The sense of smell is one of the most primal of senses. It stirs the deep-seated emotions that lie forgotten in the body. And since the most primal of emotions is the desire for union and the Divine, scent can be influential in spiritual pursuits.
Incense is the most common of sacred scents used in organized religions. Lots of witches like it too, especially those with some Eastern training (Buddhism, etc).
You can get incense in cones, sticks, or powder forms.
Because many incenses are made with chemical fragrances and fillers rather than natural sources, they can be problematic or even dangerous for many witches. Even the natural kind can cause problems for some people.
(Witches, other pagans, and New Age practitioners often tend to be more sensitive to their environment than others.)
Look for all-natural incense. The health hazards of chemical fragrances are well-documented. (Link opens in new window.)
Essential oils are the natural fragrance of plants, distilled into concentrated liquids. They carry all the metaphysical attributes of the plant, in condensed form.
These are commonly used in scent diffusers, on swatches of fabric, or if mild, on the skin.
As sacred scents, essential oils can also be dabbed onto special ritual items, to purify them or strengthen certain energies.
Amber is a very spiritual scent. It connects you with higher consciousness, in a very grounded way. Just like the trees it comes from.
Amber is a wonderful ritual fragrance. Make sure you get the real stuff, which is generally available in a semi-solid form, kind of crystallized. It should be available at your local alternative bookstore, New Age store, or Eastern import shop.
Herbs and flowers are the most natural ways to engage the sense of smell in ritual and spell-casting.
Since each plant has its own Power, you have hundreds of potent allies in your magickal and spiritual tasks.
There are plenty of herb books available with information on the uses of the plants, e.g., Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants, The Master Book of Herbalism, and The Healing Power of Herbs.If it's good for the heart when you ingest it, it'll be good in a spell for the heart as well.
Spices and foods really wake up the senses — and the imagination!
Many foods have symbolic connections to deities . . . Pomegranates, for example, are sacred to Persephone and perfect for Samhain rituals.
And spices, like herbs, are potent spiritual forces. They are wonderful when used as sacred scents or incense.
You can often find them listed in witchy herbal books as well.
Smudging comes from the First Nations practice of purifying and praying with smoke from sacred plants.
Smudging is my favourite alternative to incense. Many who cannot tolerate incense are not adversely affected by smudge smoke, especially when used in small amounts.
Plus, invoking the spirit of such sacred plants is a lovely practice.
And the smell doesn't linger or permeate fabrics as much as incense does, so it can be used to cleanse and purify the space, and then aired out before the ritual.
Please see this article for more information on how to smudge.
Below are the most common sacred scents in common use as smudges. The properties listed may be different from the First Nations' understanding. I don't know enough about their practices to speak for them, so these qualities are from my personal experience with the plants.
Purifying, sanctifying, protecting. Also brings good energy. Carries prayers, especially thanks, to the Divine.
Cleansing, removing harmful or negative energies. Protects against negative energy.
Blesses and purifies your actions, past and future — so encourages forgiveness too.
Blessing, purifying, calling in good energy. It brings beauty, and will carry your prayers up to the Divine.
Sweetgrass is endangered, so it's best to use some other option . . . like cedar. Or if you must use it, buy it from First Nations shops, to support their protection of this sacred plant.
Invoking Divine, sanctifying, blessing, balancing. Inspires, promotes peacefulness, creates harmony and connection with the Goddess.
Sadly, this sacred being is commonly abused as a drug, and since it's illegal in North America (ludicrous, but true) it is not recommended in sacred smudge.
But since some Wiccans are using it for ritual purposes other than smudging, it should be clarified that drug use for altering consciousness is not actually a Wiccan practice but a shamanic path. Using hallucinogens for sacred journeying is dangerous on many levels, and should only be undertaken with the training and supervision of an experienced shaman and after necessary purification. (And of course only under legal circumstances.)
You can use sacred scents to
With Brightest Blessings,
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