Sometimes we forget where we came from. Wicca is natural and has been practiced for a long time. People didn’t use to have Amazon and New Age stores for fancy incense sticks.
Let’s get back to the basics and figure out how to make incense from stuff you already have.
What is Incense?
I know you know the answer to this, but you probably also don’t really know what goes into it.
Incense basically has three components:
- Something that burns
- Something that binds it all together
- The scent
You can make incense as long as you can find these three things. Now, of course, over the past 100 years, people have figured out really great techniques and materials.
Since we’re scraping this together, the quality won’t be stellar, but it will work and be closer to the origins.
Once you have these three things, you usually grind them together. You can go the classic route of mortar and pestle or modern with a blender or food processor or even just mash it with your hands.
But if you have none of these things, do not despair. Take a bowl and use an ordinary rock for the pestle. (Make sure the bowl isn’t of a material that will break or scratch from the rock).
The binding tends to happen by adding water and molding it then letting it dry.
Now that we know what to do, let’s try to figure out materials that will actually work for this.
I’ll start with the easiest: the scent. This can be anything you already have on hand in your pantry. I’m going to use cinnamon. Sage also works great!
Most people have these already, but you can use pretty much any dried herbs that you use for cooking: rosemary, patchouli, and so on.
This is the best part of making your own incense: you get to make whatever combination you want. You’re not at the mercy of whatever the store has.
This part can take some experimentation. I’ve done it before and know cinnamon will be fine, but some herbs will smoke more than scent. Have fun figuring this stuff out. It’s all part of the process of improving your DIY witch abilities.
You could also use any oils you have on hand. This means if you have dragon’s blood or something fancy, you could turn it into incense with this method.
Something that Burns
This one is a bit trickier. Incense sticks use the wood to burn, but you can’t just use any old stick. The wood of an incense stick is made specially to work.
If you have this on hand, go for it. You could also use a candle wick if you have those on hand for making candles (or remove one from a candle you have).
We’re going to make free-standing incense cones. These often use makko powder or specially prepared combustible powders for the burning agent. But I’m guessing you don’t have that on hand.
Remember, the point is to burn, and I’ll bet you have a lot of things that burn in, and around, your house.
The main thing to watch out for are things that are too smoky. It’s tempting to just grind up leaves for this purpose, and this will work, but it might not be the effect you’re looking for with incense.
If you have a way to turn pine into wood chips small enough to grind with a food processor, this would be a great source for burning. Or, if you know someone that works with wood, sawdust is ideal for this!
The easiest method I’ve come up with is paper! Do not use newspaper or anything with ink on it.
You can make a “stick” of incense by rolling the incense in the paper (tape the bottom, not the part that you light at the top). The paper will burn around the combination, making sure it all burns evenly and slowly.
But you can also cut the paper and then grind it into the mixture for the cone. A spice grinder works great for this if you have one.
You could even soak the paper in a tiny amount of water and use a blender to get a cream that will burn when it dries.
Something that Binds
The last thing we need is something that binds it all together.
Now, this step is not strictly necessary depending on what else you’ve used so far. You can try adding some water and mixing what you have into a dough and shaping it.
If it holds its shape when it dries, you’re good to go! This will probably work 90% of the time.
For other combinations, we’ll need something that is water soluble. Traditionally, saltpeter is used for the binding agent, but I’m guessing you don’t have that on hand.
One thing I’ve used in the past is a dab of honey or syrup or molasses. Anything sticky will work, but this will change the scent. So maybe you don’t want to use that.
Here are some common kitchen materials that work:
- Psyllium Husk (pour it out of a capsule of Metamucil or another fiber supplement)
- Flax meal
- Corn starch
As a truly last resort, you can use flour and/or egg. But these will change how it burns, and I do not recommend it. If you got with these, use as little as possible.
For the egg, you can dip a single finger in the egg white, and then working with the material, that will probably be enough.
Making the Incense
Really, you’re basically done now.
All you need to do is grind all the ingredients you’ve found into a powder and mix it together.
I don’t measure anything. I just go by feel for this part.
Add a little water. If you add too much, you won’t be able to shape it, and if you add too little, it won’t come together.
It’s better to add too little than too much, so start slow. You can always add more. Knead it like dough, but you don’t need to do this too much.
Once it all comes together, mush it into the shape you want. Slender cones work best. The narrower you can make the base, the better. The cone will probably go out before it all burns if the base is too large.
If you’re using an incense stick or wick, you can roll the mixture onto these.
The last step is to let it dry fully. Remember, just because the outside has dried, doesn’t mean the inside is done. This can take a few days.
The Result: A clumpy incense
I used the “worst-case scenario” to make this one. It’s a bay leaf, paper, cinnamon, sage, and corn starch.
I pretended like I didn’t have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle for people who don’t have fancy kitchen gadgets.
So, everything was ripped and mushed together by hand. This is a lot chunkier than I’d usually make it, but it still works great!
If you liked this post, you might like making your own ink with supplies around the house, too. See my article: DIY Wiccan Ink. Or check out these incense holders. If you want to buy incense, here is a guide to the types of incense.