Seems very simple. Throw a bunch of herbs together, mix and wa-la - incense! Sorry to burst your bubble, but we're talking Magickal Incense here.
A little about ingredients first before we begin.
Obviously this is herbs. These are the easiest to work with. Just grind, if necessary, and burn.
Perhaps the oldest form of incense. Many woods smell wonderful all by themselves.
Wood (sawdust) is often used as a base as it helps to blend the scents together and make the whole thing easier
burning. If you use a lot of oils in your incense, the wood base will soak up the oil without making your incense soggy.
If you can't or don't want to buy sawdust already made, take a limb from a tree. (Please ask permission from the tree first.)
Cut the limb into small pieces and save the sawdust. If it is not fine enough, run it through the blender. Don't
put the small pieces in the blender as it can ruin the blades.
Some good woods to try, beside the obvious ones, include Sandalwood (both White and Red), Vetivert, and Evergreen needles.
Be careful that the aroma of your wood base doesn't overpower the rest of your ingredients.
Resins are the most difficult to work with. When grinding them into a powder, they can
become a gummy mass. Very frustrating. Use a mortar and pestle for these, and clean up with alcohol afterward. Water
Oils are wonderful mixed with dry ingredients and can help blend the scents. A little goes a long way; add it a drop at a time.
NATURAL VS SYNTHETIC
Just a few thoughts on this controversy. As we all know, natural ingredients have the spirit of nature in them.
Most pagans (myself included) prefer to use only natural ingredients. But - the synthetic oils also have a spirit - the spirit
of the natural ingredients that were used to make them. Maybe it's not as strong as pure and natural, but it is there.
All things carry the spark of the Divine. Some oils are so costly that they are out of reach for most of us. Also,
some oils are obtained at the price of an animal's life; such as Musk or Civet. Your choice here is to either not use it or
substitute a synthetic if you must have that scent. Personally, I try to substitute with another oil (herbal) or not use
it at all. Just because something is man-made doesn't necessarily mean it is powerless or bad. Just trying to present both
sides here. Be sure to sniff test synthetics as their scent can change drastically when burned.
Be sure to sniff test each of your ingredients. Burn a little on a piece of charcoal and sniff.
Some herbs smell good until they're burned and then they small totally awful. For most incenses, you will probably
want something that smells good. A magickal incense does not have to smell bad to work. Too, it's not how much
of an herb that's in the mix that matters; it's presence is enough.
Adjust your recipe to make it one you're comfortable with. It will do no good to make a stinky
incense that makes the witch too sick to weave her magick.
Please keep a record of the results of your sniff tests. This could include any psychic impressions you received from
each ingredient, how each works with the other ingredients, etc.
Don't be afraid to substitute if you don't have the right ingredients. I've found that oftentimes an essential
oil can be substituted for an herb and vice versa.
- A gum or resin can often be substituted for another gum or resin.
- Related species - Mugwort (an Artemesia) can sometimes be substituted for Wormwood (also an Artemesia).
- Similar scent - there is magick in the scent.
- Same element or gender if you're using this.
- According to Scott Cunningham, Tobacco can be used in place of any poisonous herb.
- Of course, same properties.
- Use your intuition. If it feels right to you, it probably is.
Now that you've gathered, sniffed and substituted, proceed to the next step.
Keeping in mind your magickal intent, grind each herb to a powder, or as close as
you can get to it. Sometimes small pieces will have to suffice. You can use a
mortar and pestle, pepper or spice mill, coffee grinder, or a blender (I would
be lost without my blender). Don't use the same tools for food preparation as
you use for your aromatic herbs, as the scent left in them from the herbs can
taint your food.
Mix all your powders/pieces together in the appropriate amounts, add oils and mix
thoroughly. It is best to store this in a small glass container in the dark. Stir
occasionally and let age for a couple weeks if you can. Be sure to
keep a record of your recipes. Your best recipe is the one you will forget, so
always write them down. I know this from personal experience.
Be sure to empower your incense before you
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