Sweetly scented smoke, spiralling upward to the stars, Sun and Moon, is almost a universal feature of magical alters. It is linked with magic and religion as far back as can be traced. The earliest Witches and magicians threw fragrant herbs and woods onto fires or glowing embers to release their scents. In later times, cauldrons contained these charcoal blocks, and the ritualistic burning of incense became an established part of magical and religious practice.
Samhain, or Halloween, is just around the corner. The shops seem to have more Halloween goodies in every year, which makes me very happy. I may have picked up some pumpkin fairy lights along with my weekly shop this week.
Traditionally however, Halloween is the Autumn Cross Quarter Festival, the most important in the Wheel of the Year as it marks the end of the Celtic Year, and the beginning of the new one. Celtic understanding of the cycle of the year saw death and darkness as important and necessary, and saw this part of the year as a period of rest and regeneration before rebirth. Halloween, or Samhain, is a magical time. It is names after an Aryan lord of death, Samana, a pre-Christian male god.
This is the time of year to look inside yourself and review what you have experienced and learned throughout the active part of the circle of the year, let go of what holds you back, and nurture new visions, dreams and ideas. It’s a time to think of our ancestors and to honour the earth. I think it’s really special to carry out your own small rituals at this time of year. I have always lit a candle on 31st October to honour this time.
This year, I thought it would be wonderful to make my own Samhain incense. As I quoted at the start of this post, incense has been used for centuries in magic. It can be used to raise vibrations, cleanse and purify the energy in your home and to build up a wonderful atmosphere. Perfect for looking towards the start of the new Celtic year. And the most powerful incense, is one which you make yourself.
To make your own incense, you will need a selection of herbs and resins, a pestle and mortar (although this is optional, you could choose not to grind the resin down any more and just mix in a bowl). To use your incense, you will need a burner and some charcoal discs.
I talked recently about the history of frankincense, in my post about making your own Frankincense infused oil. As well as it’s multitude of other wonderful properties, frankincense is also one of the most powerful cleansing incenses, and is perfect for purifying an area. So I used this as the base of my incense, and started with 25g.
I also chose;
Dragon’s Blood – This is actually a tree resin from the Dragon Palm tree, which is popular for ritual purposes to bring luck, protection, power and courage. This comes as a powdered resin. I used a couple of pinches.
Pine – This is used to honour the earth, lift the spirit and clear negative energy. I used 10g.
Myrrh – Also purifies, lifts vibrations and aids meditation and peace, I used 15g.
Calendula – One of my favourite herbs, from which I’ve made soothing salves and lotion bars. This calendula ‘tea’ is also great to add to your incense blends, for protection and to honour the ancestors. I added a small handful.
Simply mix all of your resins and herbs together, and put in an sealed glass jar. As you can see, the quantities are not an exact science, although I would recommend a larger amount of your base incense, which in this instance is frankincense, and then around half the amount again of the other resins.
To use your incense, you need to light one of the charcoal discs, until it is sizzling and burning white. Take great care in doing this, as it gets hot! If you’re lucky enough to have a woodturner or open fire on the go I find the easiest way is to dip it into the flames for a few seconds, otherwise it can of course be lit with a match.
Drop your sizzling charcoal disc into the burner, and put a generous pinch of your incense blend on the top. The resins will immediately begin to melt and let off the most wonderful fragrant smoke.
Then you just need to sit back, relax, meditate, and enjoy the wonderful mixture you have made.
It’s important to use the incense in a well ventilated room, and as the smoke is quite strong, I wouldn’t recommend burning it around children. I used to love burning incense on charcoal discs out in the garden. This would be wonderful on a (mild!) Autumnal evening, wrapped up in blankets and watching the smoke twirling upwards towards the stars!
All of my supplies, including the charcoal and burner, came from the amazing Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury, who stock a wide range of incense resins and ready made blends.
I’d also recommend the following books, if you’re interested in Magical Herbalism and learning more about the Wheel of the Year.
There is also a wealth of information about the magical properties of herbs and resins on http://www.witchipedia.com
Have a Happy Halloween, and a Blessed Samhain, however you choose to celebrate!
This is a collaborative post with Indigo Herbs