powdered incense.  The scent from pellet incense also sets it apart from other forms.  Neither sticks nor loose blends can duplicate the scent of an incense pellet.

Since Lammas is just around the corner, below is a recipe for a special incense pellet blend designed specifically for this sabbat (reprinted [with permission of the author] from Incense: Crafting & Use of Magickal Scents (Expanded Edition), Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2014). 

Lammas Incense Pellets (all ingredients should be powdered; coarsely powdered will work)

2 tsp red sandalwood

½ tsp oak moss

½ tsp chamomile

½ tsp coltsfoot

½ tsp coriander

Blackberry jam as needed for a binder (if blackberry isn’t available in your area, substitute a jam made from local ingredients)

Optional: 1 tsp powdered incense charcoal (do not use “self-lighting” charcoal – only natural incense charcoal.)  This will speed curing and improve burning properties but is not mandatory.

Incense pellets can be sticky as you mix, so gloves are strongly recommended.  Blend all of the dry ingredients in a bowl until they are well mixed.  Gradually add jam to the dry mix.  After each addition of jam, carefully knead the incense by hand until the jam is completely blended.  Add more if needed, but the goal is to add the least amount of jam possible to bind all of the incense into a single ball of incense.  If you add too much jam the blend will be too liquid which will make it very difficult to handle.   Even if you do add too much jam, you can still use the incense, it will just take longer to cure. 

If you’re more of a visual learner you can see a video for making incense pellets at this URL:

Once the incense can be picked up as a single ball with few cracks on the surface, you should drop it into a zipper-style plastic bag.  Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag.  Store it in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks or so.  It will begin to cure during that time, which will make it much easier to handle.  After 2 weeks, open the bag and break the incense into small pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball between your fingers.  Each piece should be about the size of a plump pea.  Seal all of the pellets in a fresh plastic bag and store in a cool dark place until needed.

Incense pellets can be burned on incense charcoal, in an aroma lamp, or in an electric incense heater.  For outdoor use they can be tossed by the handful into the hot embers of a campfire.  Don’t toss them into a flaming campfire.  The incense will burn too fast and the scent will be lost in the smoke of the fire.


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  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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