Rune Incense – Runic Kyphi

I mentioned in my post about making an Anglo Saxon Rune Set that I am also making incense. I did look up to see what Rune Incense was available to purchase online and found very little. So, as usual, when I can’t find a tool I need, I make it instead.

When I set out on connecting with the Rune spirits, there was an emphasis on giving offerings to open that channel of communication and in exchange for information. Offerings range from person to person – blood, alcohol, deeds, etc. For Berkana, I gave some of my own breastmilk, just to give you an idea of how varied they can get.

I knew that when making this set I’d want to give an offering to each rune. I also knew I wanted an incense offering for when I do rune readings. This all led to the decision to make an incense blend that contained an herb for each rune. Somewhere from the dusty corners of the back of my mind, a memory bubbled up of a video I watched years ago of a witch making Kyphi. All this formed into a plan.

Runes Incense and Kyphi

Kyphi is a Greek work for Kapet, an Egyptian word meaning incense or, perhaps, specifically ritual or temple incense. What we have from history is a variety of recipes likely inspired by the Kapet used in the temple of Ra. From what I understand about the history of Kyphi, is the priests that made this incense didn’t write down the recipe. Instead, it was part of their training.

Today, Kyphi is a term generally referring to pellet incense that has a base of fruit and honey and is heavy on the resins. Some recipes use only resins while others use herbs. Some use raisins, dates, or figs in the base while others rely mostly on honey.

Kyphi was an offertory incense to the Gods as well as a fumigation formula for healing and a luxury buried with Pharaohs. The resins and herbs used were the most luxurious that could be obtained, usually through importations – frankincense, myrrh, cedar, etc.

Now, some Norse lore hounds will be rolling their eyes and asking what does this have to do with Heathenry, Runes, Northern Tradition, etc. Well, mostly nothing.
MAJOR UPG DISCLAIMER for the most part.

That being said, our ancestors did trade with Egypt and, being human, were fond of nice things. Luxury items like beads, silk, gold, etc were all valued. Being one of the most luxurious items shared among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, one could say that if the Northern European ancestors ever did come into contact with Kyphi, they’d be into it.

Also, the ancient north people did use fumigation for spiritual, healing, and mundane use. We have bundles of herbs in tombs, neighboring peoples using herbs in ritual, etc. Incense would not have been too foreign a concept to them.

Lastly, we are modern peoples with access to the trade of ideas as part of our living religion and spiritual traditions. Many rune readers and Northern tradition spirit workers use incense and fumigation in their practice, making their own blends with what they have.

Making Kyphi is a long process full of intention and uses luxurious items. I think this sounds like a great offering to the Rune spirits.

Making Runic Kyphi

The base of this pellet incense is made of 3 ingredients – fruit, honey, and wine. For mine I am using local honey, mead that I made and dedicated to Odin (with permission from Him), and I chose to use a blend of cherries, cranberries, and prunes rather than raisins.

Chop or mince the fruit, mix with honey, and cover with wine. The amount varies depending on how much dry ingredient you have or plan to have. This will be a large batch so I’m making about 3 cups of fruit, mixing a cup of honey, and eyeballing the amount of wine. Have some honey for the end process as well just in case the batch is too dry as you can always add honey to make it stickier.

Let the wet mix set at cool room temp or in the fridge while you process your dry ingredients (this could be a few weeks so I will be making my wet blend when I get to the run Mannaz). Check it periodically and if it starts getting dry from the fruit soaking up with wine, top it off.

For the dry ingredients – process one herb a night into a fine powder. If you have the time and ability, do this in a mortar and pestle while galdring or singing the rune poem associated with that rune herb. I neither have the time nor the hand strength for some of these herbs. So, I will be breaking some down in a herb grinder and then processing in my mortar and pestle while galdring/singing.

That’s one rune/herb a night. Once the herb is a fine powder, give a pinch or so as an offering to that rune – burning it on some charcoal and galdr or sing again as well as requesting that rune bless your working and give you insight as to its nature in your work/readings. Sit with it and let that rune teach you with visions, omens, dreams, etc. Add the powdered herb into a jar and mix them together.

Repeat for each rune. Once all the 33 ingredients are processed and blended, on the last night you will blend the dry and wet ingredients, galdring the runes in a row. Also galdr and praise Odin for His trials upon the Hanga-Tree to snatch up the runes and share them with the worlds He created all with blood and passion.

Form the mix into pellets no bigger than the tip of your thumb – there will be many. If you are doing outdoors readings and rituals you can make some larger pellets about the size of a walnut. Heads up this is a rich, fragrant, and smokey incense so a little goes a long way.

Cure the pellets until dry. I plan to do this in the dehydrator. Others leave them out for 2 weeks or so. Roll in benzoin or remaining powder OR roll individually in parchment paper to prevent sticking. Store in an air tight container for future use.

Kyphi can mold – there’s a lot of honey and wine and plant material in there. So keep in a cool, dry place OR refrigerate/freeze OR put in a vacuum seal bag.

Runes and Herbs

The following list of Runes and Herbal associations was developed using intuition and some research regarding the energetics of each rune and the plants. If you feel a plant doesn’t relate to a rune listed and prefer a different plant, go for it. Follow what the Gods, Spirits, and Your Intuition tells you.

Fehu – Frankincense

Ur – Red Clover
Alternative: Maple

Thurisaz – Thistle
Alternative: Thorned plants like Blackthorn/Sloe tree, Honey Locust, etc.

Aesc/Ansuz – Ash

Raidho – Plantain

Kenaz – Tobacco

Gebo – Holly

Wunjo – Lavender

Hagal – Hellebore
Alternative: Henbane

Nauthiz – Pine Pitch

Isa – Reindeer Lichen

Jera – Straw
Alternative: Sweet Grass

Eoh – Sumbul aka Musk Root

Peorth – Mugwort

Algiz – Rosemary

Sowilu – Copal
Alternative: Daffodils, Saffron

Tiewaz – Cloves
Alternative: Wood Avens, Solomons Seal

Berkana – Oats
Alternative: Yeast

Ehwaz – Nettles

Mannaz – Rose and Hathorn

Laguz – Catnip

Ing – Patchouli

Daeg – Bay

Othala – Cedar

Ear – St Johns Wort

Ac – Oak

Ior – Water Vine
Alternative: Snake skin, Willow

Os – Mint

Yr – Sage
Alternative: Arnica

Cweorth – Marigold/Calendula

Chalc – Peony Root
Alternative: Lily, Lotus

Stan – Comfrey

Gar – Garlic

Incense Lesson

The lesson that the more time, energy and hands-on work you put into ritual supplies and tools the more powerful and better keys to shifting consciousness they are is a lesson that is well ingrained in most devotees of the craft. So, it should come to no surprise that making your own incense also falls into this concept of study and practice. 

With some basic knowledge of herbalism, careful study of what plants are safe to burn and inhale, and a little time and space to create, anyone can make their own incense blends for any need or occasion. 

My favorite part of making my own incense is the ability to be unique to myself and to my immediate needs. Rather than relying on a nearby store (usually a smoke shop selling sticks and cones of unknown origin and date) to have the specific blend needed (which never really seems to happen unless the specific blend I need is ‘special brownies’ or ‘cherry soda’ scented), I can instead rely on my own stock of dried herbs and have a nearly infinite list of possibilities. 

When I want to relax, I merely check my stores of lavender or when I want to pray to Anubis I use some of my sandalwood and dried funeral flowers like carnation.

I can also control where and when the herbs were gathered in many cases. Speaking previously of funeral flowers, I have some dried flowers from a funeral of a friend’s father given to me and use a petal or two when I wish to call upon ancestors, ask a favor of the departed, or other similar need. When I have need of romantic aid or blessings from the mother, I gather wild roses when the moon is waxing, close to full and dry them for future use. This is an act I cannot guarantee with stick incense from Joe’s Smoke Shop. 

Making Your Own Incense

When making your own incense blends, there are two different types to consider – combustible and non-combustible. The use of the term combustible can bring to mind science labs and explosives but really they only mean: do you need an outside source of heat like burning charcoal in order to ignite the herbs. 

I prefer non-combustible incense and the use of charcoal for most purposes. I do not have much skill in making combustible and prefer to just order cones or sticks if they are ever needed (in cases like time-keeping for meditation and prayer, sticks are a great option). 

The simplest and one of the most common incense known to witches is a smudge stick. This is super easy to make, especially if you already grow your own white sage, lavender, or sweetgrass. Gather a good bit of the fresh herb and bind it with twine into a bundle. You can use a single herb in a bundle or you can blend herbs (basil and mint with sage smells fantastic and is great for prosperity and business). Let dry completely then you can cut off the twine, the bundle should keeps its shape, and burn when needed. 

To make loose incense blends to be burned on charcoal, very few tools are needed. Make Your Own Incense class on Witch School lists the tools: 

Your incense ingredients (herbs, flowers, resins, crystals, stones, oils), measuring devices, mortar and pestle (I use a black and white onyx one that works great for me, if you really want to invest in your tools, you could have different stone and metal mortar and pestles for different needs and rites), some small bowls or containers for the powdered ingredients, a large ceramic/glass mixing bowl to blend your ingredients, an airtight container for storing your finished incense, and lastly a pen and paper to write down exactly what you did, so you can replicate it in the future.

When it comes to choosing the ingredients, like many have said before, the more time and energy put into your tools the better. Growing and or wild-crafting your own ingredients and drying them, especially in accordance to certain moon cycles, days, and sabbats, will create a stronger incense. 

In a pinch, common kitchen ingredients such as dried and powdered condiment herbs like black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, bay, and clove can also be used and one should never feel they cannot make any of their tools with readily available ingredients such as these on hand. 

Other ingredients than herbs are resins, oils and other liquid ingredients such as red wine and honey. Oils, specifically essential oils, should be from a reputable dealer and I would recommend only using therapeutic or pharmaceutical grade versions. These will be more costly but will be purer and have less chance of being adulterated. I also recommend a witch keep a basic set of oils in her tool chest including lavender, a favorite mint (or peppermint if you cannot decide), clove, eucalyptus, and a rose, geranium, neroli or jasmine depending on availability and personal preference. 

Knowledge – A Great Tool for Any Lesson

A tool not commonly listed that I recommend when making your own incense is a good book on herbs and their magical and medicinal uses. A great one is Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Having a book like this, even in the age of wireless internet where one can easily google “What is the magical property of – “ is still of great use in situations of no electricity or to simply keep in the magical mindset of looking into a great tome for magical knowledge. 

Having a great book is of course no reason to not memorize the magical properties of your most used or of a basic list of herbs and oils so that you have that knowledge with you at all times. 

Another way to know the properties of certain herbs is to experience it yourself. Make Your Own Incense states: 

“you might want to test them to see what kind of smell is produced. Light a charcoal and drop one piece at a time on the hot coal and see how you react to the smell. Keep a journal or index cards for this purpose. Record your first impression of the odor; your second opinion; what the smell reminds you of; whether it smells sweet or foul; and any other notes.”

By doing this, you not only figure out whether or not a certain blend will work before it ruins a ritual by making you nauseous, but you can also see if the wild pink rose makes you think of romantic love or maybe of familial love instead or if you receive a vision of a loved one when working with vanilla and peppermint rather than clearing the mind for work at hand. 

In the end, experiential knowledge is a better tool than what any book or website says. 

Sacred Incense – Kyphi

Mentioned before was the most basic way of making incense. The following is the most complex recipe for incense I have come across in my studies and one that has a history that rivals the time it takes to make it. 

Kyphi or Kapet is an ancient Egyptian incense using in sacred ceremonies, burning in prayer to the gods, and used in funeral rites. Kyphi has even been found in burial chambers of Pharaohs so that they might use it in the afterlife. Recipes and mentions of Kyphi has been found on the Pyramid Texts, the Papyris Harris I, and the preparation was focused on even in the Materia Medica written by Dioscorides. 

The ingredient list of Kyphi is long and uses dried herbs, oils, resins and other liquid ingredients all at certain and specific times. the preparation is long and some recipes call for 6 weeks, other for 30 days, and still others for 6 to 12 months before the incense is cured and ready for use. 

Check out my post on Runic Kyphi here.

Momma Sarah of hoodoo curio shop, Conjure Cardea has a family recipe for Kyphi that contains golden currants, spiced red wine, raw honey, cardamom, cinnamon, juniper berries, and 11 other ingredients in a process that takes her 30 days. One the time that it takes to make it, Momma Sarah says, “Many recipes claim you can create this overnight…you can’t. I highly enjoy this process, it is meditative and strengthens my connection to me deities.”

In the end, whether its a simple purification with white sage or spending half a year perfecting your own recipe for Kyphi, making your own incense can be a magic all on its own. 

Bibliography
Witch School First Degree Lesson 11 by Rev. Don Lewis
Witch School Make Your Own Incense Momma Sarah of Conjure Cardea – http://conjuredcardea.blogspot.com/2010/10/beginning-of-my-kyphi-kapet-process.html