Trail Magic: Creating an incense trail

Trail Magic: Creating an incense trail

Author: Incense Dragon

Everyone knows what incense is, don’t they? It’s the little sticks and cones you get at the grocery store that smell like Apple or Musk, right? Well, it hasn’t always been that way.

Incense is one of the oldest tools of magic and ritual but its lore, history and modern hobbyists are virtually unknown to much of the Pagan community. The incense “trail” represents an ancient incense burning technique that is highly applicable to modern magic practices and ritual. I should also mention it’s a great deal of fun.

An incense trail is simply a line of incense powder that is burned. A trail can be as simple as a line of powdered sandalwood on a rock. While this is not the preferred method, you can make it work with practice. This is likely the first form of incense trail, but ancient practice eventually elevated the incense trail to a critical role in society.

Before the availability of high quality, spring-powered clocks there were many different methods employed to keep track of time – especially at night. Among the many devices created were clocks powered by dripping or running water. Although some were fairly accurate, they were no good in freezing conditions or on a swaying ship. There were also candles used to mark the time, but environmental conditions could greatly affect their accuracy. The incense “clock” was another attempt to mark time.

In a bed of pure ash, a line can be pressed into the surface. That depression would then be carefully filled with a powdered incense mixture. When used for timekeeping, a special incense blend was used since its burning times were well known. Special markers were then inserted along this trail of incense. The markers could be used to signal a changing of guards, mealtimes or working hours, but their primary use was to mark times to pray.

Eventually incense clocks were developed that used incense sticks to give even more consistent timing. Incense alarm clocks were eventually created. These sometimes used bells hung from the incense stick with thread. When the stick burned to the thread it would break and the bell would clang to the floor.

This is an extremely condensed look at a fascinating topic. If you have more interest in the ancient use of incense clocks read Silvio Bedini’s book The Trail of Time. It is a rare look at this amazing lost art form.

The good news about all of this is you can start using incense trails yourself. You will need ash, incense powder (powdered sandalwood works great), a heat resistant dish or large incense censer and a match or lighter. It’s best to put your censer where it will be used before you begin to minimize movement.

What should you draw? Just think of the magical possibilities. Symbols are an important part of magic. You can draw symbols for deities, astrological signs, runes or geometric shapes. The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. Think of the energy of the slowly burning shape as you raise power in your circle. Use trails to time rituals or to cleanse a space. Trails can elevate your incense from being a part of the magical background to a central part of any ritual.

You might have everything you need in your house except for the required amount of ash. You can harvest ash from some other activity if you wish. Never use ash from your charcoal grill or ashes containing synthetic “fire logs.” Ash from incense censers, campfires and fireplaces can be used but I don’t recommend them. If you use such recycled ash, be certain to sift it through a fine screen and then bake the ash in a warm oven for 20-30 minutes to remove as much scent as possible.

A better solution is to purchase ash specifically for incense use. Ash is an important part of Asian incense traditions (such as the Japanese Kodo ceremony). As a result, many shops that sell Asian incense sell pure ash as well. That’s the best possible source if you plan to make incense trails. The pure white ash is scentless and ready for use.

Simply fill your dish or censer with ash and lightly tamp the censer (you can tap the censer lightly a few times on a sturdy table, but pressing down on the ash with something solid works even better). This is to level the ash and make it a bit firmer. You can then make shallow impressions on the surface of the ash. For this, you can use simple stamps (complex designs don’t work very well) from your local craft store, cookie cutters (insert the cutter about 1/8 of an inch deep and move it very slightly from side to side) or simply draw in the ash with a skewer or toothpick. The edge of a paper card will work as well.

No matter what tool you choose, keep the impressions no more than 1/8 inch deep and try to move the excess ash to the sides of your impressions. Especially when using a toothpick or skewer, the ash might try to build up in front of your tool making it more difficult to draw. Push the ash side to side instead. Just try and create a smooth impression – you might need to trace the shape several times to clear the entire trail.

You are not limited in what you can draw. The important thing to keep in mind is that every one of the lines you draw needs to be connected to another line. You might think of it as a line of dominoes you want to topple. If they don’t touch, the chain will stop. It’s the same with incense. Unlike dominoes, burning incense travels in multiple directions. If you draw a circle of incense, when you light it the incense will burn both directions around the circle. Every junction of lines will be lighted at the same time. I have a pentagram stamp that I made that would originally burn in eight different places at once.

While you can use those burning characteristics to your advantage, in general you want only one point on the line of incense to burn. Otherwise plumes of smoke result. The simplest way to control this it to put “blocks” in place. Use your drawing tool to break the lines of incense with a barrier of ash. You can also place small pieces of metal (in a pinch, a penny will work) in the trail of incense. Once the burning incense reaches the metal, it will go out.

Once you have made an impression in the ash and established any ash blocks you might need, fill the impression with incense powder. This is the trickiest part, although it’s not as tough as it seems at first glance. I’ve experimented with a lot of techniques but have found one to be the easiest. I was actually inspired to it while watching Tibetan monks making a sand painting. They use long metal tubes, tapered at one end, which they fill with colored sand and then gently rub to release the sand from the narrow end. It gives them great control over where every grain of sand goes. I tried this with tubes and met with some success, but when I transitioned to paper cards I found the method I prefer.

Use a 3” X 5” paper card. Fold the card in half in line with the long edge. This gives you a 1 ½ X 5 card. Open the card partially and you have a large cavity you can fill with incense powder. Fill the card about 1/3 full with powder (as I said before, you can just use powdered sandalwood and get great results). Push some of the powder away from one end of the card, so that only a thin line is left at the edge of the card. You can then use that end of the card to fill your impression in the ash.

Put the end of the card just above the impression with the folded edge of the card down. That will make the card a large V-shape with the incense powder held in the center. I like to hold the card in my right hand with the two folded up edges touching the palm of my hand. I then extend the “drawing” end of the card slightly past the palm of my hand. With the end of the card just above the ash and the card at about a 25 degree angle, I tap the end of the card with my left hand. Each tap causes a small bit of incense powder to fall precisely where I want it to go. By gently tapping the card and moving it over every part of the impression in the ash, I can fill the impression to the exact depth I desire.

Once the impression is filled, you can tap or press its surface lightly to get perfect contact, but that’s an optional step. With practice you can fill the impression very well without the need to press it together. The trail looks better without pressing, since that process “blurs” the shape you draw in the ash.

After you’ve drawn an impression and filled it with powder, the incense trail is ready for use. Once the impression is filled, you should move your censer as little as possible. Each time you move it, you could displace the trail and make it harder to see or break the line. If the trail won’t be used immediately, consider covering the censer to keeping wind or drafts from disturbing it.

To light the trail, you can simply apply flame directly to the lighting point you’ve chosen. It’s usually best to light the trail at one end, but you can get a great effect from starting in the middle of the trail. You will need to hold the flame in place for at least 30 seconds to get it burning well. You might notice that where ash and flame meet, the ash becomes discolored. The same will happen as the incense trail burns past the ash. Once the flame is removed, the incense will continue to burn along the path you’ve set for it.

A more elegant way to light the trail is to use stick or cone incense. You can use the stick or cone as a fuse. Set the incense cone directly atop the lighting point on the trail. If using a stick, break off a small section and insert it into the starting point of the trail. If you use so-called “masala” incense sticks (the kind with a wooden rod in the center of the stick), make certain you break off a piece that is completely covered in incense material. The top two inches of stick is best. If you’re using a “joss stick” of incense, any two-inch section will be fine.

Put the cone or stick in place at the starting point (the trailhead, if you will) and light it as you normally would. As the stick or cone burns down to the incense trail, the trail will light. You can also light an incense stick and place it atop the powder parallel to the trail. Some traditions call for lighting an incense stick and then inserting the burning end into the powder.

Incorporating incense trails into your rituals, both large and small, is not only rewarding magically, it’s also a lot of fun. Like any skill, it requires practice to get the exact effect you desire but even first-time trail makers will find it easy and enjoyable. Bring an ancient form magic to your next circle and you won’t be disappointed.

Footnotes:
Bedini, Silvio A. – The Trails of Time: Time measurement with incense in East Asia – Cambridge University Press, 1994

Neal, Carl F. – Incense: Crafting and Use of Magickal Scents – Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003

Spirit Guide Contact Spell

Spirit Guide Contact Spell

 

You will need:

Altar Candle
Black Candle
3 Purple Votive Candles
3 White Votive Candles
Athame
Crystal Ball or Scrying Dish
Incence: Anise, Cardomon or Coriander
Censer
Oil: Jasmine, Lemon, Rose, Sandalwood
Bathing Herbs: Cinnamon, Frankincense, Myrrh and Sandalwood

Mix together a sachet of the bathing herbs, or alternatively blend an oil – these should be added to the water you run for a ritual bath.

Once you are immersed in the water breathe deeply, visualise a ball of protective light around you. Meditate on the reasons for contact, visualise the steps you will take and what you wish to say to your spirit guide.

Cast a circle if that is your tradition.

Light the incense.
With the oil, dress the Altar Candle and the Black Candle while concentrating on the purpose of the ritual. Light your Altar candle and your Day candle and state your intent:

“I am here to make contact with my Spirit Guide, and to acknowledge him or her”

With your Athame, inscribe Violet Candle #1 with the word “Spirit”. Dress it with oil.
Light the Violet candle #1, direct your energies into it, and say:

“Here do I light the first Lamp of Spirit. May its light reach out across the barriers from
this world to the next. May it make contact with that World of Spirit into which we will eventually enter.”

Take your censer or incense wand and swing in around censing the whole area
around the altar, while rhythmically repeating the word “Merge” and building up
energy to focus.

Replace the censer and pick up Violet candle #2. Inscribe it with the word
“Spirit” and dress it with the oil. Put it back on the altar, light it, direct
your energy into it, and say:

“Here do I light the second Lamp of Spirit. May it’s light also reach out across the barriers from this world to the next. May it make contact with that World of Spirit and help spread the light, illuminating the passageway between our worlds.”

Again, take the censer or incense wand and cense the entire area around the
altar while chanting the word “Merge” Build up your energy to focus.

Take violet candle #3, inscribe with the word “Spirit”, dress with oil, charge
with your energy, light it and say:

“Here do I light the third Lamp of Spirit.
May its light also reach out across the barriers from this world to the next. May the light
from these three lamps blend and grow, dispelling all darkness and lighting the
way that my Spirit Guide may come to me and speak with me here today.”

Inscribe the 3 white candles with the word “Truth” and anoint each candle with
oil. Light the 3 white candles in order of 1, 2, 3, and say:

“Here do I build Truth. As these candles burn throughout this ritual, their power
generates nothing but truth in all that transpires between this world and the next.
Through these candles there is truth in all communications that come to me”.

Again, cense the entire altar area while chanting the word “Merge”.

Replace the censer and continue chanting. Sit comfortably while chanting, and
gaze into the crystal ball, or the scrying bowl. Continue chanting until
you feel it is right to let the chant taper off.

Continue to quietly look into the crystal ball or bowl, not trying to picture
anything. Keep your mind blank, so whatever comes will appear will come in its
own free will.

Gaze into the centre of the crystal, there is no need to try not to blink. Look
into the crystal and blink naturally. Try not to notice anything in your
peripheral vision, just the centre of the crystal.

Eventually a face or figure will appear. This may take a long time, or it may
appear almost immediately. If it doesn’t come at all within approximately 20
minutes, abandon this attempt, extinguish the candles in the order in which they were
lit, leave the altar set up, and try this ritual again in three days. You should
have results within a month at most.

When a figure does appear, ask if he/she is your Spirit Guide. You will hear an
answer. You may not hear it out loud, or even see the figures lips move, but you
will be aware of the answer. This is how most of your conversation will proceed. You
will ask your questions mentally (or out loud) and the answers will be clear
inside your mind.

Ask if you have more than one spirit guide. If yes, ask them to appear also.
You may ask anything you wish to know, but it is suggested to establish a
connection first where your Spirit Guide may appear to you at any time, or at
specific times, so that you can converse with other spirits through him/her.

When you have finished speaking with your Guide, thank him/her, then sit for a
moment with your eyes closed, meditating on all that you have learned.
Extinguish the candles in reverse order to clear the circle.

Your Magickal Spell For June 2nd – Home Protection Mirror Spell

Fairy Images, Quotes, Comments, Graphics
HOME PROTECTION MIRROR SPELL

Compose an altar: place a censer in the center before an image of
the Goddess.  Have a twelve-inch (or so) round mirror there as well.
Ring the altar with nine white candles.   Burn a protective incense
(such as sandalwood, frankincense, copal or rosemary) in the censer.
Beginning with the candle most directly before the Goddess image,
say these or similar words:

                Lunar light protect me!

Repeat as you light each candle until all are glowing.
Now, holding the mirror, invoke the Goddess in her lunar aspect
with these or similar words:

               Great Goddess of the Lunar Light
                  and Mistress of the Seas;
               Great Goddess of the Mystic Night
                  and of the Mysteries;
               Within this place of candles bright
                  and with Your mirror nigh;
               Protect me with Your awesome might
                  while ill vibrations fly!

Standing before the altar, hold the mirror facing the candles so
that it reflects their flames.  Keeping the mirror toward the candles,
move slowly, clockwise, around the altar, watching the reflected
firelight bouncing off your surroundings.

Gradually increase your speed, mentally invoking the Goddess to
protect you.  Move faster and faster; watch the light shattering the
air, cleansing it, burning away all negativity and all lines along
witch the ill energies have traveled into your home.

Charge your home with the protective light of the Goddess.  Race
around the candles until you’ve felt the atmosphere change, until you
feel  that  your home has been cleansed and guarded by the Great
Goddess.

When finished, stand once again before the image.  Thank the
Goddess in any words you wish.  Pinch out the candles one by one, bind
them together with white cord and store them in a safe place until
(and if) you need to use them again for this same purpose

The Witch’s Wedding Altar

For the ceremony, a lavish full-size altar adorned with a purple cloth is set up outdoors, often near water or a stream. Upon it are placed two large white candles representing the male and the female, and an elaborately decorated broomstick is popped up at the front. The cake, typically fruitcake, is placed in the center of the altar, along with a chalice of red wine, a plate of biscuits and a tiny pot of honey. The wine represents a creative union, The biscuits are a symbol to ensure that the couple will never starve, and the honey is to keep the union sweet. Crystals, such as amethyst and rose quartz, are scattered around the table, along with lots of seasonal flowers and petals. The altar can accommodate almost everything the couple chooses, such as photos, trinkets and personal items, but salt, water and incense are always included. These symbolize the elements and purify the space.

Lady A’s Spell of the Day for July 1: A MIRROR PROTECTION SPELL FOR THE HOME

A MIRROR PROTECTION SPELL FOR THE HOME

Compose an altar: place a censer in the center before an image of the Goddess.
Have a twelve inch (or so) round mirror there as well.
Ring the altar with nine white candles.
Burn a protective incense (such as sandalwood, frankincense, copal, or rosemary) in the censer.
Begin with the candle most directly in front of the Goddess image, saying these or similar words:

Lunar Light Protect Me!

Repeat lighting each candle.
Now say these words holding the mirror and invoking the Goddess in her lunar aspect:

Great Goddess of Lunar Light
and Mistress of the Seas
Great Goddess of the Mystic Night
and of the mysteries;
Within this place of candles bright
and with your mirror nigh;
Protect me with your awesome might
While ill vibrations fly!

Standing before the altar, hold the mirror facing the candles so that it reflects their flames.
Slowly move in a circle keeping the reflection of the candles in the mirror letting the light reflect off your surroundings.
Slowly increase your speed invoking the Goddess as you move faster and faster watch the light as it cleanses removing all negative and energies in your home.
Once finished stand once again infront of the Goddess image and thank her for helping protect you and your belongings.

CENSER

CENSER

The censer, or incense burner, represents the element of Air. It can be a big,
swinging metal contraption like those used in churches or it can be as simple as
a small wooden one. You can use both the stick holders and the metal ones for
powdered incense. If you can’t find a suitable censer, a bowl filled with sand,
salt or kitty litter works fine. The sand or salt absorbs the heat from the
charcoal, or incense sticks or cones can be pushed into it. I find that incense
greatly increases my concentration and is especially useful in meditations

Unblocking Blast

  1. Place  an incense burner filled with frankincense under a straight back chair. Light it.

  2. Sit on the chair, ideally in the nude.

  3. Wrap a plain white sheet around yourself, just under your chin. The chair will be covered up as will you, except for your head. Be vigilant for fire safety.

  4. Sit for between five and fifteen minutes, focusing on the smoke driving your bad luck away.

The Censer

The Censer
 

The censer is one of the basical elements in arranging the altar for ritual. Whether we use our incense in sticks, cones or grain, we must have a vessel to hold the ashes and isolates the altar from the heat of the burning incense.

If we’re using sticks, the best will be to have a shallow, wide mouth recipient (like a soup bowl), full of sand, where we’ll nail the sticks to consume. The same if we’re using cones. If we want to use grains, the censer must be heat-proof, for the burning coals will release extreme heat. This last type is the most advisable, since it gives us the freedom of making our own mixes from scratch, using a few basic elements and adding herbs or even flowers if wanting to.

In every case, it’s better if the recipient has some kind of handle, or chains like the old Church censers, to handle it without getting nasty burns. We must keep in mind that in some cases we’ll have to walk around with it, for instance, if we’re doing a house cleansing. The better materials are clay, ceramic or bronce, being the former the cheaper but more fragile, and the later the most expensive.

The censer and the coals slowly consuming, represent the elements of Fire and Air in the rituals, both masculine. Generally, the censer will be placed on the right of the altar, needing a case similar to the one we ought to have with lit candles.

FIRE

FIRE
Direction: South.
Rules: Energy, spirit, heat, flame, blood, sap, life, will, healing and
destroying, purification, bonfires, hearth fires, candle flames,
sun, deserts, volcanoes, eruptions, explosions.
Time: Noon.
Season: Summer.
Colors: Red, gold, crimson, orange, white (the sun’s noon light).
Signs of the Zodiac: Aries, Leo, Saggitarius.
Tools: Censer, wand.
Spirits: Salamanders, ruled by King Djin.
Angel: Ariel.
Name of the South Wind: Notus.
Sense: Sight.
Jewel: Fire Opal.
Incense: Olibanum.
Plants: Garlic, hibiscus, mustard, nettle, onion, red peppers, red poppies.
Tree: Almond, in flower.
Animals: Fire-breathing dragons, lions, horses (when their hooves strike
sparks).
Goddesses: Brigit, Hestia, Pele, Vesta.
Gods: Agni, Hephaestus, Horus, Vulcan.