Updated: Jul 22, 2021
Have you ever wondered how people made and used incense in ancient times?They didn't have shopping malls after all, never mind the Internet! So where did they GET incense?
The answer is, they made it. And, best of all, it was very, very easy!
What's is Incense?
Incense is basically just a nice smelling substance that you burn to get the smell. It comes in several forms:
The cones and sticks are what we buy when we purchase the typical incense from our favorite metaphysical shop (usually), they come in boxes or sometimes you can pick and choose single sticks, and have names like Nag Champa (a popular one). The cones and sticks are made with the same (or similar) ingredients as the loose incense, but they are compressed into the form of sticks or cones to make them easier to light and burn.
Loose/powdered incense is just that - loose. It is designed to be burned on a small, indoor charcoal tablet, or in some cases mounded up into a small pile and the pile itself is lit and set smoldering. This is a little trickier because blowing on it (the way you often get a cone or stick going) will make a real mess with the loose stuff!
Resin is definitely designed to be burned on the small indoor charcoal tablets. There is really no practical way to light and use resin incense without charcoal.
A note about charcoal:
The charcoal used to burn incense indoors is NOT the same stuff you cook with on your grill! That stuff is toxic indoors, and emits noxious fumes. The grilling stuff should NEVER be burned indoors. The small, match-lite charcoal tablets used for incense are designed to be self-lighting. A word of caution though, the match lite process can be very energetic! It is safer to hold the tablet with a tongs or other tool to avoid burning your fingers.
How is incense made?
To make incense, you gather up:
(Optional) Essential Oils
(Optional) Powdered Wood base
The cheapest and likely oldest form of incense is simply tossing herbs on the fire. Dried herbs will emit a lovely smell, and you can experiment with different ones to see which bring the desired scent. Adding a few drops of essential oil to incense can add a big kick to the scent! If you chose to do this, you really should consider burning the incense more slowly over charcoal as throwing it into an open fire will likely swallow up your lovely essential oil before you've even gotten a chance to smell it! Powdered wood base is really useful if you want to use a higher percentage of essential oils. The powdered wood absorbs the essential oils and can then be stored and burned later. It isn't necessary though, you can use more powdered herbs for a similar effect. People who make their own incense use some combination of these three ingredients.
Making your own incense requires that you think of a couple of things:
The magical correspondences for the herbs and oils you wish to use, and
The intent you have for the incense - is it for a love spell? Or for drawing money and wealth? Or for protection?
The use for the incense will hugely impact which herbs and oils you add to it. Learning the correspondences for herbs and oils is a wonderful lifetime pursuit, but there are a couple of sample recipes below to get you started. Also, for ideas for other recipes, try out Scott Cunningham's:
He wrote wonderful books on Ingredients!
Money Drawing Incense
3 Bay Leaves (crushed into small pieces)
1/4 tsp Cloves (Powdered)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon (Powdered)
1/2 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Wood Base (optional)
5 drops Ginger essential oil
7 drops Frankincense essential oil
Combine ingredients thoroughly. If mix is very dry, add a few more drops of essential oil.Burn on charcoal tablets.
1/2 tsp Orris root powdered
1/4 tsp powdered Patchouli
1 tsp Rose Petals (powdered)
1 tsp Hibiscus flowers (powdered)
1 tsp powdered wood base (optional)
7 drops Sandalwood essential oil* or Vetiver
3 drops Rose Essential oil*
4 drops Ylang Ylang essential oil
* The organic versions of these essential oils are extremely expensive. Actually ANY version of these is extremely expensive. And, either may trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. A lovely alternate is to use extra Ylang Ylang in place of Rose. If Sandalwood bothers you, you could try using Patchouli essential oil - SPARINGLY. A little goes a VERY long way. Another very nice option is Vetiver essential oil. Combine ingredients thoroughly. If mix is very dry, add a few more drops of essential oil. Burn on charcoal tablets.
If you have sensitivities to fragrance oils, (does the cleaning aisle at the market give you a horrible headache or make you cough, sneeze or wheeze?) then you will need to proceed with care and go slowly to find the scents and herbs that are safe and comfortable for you to use. Some oils will be well loved friends that you turn to again and again, others may not be for you. For this reason, never buy large quantities of an unknown essential oil or herb product. Get a LITTLE and try it out. Try it outside first, and if you have asthma, be careful! Be safe, take your time.
Remember, the magic is in YOU, not your supplies or tools. Your intent and ability to visualize and believe are what makes it work. There is no such thing as a "required" ingredient that cannot be replaced.
Make your own rules, make your own magic. It really is better that way! And share ideas in the comments with the community!