There are a lot of different tools that witches and pagans can use, and they’re often tied to the four cardinal elements. Metals and wood, like what we find in wands, connect us with the earth. The chalice and the gazing bowl connect us with water. The flames on candles are, of course, fire. And air? That’s embodied in incense.
There are different kinds of incense. The word actually refers to the material that’s burned and not to the smoke itself. There are direct-burning and indirect-burning forms.
The direct-burning incense can be set on fire by itself, and it smolders and smokes on its own. Indirect-burning incense requires an outside source of flame, usually charcoal. Indirect-burning forms of incense can be the whole material (setting fire to cedar wood branches, for example), granulated or paste, which combines ground powder with aromatic resins and oils. Direct-burning incense comes in the form of coils, cones, sticks, powder, paper or rope. They can range from light and barely noticeable to heady and nearly overpowering.
Many different cultures have used incense as part of worship. The smoke is believed to carry prayers and intentions directly to the gods. The Chinese were the first to use incense as a form of prayer, and the Christian church has used incense for a millennium. Pagans and witches have been using incense and scented smoke for just as long. Smudging, which is the burning of sage to purify the energy in a particular place, is a form of incense, and an example of what these cleansing smokes and scents can do.
A lot of scents have particular magickal properties. This is true of natural scents, like from flowers, or in spices and herbs. Scent is the most powerful trigger, it’s said, because the path from the nose to the brain is so short and the delivery of the sensory input is so rapid and direct.
This is also the way that incense works. They can help to focus your mind on specific goals or activate different parts of your mind and spirit. The following is a list of different incenses and scents and how they can be used. (NOTE: Many of these can also be obtained in essential oil form, strictly for inhaling. Incense and essential oils should never be consumed.)
Acacia: Burned with sandalwood, it will stimulate your psychic abilities. Brings spiritual awakening and elevation.
African Violet: Promotes spirituality and is good for protection.
Agrimony: Helps overcome fear and dispels negative emotions. Helps you to overcome mental stumbling blocks.
Allspice: Brings good luck with money.
Almond: Brings prosperity and wisdom.
Aloe: Calls in luck, love and spiritual strength.
Althea: Stimulates psychic ability and banishes evil spirits.
Amber: Encourages love, comfort, happiness and healing.
Ambergris: An aphrodisiac which also encourages dreaming.
Apple Blossom: Brings happiness, love and friendship.
Apricot: An aphrodisiac.
Angelica: Good for protection, harmony, integration of body/mind/spirit, insight, understanding, and stability; helps with meditation.
Anise: Helps to balance emotions.
Azalea: Encourages happiness and lightness of spirit.
Bamboo: Enhances divination and protection. Can be used for luck and breaking hexes and spells.
Banana: Burn this for fertility, potency and prosperity.
Basil: Useful for exorcism of negativity and negative entities. Attracts good luck, love, wealth and fidelity. It’s also supposed to be good for inspiring confidence and courage.
Bay: Induces prophetic dreams and amplifies psychic abilities.
Bayberry: Burn for protection, happiness and good fortune.
Benzoin: A purifier that helps encourage astral projection and clears negative emotions and energy.
Bergamot: Brings prosperity, especially with money; uplifts the emotions and improves motivation.
Birch: Encourages spiritual and psychic opening and helps connect humans with spirit helpers. Promotes balance and harmony.
Bistort: Burn with frankincense to aid divination.
Blueberry: Purifies and brings positive energy into sacred spaces.
Bracken: This can be burned outdoors to bring rain.
Camphor: Helps to increase a person’s powers of persuasion.
Caraway: Draws luck, good fortune and prosperity. Also encourages passion and enjoyment of sensuality.
Cardamom: Mental clarity, concentration, confidence, courage, enthusiasm and motivation.
Carnation: Protection, healing, strength, love and lust.
Cayenne: Cleansing, purifying and banishing negativity. It speeds up the effects of any incense, scent or spell it’s added to.
Cedar: Purification, strengthens psychic ability, prevents nightmares, attracts love, and can ease head colds.
Cedarwood: Healing, purification, protection, money, balance, insight, wisdom, clarity of thought.
Celery: Encourages sexuality, sensuality and ecstatic trance.
Chamomile: Inspires peace, calm, serenity and harmony.
Cherry: Supports love and passion.
Cinnamon: Attracts money, wealth, prosperity, business success, and stimulates lust, strength and psychic power and heling ability.
Cinquefoil: Protection. Also improves memory and eloquence.
Citron: Good for use in rituals for healing, also strengthens psychic ability.
Citronella: Burn for cleansing, healing and exorcism.
Clove: Dispels negativity, purifies sacred spaces and magickal circles, stimulates the intellect and brings success in business. Can also help improve memory and focus. Strengthens psychic shielding.
Clover: Sustains and deepens existing love.
Coconut: Used for protection.
Coffee: All of my coffee-drinking witches agree: this scent is great for grounding protection from negativity and peace of mind. It also dispels negative thought forms and nightmares.
Copal: Purifies, uplifts spirits, and is good for protection and exorcism. Can attract love.
Coriander: Used for love, healing and protection.
Crab Apple: Promotes calm and tranquility. Also settles anxiety and mental unrest.
Cumin: Used to bring peace and tranquility to the home.
Cyclamen: Draws and strengthens love.
Cypress: Encourages strength, comfort, healing, eases anxiety and stress, promotes confidence, self-assurance and physical vitality. Supports willpower and concentration. Helps ease the pain of grief and loss.
Damiana: Brings psychic visions.
Dill: Promotes mental strength and quickness, focus and concentration.
Dittany of Crete: Conjures spirits and assists in divination and astral projection. It is especially powerful when blended with sandalwood, benzoin and vanilla in equal measure.
Dove’s Blood: Settles conflicts and encourages peace and tranquility.
Dragon’s Blood: Dispels negative energy and negative entities. Good for exorcism and purification. Attracts love and restores masculine sexual health. Also very powerful for protection and amplifies all magickal work.
Elecampane: Strengthens scrying ability.
Eucalyptus: Burn for healing, purification and protection.
Fennel: Encourages strength.
Fennugreek: Promotes mental clarity and focus and dispels negativity.
Fern: Another incense for outside fires. Produces rain and also exorcises negative entities.
Frangipani: Brings friendship, love and admiration.
Frankincense: Dispels negativity, purifies sacred spaces, and can be used to consecrate altars and altar tools. Protects against evil and aids in meditation and astral projection. Induces psychic visions and attracts good luck. Many Pagan deities favor this incense.
Fumitory: Another good incense for exorcism of negative entities.
Galangal: Burn this to break curses and hexes.
Gardenia: Brings peace, love and healing.
Garlic: Cleansing and purification. Dispels depression and negativity.
Ginger: Encourages wealth, lust, love and magickal ability.
Ginseng Root: Protection against evil.
Gotu Kola: Aids meditation.
Grapefruit: Cleansing and purification. (This is a common use for most citrus scents.)
Green Tea: Promotes health and physical strength.
Heather: Conjures beneficial spirits and can also be used outdoors to bring rain.
Heliotrope: Protection, prosperity, cheerfulness and happiness.
Hibiscus Flowers: Attracts love and lust and assists with divination.
Honeysuckle: Attracts money, happiness, friendship and healing.
Hyacinth: Brings happiness and protection. Can prevent nightmares.
Hyssop: Aids spiritual opening. Also cleansing and purifying.
Iris: Improves popularity, persuasiveness and personal success. Helps draw love and romance and assists with communication.
Jasmine: Encourages prophetic dreams and astral projection. Attracts love and money.
Juniper: Increases psychic and magickal powers. Also breaks hexes and curses. Good for protection, healing and calming the emotions.
Lavender: Helps induce good sleep. Also helps provide cleansing, healing, happiness and relaxation.
Lemon: Provides healing, love and protection.
Lemongrass: Enhances mental acuity.
Lemon Verbena: Protects love relationships.
Lilac: Attracts harmony into your life, balances your emotions and helps to bring peace. Stimulates psychic powers.
Lily of the Valley: Soothe and calms jangled emotions and draws peace and tranquility. Dispels negativity.
Lime: Calming, and draws love and tranquility. Also promotes cleansing and purification.
Linden: Promotes friendship, love, healing and rejuvenation.
Lotus: Promotes healing, meditation, spirituality, happiness and protection. Is said to promote long life.
Mace: Stimulates or increases psychic ability.
Magnolia: Encourages fidelity in love and supports romantic commitment.
Mandrake: Used for vitality, strength and personal power. Amplifies sex drive and sexual attractiveness. DO NOT INGEST.
Marigold: A healing scent that also encourages psychic opening and clairvoyance.
Marjoram: Another scent that purifies, cleanses and dispels negativity.
Mastic: Conjures beneficial spirits and stimulates psychic powers. Intensifies sexual desire. When added to other incenses, it amplifies the other incense’s traits.
Mesquite: Amplifies the strength of all other incenses that are used in healing and helps healing rituals.
Mint: Another exorcism incense, and also helps increase sexual desire. Attracts good luck with money. Very strong healing and protective incense.
Musk: An aphrodisiac that also encourages prosperity and courage.
Mustard Seed: Brings courage, faith and endurance.
Myrrh: Provides purification, consecration, healing, exorcism and banishment of evil. Aids in meditation.
Myrtle: Psychic opening and spiritual aid. It also enhances other incenses and their effects.
Nag Champa: Used for clearing energies, protection, meditation and creating sacred spaces. Helps to balance personal energies.
Narcissus: Promotes harmony, calm and peace of mind.
Neroli: Attracts love, romance, sexual attraction and sexual magnetism.
Nutmeg: Attracts prosperity, aids meditation and enhances psychic ability.
Oakmoss: Attracts money and love.
Orange: Brings love, luck and money, and is also useful for divination.
Orchid: Helps with concentration, focus, will power and memory.
Oregano: Increases joy, strength, energy and vitality.
Osha Root: Promotes healing, especially of respiratory complaints.
Parsley: Calms and protects the home. Brings good luck, prosperity and improved finances.
Passionflower: Provides peace of mind, soothes troubles and aids sleep.
Patchouli: This is probably the most famous incense, purchased by hippies and stoners in gross since the 60’s. Other than covering the scent of marijuana (allegedly), it also attracts money, love, growth, and mastery, It also helps promote sensuality and fertility.
Pennyroyal: Draws the help of others and promotes cooperation.
Peony: Brings good luck, good fortune, prosperity and business success.
Peppermint: Helps provide healing and positive energy and stimulates the working of the mind.
Pikaki: Comfort and well-being.
Pine: Like many evergreens, this is also a protective incense and exorcises negative energy and entities. It attracts money. It also breaks hexes and turns them back on the one who cast them. It can also help with grounding, cleansing, strength and healing.
Pineapple: Promotes luck and chastity.
Plumeria: Improves persuasion and eloquence. Attracts the notice of others.
Poppy Seeds: Attracts love, money and good luck. Encourages female fertility.
Primrose: Encourages the disclosure of secrets, the solution of mysteries and revelation of the truth.
Rose: Induces prophetic dreams. Increases courage, fertility, healing and love. It is useful in house blessings. This is the most common incense in love spells and similar rituals.
Rose Geranium: Provides courage and protection.
Rosemary: Attracts faery. Promotes restful sleep and pleasant dreams, preventing nightmares. Purifies, heals and prolongs youth.
Rue: Restores health.
Sage: The classic smudge stick. Protection, purification, sanctifies and promotes wisdom and the healing of body, mind and soul.
Sagebrush: Banishes negative energies and entities and encourages healing.
Saffron: Encourages happiness and banishes sorrowful feelings.
Sandalwood: One of the most magickal incenses out there. Promotes spiritual awareness and talent. Conjures beneficial spirits, protects, purifies, supports astral projection, and exorcises negative entities.
Savory: Has a very strong effect on sensuality and sexuality. Used in sex magic.
Sesame: Brings new opportunities and helps you keep or regain hope. Dispels depression and negativity.
Solomon’s Seal: A great incense for breaking spirit attachments and very protective.
St. John’s Wort: A protective incense that also dispels depression and negativity.
Star Anise Seeds: Stimulates and increases psychic abilities.
Strawberry: Attracts love and luck.
Sweetgrass: Conjures spirits prior to spell casting and can be used with sage to smudge and cleanse spaces of negative energy and entities.
Sweet Pea: Promotes friendship, love and courage.
Tangerine: Attracts prosperity and is sacred to the sun.
Thyme: Purification of sacred spaces. Attracts good health and helps speed healing.
Vanilla: Attracts love, increases sexual desire and improves mental function.
Vervain: A powerful exorcising incense.
Vetivert: Breaks curses, exorcises negative entities and energies, protects against black magic and thieves. Also draws money, peace and love.
Violet: Good for protection, healing, luck and love.
Willow: Averts evil, attracts love, promotes healing, and is sacred to the moon.
Wisteria: Protects against every form of evil.
Wormwood: Stimulates or increases psychic powers. If you burn it in a cemetery along with sandalwood, you can draw spirits out of their graves. I don’t recommend this.
Yarrow: Inspires courage and exorcises negative spirits.
Ylang-Ylang: Grants love and harmony. Can cause euphoria.
There are certain incenses that are traditionally burned at Sabbats, and some that are attuned to particular days of the week. Those special associations are:
Imbolc: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh.
Ostara: All flowers and citrus scents.
Beltane: Angelica, frankincense, lilac, rose, passionflower.
Litha: Chamomile, lavender, pine, roses, thyme, wisteria.
Lughnassadh: Acacia, Aloe, frankincense, heather.
Mabon: Benzoin, fern, honeysuckle, myrrh, passionflower, rose, pine, sage, Solomon’s seal.
Samhain: Apple, dittany of crete, fern, fumitory, heather, sage, sandalwood.
Yule: Bay, bayberry, cedar, chamomile, all evergreens, frankincense, juniper, pine, rosemary, sage.
Sunday: Lemon, frankincense.
Monday: African violet, honeysuckle, willow, wormwood
Tuesday: Dragon’s blood, patchouli
Wednesday: Jasmine, lavender, sweet pea
Thursday: Cinnamon, musk, nutmeg, sage
Friday: Strawberry, sandalwood, rose, vanilla
Saturday: Poppy seeds, myrrh.
So, now you know what incenses can do. How can you tell which one you need? I’ve heard people say that if something has a particularly strong odor to you, that’s the scent that you need to use, wear or work with. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. Some odors are just strong without any metaphysical component.
I hope this helps you select your selection of “smells-so-good” for your next ritual or meditation. Until next time, I bid you peace.