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”
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.” 
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
· Sweetgrass ( Hierochloe odorata )
· Cedar, and
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. 
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*** 
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. 
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 
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.” 
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 . 
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.
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:
· Bay Laurel leafs
Combine and burn
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
· Saffron 
Double help incense
Use this as an exorcism incense, or to strengthen Your psychic powers. By lil old me.
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. 
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, Shadowfirstname.lastname@example.org or a direct link to this post
CREDITS AND REFERENCES:
* 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 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Cornelius_Agrippa
 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incense
 Retrieved from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+30%3A37-38&version=NIV