has been in use for at least the last five thousand years. As long as
there has been offerings to the gods, incense has been one of the most
Wood was probably the very first incense. It didn't take a genius to
recognize that when certain woods are burned, they emit a pleasant
odor. These woods, usually rarer than the less aromatic ones, were soon
used as burnt offerings, to please or propitiate a diety, to sanctify
an area or purify objects, occasions and beings.
Many of these woods are still used in compounding stick, cone and
resinous incenses today. And of course, you can just burn the unaltered
plant material right on a block of incense charcoal to release its
Sandalwood is a very pricy powder; it is burned on charcoal blocks.
(You can also find it formulated in incense sticks and cones, often
mixed with other ingredients to keep the cost down.) Sandalwood is a
purifying, sanctifying scent and is often used to clear the mind for
meditation or other mind work such as astral travel or energy healing.
It offers psychic protection, and spiritual healing. The sandalwood
made from the 'heartwood' has the strongest scent and is therefore the
most expensive. Sandalwood is becoming difficult to purchase in loose
In Greek mythology, Cyparissus was young boy beloved of Apollo. The god
gifted his lover with a stag for a companion. But Cyparissus
accidentally killed his sleeping pet with a carelessly thrown javelin,
and begged Apollo to allow him to mourn forever. The god granted his
wish, turning him into a cypress tree, still the symbol of mourning
Cypress is an evergreen, useful not only for purifying and sanctifying,
but for healing, comfort and protection.
A conifer used similarly to Cypress. Use for protection, for purifying
and for clearing a space or item of negativity.
Another evergreen, cedar also has a notable historical record as a
sacred wood. For magickal applications, it can be substituted for the
more expensive sandalwood, according to wiccan author Scott Cunningham.
Native Americans use cedar as one of their smudging herbs - smudging
done with cedar is often called 'cedaring'.