The Two Forms of Incense
Two types of incense are used in Magic: the combustible and the noncombustible. The former contains potassium nitrate (saltpeter) to aid in burning, while the latter does not. Therefore combustible incense can be burned in the form of bricks, cones, sticks and other shapes, whereas noncumbustible incense must be sprinkled onto glowing charcoal blocks to release its fragrance.
Be sure you have all necessary ingredients. If you lack any, decide on substitutions. Each ingredient must be finely ground, preferably to a powder, using either a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder. Some resins won’t powder easily, but with practice you’ll find the right touch. When all is ready, fix your mind on the incense’s goal. In a large wooden or ceramic bowl, mix the resins and gums together with your hands. While mingling these fragrant substances, also mix their energies. Visualize your personal power–vibrating with your Magickal goal–exiting your hands and entering the incense.
Next, mix in all the powdered leaves, barks, flowers and roots. As you mix, continue to visualize or concentrate on the incense’s goal. Now add any oils or liquids that are included in the recipe. Just a few drops are usually sufficient. Once all has been thoroughly mixed, add any powdered stones or other power boosters. The incense is now fully compounded. Empower the incense and it is done. Store in a tightly capped jar. Label carefully, including the name of the incense and date of composition. It is ready for use when needed.
Combustible incense (in the form of cones, blocks, and sticks) is fairly complex in its composition, but many feel the results are worth the extra work. Gum tragacanth glue or mucilage is the basic ingredient of all molded incenses. Gum tragacanth is available at some herb stores. It is rather expensive, but a little will last for months. To make tragacanth glue, place a teaspoon of the ground herb in a glass of warm water. Mix thoroughly until all particles are dispersed. To facilitate this, place in a bowl and whisk or beat with an egg beater. This will cause foam to rise, but it can be easily skimmed off or allowed to disperse. The gum tragacanth has enormous absorption qualities; an ounce will absorb up to one gallon of water in a week.
Let the tragacanth absorb the water until it becomes a thick, bitter-smelling paste. The consistency of the mixture depends on the form of incense desired. For sticks (the most difficult kind to make), the mixture should be relatively thin. For blocks and cones a thicker mucilage should be made. This where practice comes in handy; after a session or two you will automatically know when the mucilage is at the correct consistency.
If you can’t find tragacanth, try using gum arabic in its place. This, too, absorbs water. When you have made the trag glue, cover with a wet cloth and set aside. It will continue to thicken as it sits, so if it becomes too thick add a bit of water and stir thoroughly.
Next, make up the incense base:
Cone Incense Base 6 parts ground Charcoal (not self-igniting), 1 part ground Benzoin, 2 parts ground Sandalwood, 1 part ground Orris root (this “fixes” the scent), 6 drops essential oil (use the oil form of one of the ingredients in the incense), 2 to 4 parts mixed, empowered incense.
Mix the first four ingredients until all are well blended. Add the drops of essential oil and mix again with you hands. The goal is to create a powdered mixture with a fine texture. If you wish, run the mixture through a grinder or mortar again until it is satisfactory. Add 2 to 4 parts of the completed and empowered incense mixture. Combine this well with your hands.
Then using a small kitchen scale, weigh the completed incense and add ten percent potassium nitrate. If you’ve made ten ounces of incense, add one ounce potassium nitrate. Mix this until the white powder is thoroughly blended. Next, add the trag glue. Do this a teaspoon at a time, mixing with your hands in a large bowl until all ingredients are wetted.
For cone incense you’ll need a very stiff, dough-like texture. If it is too thick it won’t properly form into cones and will take forever to dry. The mixture should mold easily and hold its shape. On a piece of waxed paper, shape the mixture into basic cone shapes, exactly like the ones you’ve probably bought. If this form isn’t used, the incense might not burn properly. When you’ve made up your cone incense, let it dry for two to seven days in a warm place. Your incense is finished.