Sep 28, 2014

Incense in spiritual work

Incense is a form of aromatic biotic material burnt for its aromatic fragrance.  The very word comes from Latin : “incendere” ( verb, infinitive, lit. “to burn” ), and humans have been known to use it for at least 4500 years, according to written records. It’s widely believed that the Ancient Egyptians were the first to use the incense , in form of combustible “bouquets”[1]
Incense is used by all sort of people from spiritual people to atheists, for range of reasons, from deeply spiritual to profanely pragmatic. Some people burn incense for plain sensory enjoyment, that is because they love the fragrance of it, or to mask bad smalls, like tobacco smoke etc. There are incenses that are burnt as insect repellents, or for health purposes, for the smoke of some incenses is bactericidal, and even antiviral, and can treat psychosomatic conditions.
In this article, however, we will deal with the uses of incense in religion and spiritual work.
Incense burning plays an important part in Hinduism, Taoism,  Buddhism, Christianity,  Judaism,  and Neo- paganism . Eastern religions ( Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism ) use incense as a sort of praying tool and  an offering at the same time, and You can see people in Taoist and Buddhist temples waving with incenses,  that is with lit joss sticks ,  and later placing them in a censers which  often stand  in front of specific deity images. Also, oftentimes coiled incenses hang from the ceiling. This incense is used to cleanse the area, and as an offering to their  deities.
In Judaism, the Ketoret ( also Quetoret ) incense was burnt  daily ( twice a day ) in the Temple, during the Tabernacle time, and the time of the First and Second temple. It was compounded according to  Divine instructions given to Moses, and only by specially appointed people for this task. Recreating the incense in home, or by non-appointed was considered heavily sacrilegious , more so If used for profane purposes. The Good Book  ( Bible says )  says:
Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to theLord. 38 Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.”   [2]
However, this can also be understood as prohibition to use the incense in mundane life, and for profane uses such as air freshener. The Bible lists 4 ingredients, but the Talmund adds more.
The incense, as its name implies, it served as burnt offering, considered equal to the Blood sacrifice in the Temple.
In the Christianity, the smoke of incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful rising to the Heaven. It’s also burnt in temples both to purify area, as an offering,  and to bestow blessings on the   faithful.  The most frequently used ones are Frankincense and Myrrh, though oftentimes Benzoin is also used in Christian temples.  These are burnt in special censers, called thuribles  ( or braziers ), which hang on chains and are swung towards the   faithful in series of  three swings.
Native American had always held smudging rituals to be sacred and beneficial. They believed that the smoke, contains concentrated wishes and desires of the faithful being carried to the Great  Spirit. The incense smoke was also used as a healing medium, taking away bad and bringing in the good to replace it.  But the ritual was to be done in specific way.  The herbs  were burnt  in some container, most commonly a seashell, and the botanicals most commonly used ( often combined for this purpose ) were
·         Sage
·         Sweetgrass ( Hierochloe odorata )
·         Cedar, and
·         Tobacco
The smoke was wafted towards oneself or towards the “client”, starting from their feet over their head and back to their feet again. When the person who censed them would reach the top of their head ( crown chakra ) they would make a  widdershins ( counterclockwise ) circle around it. This was repeated 6 times total, symbolizing the four cardinal directions ( N, S, E, W ) and the “above” and “below” dimensions. If using smudge sticks, one can use a banishing one  ( let’s say Sage ) to make a widdershins circle around a person, and around their head, and then follow up with smudging using a drawing one ( let’s say Sweetgrass, or Cedar ) in a deosil ( clockwise ) direction. This would be done 3 times with each smudge stick.   [3]
Compounding incense
Incense comes in few forms. I myself would differentiate three types:
1)      Natural resins and woods – The incense which is not self-ignitable, nor man-made ( least harvested and packed etc. ) and which occurs naturally in the same form in which is burnt.  These are the commonly found resins, saps, or wood chips, which are often burnt  alone, such as: Frankincense, Myrrh, Benzoin, Copal, Dragon’s blood, Camphor, Pine resin, Sandalwood, Cedarwood etc. These type of incenses were burnt in ancient temples, and continue to be burnt during modern magick rituals and spells. They have a variety of purposes, but each can be used for  blessing , purification, consecration, and raising spiritual vibrations. Some can also be used for drawing positive things, like Myrrh, a strong drawing incense or exorcism, like the Frankincense or Dragon’s Blood. Obviously, these type of incenses, must be burnt on charcoal discs, as they are sticky and will not burn on their own. They are very fragrant and aromatic, and produce a lot of smoke.
2)      Compounded, self-ignitable, or  self-lighting , commercial, or combustible incense -  The incense composed/made by humans, with addition of minerals, such as saltpeter, and wood charcoal which enable it to light and burn,  on its own, with a more-less equal tempo throughout. These types of incense often use Tragacanth or gum Arabic glue ( solution in water ) as binder, and resinous + wood incense as a base.    Compounded incense comes in forms of cones, joss sticks, or coiled spirals,    which can be easily lit  .This type of incense, can be used in spiritual work, as long as it does not contain synthetic fragrances and unnecessary additives, which while they may have their uses in mundane life, have no place, role or need in spiritual work. In fact, use of such substances would be sacrilegious and probably insult the spirits. Therefore, If You are not certain of the composition of Your joss sticks, rather resort to non combustible incense.
3)      Non- combustible, or as also called “loose” incense, which is plainly and basically hand blended mixture of botanicals which are burnt on glowing charcoal discs. The scent is less predictable, more variable, the incense cannot be lit or burn on its own,  like in the case of combustible incense, but contains far more energy and  is far more appropriate in use in magick. The practice of burning herbs to release their energies and cause spiritual effects  is at very least as old as Egyptian culture, but the archeological findings suggest that the practice may as well trace back to Paleolithic times.
Additionally we could, arguably, claim there are also  mineral incenses, compounded of minerals  alone such as sulphur, saltpeter or alum, or powdered crystals (  Jet for example ).  Finally some people ( although  quite rarely ) burn organic compounds such as sugar or honey alone .
For the sake of illustration, here are  two examples of instructions given for making self-ignitable or combustible incense, one meant for creation of incense cones, and one can be used for both cones and sticks
The following is a recipe for self-lighting incense, as given by Sir  Scott Cunningham in his “The complete Book of incense, oils, and brews” :
·         6 parts ground charcoal
·         1 part Benzoin
·         2 parts ground Sandalwood
·         1 part ground Orris root*
·         6 drops essential oil**
·         2-4 parts of mixed, “empowered” incense*** [4]
To this one must also add 10% of saltpeter  ( for example on 50grams of incense,  5grams of saltpeter ). Finally the resulting mixture is mixed with Tragacanth glue, which can be substituted with Gum Arabic glue, and both are solutions of approximately teaspoon of proprietary   gum material in a glass of warm water. Of course, the solutions must “sit” until You get a rather thick, gooey, mucilage, which is then used in small amounts to bound      the incense  ingredients.
Another formula, which is used to make “incense cones” is given by Judika Illes in her amazing book “5000 of spells” :
1.      Dissolve gum Arabica in water, approximately one parts powder to two parts water
2.      Allow the material to soak for approximately three hours
3.      In the meantime, pulverize the herbal material to be used,  until it’s finely powdered ( using mortar or pestle or other grinding tool )
4.      Mix the powder into the liquid until it can be shaped into small cones.
5.      Allow it to dry completely in a warm area. [5]
This formula however, does not contain saltpeter, nor charcoal and without it cannot be lit on itself.  It’s meant to be lit on charcoal blocks, so it’s really a cross between self lighting and loose incense.
Some occult  suppliers offer basic , self-lighting incense powder, to which You  then add occult oils ( for example a specific  condition oil )  and botanicals,  according to intention, and shape it into cones, using paper cones or molds, like candle tappers and then when they are well , dry burn them as specialized incense . This is often case with the Hoodoo incenses .
Magick of the incense
In magick incenses are used to  cause change, such as bring money, chase away or dispel evil, honor spirits,   or make them appear etc.
Burning incense in magick is a sort of act of transformation. Botanicals and material used, when burnt release the   energy naturally contained within ingredients,   combine it with practitioners energy, thoughts and prayers, and with energy of sprits and entities which are drawn by incense, or correspondent to  them.  Burning the material releases those subtitle vibrations, aligning the energy of the ritual with correspondent plains and deities , which really is  likewise any  magick spell and ritual   basic mechanism.
Incense in magick, does not have to smell fine, or even be harmless. History of magick records all sort of dangerous and noxious incenses ,  which were used for example to invoke  evil   spirits,  cross or even cause rain to  fall. So regardless of what wonky-brain newagers say, the power of incense does not lay in plain fragrance, although the smell does have its role, and is not useless. But the effect of the smell alone is psychological. Using synthetic fragrance may induce psychological effect, to some point, but will not really create spiritual effect, least  it’s annoying  moody spirits ( like some of the Loa lol ) .
Incense is correspondent  to the element of  Air,   or rather the smoke is  , for the very incense contains herbs and/or minerals, which correspond to the element of Earth and were nourished by Water, it’s burnt  with the help of fire,  and turned into fragrant  smoke. 
So in a nutshell, incense is burnt in magick to induce following  type of basic effects:
·         Raise spiritual vibrations and prepare for ritual
·         As an offering or honor to spirit or deity
·         Magickaly draw, or conjure something
·         Banish , cleanse or remove something
Incense burnt in magickal work can range from a herb alone to the intricately complex combinations having many ingredients, some  of which are extremely rare or exotic. Like the Sage or, often neglected yet traditional Fumitory, Frankincense , Sandalwood and so on.
Each herb, as we know is correspondent to  an element , and planet which  helps define its use.
According to Agrippa **** to each of the Seven planet there is corresponding incense, either with addition of gruesome  contents like animal organs, or  specific plants and resins.
And here are some botanicals  appropriate for Planetary incenses according to Agrippa:
·         SATURN ( odoriferous roots ) : Pepperwort root,  Frankincense tree
·         JUPITER ( odoriferous fruits ): like Nutmeg and Cloves
·         MARS ( odoriferous woods ): Lignum Aloes, Lignum Balsam, Sanders, Cypress
·         SUN ( all gums ) : Frankincense, Mastic, Benjamin, Storax, Ladanum, Ambergris and Musk
·         VENUS ( sweet flowers ) : Roses, Violets, Saffron
·         MERCURY ( all peels of woods and fruits ) :  Cinnamon, Cassia, Mace, Citron or Lemon peel, bayberries and all odoriferous seeds ( like Parsley, Celery, Dill for example )
·         MOON  ( leafs of all vegetables ) : leaf indium, leafs of myrtle,  and bay tree [6]
These are of course, just a few of the many suggestions, he used in composing planetary incense formulas. Agrippa’s  planetary formulas, however, are not limited to a type of botanicals ea. Root, peel, flower etc. they often contain those mixed, with some, rather unsavory formulas, for example:
For Jupiter, take the seed of ash, lignum aloes, storax, the gum benjamin or benzoin, the lazuli stone, and the tops of the feathers of a peacock; and incorporate them with the blood of a stork, or a swallow, or the brain of a hart.
For Mars, take euphorbium, bedellium, gum ammoniac, the roots of both hellebores, the loadstones, and a little sulphur; and incorporate them all with the brain of a hart, the blood of a man and the blood of a black cat.”  [7]

However, most modern practitioners simply  reproduce his planetary incenses, sans the animal parts, combining few of the botanicals from the original formula.
In essence, any herb correspondent to a planet, could be burnt as a planetary incense.
Finally, there are some classic, traditional mixtures,  imported from religious practices uses in  magick, such as the famed Egyptian Kyphi, or Hebrew Ketoret.

Following are some examples and suggestions for incense formulas, both traditional, well known and formulas composed by myself that I wrote intending to use, or actually use in my works

Incense to expose liars ( Copal )

Copal. Fumigate the area where they might be or speak. Liars or  manipulators will give themselves out . [8]
You could optionally  add  some Deerstongue, for the extra “oomph” although this is not necessary.

Incense to break curses ( Galangal root )

Powdered Galangal is  traditionally burnt to break curses. 

Incense to exorcise spirits ( Fumitory )

Burn dry Fumitory to exorcize evil spirits. This is a very traditional and powerful incense ( at least in Europe ) , which is rarely mentioned in occult literature and it was used as commonly as Sage.
EXTRA TIP : The infusion of the plant is also a potent  money  drawing floorwash.

Evil Eye dispelling incense

Fumigate people who are under the influence of the Evil eye to dispel it and cleanse them of any adverse effects it may have causes.
·         Rue
·         Basil
·         Benzoin
Fumigate whole body, feet included J By lil old me

Spirit guide incense

This one   I have  used to call forth helpful spirits in rituals, to draw benevolent spirits, and for guidance:
·         Anise
·         Bay Laurel leafs
·         Mugwort
·         Mimosa
·         Gardenia

Crossing incense

Combine and burn
·         Sulphur
·         Asafoetida
·         Cayenne
NOTE: It should go without saying that this is not safe to be inhaled, and should be burnt either outside or in a highly ventilated area, with the practitioners face protected

Reveal thief’s identity incense

This ancient Egyptian incense is said to reveal You the identity of person who stole something from You, either in vision or in dreams
·         Alum
·         Saffron [9]

Double help  incense

·         Camphor
·         Frankincense
·         Mint
Use this as an exorcism incense, or to strengthen Your psychic powers. By lil old me.

Fern Incense

Burn Fern indoors to exorcize evil spirits and demons, and outside to cause rain to fall. It can be combined with Heather and Henbane, for the latter.   [10]

Hope You’ve found this article  interesting and helpful. Many Blessings , Shadow J

NOTES: This  article was written and composed by myself, so If You wish to use it elsewhere online feel free but add credits, Shadow of the Shadows magick place, or a direct link to this post
* Orris root is commonly used in perfumery ( or at least it used to be, today they use all sort of aggressive, unnecessary, and often skin-irritating chemical, because they are cheaper, and more easy to use  ) as a fixative, to bind the scents and  make them  more stable.
** Essential oil, while listed as one of “basic ingredients” in Sir Cuningham’s formula, is in fact entirely optional ingredients,  that, truth be told does intensify or modify the very scent, as needed
*** This “mixed “empowered incense” is plainly combine herbal material, as described in this article, under types of incense, type 2. For this type of formula, it’s better to be finely grinded,  or  best yet finely powdered. This is the part that makes combustible   incense do it’s magickal work , the “heart” of the incense
**** Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Netteshiem  -

[3] According to/ as suggested by Cassandra Eason in her  “Encyclopedia of Magic and Ancient Wisdom: The Essential Guide to Myth, Magic and the Supernatural” , paraphrased and  adapted for use here

[4] Retrieved from “The complete book of Incenses, oils and brews” , by Scot Cunningham   , used here for educational, explanatory and illustrative purposes without any ill will

[5] Retrieved from: “The encyclopedia of 5000 spells” , page 31st , by Judika Illes, used here for educational, explanatory and illustrative purposes without any ill will

[6] According to “The philosophy of Natural magick” by Agrippa

[7] Retrieved from , used here for educational, illustrative purposes without   any ill will

[8] According to Judika Illes, as stated in “The encyclopedia of 5000 spells”

[9] According to the source listed under  [4]

[10] According to the source listed under [4]

IMAGE CREDITS:  Image is from ;  edited for use here by myself, for illustrative purposes  without any ill will

Sep 20, 2014

Verbena, the Herb of Pure magick

Verbena is  the common name for any of the plants from Verbena genus, in  the Verbenaceae family. This article, however deals with Verbena or Vervain, which is used in magick and will therefore deal with Verbena officinalis, frequent  common name also being Common Verbena. Other names include:  Herba Sancta, Holy Herb, Devil’s bane ( Welsh ), Enchanter’s plant, Tears of Isis, Tears of Juno, Herba Veneris, Altar plant and more.
Verbena officinalis ,
botanical illustration

It’s native in Europe, though it has been naturalized in States, and is found abundantly both in Europe and Americas, particularly on lime soils, and in urbanized areas.
It’s a herbaceous, perennial plant with an upright habitus, and  deeply lobed leaves, oppositely arranged, with toothed edges, and spike inflorescence bearing   many small flowers, with five petals,  ranging in color from pale blue to purple. While inconspicuous, regardless of being rather tall and growing up to a meter high, it’s  quite easy to memorize, and usually when people see it once, they are able to recognize it easily.
It has been used enough in folk herbal medicine to know that’s safe to ingest even in larger doses,  and there are some evidences to support its use as anthireumathic, diaphoretic, and galactogogue, and anti-inflamatory agent .[1]  A teacup on 150ml of boiling water is standard dose for tea/infusion, which is taken 2-3 times ( cups ) per day. It is however, highly contraindicated for use during pregnancy as it may cause miscarriage!  Folk herbal medicine use it for a wider range  of condition, including respiratory infections, and wounds that heal too slow, or skin ulcers topically.

Verbena in magick

Verbena is one of the most profusely used herbs in magick, and it’s uses range from purification and protection, to  transfiguration, the last at least mythically, with all the plethora of uses in-between.
It corresponds to planet Venus and the Element of Earth [2] It’s allegedly* a treasured Druid plant, used by Druid bards for inspiration, in initiation rituals. It is however, a speculated ingredient in Celtic goddess Kerdiwen’s Cauldron of Knowledge.

Verbena is ( again, according to Druidic teachings ) collected when the Dog star ( Sirius ) is on the rise, that is during the “dark of the Moon” when neither Sun nor Moon can be seen on sky. Either then, or on Midsummer.  Folk would dry Verbena over Midsummer fires and then spread them over the fields to ensure fruitful crops, and healthy plants, and even nowadays, it’s scattered throughout the gardens to ensure that the plants in it thrive. However, it can more than likely be equally efficient, If /when collected any other time really, though one should always approach such powerful plant with respect.

It’s a herb associated with knowledge, even in modern magick, particularly magickal knowledge or studious success. In Hoodoo, children are often bathed with Verbena infusion, or Verbena is placed bellow their pillows to help them memorize lessons better and be more  proficient in their studies ( kind of like Smartweed ), however the adults can use it the same way.

It’s juice, which is used often in magick, is sometimes smeared on palms and/or forehead prior to magick spells and rituals  for extra strength. Smeared on the body, the juice is said to make people soften towards You, and be more prone to agree with You and do You favors.  Smeared on the body, the juice of Verbena is also reputed to:  cures diseases, entices precognition,  turns enemies into friends, attracts lovers, and guards from enchantments.  Drunk, in a specific ritual, the juice is reputed to induce chastity;

To remain chaste for long periods of time, rise before the sun on the first day  of the New Moon. Gather Vervain ( still before Sunrise ), press out it’s juice and drink it down.  According to ancient instructions, it will cause You to lose all desire for s*x for seven years” [3]

A tea is drunk to induce prophetic dreams, inspire to write ,   strengthen magickal powers and bring magickal knowledge, or halt nightmares and dreams. In fact some say that verbena infusion, drunk prior to bed ensures sleep “without” dreams.

Verbena is widely held to be magickaly curative,  and to holds the power to seal the wounds and stop bleeding, much akin to Lemon Balm. In Hoodoo, it’s believed to be able to cure “unnatural diseases”   that manifest as fever or poisoning.

A packet of Verbena worn on the body is said to help those suffering from fever, or poisoning as a result  of  a curse” [4]

It’s also the herb in some Christian myths, that was used  to staunch Lord Christ’s wounds upon removal from the Cross.
But it’s greatest  spiritual value perhaps lies within its  splendid apotropaic powers, that enable one to defy the most powerful of evil spirits, and enchantments.  A crown of Verbena may be worn on head to protect the Conjurer that invokes spirits to come.  A infusion of the plant sprinkled in home, or dwelling will clear negative vibrations and  evil from it, including evil spirits, it’s a proper demonifuge. A nineherb blend  , including Verbena is said to uncross and protect from baneful witchcraft. In fact,  when combined with Trefoil, Clover and St John’s wort   in a charm bag it’s believed to make witches utterly powerless against one, and there is an old proverb about it ( see post about St John’s wort on here, to learn more about it ).  It can turn bad luck into good one, and help in times of dire need, if only carried on person, for the latter.  You can use it in a ritual to Turn the tables on bad luck  , where a double action candle is rolled in Verbena for this purpose.

With Eclampane, and Mistletoe leafs, it was believed to form a true love Middleage powder formulae. [5] It’s a powerful love herb even today, and is ingredient in lust and infatuation inducing infusions ( cooking a teaspoon in a glass of wine, for example ). It’s often mixed with 8 other Venus plants,and used in a love charm bag 

It’s also said to re-kindle a lost love, repel vampires if drunk, protect the home from bad weather if placed in it, and bring money when leafs are burnt as incense [6]
Following are some practical advices and tips

Bath to sweeten Your enemies up

The following bath is said to induce affection for You in Your enemies.
Pour infusion made with Verbena and Orissroot, in a basin ( tub ) with water, and add some essential oil of Myrrh and Sandalwood to it. [7]

Charm to find something lost, or to find direction

In a charm bag ( like mojo bag ) combine:
·         A piece of lodestone, or a magnet
·         Blue Tourmaline

If You have lost a specific item, You can write something about it, or better yet, draw it,  on a piece of paper, place the paper on the saucer, or in some bowl, place lodestone on it, and then sprinkle it all abundantly with Verbena.  Place it on some elevated place in home until You find the item.

Sachet to hinder evil dreams

Whether they are plainly anxiety-induced nightmares that deplete You of quality sleep, or spiritual shrapnel of a curse or hex sent to torment You ( or any form of “attack while sleeping” psychic and occult attacks ), the following combo, placed in a sachet under Your pillow will do  with them terrifying nightmares away:

·         Verbena
·         Wood Betony
·         Chrisoprase crystal

Potion to restore magickal powers 

If someone has caused blocked condition in You, bound or blocked Your spiritual prowess, replenish Your skills with the following potion:

·         A teaspoon of Verbena, dry
·         A teaspoon of Alder leaves, dry
·         A small chunk of Ginger rhizome

Put all in 300-500ml  boiling water,  stir few times, remove from heat,  cover, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, that strain and drink every day  ( for few days, or week, until You notice the results ) a cup or two. You can sweeten with honey If You wish .

NOTES: This  article  was written and composed by myself,   so If You wish to use it elswhere  online, feel free, but add credits ; Shadow of the Shadows magick place, ,  or a direct link to this post .

* Being that Druidism is tradition which is spread orally ( and very discriminatively ), the little we know about it must  always be taken with a grain of  salt, more so if it comes from Roman scribes, who had been prone to misunderstanding or  intentionally twisting  the information they had been gathering  and writing down about Druids
[2] According to Scott Cunningham, as stated in his “Cunningham’s encyclopedia of magickal herbs” 252nd page
[3] Retrieved from same source as listed under [2], quoted here for  educational purposes, as a brief quotation, with no ill will
[4] Quotation from “Hoodoo Herbs and Root magic;  a material magica of African American conjure” by Catherine Yronwode, quoted here for educational purpose, without any ill will
[7] According to Judika Illes, as stated In her   “Encyclopedia of 5000 spells”, paraphrased here


The image is from  :  , used here for    illustrative and explanatory purposes, without any ill will