When we come to the old path we are typically greeted with recommendations to burn incense. Burn it during ritual. Burn it as offerings. Just burn it! But why are we burning incense? And how exactly is incense so magical that so many recommend it? In the Ultimate Guide to Incense for Beginners, we provide the basic magic properties of incense, discuss incense’s ancient origins, the types of incense, and how to use incense in your spiritual practice.
DISCLOSURE: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you information about the paranormal and paganism.
In the simplest terms, incense is a resin, root, or herb that’s burned for the scent and/or for spiritual purposes. Incense is one of the oldest forms of magic and was used by ancient people all over the world. It comes in different forms and is made of various types of plants, trees, and resins. Incense knows no religious or cultural boundaries making it one thing nearly all of us have in common spiritually!
Many ancient cultures used incense in their rituals and as offerings to their gods. Incense is even mentioned in the Bible in the story of Jesus’ birth. The Three Magi (wisemen) bear gifts for Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Frankincense and myrrh are both types of incense that were once expensive and sacred. Moreover, the ancient Egyptians held incense in the highest esteem. Their three favorites were Egyptian kyphi, frankincense and myrrh. Not only did the Egyptians burn incense, the ancient tribes of Britain did also. Archaeologists discovered ancient incense “cups” at a dig site on Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge.
When most people think of incense, they think of stick incense. Another popular form is the cone incense which is resins and herbs formed into a cone shape and burned on a fire-proof dish. And yet another is loose leaf herb or resins burned on charcoal disks. The charcoal disks are placed in a fireproof bowl filled with sand and the herb or resin is placed on top of the hot charcoal disk. Then it’s allowed to smolder or burn. This kind of incense produces a larger amount of smoke than cone or stick.
When I was first learning about incense, I would have died for a list of basic incense magic properties. It seemed no one could just supply a simple list! So here you go:
Now let’s learn how to use incense in our magical practice. There are many different uses and you’ll probably find some new ones along the way. One particular use for incense is to “set the mood” for a ritual, spell, gathering or before divination. Doreen Valiente says incense has a “potent effect on the human mind.” And that it speaks to the “deeper levels below the threshold of consciousness” (Valiente, pg. 232). Sometimes we burn it because it smells good and that’s great too! I’ve never walked into a home or business that was burning incense and didn’t enjoy the aroma.
In addition to setting the magical mood, incense is burned to purify a space, as an offering to the gods and spirits, to take our prayers up to the heavens, and to amplify intentions for a ritual or spell. I don’t think I’ve ever done a powerful ritual that didn’t include burning a dragon’s blood incense stick! Somehow it always puts me into that otherworldly state of being where magic flows freely.
If you’re burning stick incense, you just need a stick incense holder/burner. Always do incense magic in a safe place away from anything that could catch fire if too close. If you’re burning cone incense, you need a cone incense burner or fireproof dish or censor. Loose leaf incense or resins on charcoal require a few more supplies: charcoal disks, the incense itself, a fireproof bowl filled partly with sand, and a pair of metal tongs. Hold the charcoal disk with the tongs when you light it so you don’t burn yourself! Then place the disk in the fireproof bowl and sprinkle the incense on top of the charcoal disk.
What are the best kinds of incense for you? If you don’t have allergies or asthma, I say try all three: stick, cone and loose leaf. Experiment with different scents too. My favorite for ritual is dragon’s blood, but the aroma is strong so I don’t burn it on a daily basis. A lot of people like the vampire’s blood incense, but I honestly have an aversion to it! Regular stick incenses burned in my house are lavender, sandalwood and nag champa. Be aware loose leaf on charcoal disks produces a lot of smoke and sets off fire alarms! I typically use the charcoal disk method for outside rituals. Have fun and be safe!
I’d like to put a lot of buzz words here but that would be too …September 15, 2023