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 How To Make Incense

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lady jessica
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Join date : 2008-11-03

PostSubject: How To Make Incense   Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:05 pm

How To Make Incense
by Blayze
Incense has been used throughout history as an offering in temples, as a symbol of the element of air (and air & fire together when it is placed on charcoal), it is used to effect magickal change, to cleanse and purify, to induce an altered state during vision quests and divination.
It comes in various forms. Most of you will be familiar with stick or cone incense. These types are self-igniting, having a flammable substance mixed in with the herbs and glue - like salt petre
The type of incense that we are going to concentrate on is loose incense. This is generally a mixture of resins (tree sap), herbs, barks and oils. These are blended together in various amounts, using a mortar and pestle, to create a roughly powdered mix that is burnt on self igniting charcoal blocks.
Anyone who has been in a catholic church mass will have smelt the burning frankincense and myrrh in the swinging censer. These two resins are brilliant for purification and consecration and form together or separately the base of most incenses. We, however, add herbs and oils to our incenses, not only to make them smell good but to utilize the vibrations found within the herbs themselves. The herbs can be used for their scent, which may represent a certain element eg. spicy cinnamon for fire, the herb may have astrological and planetary attributes that we wish to draw on. It may contain substances that help to shift our awareness, help us to astral travel, to have visions, to aid divination abilities when scrying or reading cards or stones etc.
Within witchcraft, as with many other pagan paths, the incense is used to purify a sacred space or object, to represent the element of air or air and fire together. It is magickally charged for a spell so that when it is placed on the charcoal the magic is released to be breathed in, or carried on the four winds to reach its destination. It is used during ritual to help attune with surroundings or evoke memories of a specific time and place (with ingredients taken from the location), it is used to shift awareness while scrying (looking into the future or seeking answers to questions by using a crystal ball, a mirror, the incense smoke, coals from a fire etc. It can also be used to represent an illness and represent a healing. As you can see it is a very useful ingredient in many pagan practices. Witches are generally eclectic and draw on many aspects of paganism including shamanic practices.
The method that I use for making incense is:

1. Grind the resin in a mortar and pestle, leaving smallish chunks that will burn longer. You also have herbs to grind in and so you don't want to create a paste. Powdered resins tend to burn out very quickly and if you are casting a circle using the incense you want it to at least be still producing smoke by the time you have walked around the circle and arrived back at the altar. Resins can include Frankincense, Myrrh, Benzoin, Copal Gum, Gum Arabic, Gum Mastic, Dragons Blood, Eucalyptus Sap, Pine Sap, Bloodwood Sap etc.
2. Grind any barks, herbs & flowers (dried if possible) into the resin. Some barks or wood such as Sandalwood can be very hard to grind - you may need to start them off before you grind the resin. Rose petals also unless very well dried can be hard to grind. Mugwort doesn't grind at all and needs to be cut up very small.
3. Add any powdered ingredients like spices & herbs. They can be mixed in with a spoon.
4. A binder is generally a good idea. If you have the essential oil of one of the ingredients in your recipe you could use a few drops of that. They usually have a more potent aroma - so take that into consideration. Other binders include a few drops of wine or mead depending on the incense. Sabbat incenses can have a few drops red wine for the dark half of the year and the spring and summer incenses can use white wine. Mead is good for harvest festivals as well. Sometimes female only rites is a few drops of menstrual blood.
You don't want the incense so wet that it wont burn but just held together nicely so that all the ingredients don't burn too separately. Generally by this stage the ingredients are mixed together with a spoon.

5. As you are grinding or mixing you can visualize the goal or end result you want from the incense. The grinding motion is raising energy so you can utilize that. You may wish to wait and empower the incense when it is finished or both. It really depends on the situation and the type of incense. We will talk about empowering later on.
You can change the order of steps to suit yourself. I have had quite good results using this method.
Some "shaman mixes" for altered states, vision quests etc. use only herbs. They burn quickly and produce a lot of smoke and are constantly replenished. These are usually burnt within an enclosed environment so that they have a maximum effect. Beware of these if you suffer from asthma or allergies. They work very well but as lungfuls of smoke are breathed in some people can become very sensitive to them.
There is a difference between the ground incense and the way it smells when burnt. It's best to have a lit charcoal when you make incense so you can adjust amounts accordingly. Remember too many herbs and you are left with the smell of a campfire.
When you first start out making incense the list of ingredients can be very daunting and very expensive. The best way is to look at your kitchen spice rack. What can you use from there. Do you have a herb garden or does a friend. You can dry herbs by hanging them in a sunny window. Collect sap from trees and experiment with aromas - nothing milky though and only if you know what the tree is. If you look at recipes say from Cunningham, (the Complete Book of Oils Incenses and Brews) see what ingredients tend to be used the most and purchase them. There is no rush in having a fully stocked apothecary.
As you grind you incense.. concentrate on your magickal goal... the act of grinding raises energy.. .feel the energy and goal become one with the incense.... when the incense is fully ground... burn some on charcoal for smell test and adjust accordingly.. the spell is within the incense now... when you burn it on the charcoal then the magick is released.
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