Monday, April 16, 2012

Practical Tips for Incense

The choice of incense is a big topic. A good start for planets are my planetary rulership pages. If a planet or fixed star, for that matter, rule a substance you can use it as incense. Just watch out that it isn't poisonous or creates noxious smoke when burned.

Let me talk about a bit about practical use of incense. The key with incense is first USE IT! Making sure that you do invocations with incense at all, is more important than what kind you use. I find that when I recommend incense that clients can be so worried about getting the wrong kind or making some kind of mistake that they don't do the invocation at all. You don't have to get mastic gum resin for Jupiter or rosehips for Venus, though the planets appreciate the effort, you can use standard stick incense.

Now, if you are allergic to incense, don't feel like this is a disaster either. I've had clients use a vaporizer or aroma therapy style oils instead. Or punch up the candles, use a number of them, rather than just one, if you can't use incense. Another option is using a tiny amount of incense. That's what I tend to do, just one or two beads of frankincense or mastic. My sinuses can't handle the huge clouds of incense that seem to the norm among ceremonial magicians. A third option is smokeless or rather more realistically low smoke incense.

Here's the smokeless incense page at Scents of Earth, a company which a client just turned me on to

I got a box of the Baiedo Bikou Kobunboku Smokeless and I really like this. I use this for my Buddhist altar, half a stick and we don't even notice the smoke or incense at all.

This does look like a good source for traditional incense, here's the
Scents of Earth main page One thing I am particularly into is the special Japanese charcoal

Here's the big size of Japanese charcoal, but I like the small size charcoal, which I cut in two for my super minimal incense use.

You have to use charcoal for authentic resin incense like frankincense (it comes in these little beads). You need an incense burner, charcoal, tongs (charcoal is HOT!!!) and the incense beads. Pick up the charcoal with the tongs, light the edges in a candle till they are glowing red and then place the charcoal in the burner. Then put the beads of incense on the charcoal. I put the incense burner on a glass plate and I NEVER LEAVE BURNING CANDLES or INCENSE UNATTENDED!!! I don't care how magical it is, I don't care if people have left candles in their bathtub or oven unattended, this is a VERY BAD IDEA!!!!

The great thing about the Japanese charcoal, as opposed to the standard round version you get at hoodoo shops or botanicas is that the Japanese charcoal doesn't spark like crazy.

Another excellent source for incense is Harry at Alchemy Works.


Gary (NJ) said...

I'm an Acolyte in an Anglo-Catholic (Episcopal) Church and love the High Magic quality and symbolism of the High Mass; especially clouds of incense. I heard that some of the other altar servers had complained to the priest about the amount of incense smoke they were using. I felt annoyed and wanted to say, if you can't stand the smoke, get out of the sanctuary. ;)
But I know what you mean about the dangers of red hot charcoal. The thurifer is one of the last positions that an acolyte is allowed to learn and perform due to the dangers of getting burned or starting a fire. Even lighting the upper candles on the High Altar can be precarious. I've had burning tapers drop off and hit my hand and been splattered with hot wax on more than one occasion.
Gary (NJ)

Christopher Warnock, Esq said...

Incense smoke can be a real problem for people. We have Zen practitioners and priests who cannot participate in zazen or services if incense is used due to respiratory illness. This is something of a dilemma since incense is traditional, but when push comes to shove, we drop the incense, rather than exclude people.