Traditionally, incense resins have been burned on the glowing embers of various different fuels... including wood ashes, charcoal and even dried cow dung!
Here are some useful hints and tips to enable you to get the best from your incense:
The charcoal can easily be lit using long kitchen matches, a cigarette lighter or a candle flame. You can tell when it's alight, because it gives off little "sparkles" and a bit of white or grey smoke.
Place the charcoal tablet, with the "dished" side facing upwards, in a suitable heat-proof holder. If you're using a metal holder like my brass deepak jyoti incense burner, it's a good idea to put some dry sand, salt or something similar in the bottom - this helps to provide a firm base for the charcoal, and absorbs some of the excess heat.
Leave the charcoal
for a minute or two until it's properly alight. It should stop
sparkling after a few seconds, and you might notice light grey ash
forming on the surface of the tablet - just like the charcoal in a
barbecue. Then you can start adding your incense resin.
A word of warning - DON'T add too much resin at first, because it produces a LOT of smoke! Also if you use too much, the temperature of the charcoal can be reduced, and you can end up with a nasty-smelling cloud of steamy smoke (from the small amount of moisture always present in the resin). Start with no more than about 2 grams of resin - that's approximately a quarter of a level teaspoonful.
Once that's burned away and the smoke begins to thin out, add a small amount more. Don't remove the ash unless it starts to smell bad. If it does, gently scrape it off with a spoon before adding more resin.
If the effect is too smoky for your taste, you can deliberately reduce the temperature by putting a small piece of kitchen foil between the charcoal and the resin - just one thickness is enough to slightly moderate the heat, and give a more "mellow", less acrid fragrance. (This is a modern variation on the traditional Japanese method of heating incense on a thin sheet of mica over burning charcoal in the Koh Do ceremony - but kitchen foil is a lot easier to find than mica!) Don't be afraid to experiment, to see what gives the effect you like best.
The best thing about burning incense in this form is that you can experiment with your own incense mixtures. You can try many different ingredients, like wood chips, shavings or sawdust, dried herbs, seeds, flower petals, roots, fragrant or essential oils... the list is almost endless!
Blend your ingredients together using either Frankincense or Benzoin as the basis of the mixture, and see what you can create... for more help, you might like to check out the excellent page on the Scents of Earth website which gives detailed instructions for making your own incense.
Advice on burning incense, incense resins, using charcoal, frankincense, olibanum, myrrh, benzoin, gum benzoin, loban, altar incense, church incense, making your own incense using herbs, seeds, roots etc...