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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The Elements of Incense

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

This is the first entry in Carl Neal's new blog, "Incense Magick." Entries for "Circle of One" can still be found in the archives of Carl Neal's writing on PaganSquare.

I started making incense in 1995. Since then I have taught thousands of people to make incense in various workshops and classes and tens of thousands through my books, web sites, and You Tube channel. I obsessively research incense and read every book I can find on the topic. Over the years of speaking with various practitioners and students, as well as reading many “magick 101” books, I have learned that most people regard incense as representative of the element of either fire or air (or occasionally both). For decades now I have respectfully disagreed.

I am a firmer believer that natural incense represents all of the elements. Although incense can be created that is specifically to honor one of the elements, incense in general is a physical embodiment of all the elements. Consider that most natural incense is made completely from plant materials. Those plants need sunlight (fire) and oxygen (air) but they also stretch their roots into the soil for stability and nutrition (earth) and depend on rain (water) to survive. While some specific plants are closely associated with one of the elements, most plants truly represent the four elements combined. Earth and water energies exist in almost all natural incense.

It seems counterintuitive when you first think about the relationship between water and incense – water will extinguish incense right? While it is true that incense requires fire and air to function, you cannot make “self-burning” incense such as sticks and cones without water. Water is absolutely required to activate the binders that are used in this type of incense. Whether you use gum binders or wood binders, water is the only substance that will activate the binder so that you can roll incense. Even incense pellets that use honey as a binder contain water (most honey is around 26% water).

I’ve always said that incense is like a magickal battery. It is loaded with energy that is just waiting to be released so that you can put it to use. Lighting a stick or cone of natural incense releases that energy into your circle or magickal space as part of the energy raised for magickal work. Remember that energy is not limited to air and fire energies.

I hope you will join me as we journey through the world of incense use and incense making. Although I’ve read in many books and blogs that incense is hard to make it is actually fairly simple. We will explore those simple incense making techniques as well as a wide range of techniques for using incense both in your rituals and for meditation or just for pleasure. Come on along as we walk the incense road!

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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  


  • John Zelasko
    John Zelasko Saturday, 25 February 2017

    Hello Carl!
    I joined the website just this evening and was delighted to see there was another incense fanatic like myself. My fascination with scents goes way back to my childhood in the 1950's, and it was the strong scent of cinnamon that sparked my first retrocognition of a previous life at an early age. Later in my adolescent years, my combining Patchouli, cinnamon, and yellow rose essence sparked yet another strong flashback from a previous life that came unexpectedly. I was almost overwhelmed by this experience. Nevertheless, I am curious to know your opinion about the magical analogies and correspondences of incenses with deities, planetary consciousnesses, etc. Do you have any insight into why, for example, frankincense is associated with solar deities, tobacco with Mars/Ares, rose with Venus/Aphrodite,etc.? My associations are very subjective rather than traditional. Any thoughts are appreciated.

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