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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Blurring the lines of “Community”

It’s no big revelation that the “Pagan Community” is a broad term that encompasses countless small groups that may (or may not) consider themselves “Pagan”.  We all know that the term “Pagan” comes with controversy and debate, but how often do we consider the other word in the phrase? 

How important is “Pagan” rather than “Community”?  Most of us, whether we identify as Pagan or not, seem to agree that “Community” is important.  Our collective strength is far greater than that which we can wield alone.  Even the fiercest Solitary Pagan can see the advantages of working collectively to achieve common goals.  Although strict adherents to Heathenism might have many disagreements with Dianic Wiccans (neither of which might identify as “Pagan”), both sides can usually see how working together is beneficial.  Our similarities are certainly more powerful than our differences.

There is a larger question that underlies this idea.  Do the lines between communities really even matter?  Where do we draw the “final line”?  Lines are used to separate things.  Do we need to be separated and segmented?  Labeled and categorized?  At what point do we stop?

I can identify myself as a Solitary Eclectic Animistic Quasi-Taoist Polytheist and could consider my “community” to be those who could apply the same label to themselves.  While such statements might make it easier for people to categorize me and my beliefs, is that a benefit?  Do such labels and lines between us make us better?  Stronger?  Smarter? 

On the other hand, at point do we stop erasing the lines that separate us?  We are more than “Pagans”.  We can divide ourselves by race, age, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and many other factors.  So if we are going to blur or erase the lines between communities, what is that final line we won’t erase?  Are we prepared to stand together with Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others to live as the “Community of Humanity”?  Are we “American Pagans”, “English Pagans”, “Hungarian Pagans” or are we “American”, “English”, “Hungarian”, etc.

I’m not asking this question strictly as a mental exercise.  I think that it is time that we look at the term “Community” with the same critical eye we have used for the word “Pagan”.  We talk endlessly about building the Pagan Community, but do we even know what composes that community?  How should the Pagan Community relate to all of the other “communities” in our culture?  How important is it that we, as Pagans, participate in the “broader community” within our cities, nations, and even the international community?  Should we hide ourselves away again (returning to pure “occult” status) and build a community to our liking in isolation from non-Pagans or should we strive to integrate into these broader communities as the LGBT Community has done so effectively?

I will explore a number of these issues over the coming weeks, but I am genuinely interested in hearing the thoughts of others in our Community (or are you outside of it?).  Please let me know your thoughts while I pour my own onto the page.


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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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