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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Being Solitary Can Be Dangerous

Pagan activities with a group of people can draw strange looks and even the occasional nutter who wants to “save” everyone.  I have discovered that, sometimes, practicing your spirituality alone can lead others to think you are actually insane.  I suppose I should add this to the list of differences between Traditional Pagans and Solitaries.  It isn’t that we are crazier than Traditional Pagans (at least I don’t think so), it’s just that Solitaries seem to be more suspect than groups.

Perhaps when someone sees a group of people doing something out of the ordinary it is viewed as strange but nothing more than “a bunch of wackos”?  Perhaps when the same behavior is practiced by an individual it crosses the line into “crazy”?  Let me give an example.


About 6 – 7 years ago, the region where I lived was smacked by a very significant ice storm.  I personally had no power for 6 days and I lived 3 blocks from the main power substation in the city.  I know that a lot of people can relate to that with the winter that we just came through.  A few months after the storm my favorite hiking spot finally started getting their trails cleared.  They also started marking the trees that were too badly damaged to be saved.  This was a place where I spent several hours hiking a couple of times a week.  I knew every trail and was familiar with most of the larger trees and their spirits.

When I learned that many trees, including several of the oldest in the wildlife refuge, were to be taken down I was heartbroken.  On my next trip out and took time to walk all of the trails and talk to all of the trees that were slated for removal.  The trails were still fairly flooded and debris-strewn, but passible enough for me to visit these old friends.  One tree spirit was very talkative and frightened, so I sat down, put my arms around it and began talking to it.  After a few minutes of this I sensed someone else.

When I opened my eyes and looked around, I saw there was a young couple on the adjoining trail with their small child.  Although the look on the adult’s faces was priceless, it was clear that they were disturbed that I was hugging and talking to a tree and telling it not to be afraid.  I smiled at them and started to explain what I was doing as I stood up.  The couple didn’t wait for my explanation.  Apparently standing up made them think that the “crazy tree-guy” was going to attack them so they ran down the trail like jack rabbits, with child in tow, and vanished onto the main trail leading back to the central parking area. 

Exercising the better part of valor, I bade the tree spirit farewell and slide back to my car (parked near the “secret” back parking lot) just in case Park Rangers were dispatched with a straight jacket.  I can’t help but think that had there been a crowd of tree huggers that the couple would have passed on by with a chuckle, but seeing a Solitary left quite a different impression.  Yes, being a Solitary Pagan can be a risky proposition.  Not because being “out of the broom closet” might cost a job but because saying hello to a fairy just might get you put in restraints!


Last modified on
  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  


  • Neda Marin
    Neda Marin Tuesday, 25 March 2014

    Haha I absolutely loved this post! I am still very new in terms of self acceptance and awareness in regards to my own path. While my preference leans towards solitary practice, situations like this can be a great deterrent to practice or communicate with nature out in the open. There is a trail close to where I live which I've always felt was alive and speaking to me, and I would always wait until passerby's were far enough to reply.

  • Carl Neal
    Carl Neal Tuesday, 25 March 2014

    Honestly, my biggest concern in this situation was that they would drop their child as they fled from me! I heard no screams of pain, so I assume he was fine. I've reached an age where I really don't care what people think about me or my practices up to a point. If people's reactions are so strong that they call law enforcement or, even worse, my mother (who is now 77), then it is a concern. Since moving to Oregon I have noticed that nobody gives a second look when I talk to trees. I'm glad to have found my true home! Thanks for reading.

  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell Thursday, 27 November 2014

    Nice to run into another one of your posts. From this one I noted another one "Solitary does not mean Isolated" June 30, 2013 on which I made a couple of comments.

    I have not had a problems being solitary yet and I still a putting out ACTION every Sabbat. Still out here in my desert though on my own now as my partner passed a year ago at age 77.

    Do you still do your radio show “Magick Moment”. I still a always looking for ore people to interview. After the first five hundred interviews, I sort of have run out of all the people that I knew about, that my fiends knew about that y readers knew about and the people, on the forums that I take part in, knew about, so I always seem to need more to interview. There are a number of things we could discuss such as being active in the county though solitary, the radio show work shops, then your books and fascination with incense. I consider interviews a cooperative venture and I work with the people I interview, most of it is their own words. Even after edited you get another chance to check it out and even make last minute corrections.The average interview runs four to six letter size pages, but it is how much information that you choose to put in your answers that determine the final length As the magazine is online, I can expand the magazine rather than cut to fit the interview.

    I have had several interviews that went ten pages or more.

    Anyway I am just letting you know that I am still alive and kicking.

  • aought
    aought Wednesday, 26 March 2014

    Always the conundrum, I think that those of us on solitary paths realize that there is danger in being isolated. But, it's difficult to find ways to engage without having to defend our need for solitude, or to follow our own beliefs.
    There are dogmatists in every group that feel the need to demand that all follow the same path. It's much easier to disengage then to argue about it. Online forums are useful, I wish there were more ways to connect in a more "secular" manner, where support could be offered without the need to question beliefs.

  • Witch Nikki Porras
    Witch Nikki Porras Thursday, 27 March 2014

    REALLY? I have been Solitary for too many years now, I do not feel safe in GROUPS....which might contain some negative people....( cultism) I was in a "group" that claimed to be A Native American Sweat Lodge, but they were also combining Wiccan Deities in the ceremonies and combining the 2, without telling anyone. I am Cherokee and Wiccan but I know what I do. It is different to claim one thing and be something else....This GROUP wound up being a coven of sexual predators....seeking out women like me who had been abused and raped...and trying to gain our trust so they could manipulate us into sexual situations. I was also told by one of the Spiritual leaders to not worry so much about being rapped at age 4! SHE said that it was part of my journey and that is was a life lesson! NO, I stay CLEAR of Covens! Which in MY reality have been more dangerous than alone! Do not be led astray by this false concept!

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