Incense Magick: Art & Ritual of Incense

Incense fanatic Carl Neal walks you through the joys, wonders, and science of making and using natural incense. From making your first basic cone to creation and use of elaborate incense rituals, Incense Magick is your guide to the sometimes secretive world of incense and incense making. Every article explores different facets of incense, incense making, ingredients, rituals, tools, or techniques.

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Ancient Incense: Pellets (history)

As Pagans, most of us are very familiar with using “loose” incense on charcoal or an incense heater.  Most of us are also very familiar with incense sticks, cones, coils and other shapes of “self-combusting” incense.  You might be familiar with the best known ancient incense from Egypt called kyphi, but kyphi was developed long after incense had become widely used in many cultures.  You might not be familiar, however, with what is very likely the first form of manufactured incense; the pellet.  Although there is no definitive historic proof, it seems logical that this would be the first form of manufactured incense since it is seemingly an outgrowth of herbal medication.

As knowledge of herbal medicine grew, and practitioners grew more skilled, the first “pills” began to appear.  These were remedies blended from a variety of herbal medicines and bound together into pellet form, often by the addition of honey as a binder and a sweetener.  At some point someone (whether by design or by accident) placed one of the herbal pills near a heat source and discovered that certain blends give off wonderful aromas.  Incense making was born!

The incense pellet has fallen from the top of the incense chart into the realm of “incense aficionados” and isn’t well known today.  Perhaps the most famous of incense pellets are the Japanese “nerikoh” pellets that are used as part of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  Their sweet, perfume-like scent is important to the Tea Ceremony but also hint at the very complex “Kodo” ceremony that honors incense directly.


Although most modern incense makers are mostly interested in loose or self-combusting incense, the incense pellet is a wonderful introduction to incense making and offers a very fault-tolerant introduction to making your own incense.  A blend of wood powders, herbs, and usually some powdered charcoal, incense pellets have been enjoying a comeback in the 21st Century.  They are easy to make and very forgiving.  Powered ingredients are blended with a liquid binder.  Most often honey is used but jam is another common binder in traditional incense pellets.  In modern incense making we might use agave or other binders as well.

In the next segment I will give you a simple recipe for making your first incense pellets at home.  It’s simple, albeit a bit messy, and fun.  You’ll amaze and impress your friends with the incredible perfume scent of those incense pellets, so stay tuned!


(If you just can’t wait for the next segment you can check out my You Tube video on how to make pellets at

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  Carl Neal has walked a Pagan path for 30 years. He is a self-avowed incense fanatic and has published 2 books through Llewellyn Worldwide on the topic. For many years (and even occasionally these days) he was a vendor of altar tools and supplies which led him to write The Magick Toolbox for Red Wheel/Weiser  


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