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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Sabbat Incense: Beltane

Beltane is right around the corner, so this is a great time to make some incense for your Beltane celebration.  Here’s a fun recipe that’s easy to roll and could be the perfect companion to your Beltane rites.  While Beltane is strongly associated with fertility, remember that fertility is about more than sexual reproduction.  It is also about bringing new ideas and plans to fruition.  It’s about moving from planning something to bringing that project to life.


As always, I recommend gathering your ingredients and waiting until you can find some quiet time for yourself.  Put on some soothing music, turn off your phone, and enjoy the process of incense making.  The mental state you are in when you make your incense can impact its energetic nature, so I avoid making incense when upset or angry (unless that fits with the purpose of the incense).  It’s true that ritual incense does not need to smell good to the human nose, however, I think it is often helpful to ritual work when a scent pleases you and the Powers you call upon.  I really like the scent of this blend.

This recipe combines my traditional Beltane recipe with a recipe for handfasting incense I created decades ago.  The result is a scent that is both pleasing and powerful.  There are a total of ten ingredients, so don’t worry if you are missing one or two of them.  For any ingredient you don’t have on hand just substitute an equal amount of red sandalwood (or whatever base material you use).  The only ingredient I wouldn’t omit is the clove.  That is important to the burning properties of this blend.

Beltane Incense

3 tsp red sandalwood

½ tsp benzoin siam


1/8 tsp guar

½ tsp bay leaf

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp patchouli

¼ tsp sweet woodruff

½ tsp piñon wood

½ tsp clove

Red wine as needed


Mix all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl until the powder is a uniform color.  Gradually add wine (or other liquid) and blend.  You shouldn’t need more than 1 tablespoon of liquid for this recipe.  I like guar gum for many recipes, but you can substitute an equal amount of gum tragacanth or xanthan gum.  If you’d rather make incense pellets you can leave out the guar gum and wine.  Instead add just enough honey (make sure you avoid anything labeled “honey syrup”) to bind all of the ingredients together.  Shape into pea sized balls and place in an airtight container for a week or two before burning on charcoal or in an aroma lamp/incense heater.

I like using a red sandalwood base in highly aromatic blends like this one.  You can substitute any other base material you would like but I am particularly fond of red base woods for my Beltane blends.  Red cedar would make a good substitute but it has a much stronger scent than red sandalwood (which isn’t actually sandalwood at all).  A lot of people dislike patchouli.  I used to be like that but after being an incense maker for a few years I came around to patchouli.  For those who dislike patchouli, keep in mind that there are lots of herbs and spices that are not pleasing on their own (for me that list would include anise and cumin) but are wonderful when used in the proper proportions in some recipes.  Don’t omit the patchouli and you might find that it works well with other scents.

Bay leaf and sweet woodruff might not be aromatics you might think about in your incense but both are stunning.  Bay leaf in particular adds a bright energy to any blend.  Sweet woodruff might be more difficult to locate, however, you could just increase the amount of bay to offset if you can’t find it.  I really like using wine as a liquid in my incense.  A nice red muscato wine is a good choice.  As with any liquid in incense (or with your daily life), take care not to add too much wine.  Too much liquid in your incense will make it too soft and it will be difficult to shape.  Once you have the blend mixed with just enough liquid to make a stiff dough (similar to soft clay) you can roll sticks, cones, or whatever shape you’d like.  Set the incense inside a small paper bag and dry for a week or so and your incense will be ready to burn.

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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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