How to get started with incense, smoke cleansing and burning or herbs
If you are a beginner and want to try your hands at experiencing incenses, burning herbs and resin to enrich your practice and/or enjoy beautiful, natural scents, but don’t know where to start, welcome, you are at the right place.
I am not going to be talking about beautiful and expensive setups today, or how things should be done or look.
My purpose is to give you the most basic tools and knowledge, that will let you figure out whether burning incense (other than sticks and cones) is for you at all, without any unnecessary costs.
So what do you need to get started the first time?
Rock salt (any kind you can find cheap in the grocery store, the more coarse, the better, but to start, you can use kitchen salt you have at home)
Heat resistant bowl, at least 10cm in diameter (ceramic or porcelain will do, basically any cereal type bowl will do)
Coal disc (like the ones used for shisha, hookah or water pipes - I provide one with incense bought from me, but you can get these in any well supplied tobacco shops)
Metal kitchen pincers or tongs (I have done it with a simple fork, but for safety reasons would not recommend)
Lighter / candle
Incense (to start, many kitchen spices will do, if you don’t want to invest in special resins or blends. Cloves smell wonderful, as does cinnamon, coriander or cardamom)
And that is it! There is no need to go out of your way to buy anything special to simply try your hand at burning incense. So what next?
Fill your bowl with salt. The salt will act to isolate the bowl and the surroundings from the heat of the coal. The bigger the bowl and more salt, the less chance there is the bowl will get hot. However there is no need to go with anything bigger than 500ml and 0.5kg of salt. just make sure your table or surface is protected and be cautious when touching the bowl just in case.
Take and hold the charcoal disc with the kitchen tongs. This is to protect you and your hand from the heat of the fire while lighting the coal. NEVER hold the coal in your fingers while lighting it. As I mentioned, if you don’t have pincer or tongs, you can for example hold the coal on a fork or a metal spatula and light that way, but that isn’t safe.
Once your coal is lit, place it in the middle of the bowl on the salt and you can start sprinkling incense on it and playing :)
Of course, this setup is not ideal long term, as neither your bowl, nor pincers are made to handle heat, and with long term use they will show wear. The kitchen salt will harden and stop being loose due to the heat, but that will not impact the insulation properties too much.
If and when you find out, whether incense is for you you may slowly build to acquire a more permanent setup that will please your eyes and fit your practice and also keep you safe.
I would first invest in special tongs meant for handling coals and then into a heat resistant bowl. Special salts, decorative sand and all other adornments are optional.
Be safe and enjoy the wonderous world of natural scents and fumes :)