Incense is present on virtually every altar. From Aztec to Roman to ancient Chinese cultures, the use of incense is older than written history. In the modern world of meditation, magick, and ritual, incense is still a key component. Yet, synthetic incense of the lowest quality is often substituted for the natural materials that touch our souls. When crafters quest for the skills of the incense maker, they are often told that making incense sticks and cones is complicated or even impossible for the home crafter. Sadly, many believe this and end their quest quickly.
The truth is that all-natural incense can be crafted at home with just a few simple steps. The difficulty lies in delivering this information to those who will benefit from it. In an hour or two, anyone can become an incense crafter, but trying to give workshops to every person who would benefit from this knowledge is too big a task. In 1998, I wrote a short booklet in an effort to reach a larger audience. To my surprise, the interest was widespread. I was able to reach hundreds and hundreds of people around the world. Thousands of packs of incense are sold every day, but few buyers understand the product at all. By teaching people how to make incense, even if they choose never to do so, they can be better-informed consumers.
There is another important aspect to incense making that cannot be overlooked by any user of magick. Making incense offers the crafter a chance to empower the incense in a way not possible with "off-the-shelf" incense. Purchased incense can be empowered but never to the same degree as incense kneaded and shaped by the hand of the user. No bond can be deeper than with a ritual item you have made yourself.
Beyond all other reasons for making incense there is one that cannot be forgotten. Most people who try it discover that incense making is fun. Celebrating the joys of life is a fundamental part of happiness. Making incense is definitely one of those joys for me. Though often shrouded in mystery, incense making is no harder than baking cookies. Best of all, it never adds calories to your diet. My desire to teach arose from the wonderful things I've discovered on my own quest. There are forms of incense that are virtually unknown in the West that are simple to make and that produce unequaled scent. There are natural ways to adjust virtually every burning characteristic of incense, and many ritual uses for incense have been totally overlooked by most incense users. Once users understand these techniques they often gain new levels of enthusiasm for incense.
I have spent many years trying to show the world the simple joys of home-crafted incense. There is so much more to be discovered and rediscovered about incense that many volumes remain to be written, but the first step is showing the simple foundations of incense making. The best way to do this is with a hands-on demonstration, but only a few people will have access to such events. The next best thing is giving instructions for people to conduct their own hands-on experience. Publishing a book is the most logical way to do this.
Incense has been used in religious ritual, healing, meditation, and even time keeping throughout history. During that time, the creation of incense was a closely guarded secret. In the modern world, the secrets of the past and new techniques are finally being gathered for the benefit of all users of incense. Making incense is both fun and rewarding, but even those who never make a single cone gain a great deal from understanding how incense can be made and used. I hope Incense will be an important step in the understanding of incense users worldwide.
Carl Neal has been a student of incense since 1977. In 1995 he became a professional incense maker and has avidly researched incense ever since. He eventually set aside his retail incense business and focused on bringing an ...