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Weaving Incense

Incense Wands Harvest, August 12th, 2019
What happens when my passion for incense and weaving come together? Smudge wands!

This summer I've started preparing incense wands from the many medicinal herbs from my garden on the mountain, bound with botanical fibres from magical leaves. I've prepared several types from practically all the aromatic medicinal plants I grow. Each is bound with a long leaf that resonates with its properties, and creates a more sustainable wand than you'd get from binding them with cotton, for example (cotton takes up a lot of water to grow, and is mostly grown in desert-like areas where water is very much needed, such as Israel and Egypt). 

There is a reason for preparing these wands from local plants, rather than using the traditional First Nations plants such as sagebrush, cedar leaves or white sage. It actually aligns much more authentically with the First Nation philosophy of using the local plants that are available to us in our environs. These are the medicine we need for this time and place. Here are a few words about the smudging properties of each:

Biblical Hyssop AKA Za'atar (Origanum Syriacum)
The most incredible cleansing medicinal herb we have around. Ezov (the Hebrew name for the plant) was mentioned in the bible as a cleansing and protective herb more than once.  When burnt it produces an incredibly clean aroma and balanced that is one of the most pleasant-smelling smudging I've experienced. It is clean burning also because it burns thoroughly. You will actually need to put this out if you don't want the whole wand to go on fire in one sitting. 
Three-Lobed Sage (Salvia fruticosa) 
The local variety of sage burns like many sages - with a lot of smoke and an earthy, somewhat pungent smoke. It is definitely the answer for whenever white sage (Salvia apiana) is called for. Although the scent is less delicate than za'atar, it is invaluable for whenever a space needs to be cleared and protected, and also provide grounding for the people in its presence. 
Sharp Varthemia (Chiliadenus iphionoides)
Resinous and earthy, sharp varthemia is an incense on and of its own. Musky, earthy, ambery-sweet, and, well, incense-like! It is a medicine for the heart, both literally and metaphorically. Use it as a soothing balm in that sense.  
Satureja
Similar aromatic and healing properties to Za'atar, but sharper and earthier. Satureja also contains large amounts of thymol, and is an anti-fungal and anti-microbial herb. It also burns a little slower than za'atar.
Rosemary 
Creates a reassuring, warm-herbaceous and slightly animal note when burnt. Rosemary is known as a powerful aid for memory and a clarity of mind. Its lesser known property is assisting in dealing with painful emotions from the past, and supporting the process of embodiment, which is key in healing traumas associated with the body or emotional trauma that has gotten stuck in the body.

Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
Also cleaning and clean-smelling, in the same genus as the common oregano and the za'atar (Biblical Hyssop), but also shares properties with that of tea tree of all things. It is simultaneously a fungicidal, anti-microbial and anti-viral. The scent is a bit more floral than tea tree, and also goes well with lavender (so you could burn the two simultaneously). 
Lavender
More refined and floral than the other herbs. Lavender has a clean, woody-floral aroma that transfers surprisingly well even into this primitive form of incense burning. Clears the mind and spirit and creates a calm, peaceful space.  
Wormwood (Artemisia arborescense)
Very pungent and produces a lot of smoke. This is the local answer to sagebrush, and just as potent. Use it mostly outdoors and it is extremely smokey (wormwood branches have a long history of use for firewood in the Mediterranean region), and when you need to ward off extremely unpleasant or aggressive energies.  
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Also known as Motherwort, mugwort (Artemisia vulgarisms) is related to wormwood but is much milder and less smoky and pungent. Strongly associated with the moon and with feminine energies. 


Four Sages Incense Cones

Clary Sage & Incense Wands
An order that came in for my Four Sages incense cones prompted me to make more. I only had a few left which I made with my dedicated student cum friend Jenny Amber. She is the one who gifted me with much missed aromatics from BC (Sagebrush, Coastal Mugwort, Redcedar Leaf, and more). This incense blend feels very special to me as it combines sages of both the West Coast and the Western Galilee - the two regions that I call home.

I was a bit unwell when the order came in so had to wait till I felt better. And even then I felt like I needed a little energy boost - rolling incense cones is labour intense and sometimes it is much more enjoyable in good company. So I summoned my brother Yotam to the task. We sat on the eastern deck this morning, enjoyed the gentle yet warm, wintery morning sunrays, listened to his choice of Ceremonial music and rolled the cones you see in the picture below.
Four Sages Incense Cones & Smudge Bundle
These are potent cones, small yet pack a punch and seem to clear any negative energy within minutes.  They contain Coastal Mugworth, White Sage (Sagebrush), which are both types of artemisia, a pinch of wormwood and clary sage from my garden, and of course - three-lobed sage that is the iconic scent of the Galilee.
The cones are now available and in stock again and you can order however many you wish via the online boutique.

Incense Course Begins!

Incense Workshop
Today I began teaching my first incense course - a series of incense classes, covering the main burning styles and incense making techniques. Using natural raw materials only, such as precious resins, gums, woods, spices and herbs, we will pulverize, grind and mix together raw materials that were used in incense making since time immemorial.  I am very excited for this workshop - because it is taught to a very special group of women, and also is giving me the push to improve my incense making skills and learn new techniques!

Here's what's planned for the course:

1. Smudge Wands
Introduction to incense history and raw materials. Forage botanicals for making incense wands/smudge stick from wild and local medicinal herbs.

2. Loose Incense
Spotlight on resins and composition of a loose incense using resins, herbs and spices.

3. Kyphi
Relying on an ancient Egyptian recipe, we'll pulverize and grind various resins, herbs, precious woods and spices in a mixture of wine and raisins, and create small pellets that can be burned on a charcoal or electric incense heater or diffuser. You'll be able to pick up the Kyphi you made after a week (or get it mailed to you).

4. Incense Pastilles
Incense "candy" that is made of various type of resins, with added liquid, rolled into balls and burnt on charcoal or on aromatherapy diffuser).
Very suitable for children, as this type of incense is faster to make and does not require long drying time, and can be taken home the same day.

5. Neirkoh
Japanese incense pastilles - like soft incense caramels that are designed for warming on a hot plate rather than burning. Made from complex aromatics and aged for several months.

6. Incense Trails & Body Incense
Unique Japanese technique for incense burning, as well as perfuming the body or cleansing before entering temples for prayer and meditation. This class also serves as preparation for the most complex form of combustible incense.

7. Incense Cones
More technically advanced, this incense is hand-shaped into little cones that can stand on their base and are self burning - just like the more familiar joss-sticks, once they are ignited, they burn slowly from the tip to the bottom. Preparing them requires fine balancing of the ingredients and meticulous shaping, therefore taking much longer. You'll be able to pick up the cones you made after a week (or get them mailed to you).
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