Week 17 (I): incense
I started burning incense because Scott Cunningham told me to. The book that started me on my witchy path was Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and in it he recommends incense as an integral part of pagan ritual. Specifically, he said “the Goddess…can sometimes be seen in the curling, twisting smoke”. That’s the line that really stuck in my head.
Once my beliefs evolved beyond the bounds of Cunningham’s paganism, I found that I still liked incense as a part of my rituals. Smoke makes everything seem inherently more mystical. Picture the scene: the smoke from the incense spirals up, twisting around the dancing body of a woman. The light from the full moon turns the smoke silver, and turns her skin to a glowing jewel in the candlelight. Tell me that isn’t more magical than a woman dancing in the woods during a full moon*.
I believe that incense carries prayers. Our desires are borne by the smoke and wafted into the waiting hands of the Goddess. I meditate best with a stick of incense smoldering next to me. The smoke makes every space sacred, and it has the capacity to delineate the boundaries of the sacred space in which I work. Unfortunately, I can only burn incense for my outdoor rituals. When I do get to use incense in my practice though, I plant smoldering sticks in the ground at intervals and it perfumes the entire circle. And it’s that smoky border that makes me crave the outdoors, particularly when the weather is like this: a delicate New England spring.
* Ok, ok, both are magical. Still, I maintain there’s something about incense that gives my rituals that je ne sais quoi.