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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Foundations of Incense: Myrrh

It’s true that frankincense is the most famous incense resin, it is almost automatic when you say “frankincense” to want to immediately say “and myrrh”.  In antiquity the two were in nearly equal demand.  Although used more for the making of perfumes, myrrh was frequently burned in the same manner as frankincense.  While frankincense is a fairly simple scent to work with, myrrh presents far more complications.  Frankincense is a sweet, bright scent.  Myrrh is a complex, dark scent that can easily overpower other scents.  If you’ve ever been to one of my workshops you know that I am an advocate of spending time with individual incense ingredients.  Sometimes by listening to your ingredients they will tell you things that they’ve told to no other person.  Myrrh has a lot to say and is worth devoting the time.


Myrrh is a dark brown resin that is collected from ancient groves, just as frankincense has been for millennia.  Myrrh doesn’t exude in the tiny “tears” the frankincense takes.  Instead, myrrh tends to be shipped in irregularly shaped chunks that can sometimes be quite large.  It is easily powdered and will store for an almost indefinite time in its “whole” form.  Myrrh isn’t popular with most new incense makers because it has a challenging scent.  Myrrh (commiphora molmol) should not be confused with “sweet myrrh” which is actually opoponax (opoponax chironicum).  While magickally similar they are not similar enough to work as substitutes for one another.

Energetically, myrrh is usually considered elementally to be under the sign of Water.  It is generally considered to be a feminine energy.  Perhaps that is why it is so frequently paired with frankincense (a masculine energy).  Although frankincense found a home in the religious practices of some Christians, myrrh’s use isn’t nearly as common.  Even today myrrh is more likely to be used as an essential oil or in a balm (with a nod to Monty Python).  Myrrh is often used for fertility, love, and long life.

I like to use a red sandalwood base for myrrh blends.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of either red sandalwood or myrrh by themselves.  Burning either one alone on charcoal can release wonderful energies you can utilize, but the scent is not one I’ve ever found pleasant.  Surprisingly the two scents seem to compliment one another.  It is worth noting that incense used for magickal or spiritual purposes does not have to smell pleasant in order to accomplish its goals.  Here’s a quick recipe to use to “listen” to myrrh.  As with any self-combusting incense, make sure your ingredients powdered as finely possible and completely dry.


5 tsp red sandalwood powder

2 tsp myrrh powder

¼ tsp gum tragacanth or guar gum



Mix the ingredients in a small bowl until the mixture is one consistent color.  Add up to 1 Tbsp of room temperature water and blend.  Never use more water than you need or your mixture will be too wet to shape.  You want to be able to roll the incense “clay” into a single large ball that has few cracks on the surface but will still hold the ball shape.  Cracks in the clay mean you need to add a few drops of water.  Knead the clay for several minutes to ensure an even distribution of the water.  Break off ¼ tsp pieces and roll into the traditional cone shape or roll the clay out flat and cut sticks.

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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  


  • Hearth M Rising
    Hearth M Rising Monday, 29 January 2018

    I have never combined myrrh with sandalwood but will try it (over charcoal). I do like the smell of myrrh, but find few spellcasting uses for it. I associate the heavy sweetness with death.

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