Your browser does not support script
TWV Presents...

Popular Pagan Holidays

[Show all]

Views: 7,824,264

Holiday: ...

Well, You Don’t Celebrate Christmas...

Autumn: The Croning Time

Daily Goddess Awareness

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chri... Yuletide!

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Samhain: A Time for Introspection---and Activism

Anti-Witch Bigotry: Still As Popular and Deadly As Ever

The Dark Half of the Year

The Halloween Witch: Sense of Humor or Sense of Ire

Ah...To Be A Witch...

Autumn Equinox: A Point of Balance on the Wheel of the Year

Traditional Yule: Make your Own Homebrewed Mead

Winter Solstice By Any Other Name

Winter Holiday Intentions and Food Magik

The Beltaine Storm

Spiritual Aspects of Yule

La Befana

Yule and the New Year

Lughnasa: Festival of the Harvest (A Druid's Perspective)

Lughnasadh: The Deeper Meaning

A Celtic View of Samhain

The Solstice Flame: A Yule Story

Alicia Meets Grandmother Autumn: A Children’s Story

Ostara: Enter the Light!

Witches Lost in Halloween

Winter: A Joyous Holiday Season

A Summer Solstice Primer

The Best Thing About Death

Imbolc...or As The Wheel Turns

A Story For Autumn

Solstice of the Soul

Thanksgiving Memories of a Native American Witch

Samhain and the 'Witch Questions'

The Samhain Experience

Imbolg - A Lesson of Positive Change

The Holiday Season, The Constitution and What's REALLY Important

Unity During Samhain

A Yule Story for Children ~ The Tiniest Fairy ~

The Sacredness of Halloween

Bealtine: Blessing the Summer In

The Summer Solstice: A Time for Awakening

Mabon..Balance and Reflection

Yuletide Thoughts, Life and Death

Brighid's Healing Sword: Imbolc

At Samhain, Meet Bilé, God of the Dead of Ireland and the Danu, the All -Mother

Mabon - The Flash of the Setting Sun

Parting the Veils and Opening to Ancestral Wisdom

Yules Lessons from Days of Yore: Perfect Love, Perfect Trust

Lascivious Lupercalia: Why Valentine's is a Vital Pagan Holy Day for the Modern World

The Promise of the Harvest

"The Horn of Plenty": A Pathworking for Lammas

Lammas: The Sacrificial Harvest

The Call of the Crone

Opening to the Anima Mundi – The Gift of the Equinox

The Light Within the Shadow of the Winter Solstice


Symbology of Altar Decorations

The Serpent's Kiss: Beltane's Fire

The Wheel of the Year: A Journey of Eight Sabbats

Back to Basics: Imbolc

Fuarag and Faerie Plates: New Scotland's Traditions of Samhain

The Lover's Flame-Beltane

Samhain: the Sunbeam in the Twilight

Ode to Ostara

Beltane and Sex Magic

Gaia's Mantle:The Greening of the Earth

Beltane and Samhain: Reflections of Life and Death

Thanksgiving Memories of a Native American

The Maiden's Breath: The Vernal Equinox

Flashbrewing: Traditional Yule Ginger Beer/Ale

Like Bread for Lughnasa: A Letter

The Light of the Harvest: Lammas

Ole Old-As-The-Hills (A Yule Story)

The Hermit's Light: Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

Yule-Tide Reflections

The Gift of Yule: An Illuminated Wheel

Parting the Veils of Beltane's Quickening

The Quickening Wheel: Imbolc

Observations for a MidSummer's Eve

Mother's Flowering-The Summer Solstice

NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.

Article Specs

Article ID: 10366

VoxAcct: 263062

Section: holidays

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 4,901

Times Read: 20,885

RSS Views: 68,040
Making Winter Incense

Author: Incense Dragon
Posted: January 15th. 2006
Times Viewed: 20,885

Winter is upon us, but there is no reason that we can’t enjoy the energy of summer as we await the turning of the circle back to green and growth. Incense is a perfect way to do exactly that. Incense draws upon the energy of sun, rain, earth and fresh air stored within its natural ingredients. Even limiting your incense to materials associated with winter will yield a great variety of incense that can be made and used at the right moment. Best of all, incense making is a perfect activity for cold winter days inside the house. There is no more wonderful gift than incense made by hand with love.

Many incense ingredients have strong ties to winter. Most evergreens (including pine, cedar, fir and juniper) are excellent incense ingredients. The wood, foliage and resins are all useful to the incense maker. Two resins associated with winter and Yule are frankincense and myrrh. Long before the biblical association with the baby Jesus, these two resins were revered as powerful materials. Cinnamon and clove are also strongly associated with winter, as holiday cooking so clearly demonstrates. You can bring these various components together to create your own wonderful incense.

Although this article is hardly a comprehensive look at incense making, the recipes it contains were chosen for their simplicity and availability of materials. Recipes are given for five different types of incense. Loose incense is roughly cut materials burned over charcoal. Moist incense is very similar except it contains honey to hold the ingredients together in “pellet” form. Two of the other types we’ll make are sticks and cones, which are familiar to most people. Both are “self-combusting” incense, which just means you can light them and they will burn on their own without outside heat. The last type is powdered incense, not to be confused with loose incense. Unlike loose incense, powdered incense burns without any outside heat. Powdered incense is what allows incense makers to create amazing incense trails, as I’ll discuss later.

Loose incense is the easiest of all types to make and has long been associated with magic. Unlike other forms of incense, the ingredients for loose incense do not need to be powdered. As long as all the ingredients are cut to a similar size (1/8 inch or smaller pieces) it will work fine. For our loose incense, let’s stick with the most basic winter ingredients.

For this recipe you will need a bowl (disposable is fine, but try to use paper) , mixing stick (a clean craft stick or tongue depressor is fine) , scissors and, optionally, a mortar and pestle. The ingredients required are pine shavings (available from pet suppliers as well as incense suppliers) , frankincense tears and whole cloves. Pine shavings are generally about 1/8 inch wide and two to three times that in length. If your shavings are larger than that, break them up with the mortar and pestle or even cut them with scissors. If the frankincense tears are larger than a small pea, break them into smaller pieces using the mortar and pestle (or a heavy spoon can be used to break tears inside a plastic bag) . Chop the cloves with a knife or cut with scissors into roughly 1/8 inch pieces.

Mix together:
7 parts pine shavings (or roughly 7 tsp.)
1 part frankincense tears (or roughly 1 tsp)
1 part chopped cloves (or roughly 1 tsp)

This blend will need to be stirred or shaken before each use to ensure an even mixture.
In order to enjoy this incense you will need to provide a heat source for it. Charcoal is the most commonly used heat source for loose incense, but aroma lamps and even incense heaters can be used. If you choose charcoal I would urge you to seek out high-quality, low-scent charcoal rather than the so-called “self lighting” type of charcoal. Self lighting charcoal contains high levels of potassium nitrate and burns far too hot. It will cause your incense to smell burnt after only 20-30 seconds. Low scent charcoal burns at a lower temperature which results in longer lasting incense and a much more pleasant scent. Simply light the charcoal, wait a few minutes until the charcoal is one uniform color and then sprinkle your incense mixture onto the surface. To reduce the temperature (and the burning time) even further you can sprinkle a layer of ash over the charcoal before adding the incense mixture.

Another kind of incense that is simple to make is moist incense. Unlike loose incense, moist incense (called nerikoh in Japanese) uses a “binder”. A binder is a substance that acts like a glue to hold the incense together. This makes it easier to handle and, in the case of moist incense, adds a new dimension of scent as well. In Asia, the use of this form of incense is likely an outgrowth from the use of herbal pills that were made in a very similar fashion. In the East, moist incense is an ancient form. In the West, the technique is practically unknown.

Moist incense makes an excellent and unusual gift for friends and family, so make enough for everyone. Incense is a much better gift than cookies or cake – everyone can enjoy the same piece at one time and incense won’t make anyone gain weight. If you intend to give moist incense as a gift at Yule, plan to make it as early in December as you can. You might consider making the incense at a Yule celebration for use on Imbolc. It is best to give it a couple of weeks to cure, but it can be used or given immediately if there is a need.

For this recipe you will need the same equipment for the first recipe (bowl, mixing stick, and mortar and pestle if available) . Gloves will definitely be required. The ingredients required are white cedar wood powder (red cedar can be substituted) , frankincense powder, myrrh powder, powdered charcoal and honey. You can use any honey, but I always recommend using local honey to add regional flair to your incense.

Mix together:
6 parts cedar wood powder (1 tablespoon)
2 parts frankincense powder (1 teaspoon)
1 part myrrh powder (1/2 teaspoon)
1 part charcoal powder (1/2 teaspoon)

The charcoal can be omitted, but you will need a much longer curing time. Under no circumstances should you use self-lighting charcoal for this recipe. Thoroughly mix the powdered ingredients in your bowl. Once the powder has reached a consistent color, gradually add honey to the bowl. How much to use will depend on how much water is in the honey, the other ingredients and even in the air. Start with 1½ teaspoons and add more if needed. Add the honey a little at a time and then mix it very well with your stick. The goal is to get your incense to roll into a gooey ball. It will look a bit like, well, something you might step in at a dog park.

You should then place the ball into a plastic bag and set it in a dark, cool spot for a week or two. When you remove it from the bag it will have a very different consistency that it did before. You can then break off small pieces from the ball and roll those into pea-sized pellets of incense. Those can be put in a fresh bag or a sealed jar and kept indefinitely. Keep them out of the light, especially sunlight, and avoid storage in high-heat areas.

Moist incense can be burned just like loose incense. Place one or two pellets onto burning charcoal to release the amazing fragrance. If you line the pan of an aroma lamp with a bit of foil, you can use the dry lamp to heat the pellets. The foil prevents them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

The most familiar forms of incense to most Americans are sticks and cones. These take a little more work and require some materials that are harder to locate, but they are loads of fun to make. Unlike the first two forms, this is combustible incense that will burn on its own once lit. Much like moist incense, sticks and cones require a binder but, in their case, it must be a much stronger substance than honey. For this recipe, we will use gum powder. There are also bark powders that are excellent binders, but they are harder to locate.

For this recipe, you’ll need a bowl, gloves, mixing stick and some room temperature water. The ingredients required are red cedar wood powder, juniper berry powder, pine wood powder, cinnamon powder and guar gum. Measure the ingredients using level spoonfuls.

Mix together:
2 tablespoons red cedar wood powder
3 tablespoons pine wood powder
1 teaspoon juniper berry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon guar gum

Mix all the dry ingredients in your bowl until the powder is one consistent color. Gradually add 8 teaspoons of room temperature water and thoroughly mix. The mixing stick “cuts in” the water and the incense often forms into small pellets. Once the water is mixed in, put on gloves and press the mixture together. It should cling together. Begin kneading the mix with your fingers. Within a minute or so you should be able to gather the mixture into a single lump, similar to cookie dough. If you can roll the mix into a smooth ball with few cracks, it is ready to use. This recipe will yield 35-40 ¼ teaspoon cones, so the “dough” might begin to dry before you have finished rolling. If that happens, just add a few drops of water as needed (make certain the “dough” is kneaded well after adding water) . Take care not to add too much water.
If you wish to make cones, simply break of ¼ teaspoon piece of the “dough” and form it into a tall, thin pyramid shape with your fingers. You can use your fingers and a firm surface to roll the edges off the cone if you wish, but they work fine with flat sides. Just remember to keep the cone tall and thin, never short and fat.

If you want to make sticks, roll the “dough” flat so that it measures at least 4” long and 1/8” thick. Use a razor blade or pizza cutter to make long slices that are 1/8” wide. Each slice will give you an incense stick 4” long. Again, you can roll the square sticks on a firm surface to round off the edges, but square sticks burn well. If you want to use the stick in a standard boat-style incense holder, insert a toothpick deeply into one end of the wet stick. When dry, the incense will cling to the toothpick. You can then insert the toothpick into your favorite holder.

After all your hard work, you will be tempted to rush the drying process, but you must resist that urge. Incense needs to dry slowly to prevent curling and cracking. Keep your wet incense away from heaters, sunlight, drafts and high temperatures. 65°F is an ideal temperature for drying incense. Give your sticks 3-4 days and cones 1 week to dry before testing them out.

The final form of incense is one that has been all but forgotten in the last 1000 years. Modern magic and witchcraft are only now rediscovering the energy and limitless uses for powder incense. Not to be confused with loose incense, powder incense requires that all the ingredients be ground as fine as possible. Also unlike loose incense, powder will burn with no outside heat source. Any recipe for sticks or cones can be used for powder incense, although the binder can usually be omitted. Our powder will require only white cedar wood powder, frankincense powder and cinnamon powder.

Mix together:
12 parts white cedar wood powder (2 tablespoons)
2 parts frankincense powder (1 teaspoon)
1 part cinnamon powder (1/2 teaspoon)

You can mix the powders in a bowl if you wish, but it is even easier to put the ingredients in a sealed plastic bag and give them a good shake instead. That’s all there is to it! The powder can be used to create incense “trails” in several ways. The simplest is the spread a line of powder on a fireproof surface such as a ceramic (not glass) ashtray. Light one end of this “trail” and the powder will burn towards the other end. You can shape the trail any way you wish – including into magic symbols. Even experienced incense users make trails that burn out, so don’t be frustrated if this style of trail doesn’t work perfectly on your first try.

A much more refined, and reliable, method is to use a bed of ash. You can smooth the surface of the ash and then use a sharpened pencil to draw a design into the ash. By making a shallow furrow (1/8” deep) you can prepare a perfect bed for your trail. You can write words, symbols or even draw pictures. Once your trail is cut into the ash, you can sprinkle in your incense powder into the impression. Use a stiff note card, folded in half, to hold the powder. You can then tap the side of the note card and the powder will gently sprinkle into the trail.

Some of the materials used in this article are not going to be in the cabinets of very many homes, but they are easy to find if you know where to look. Every ingredient I have mentioned is available from quality incense making suppliers. Check the Internet and you’ll find dozens of them. Even ash is available from finer Japanese incense suppliers who are also on-line and have shops in some cities.

Some of the ingredients have viable substitutions. Gum tragacanth works just as well as guar gum. Some incense makers prefer karaya gum over the other two. Check stores that sell cake-decorating supplies for gums. Wood powders and resins (like frankincense and myrrh) can be found at many herbal supply stores and New Age shops. Cloves and cinnamon are as close as the nearest grocery store. Any pleasant smelling wood can be used in the recipes I’ve listed. If you do not have access to pine but have hickory wood, give it a try instead.

Incense making is a perfect activity for the gift-giving season or any dreary winter day. Unlike commercial incense, the incense you make yourself contains your energy and your intent within it. If you make incense for someone you love, keep a picture of that person with you as you make it. As you blend and knead the incense, look at the picture and think of the good things you want for her. That love and positive energy will bond with the incense and your wishes will be released when the incense is burned. What better gift can you give a friend than something homemade and filled with love?

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1998

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1998

Fischer-Rizzi, Susanne. The Complete Incense Book. New York: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., 1998.

Morita, Kiyoko. The Book of Incense: Enjoying the Traditional Art of Japanese Scents. Kyoto: Kodansha International, 1999

Neal, Carl F. Incense: Crafting and Use of Magickal Scents. St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003

Smith, Steven R. Wylundt’s Book of Incense. York Beach, Maine: Samuel Wiser, Inc., 1989.

Copyright: Copyright 2005 Carl Neal


Incense Dragon

Location: Corvallis, Oregon

Author's Profile: To learn more about Incense Dragon - Click HERE

Other Articles: Incense Dragon has posted 5 additional articles- View them?

Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE

Email Incense Dragon... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)

To send a private message to Incense Dragon ...

Pagan Essays

Pagan Web
8,000 Links

Pagan Groups
Local Covens etc.

80,000 Profiles

Home - TWV Logos - Email US - Privacy
News and Information

Chapters: Pagan/Heathen Basics - Pagan BOOKS - Traditions, Paths & Religions - Popular Pagan Holidays - TV & Movies - Cats of the Craft - Festival Reviews - Festival Tips - White Pages (Resources) - Issues/Concerns - West Memphis 3 - Witch Hunts - Pagan Protection Tips - Healing Planet Earth

Your Voices: Adult Essays - Young Pagan Essays - Pagan Perspectives (On Hold) - WitchWars: Fire in the Craft - Gay Pagan - Pagan Parenting - Military - Pagan Passages

Pagan Music: Pagan Musicians - Bardic Circle at WitchVox - Free Music from TWV

Vox Central: About TWV - Wren: Words, Wrants and Wramblings - Guest Rants - Past Surveys - A Quest for Unity

Weekly Updates: Click HERE for an index of our weekly updates for the past 6 years

W.O.T.W. - World-Wide Networking

Your Town: A Link to YOUR Area Page (The largest listing of Witches, Pagans, Heathens and Wiccans on the Planet)

VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

Your Witchvox Account: Log in Now - Create New Account - Request New Password - Log in Problems

Personal Listings: Pagan Clergy in Your Town - Adult Pagans - Young Pagans - Military Pagans

Events: Circles, Gatherings, Workshops & Festivals

Covens/Groups/Orgs: Local Groups Main Page

Other LOCAL Resources: Local Shops - Regional Sites - Local Notices - Global/National Notices - Local Skills & Services - Local Egroups - Political Freedom Fighters

Pagan Shopping: Online Shops Index - Original Crafters Sites - Auction Sites - Pagan Wholesalers - Pagan Local Shops

Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2019 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh.

Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections
(including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wren’s Nest, etc.)
are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witches’ Voice, Inc.
TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.

The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.

Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
Witches, Pagans
of The World

Search Articles

 Current Topic
 Editorial Guide

NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.

The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.

All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).