March 15 2017

Types of Incense and How to Use Them

Incense sticks


Throughout time cultures across the world have been making and burning incense. This can be done in a number of ways using ingredients found in nature such as herbs, fruits, seeds, peels and spices.
Of the five human senses, the sense of smell is often the most strongly associated with memories. Even the smallest hint of a smell can bring back memories of a certain time, place or person. Incense can be used to recall memories and access certain areas of your mind quickly and with great precision. It can be used to adjust the atmosphere of rooms, for example as well as the atmosphere in your mind and spiritual bodies. This makes it a useful tool for meditation you need to create an uplifting calming or even stimulating atmosphere. Scents such as Japanese Cedar,  amber, sandalwood and camphor are highly effective at putting the mind in a calm meditate state which can help aid and deepen your practice. These calming aromas can also be used outside of meditation to help bring peace and harmony to your home and other areas.


Sheesham wood incense holder


A common use for incense, particularly in past times is creating a sacred space for ritual and ceremonial work. From Buddhist temples in Japan China and Tibet to Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches you will often see incense used as a tool to create a powerful and purified ritual space. Incense is also often used in this way buy followers of pagan religions and paths. The rising smoke is considered a symbol of prayer by many and as an offering rising up to deity. The smoke is also believed to have the ability to remove negative stale and unwanted energies from a space. These energies are collected and carried away as the smoke rises.


Incense smoke rising to deity


Incense can of course simply be used as a practical and highly varied method of creating fragrance within your home. The huge range of scents available means that there is something to suit every taste,  environment and situation. It can also be used to mask unpleasant odours such as cigarette smoke or caused by pets. Incense is used as part of the spiritual practices of many cultures and can be burnt to inspire creative thought, set a certain mood, aid meditation or simply to create a pleasing fragrance indoors and out. In fact incense can be used safely in almost any environment as long as appropriate holders are used and the safety of the surrounding area and occupants is taken into consideration.

There are two types of incense that are used, known as combustible (sometimes called direct burning) and non-combustible (or indirect burning) incenses. Non combustible varieties include loose incense as well as incense cones and pellets. These can be used without the heat source actually needing to touch the incense itself. The cones, pellets or loose material are placed above a heat source and this heating causes the aromas to be released into the air. One method of achieving this is by using an incense stove or oil burner. The incense should be placed in the top section just as you would essential oils, and a lit tealight candle is placed in the section directly underneath. The candle flame will create a gentle heat without causing any smoke or burning. Care should be taken when using incense in this way as the burner can become very hot. They should always be placed out of the reach of children or animals and on a heat proof surface. Incense burners should also not be placed anywhere where they could be knocked over or forgotten and care should be taken regarding other close by items. Check for any flammable items such as curtains.


Burning incense


Special charcoal disks can also be used to burn loose incense, cones and pellets.  Unlike the stove or burner, these may burn the incense producing unpleasant smells and smoke. One way to try to avoid htis is to place a layer of sand or salt directly on top of the burning charcoal and then to place the incense on top. To be used, the charcoal disks are lit and placed in a heat proof container until they turn white. The incense of your choice can then placed on top. To be extinguished do charcoal discs can be placed in cold water. The charcoal discs any container used will be incredibly hot so it is important to use caution while handling these.

Combustible incense is the form that more people are familiar with and is found mainly as sticks and cones. This type is lit directly, for example using a lighter or match. The flame is then gently extinguished leaving the end of the incense glowing. As the incense burns down it’s aroma is released and only ash will remain. There is a wide range of holders and burners available for this type of incense. These range from simple wooden trays to intricately carved boxes and statues and are often made from sheesham wood. Incense sticks can be bought in many shops and in a wide range of fragrances. Some examples include fruity scents, nag champa, floral fragrances, frankincense and sage. Varieties can also be bought with themed aromas such as based on star signs on natural environments such as the sea a forest.




November 25 2016

ABC of Terms used in Magic

herbal magic
Photo Source – Esc861, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have put together a basic glossary of terms commonly used in herbal magic. Many you may be familiar with already as they are relevant to other areas of magic, paganism and witchcraft. There are many others but I hope that this list can be a helpful starting point for those new to the topic, as a quick and simple list or as reminder.

Adept – Someone who has gained a specific level of knowledge, skill or aptitude in an area.

Akashic Records – Sometimes called ‘The Book ofLife’. A collection of every deed, word, feeling, thought, and intent that has ever occurred at any time in the history of the world. Those who are able to tap into these records can learn otherwise unobtainable information about the past.

Amulet – An object that is worn to bring luck or to protect.

Anaphrodisiac – The opposite of an aphrodisiac. Any herb that cools passion.

Aphrodisiac – Herbs that can be used to increase sexual desire.

Astral projection – The phenomena of experiencing consciousness outside of your physical body.

Athame – A ceremonial knife that is used in rituals. It usually has a black handle.

Balefire – An open air fire that is lit for magical purposes.

Bane – Any cause of harm or death.

Banish – To drive away for good.

Besom – A broom made from twigs tied to a stronger central pole. These are the brooms traditionally associated with witches.

Botanomancy – Divination using herbs.

Censer – A vessel used for burning incense. These are often made of brass, copper or clay.

Chaplet – A garland of flowers, leaves or herbs that can be worn on the head.

Clairvoyance – ‘Clear seeing’ The ability to perceive information in a way other than through the five senses. Often called intuition.

Clear – To remove negative energy from a space, person or item.

Consecrate – To make something holy or sacred.

Coven – A group of witches who work and worship together.

Curse – Concentrated negative and/or destructive energy that has been deliberately created and directed at someone or something. This is done with the intention of doing harm.


healing herbal peppermint tea
Source: Anthony Cramp. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr
July 19 2015

Seven Egyptian Deity.

The ancient Egyptians had many gods and goddesses and many are associated with aspects of nature or natural phenomenon. It was believed that they were capable of influencing events on Earth as well as the lives of humans. The Egyptians built many temples dedicated to the gods and goddesses and had an intricate series of myths telling many stories of the deity. Many where depicted as having the body of a human and the head of an animal.

Some Egyptian gods and goddesses include:

Amun – God of air and his consort was Ament. Later, during the twelfth dynasty he was adopted as the King of the gods and Mut was his consort. They had one child who was known as Khonsu, the moon god. Amun was associated with a number of animals including a goose, ram, crocodile and ape. The earliest known temple dedicated to Amun was found in Thebes and is believed to have been built during the 11th dynasty.

Amun was thought to represent completely holiness and it was believed that it was the invisible force of air that allowed his growth into this supreme form. Ancient Egyptians believed that he was self-created and was able to regenerate himself by becoming a snake and shedding his skin.


Ammut – Ammut was a creature that lived in the hall of Ma’at awaiting the judgement of those who had died. If a soul was found to be unworthy of passing into the afterlife it would be devoured by Ammut. This decision was made by weighting the heart of the deceased against the feather of Ma’at. If the heart was heavier than the feather the ancient Egyptians believed that this meant it was heavy with sin, impurities and wickedness.

The goddess Ammut was depicted as having the head of a crocodile, the fore body of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus. She can be thought of as the personification of divine retribution and a force for order. Although she was never worshiped as such, her image is believed to ward off evil and a reminder that all should live by the principles of Ma’at.


Anubis – A jackal headed god that assisted in the journey into the afterlife. He was also believed to be the inventor of embalming, a process he created in order to preserve the body of Osiris in the hope that he may live again. Early in Egyptian history he was the god of the dead and underworld. Later he oversaw the embalming of bodies, received the mummy into the tomb, and performed the Opening of the Mouth ceremony and the Soul in the Field of Celestial Offerings. Anubis also monitored the scales of truth to ensure that each soul was treated fairly and protected from deception.

Anubis was depicted mainly as a man with a jackals head or as a black jackal. His fur was black rather than the brown of actual jackals because the colour black was closely associated with fertility, rebirth and the afterlife. He is the patron of lost souls and funeral rites.


Isis – Isis is the goddess of magic and healing and patroness of women and children. In the book of the Dead she is regarded as the giver of life and food to the dead. She was famous for her magic skills and created the first cobra.

Isis is thought of as a loving wife and mother and incredibly pure. She was a wise goddess who used her powers to change the world and to teach the people of Egypt how to cure illness. Isis was kind to all and was a friend even to those seen as lower class in ancient Egypt such as the slaves, sinners and the poor.


Ma’at – The goddess of truth, law and justice. She was also associated with harmony, morality, balance and order. Egyptian myth tells the story of how Ma’at brought harmony and order when the universe was first created. Ma’at became the concept of truth and harmony and was part of ancient Egyptian laws. The principle of Ma’at was used in order to judge if a person was worthy of passing into the afterlife or not. The deceased heart was weighed against the feather of Ma’at (truth) and must be lighter in order to avoid eternal death and pass into the afterlife.

As a personified goddess Ma’at regulated the stars, season and the actions of humans and deity within the universe. Under her watchful eye order was preserved and the universe was prevented from returning to a state of chaos.

Eygpt at the British Museum
Copyright Elderberry Arts 2015. All Rights Reserved.


June 22 2015

Common Herbs and Spices and Their Magical Uses.

Magic does not have to be complicated or require expensive items and supplies in order to be successful. Many of the herbs and spices people keep at home for cooking can also be used as magical herbs and spices. As well as being delicious in cooking these herbs and spices also have many magical properties that can be tapped into and used in a great number of ways.

Magical Herbs and Spices

Common Herbs and Spices and their Magically Uses

Allspice – money and attracting good luck

Anise – Protection and purification

Basil – Attracting wealth and good luck

Bay – Protection, healing, purification and strength

Caraway – Health, protection and mental powers

Cardamon – Lust and love

Chilli pepper – Encouraging fidelity, hex breaking and love

Chives – Protection

Cinnamon – Prosperity, spirituality, healing and happiness

Cloves – Protection, love, stops gossip and money

Coriander – Love, health and healing

Cumin – Protection, fidelity and theft protection

Dill – Security, protection, love and lust

Fennel – Protection, healing and purification

Garlic – Protection, purification, healing and protection from theft

Ginger – Power, success, love and money

Juniper – Protection, love, exorcism and health

Mace – Can be used to increase psychic powers

Marjoram – Love, happiness, health and money

Mint – Prosperity, protection, travel and money

Mustard seed – Fertility and protection

Parsley – Protection and purification

Peppermint – Purification, sleep, healing and psychic powers

Rosemary – Healing, love, purification and sleep

Sage – Wisdom and longevity

Star anise – Psychic powers and good luck

Thyme – Health, healing, sleep, courage and love

Turmeric – Purification

Vanilla – Love and passion