Smoke Signals



Teenagers covering up the smell of pot smoke is what you might think of when incense are mentioned. Or maybe you think of hippies in the 1960’s on LSD practicing transcendental meditation; or like my husband you are transported back to the Catholic church.

I have been a fan of burning a good quality incense stick since my youth. In fact, at one time I worked at a hippy boutique that housed so many thousands of incense that me (and the rest of the crew) smelled permanently of Nag Champa. (It’s A Beautiful Day in Kansas City–you gotta stop by if you are ever in the area).

Incense were one of the first things that gave me a sense of being an adult and having responsibility. You needed a lighter to burn them and you had to be careful to line them up just right over the wooden holder so you didn’t set the house on fire. ( In retrospect I realize burning my parents house down was probably highly unlikely, but it seemed a threat when I was fifteen.) I used to walk over to Renaissance Bookstore and spend half an hour choosing just the right scents. Sandalwood ALWAYS made it into my bag.

I’ve used incense as fragrance throughout most of my life. In my bedroom masking cigarette smoke when I still lived with my parents, in the Spanish stucco my best friend and I rented after High School to freshen up the general smell of “old house”, in my VW bus on road trips, my loft, and all of the other dwellings and vehicles I have occupied up until now. I even always make sure to bring incense along on camping trips to burn by the fire!

Fragrance isn’t the only reason the smoke is such a frequent ritual for me though. Smoke is a messenger to the spirit world. Your prayers and intentions are carried in the smoke from this side of the veil to the other. For this reason I always keep incense on or near my altar and use them anytime I am calling on my ancestors and friends who have crossed over. The sweet smelling smoke acts as an offering and invokes the spirits.

These days I have a toddler and have become much more mindful of when and where I use incense. I go to a back room in the house or the bathroom (where my altar is currently set up) and open a window. I also only burn the stick for as long as I am working magic and then snuff it out. As much as I love smoke, we all know it isn’t healthy to breathe and this is especially so for children. If you are practicing magic in a shared home, be mindful of others. My mother for instance, absolutely cannot tolerate incense fragrance and will get a headache from breathing it in. If this is true for you, try spraying flower hydrosols as a substitute.

My all time favorite incense fragrance is super hit closely followed by nag champa; both are made by Satya Sai Baba. If you want that monastic scent from the Catholic church try frankincense or if the Far East is more your vibe, try sandalwood to get that Buddhist monastery scent. Frangipani makes me feel like a sixties flower child and cinnamon is nice and warming in the winter months. There are hundreds of scents to choose from and quality ranges from what me and my It’s A Beautiful Day co workers called “cat pee” (really cheap-o musty smelling sticks) to hand made artisan quality that can carry a hefty price tag.

What is important is that you enjoy the scent and have a tool for magic work. Whether for communing with the dead, making an offering to your Gods, or enhancing the mood of your particular spell, incense have long played an important role in the spiritual world, and I consider them an essential part of my magical practice.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate incense in your practice? What are your favorite scents or brands to use? Do you remember the first time you smelled the sweet smoke? What memory does it bring back? Where are you transported or who can you see?


~ Blessed Be ~


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