How to make Spiritual Incense | Akamara Tarot

How to make Spiritual Incense | Akamara Tarot

Spiritual Incense and burnt offering have been used for thousands of years as a way to invoke the spirit, sanctify a space, carry messages and prayers to the great beyond, appease entities, and banish malefic forces. Today, I am going to go over a few ways you can prepare your own incense whether you prefer noncombustible powder incense over charcoal, rolled and bound bundles, stick incense or hand rolled cones! 

First, as with the other blogs let's go over a very brief history of these smoky wonders. 

Have you ever heard of the Three Wise Men? You remember the gifts they came bearing? Frankincense and Myrrh? Those are two of the three resin ingredients in Three Wise Men incense, the last being benzoin. Some of the most widely recognized and utilized incense to this day. In fact, in many ATR practices that use some remnants of Roman Catholic syncretization, these are used in sacred rituals to cleanse and prepare a space for ceremony, for example the use of these in preparation for a Misa Espirituale in the Lucumí tradition. 

But first, what is resin?

It is the aromatic sap from a tree or plant that is then processed into small hard bits, called tears, powdered, granulated, or liquid resinoids potted into small jars with a honey or molasses-like consistency. Liquid resinoids are typically burned candles. They are the heaviest and most lingering of the ingredients listed in this post. They can sink into wood, textiles and other things so be careful if you don't want your house to smell like incense 24/7. I do, so I use them quite frequently. Beware, however, buying pre-ground or pre-granulated resins as they will reform into rocks if left in an environment that changes temperature frequently.

What Trees? 

Well to start, Dragon's blood or Zanzibar Drop, which is a resin, comes from the Daemonorops, Dracaena, Croton, or Pterocarpus genus that is endemic to many parts of the world. This set of tree species is commonly called "Dragon trees" and since the sap is red when collected, it is as if the tree is "bleeding", thus the name. 

Another one, Frankincense (Or also known as Olibanum) generally comes from Ethiopia, India or the Middle East from the Boswellia tree. Myrrh, is a bit more complicated in that it comes from a genus of what is affectionately called "incense trees" or more scientifically speaking Commiphora (Burseraceae). Myrhh comes in two forms, herabol or bisabol. This resin can be found in several parts of Northern Africa and some parts of the Middle East. Camphor, a favorite amongst grandmas (and me), comes from China and Japan, in the form of the Camphor plant. It's beneficial both spiritually and medicinally (looking at you VICKS!).

A small Compendium of resins and their meanings:
Copal | Offering, Cleansing, Purification & Enhancement of work.
Pine Sap | Prosperity, Good Fortune, Exorcisms.
Almáciga | Purification, divine communication.
Amber | Eliminates Obstacles and tumultuous situations.
Storax or Storaque | Money, Acquisition of Goods, Fortune.
Myrrh | Soul boosting, Represents Eternity, Unification of Heaven and Earth
Frankincense | Holy, Communication with Spirits, & Exorcisms.
Benzoin | Business success, Intellectual Pursuits, Purification. Considered one of the strongest resins for spiritual undertakings.
Pontifical Blend | Universal Applications, and Purification. 
Lourdes Blend | Feminine in nature, best used on Femme peoples and children. Magnetism and restorative to the spirit with deficiencies.
Jerusalem Blend | Purity, and favors the petition of those sincere of heart.
Arabian Blend | Meant for invocations done outside. Elemental. 
Galbano | Love, Attraction, Sexuality. 
Olibanum (Pure) | Ceremonial Magic. Invocation of Higher Spirits.

What about non-resins? 

Oh yes! Then we can get into the wonderful realm of aromatic woods, spices, dried rinds, and powdered flowers like sandalwood, agarwood, teak, Lavender, orange peels, rose powder, clove, cinnamon and many more. 

Most Incense are comprised of one or more of the following:
Woods | Ex. Sandalwood
Spices | Ex. Ground Cinnamon
Resins | Ex. Myrrh
Seeds | Ex. Cardamom Seeds or Pods
Dried Berries or Fruit | Ex. Juniper or Orange Peel
Essential Oils
Leaves or Herbs | Ex. Sage leaves
Flowers | Ex. Violets
Gums (Scentless, but you can customize with EO)
Roots | Ex. Pine roots

That is only a few, the world of incense making and materials is large! But I won't bore you with that (for now). 

- Choosing Ingredients and how to navigate hard to find items -

The basics to Incense Making are as follows:

  • Aromatics such as woods, spices, and flowers
  • Resins such a Frankincense or Copal
  • Gums such as Arabic or Mastic
  • Oils (Essential, typically)
  • Fire starters (What lights the incense or keeps it smoldering) 

First: Wood Types and Things to Consider

While there are a plethora of choices for fragrant woods in your incense, please keep in mind the moisture content and density of them as they can affect how the item burns over the course of time. While some woods, like Palo Santo can be burned as is, many others work better as powdered or shaven into dust. 

My recommendations: Red or Yellow Sandalwood, Agarwood (if you can afford it cos good lord is it expensive!), Evergreens (Pine, Balsam Fir, Spruce, Cedar, etc), or fruit/gourmand/nutty woods (like cherry, maple, chestnut, etc). 

Tip: If you want to produce a "smokeless" Incense Blend simmer your blend in water in a small sauce pan you don't mind destroying (I say destroying because after it's used for resin, it cannot be used for food anymore) and stick to the rule of a tablespoon to one cup ratio! This has a gentler "throw" of it's smell but for people with allergies (Like me, but I choose to suffer on that front), a win is a win!

What are Gums? 

They can be considered the glue that holds the operation together when making incense sticks or cones. While there are a few out there, by and large the most popular amongst is Gum Arabic, because it's easy to find. However, I will mention that the convenience of it kind of falters due to the fact that it can be a bit tricky to get the hang of.  Once added to a bit of water (about 2 tablespoons to 1 cup water), and turned into a sticky (thick!) paste or syrup, it can be added to your dry elements to form a malleable dough. But fear not, Spirit gum, as it is named in your local craft stores, is suitable too, but it must be diluted a bit!

Notable mention is a more expensive option known as Gum Tragacanth. It is easier to use, but as I mentioned before, more expensive. If you're starting an aromatic business - go for it. If this is a hobby, I'd recommend trying Gum Arabic first. 

A short Compendium of Aromatic Spices the do well burnt:
  • Cloves
  • Allspice
  • Lavender, 
  • Rose Powder
  • Bay Laurel
  • Cassia
  • Citrus peels such as Orange, Lemon or Grapefruit
  • Basil
  • Ruda
  • Cardamom
  • Lemongrass
  • Patchouli
  • Fennel
  • Juniper (The whole tree, actually)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Sage (there are more than just white sage, choose something NOT endangered pls)
  • Violet
  • Rosemary

There are more, but that's a start! Anywho, moving on. 

- Fire starters and Formulating Sticks and Cones -

Loose herbal blends will incinerate nicely on a charcoal disc. Bundled incense (Ex. a Smudge stick) will burn perfectly fine if dried properly. But incense sticks and cones need a little extra help with the use of something called Saltpeter (Hoodoos will recognize this old ingredient). 

Saltpeter is the combusting agent that allows sticks and cones to stay lit down to the end. This ingredient should be no more than 10% of the final volume of the formulation. Please note, I said volume, not weight. This is accomplished by measuring in "parts". Example, if you have 4 teaspoons of your blend in a bowl, put just under half a teaspoon. If you put too much, you made a fancy smelling fire work, if you put too little, it won't burn completely. Test your formulations in a well- vented area, or better yet outside (on a breezeless day) or a garage. Keep in mind though, saltpeter can degrade over time, so your recipes may have to be tweaked if yours losing some of it's 'zing'. 

Another type of fire starting incense is the loose form. Unlike noncombustible incense blends this form calls for granulated charcoal in the mixture, that when formed into a small pile or pyramid-like structure, it will produce a gentler smoking version of if you'd placed it on a smoldering charcoal. This is a 4 part mixture, 3 parts incense, 1 part charcoal granules or pellets. 

Tip: For the spiritualist who ain't got the time, try something called "Punk Incense" which are pre-made incense sticks and cones with no scent. You can dip them in your own essential oil blends and dry them like that! 

Bundled Herbs

You can bundle loose twigs, dried herbs of your choice and make a custom incense wand with cotton thread to use to cleanse a space. My favorite African herb is Black Sage, also known as Impehpo. I refrain from saying smudging because it is a sacred practice to Native Americans so if you want to - seek guidance from a Native Spiritualist to learn the proper way to do so and pay for their wares to support their communities. Because a lot of the herbal wands that are commercially sold are poached - I would suggest making your own, drying flowers, growing your herbs, etcetera. 

 

How's that spiritual? 

You can prepare these incense by making them with purpose and intention. If you are making a money drawing incense, choose aromatics that coincide with that, and invoke the spirit of those plants, pray over your mixture and "wake" those herbs up to their purpose. Burnt offering for divine purposes has been around a long time, take a look at the Holy incense used in the tabernacle in the bible for the purpose of 'divine communication'. This isn't new, fortunately, and it's very useful when preparing a space or a working for the outcomes you're hoping to yield. 

 

Significance of color

If you would like for your incense to be a specific color, food coloring, candle colorant or choosing natural herbs that have the color you're looking for work best. Examples include red sandalwood for a burnt orange look, saffron for yellow, indigo powder for blue, powdered hibiscus for purple, etc. Keep in mind this can lengthen burn time, and too much can affect your fire starting elements like charcoal or saltpeter. A good rule of thumb is 6 drops of colors for cones, tabs or dhoops, and 5 for sticks.

 Many esoteric workers use colors coinciding with their work to increase its effectiveness and overall power. 

  • Black Exorcisms, Destroying Harm or Danger, Spell Breaking, Malefic work, removing spiritual illness
  • White Self-awareness, Universal for all magical work, Peace, protection (physical and psychic), Purification, Tranquility, Ancestral.
  • Blue Mental Work, Ancestral invocation, Marriage, Meditation, Stops Gossip, Spiritual Growth, Keeps Secrets.
  • Red Energy, Sexuality, Abundance, Speed, Heats things up, Overcome Obstacles.
  • Brown Home and Hearth, stability, Healing, Neutrality, Increase Abundance when mixed with Green colorant.
  • Yellow Transformation and Change, Crown of Success, Promotions, Charm, Wisdom, Travel protection
  • Pink Affection, Fidelity, True Love, Friendship
  • Purple or Violet Domination, Authority, Divine Intervention, Occult Power, Success, Triumph over enemies, Law situations
  • Green Wealth, Prosperity, Luck, Career
  • Orange Road Opening, Prosperity, Psychic growth, Adaptability

Making the them.

Cones or Tabs

Have your ingredients already ground or prepared and prayed over.

(1) Mix your Gum of choice and set aside. (2)Prepare a sheet of wax paper. (3) In a bowl, mix your dry ingredients together. (4) Add your Gum gluing agent in small increments (think, folding it in) stop when the mixture has the consistency of moldable clay. If you add too much, your incense will take a while to dry and may not hold shape but they'll still work! (5) Add your your essential oils of choice (if you choose to use them). (7) Roll into a sheet (if you want to make tabs) or a rope, and take a pinch and mold into a cone shape. They may look like Starbursts, Hershey's kisses, pyramids, or cones, but as long as they have some kind of peak to get a good light going, you'll be fine!

Sticks

Have a piece of wax paper laid to the side.

(1) Mix your Gum of choice and set aside. Make enough that you can comfortably dip a broom bristle into (2) Mix Dry ingredients in a bowl. (3) Add Gum to dry ingredients making a thick molasses like mixture. (4) Dip the incense into this mixture and lay on wax paper to dry a little. (5) Repeat until desire thickness. I like to roll mine in a little crush copal for some pizzazz. (6) Turn them daily to avoid flat sides and to allow them to dry all the way!

Well that's all she wrote folks! It's pretty simple isn't it? If you try this out, comment below how it goes! I'd love to hear about it! As always, I hope this helps!

Blessings,

Lolu

 

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