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Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Magick of Incense

This entry will cover the following:

Definition of Terms
Types of Incense 
Ritual Use of Incense

Definition of Terms

  1. Ash-Catcher- Alternative term for any type of incense holder. As the name implies, the ashes from burning incense collects on the ash-catcher to protect the surface on which the incense is burning.

  1. Censer- A vessel in which incense is burned. It is often suspended from a chain so that it may be swung about to distribute smoke in a given area.

  1. Fumigation- The exposing of something to incense smoke for the purpose of cleansing and purifying it.

  1. Incensing- Refers to the covering of a person, place, or object with incense smoke. In the practice of magic and spells this is often performed for the purpose of cleansing and empowerment. Also known as censing or smoking.

  1. Suffumigation- The burning of incense to produce fumes as part of some magical rituals.

Types of Incense

  1. Briquette- Incense made from pressing a mixture of charcoal powder and saltpeter into a small brick-like form and then scenting the resulting dried briquette with essential oils.

  1. Coil- Incense made from placing powdered sandalwood onto a thin bamboo or fiber core twisted into a spiral shape. It is then allowed to dry and then scented with essential oils.

  1. Cone- Incense made by a process of combining sandalwood with other woods, gum and pressing it into cone-shaped mold. It is allowed to dry and then scented with oils.

  1. Sticks- Incense made by adhering powdered wood, herbs, etc... to thin sticks which are allowed to dry and then scented with essential oils. Also know as Joss Incense.  

  1. Powdered- Incense made from a blend of wood fiber, saltpeter and scent, although dried herbs can be added to the mixture.  It is usually burned by shaping it into cones. It is also known as Loose or Self-Lighting incense.

  1. Rope- Incense is made by placing herbs and other plant materials on rice paper, thin fiber, or bamboo and then twisting the rice paper to form a 'rope'.

Ritual Use of Incense

In Wiccan ritual, incense typically represents the element of air. However, it also has other uses. They are:

  • To set a magickal mood.
  • To purify the area of negativity.
  • To release energy
  • To carry prayers/wishes to the gods.
  • For scrying

Setting the Mood- Similar to how color affect our biology, certain smells also bring up associations in our minds that can have a profound effect on our mood.  Our olfactory sense is the closest of our five senses tied to our memories, by using scents tied to pleasant or unpleasant memories we can call up the needed energy for rituals and spells. Imagine doing a love spell and burning incense that reminds you of your first boy/girl friend. Now imagine doing a love spell and burning incense that smells like burning tires. Which spell do you think has the best chance of being successful?

Purification- The burning of incense has long been used by Pagans, as well as other religions to purify people, places, and things. It is believed that the purity of the smoke, it’s pleasant scent, and the ingredients which make it up (usually herbs and oils) drive out negativity and evil.

Release Energy- As I stated above, natural incenses typically contain dried herbs and scented with essential oils that when burned release energy into the universe much like a prepared candle. This energy can be programmed by the specific intent of our rite (spell, chant, meditation, visualization, etc…) Incense manufacturers now make specific incenses designed to bring about specific wishes for love, success, money, health, blessing, etc…

Transmitting Prayers- In ancient times, the sky was believed to be the abode of the gods. Prayers, chants, spells, etc… were performed accompanied by the burning of incense in the belief that as the smoke rises towards the heavens and moved across the higher planes it would carry our wishes to God and spirits that would grant them.

Scrying- Although I haven’t seen this practice common today, magickal practitioners have been known to set incense burning and then stare into the rising smoke for signs, omen, visions, etc….

Carolina Dean 


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