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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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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Foundations of Incense: Lavender

I love lavender.  It’s easy to grow, at least where I live, and it’s generally hardly.  Best of all, it’s excellent for incense making.  It powders easily, has a great scent, and is very fault-tolerant.  You can even make incense cones or sticks using nothing but lavender and a tiny bit of binder.

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  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    Great article. Thank you!
The Simple Trick To Making Backflow Incense Cones

As an incense maker I get all sorts of questions from incense users and makers all around the world.  The question I’ve been asked the most over the last 2 years has been “how do you make backflow incense cones?”  The “backflow” or “down flow” incense cone is something reasonably new in the marketplace.  Unlike a traditional cone, a backflow cone not only sends a stream of smoke into the air but it also sends a stream of smoke downwards.  When used with a special burner the smoke flows downward like fog or water.  There are backflow burners that look like a pot pouring tea, a dragon breathing smoke, a castle wrapped in fog, and many others.  All of those very clever burners require the use of a special backflow incense cone.

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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.

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Incense Correspondences

Pick up any Pagany book about incense (or virtually anything else) and you are bound to find a “chart of correspondences” to tell you which herb works for what type of magick.  Want to make incense to help bring prosperity?  Look up “prosperity” in the closest correspondence chart and use whatever the chart says!  Personally, I am generally opposed to using a correspondence chart created by someone else.  I understand pragmatism and the limited amount of time that people have…I get it.  My personal experience with such charts has often shown me that I find different magickal energies in some ingredients.  Sometimes I use things in the exact opposite way as I have seen it described by others.  Don’t misunderstand me.  This isn’t a huge criticism of such charts.  If you’ve read “Incense: Crafting & Use of Magickal Scents” then you know that I included a fairly large correspondence list for incense makers.  What I’m really saying is that nobody should take those charts as gospel nor believe that they can explore every type and variation of plant and tree the way that we can as individuals.

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Foundations of Incense: Oak

When I think about making incense cones and sticks, I usually see wood (a base material) as the simplest and most reliable ingredient in the blend.  After all, it’s the base material that provides the heat to evenly burn the other ingredients.  I generally use a simple formula when creating a pure wood incense: 2 tablespoons of wood powder, 1/8 teaspoon of gum binder, and about 1 tablespoon of water.  Simple right? 

When it comes to woods, Oak is a wood seen as sacred by multiple cultures.  It is fairly easy to powder and has wonderful burning properties.  Most of us are familiar with the pleasing smell of Oak burning in a campfire.  These facts make Oak seem like a natural base material to use for many different types of incense.  Occasionally, Nature likes to teach us humility by showing us that we aren’t nearly as smart as we think.  Oak has been chuckling at me for decades, but I think we have finally found our middle ground.

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