In Anna Riva's words:
Most ardent candle burning devotees are convinced that the burning of incense along with the candles not only aids one's concentration but intensifies the energies which are being expended. Also, there is a belief that the incense's rising fumes carry one's prayers upward while the fragrance attracts those spirits which are beneficial to the project.
Since Biblical days incense has been used during special ceremonies. In Exodus, "Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon...He burnt sweet incense thereo; as the Lord commanded Moses." Incense, with its sweet smelling perfume and high-ascending smoke, can be compared to a sincere, earnest prayer which, enkindled by the fire of concentration, rises up as a pleasant offering.
HISTORY AND USE
Originally incense was made from sweet-scented woods, odorous resins, and other natural substances which were burned to produce fragrant fumes. One can still make their own incense if they wish to invest the time and energy necessary to obtain the ingredients and mill them into a burnable form. If incense from pungent woods, pods, gums, and resins is used, it is most likely not "self-lighting" and must be placed on a bed of charcoal. There is a specially treated charcoal which ignites instantly when touched with a match flame, and thus ignites the incense when enough heat has been generated.
Each form of incense - cones, sticks, and powdered - is just as effective as the other, though the powdered type is by far the most popular kind. Its popularity is based on the fact that two or three kinds can be easily mixed together when several elements are needed for a special purpose.
If a particular incense is not mentioned, use a fragrance which appeals to you or, if you are selecting from brand-name offerings, choose one whose name is compatible with the intent of the ritual.
Any type of incense burner can be used, or any non-combustible, heat resistant dish can serve as well. The incense burner is usually placed at the center of the altar. After the burner has been used with one type of incense, it should be emptied and thoroughly cleaned before a different incense is burned. Wipe the burner with olive oil or a pure baby oil, and then polish it with a clean, dry cloth.
ALL PURPOSE INCENSE PRAYER
For those who wish to bless the incense or dedicate it to a special purpose before beginning the ritual, this general prayer will serve.
"O Blessed One, accept this ceremony with the spirit in which it is performed; with sincerity, with humility, and with the realization of mighty mystical forces far beyond my own understanding."