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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Transform A Frog (or other critter) Into An Incense Burner In 3 Easy Steps

For this project, you don’t have to limit yourself to animals.  Any ceramic piece can be used as long as it meets a few basic requirements.  Oh, didn’t I mention that I was talking about ceramic frogs, not the biological kind.  You can turn lots of different ceramic pieces (and even some glass or stone pieces) into very cool incense burners as long as the piece 1) the piece is hollow, 2) it has an opening near the top, 3) it has an opening in the bottom that is at least 1 inch in diameter.  Smaller pieces will work faster and easier than large ones, but ultimately any size will work.


If you want to give this a try, you only need a few things.  First, you will need to find the right piece.  A critter with an opening in the mouth is always a good choice, but as long as smoke can flow through the opening, but it’s ultimately a matter of aesthetics.  In addition to the ceramic piece, you will need a small ceramic tile and some felt “dots” or “feet”.  If you are a fan of Japanese incense, many brands of joss sticks include a small ceramic or bisque tile with a hole in the center to hold a burning incense stick.  Those tiles are awesome for this project so if you have one you should hang on to it, but even just a plan ceramic tile from a craft store will work.  Look for one that is about an inch square.  Alternately, you could use a large ceramic tile, as long as it is big enough to comfortably hold the entire ceramic piece.

Begin by removing any stickers or price tags from the piece.  While most ceramic pieces have a hole in the bottom, they are often concealed beneath a sticker.  The piece will get pretty warm, depending on the size, so any paper on the piece should be removed.  Once the stickers are gone, look through the bottom hole and make sure that you can see light passing through the opening at the top.  If there’s anything inside the piece, like cobwebs, clean those out before using the burner.  A vacuum makes a fast job of that.

Once the piece is cleaned and free from stickers, it is ready for the final touch.  Use adhesive-backed felt dots or squares on the bottom of the piece.  Keep them away from the opening in the bottom, but add enough so the piece sits firmly without rocking when touched.  Four felt dots will usually do the trick, but larger, or oddly shaped pieces, may need more than that.

With the felt dots attached, the bottom of the ceramic piece is lifted very slightly.  That is critical to incense burning.  That tiny gap allows air to flow up to the burning incense and then out through the top hole.  Without it, many times the piece will choke off the air flow and your incense will go out.  Finally, light an incense cone (or stick if your tile has a hole in the center) and place it on the ceramic tile.  Carefully lower the ceramic piece over the tile so the burning cone goes in through the bottom hole without the incense touching anything except the small tile.  If you find that there still isn’t enough air flow under your new burner you can add another layer of felt dots to raise it further.

After a few moments (the time depends on the size of your burner and the size of the incense), smoke will emerge from the opening at the top.  You’re all done!  When the incense finishes burning you can carefully lift the burner from the tile.  Set the burner aside and clean up the ash from the incense.  Put the tile with the burner and it’s ready to go again whenever you want it.  There are lots of other ways to transform objects into incense burners aside from this approach.  Bowl-shaped objects can make fantastic all-purpose incense censers, but that is a project for another day.  If you make an interesting burner of your own, I hope you share a pic of it with me!

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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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