Incense is a major part of any ritual you preform. While it's convienent to purchase incense, making your own is economical, very easy, and infuses your incense and your ritual magick with an incredible amount of personal power. You can buy powdered herbs, or grind your own with a mortar & pestle. With self-ignighting charcoal in your censer, there is no end to power you can create.
For those of you with a little more time on your hands, I will include instructions on how to make your own stick and cone incense. It's messy, it's envolved, but some say it's worth it. You can also make incense papers, they are less mess and fun to do.
Assemble your herbal ingredients. If you are missing one and can't find it in stores or on-line, check the substitutions page on this site. Grind each ingredient individually to a very fine powder, using a mortar & pestle or a coffee bean grinder kept only for grinding herbs. (You don't want to be drinking sandalwood coffee the next morning).
Center yourself and set your mind on the goal of the incense you are creating. In a large non-metallic bowl, mix all the ingredients together with your hands, mixing thier energies together. Visualize your power charging the incense to affect it's goal. Add any essential oil or liquids that are called for in the recipe, just a drop or two is usally enough. If the is a sufficient amount of dry ingredients in the mixture, you may substitute an oil for any herb you lack. You must use essential oil as synthetics smell like burning plastic when smoldered. Empower your incense and store in an air-tight container. Label with name and date.
(stick & cone)
I warned you, it's messy and complex, but here goes...
Purchase a small amonut of powdered Potassium Nitrate (saltpeter) and powdered Gum Tragacanth or powdered Gum Arabic. Gum Tragacanth is the basic ingredient of all molded incenses, but Gum Arabic will work just as well and is easier to find. You will be making a "paste" out of it with water. Place a teaspoon of the powder in a glass of warm water. Mix very well, until all the powder is dissolved into the water. You can also place this in a bowl and whisk with an egg beater or whisk. Foam will rise, but it can be removed or allowed to dissolve. Let set to asorb the water until it turns into a thick, bitter-smelling paste. The consistency you need it will depend on what type of incense you are making. For cones or blocks, you will need a thicker paste. To make sticks, you need it thin enough to dip a skewer into. It's like cooking, you go by feel. After a time or two, you will be able to judge easily. Cover the paste with a wet cloth and set aside. It will continue to thicken as it sits, but you can stir in a bit of water to thin it up.
Mix a cone incense base to add to your paste. You can use this base to mix with the incenses you have made with the recipe for noncombustible incense above. Do not add any incense to the paste mix unless you have mixed it with a base like the one below.
Cone Incense Base
- 6 parts powdered Sandalwood (or Cedar, Pine or Juniper)
- 2 parts powdered Benzoin (or Frankincense or Myrrh)
- 1 part ground Orris Root
- 6 drops essential oil (use the oil form of one of the incense ingredients)
- 3 to 5 parts empowered incense mixture (powered)
Mix first 3 ingredients until well blended, add oil and mix again. Add 3-5 parts of the completed, powdered incense & mix. Use a small scale and weigh the completed mixture. You will be adding 10 percent potassium nitrate (saltpeter). If you have made 10 ounces of incense, you will need to add 1 ounce saltpeter. The 10 percent is very important, too little, your incense won't burn and too much, it will burn too fast.
Add your incense into a large bowl. Add your paste 1 teaspoon at a time, mixing thoughly with your hands until all ingredients are wetted. For cone or block incense, you will need a very stiff, almost dough-like paste. If it is too thick, it won't form proper cones and will not dry. You are looking for a paste that will mold easily and hold it's shape.
Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of waxed paper and shape small pieces of paste into the basic cone shapes, just like the ones you can buy in stores. Let your cones dry for 2-7 days in a warm place. Empower your incense and store in platic zip-lock bags or in an air-tight jar. Label with name and date.
- Block Incense: Press paste out into 1/3 inch thick square on wax paper. Cut into 1 inch cubes with sharp knife. Separate slightly and let dry as above. Empower your incense and store in zip-lock bags or air-tight jars. Label with name and date.
- Stick Incense: When you start to mix your base, incense and paste, add more paste to the mix until rather wet, but still thick. You need it to cling to the stick, but be thin enough to dip the stick in. You can use wooden or bamboo splints, broom straws, very thin twigs, or what is recommended, the long wooden skewers used for kabobs. Have a brick or two of floral foam or a slab of clay beside where you are working, to poke the sticks into to dry upright. Dip the sticks into the paste mixture, turn them upright in your hand for a few minutes and then dip again. You will have to do this many times, the whole process is long. When sticks have been covered with enough incense, stick them into the foam or clay to dry upright. Let dry as above. Empower your incense and store in zip-lock bags or air-tight containers. ("Pringles" cans that have been decorated are great for this). Label with name and date.
Rules of Combustible Incense
- Do not use more than 10 percent saltpeter, ever!
- Keep woods (sandalwood, cedar, juniper...) and gum resins (frankincense, myrrh, benzoin, copal...) in the proper proportions: at least twice as much wood as resins. If there is more resin, the incense won't burn.
- Depending on the type of incense being added to the base, the porportions may need to be altered. Make sure that resins do not make up more than 1/3 of the final mixture.
Incense papers are made using white blotter paper, potassium nitrate (saltpeter) and a tincture made from gums or resins.
Cut a piece of white blotter paper into 6 inch strips about 1 inch wide. Add 1 &1/2 teaspoons saltpeter to 1/2 cup very warm water. Stir very well until the saltpeter is completely dissolved. Soak the strips of paper in the saltpeter solution until thoroughly saturated and hang up to dry.
These are paper versions of the self-igniting charcoal disks you probably use right now. To cover the smell of burning paper, tinctures should be used to scent the strips of paper. Empower the tincture with your magical need, and pour a few drops on the paper. Spread the tincture over the strip and keep adding more drops until the paper is coated on one side. (To find tincture recipes, look under recipes on this site). Hang the strips up to dry. Empower your strips and store in zip-lock bags or in air-tight jars. Label with name and date.
To use incense papers, light the tip of one paper above censer, and after it is completely alight, blow it out. Set the glowing paper in the censer and let it smolder during your ritual or magickal workings. Your papers should burn slowly and release a pleasant scent, results will vary according to the type of paper and strength of the tincture.
Plain unsented papers can be used in place of charcoal blocks, just follow directions above except for the adding of the tincture. Light the paper and place in censer. Sprinkle a thin layer of noncombustible (powder) incense over the paper. It will smolder the incense as it burns.
To keep the paper lit, place it on a heat proof object in the censer, or fill the censer with salt or sand and stick one end into it. It should burn all the way to the end.
I have not tried to make the incense sticks, cones or papers, but the recipes have come from a reliable book, and I wish you the best of luck and joy in creating.
I would like to give credit to my source:
The Complete Book of Incense, Oils
by Scott Cunningham