Incense in Wicca, paganism, witchcraft, and the occult is extremely popular for good reason. The smoke from incense can infuse with your own energies while you are working rituals and spells enhancing the effects and potency. The scent of incense also can lure one into a deeper meditative state because depending on the ingredients used to make incense, they have the ability to deeply relax the mind and body allowing for a more pleasurable and intense meditative state.
There are basically three forms of incense – granular (or raw form), cones, and stick. The oldest form of incense is the natural granular incense and by far it’s the easiest of the four to make. Loose incense usually burns on charcoal. Cone incense is economical to make and less messy than loose incense.
When learning how to make incense, the main thing to remember is that there are four basic ingredients that go into making incense, with the exception of the loose incense. They include your aromatic substance (which creates the scent), a base or chemical that helps the incense to continue to burn, some sort of bonding agent that holds it together and a liquid that allows the bonding agent to change into a type of glue.
When it comes to the aromatic substance, there are many scents to choose from.
Bark: woody, semi-sweet, mild
Berries: heavy, earthy, resin-like
Flowers: dry, grassy, semi sweet
Gums: heavy, semi sweet, resin-like
Leaves: dry, herby, grassy
Roots: earthy, heavy, woody, different
Seeds: bitter, smokey
Spices: sweet, dry, mild
Wood: woody, semi-sweet, mild
You can use any kind of herb you can possibly imagine making incense. The same can be said to essential oils, which also can be used to make your incense. When using herbs, some give off stronger aromas than others, and depending on what you are using your incense for, you will have to experiment and discover how strong each scent will be once burned.
It’s important to keep the proportion of aromatic substance at least twice as large as the base. Too much base can cause a strong after the smell of smoke, so be careful not to overdo it.
When measuring ingredients in your incense recipe, be sure to use level teaspoons and always make sure your ingredients are grounded well, and as finely as possible. This will help ensure your final incense product burns clean and evenly.
When grounding down ingredients, use a mortar and pestle. A blender can be used for larger ingredients.
The key formula is twenty parts aromatic substance, four parts base, and one part bonding agent.
There are many types of bases to choose from. A base burns easily and gives off a nice odor when burning. The reason a base is needed for your incense is that most herbs burn poorly without one. The base helps make all bitter roots and herbs balance out and give them a smoother, milder fragrance. The most popular and easy to obtain bases are wood powder, sandalwood, red sandalwood, quassia, vetiver, willow, evergreen needles, and talc. The wood powder is nothing more than sawdust that has been ground very fine. You can either buy it or make your own. Any lumber store will be more than happy to give you all the sawdust you can use.
Salt peter is added to incense to help reduce the burning time by 25 to 40 percent making your incense burn much longer. If you’ve ever bought and burned incense and notice that some burn forever while others burn out fast, salt peter is the reason. In case you don’t know what salt peter is, it is a natural form potassium nitrate that they put in gunpowder and fireworks.
The bonding agent is very important in good incense. You can choose from a variety of gums and resins including agar, ghatti gum, guar gum, gum arabic, brewer’s yeast, locust bean gum, karaya, sodium alginate, tragacanth and xanthan gum.
Any fluid can be used, but water is your best bet however you can use essential oils, wine, beer, and olive oil.
Once you have the above ingredients, you can begin to combine them and can use them to form cones, cylinders or down hand rolled or dipped sticks. If all you want is the loose incense, then you are done.
You more than likely need something to crush up all these incense ingredients such as the herbs, and other materials that may not be already very fine and in powder form.
Mortar and Pestles are the best tools to use for this purpose.
For sticks, you can use thin wood strips and dip it into your mixture. For cones you will need to shape them, the best thing to do for this would be to find a metal mold in the shape of a cone and then pour your incense mixture into it to form the cone shape.