Incense represents the element of Air.
Incense may be of any sort -stick, cone, oil, or powder. But remember -in some rituals you may have to pick the incense up -so choose an incense or an incense burner which allows for this. I have vivid memories of impulsively picking up my grandmother's metal tripod burner by the bowl when it was hot, rather than by the legs as it was meant to be lifted -don't make the same mistake!With stick incense lifting is no problem, and it is easy to light -hence its popularity. But it lacks the drama of powdered incense burned over charcoal.
In recent years "smudge sticks" -loose bundles of dried aromatic plant material, usually sage, cedar, or lavender- have become popular as a kind of stick incense, but if you choose to use these, be aware that they tend to send off sparks, which can be dangerous.
If you are going to use cone or powdered incense you will want to use either a standing incense burner, or a hanging THURIBLE on a chain.
If you're sensitive to smoke there are also non-combustible forms of incense, notably essential oil. Essential oil comes in all of the same fragrances as combustible incense, a and indeed is often used in their manufacture. To use essential oil in place of incense, a small quantity can be dropped into a candle flame, even as powdered incense might be dropped upon hot charcoal.
If you are truly sensitive to scent, you can also use more symbolic forms of incense such as a cinnamon stick, or a sprig of some aromatic plant such as sage, which can be waved over the candle instead of added to the flame. Feathers fans are often used to fan the smoke of combustible incense, but can also be used in its place to simply fan the flame of a candle in a symbolic manner.
You will want to place the incense to the right of your altar. Later you will learn how to use it more specifically, but for now just enjoy its scent and let it help you to achieve the magical shift in consciousness.
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