As an incense addict I, like many others I’m sure, are often faced with the problem of having a supply of good quality incense ready for use as the seasonal tides turn. I always try to always use incense which is appropriate for the ritual or seasonal time period I am using it in. Yet trying to create an incense which contains seasonally appropriate ingredients which has had time to mature and develop is tricky. For example, I don’t celebrate the rites of May until the Hawthorn blooms…as such I like some dried Hawthorn blossom in my May incense, so in order to create the incense I need to wait for the Hawthorn which leaves little time for them to dry and the finished incense to mature before use, failing that it needs to be made the year before…but who’s to say I will even celebrate May-day the next year?
After a few months of experimentation and thought I think I may have come up with quite a handy solution which I would like to share and perhaps it will be of use.
I have created four ‘bases’, one each for Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. These will all mature for a period of time. The main constituents are the more resinous and fragrant ingredients and I have tried where possible to ensure the ingredients flow from one season to the next, an attempt to symbolise the continuity inherent within the story of the seasons.
Whenever I need an incense for, say, May-day I simply take a small portion of the summer base, throw in a few dried Hawthorn blossoms and voila…I wonderfully mature incense which is also appropriate for the current festivity, bearing in mind of course that the more seasonally apt last minute additions make up a very small part of the overall blend and are there less for their fragrance and more for their symbolic correspondence but could be omitted altogether for a more general purpose incense.
Another good reason for taking this approach is my ritual calendar varies from year to year…I rarely do anything big and brassy for the solstices and equinoxes, and occasionally observe other rites and rituals which don’t feature on the so-called ‘wheel of the year’…after all that particular piece of neo-Pagan Dogma won’t apply to every person in differing geographical locations and climates, but with four good seasonally appropriate base mixes you can instantly create an incense as the mood or need moves you…we should always try to be flexible and open to change after all!
My recipes are not all tried and tested yet, featuring ingredients which speak to my practise and which are (for the most part) applicable to my land, many growing locally either in the wilds or in my garden.
If you want to have a go, select a few base ingredients which are applicable to the season, say summer. These might be ingredients which thrive in your area during that time of year or scream summer at you when you see them or smell them. Try and make the base ingredients the most substantial in terms of fragrance. For example my summer base contains Benzoin and Bee Propolis, both ever so sweet smelling but also Woodruff and Vervain because these are growing, often flowering around summer and both sacred to ‘Him’. I also bind the lot with Mead…made with honey. Having made this now, the incense base will have a good few weeks maturing time…still not ideal but better than a day or so! The Autumn, Winter and Spring bases will however have much longer. To convert the summer base to a simple Midsummer (solstice) incense, just take a couple of teaspoons of the base and toss in some dried St John’s Wort flowers, Mugwort or Rose petals…many of which I already have an ample supply of all year round. Job done!!
For a winter mix you might use Myrrh, Pine, Cedar and / or Juniper as your base then add some dried Rosemary (for remembrance) at All Hallows or some Frankincense and Cassia Bark at Midwinter or Yule tide. Keep it simple, keep it applicable to you and yours and I don’t think you can go far wrong…Enjoy!!