Jeremy Bechelli of Phytognosis took the time to speak to us about the process of making natural incense and the methods he uses.
We were especially intrigued by his knowledge and his unique spiritual take on processing incense.
Visit his Esty store and purchase some of his high quality incense--he has offered any Aromahead blog reader a 10% discount for the month of March! Use the code: Aromaheadblog10
Jeremy, can you tell us about your business and the process of making incense?
The name Phytognosis comes from the Greek word phyto meaning "plant," and gnosis meaning "knowledge." We are dedicated to making 100% natural products derived from plants that aid in spiritual attainment. Each product is made from organic or ethically wild crafted botanicals, taking care to respect the Earth. We use no cheap fillers in our incense blends and only use the highest quality plant resins, roots, woods, oils, and leaves in our blends.
We are more than happy to discuss custom work involving incense, oils, powders, inks, tinctures, or other brews not currently carried.
Because our primary interest is in spirituality, we craft incense blends from classic grimoires, the Bible, Voudon and other African traditions, as well as Hoodoo and Native American traditions. Ancient Egyptian, Celtic, Hindu, and European deities are especially popular for use during ritual.
On Incense Production
Each blend is meticulously researched prior to construction, using citations from academic and religious sources, as well as folklore and mythology. If there is limited information, no known current botanical species, or no direct translations for certain ancient recipes, I will rely on my intuition to make the blend as authentic as possible.
A great example of this is in the Kyphi recipe scribed on the Temple of Horus walls at Edfu. One ingredient is listed as “Peker,” but Egyptologists and botanists haven’t identified the botanical species, making all modern Kyphi not exactly 100% authentic.
Certain historical recipes (such as the Kyphi) have rituals involved in making the incense. Certain herbs must be added before others, and particular spells and incantations must be performed during the preparation of the incense. Where possible, I will perform all documented ritual acts to make the incense as close to authentic as possible.
Astrological timing is very important to the creation of my incense blends. Every batch of incense is created and finished on the appropriate day and hour respective to the blend.
This means that the Dark Moon blend cannot be created until a Monday that lands within three days prior to the New Moon and is compounded in the hour of the moon (which constantly changes depending on sunrise). While this timing will not change the scent of the incense, many of my customers depend on this level of detail for their spiritual goals.
What inspired you to make the Archangel line?
A friend who is very interested in Guardian Angels and works with clients to heal themselves spiritually inspired the Archangel Line earlier this year. She requested a blend for Archangel Gabriel that her client could use to make connections with her Guardian Angel. This line débuted in January at a fundraising event for Light Works in Rochester.
The response was great, and I've had some really great feedback on the line. I think the Archangels represent great positive spiritual goals, and are great ways for people to connect with their spirituality. All of the Archangel blends are created with a base of frankincense, for the obvious spiritual connections, with variations for each Angel. They were a pleasure to create and are even better to experience!
What sort of burners do you use for your incense?
I prefer to burn on charcoal tablets. While the self-lighting tabs are easy and convenient, many don’t like the saltpeter, so sometimes I also use the non self-lighting tabs. If I'm burning something precious like agarwood chips, I use an incense heater that doesn’t burn the product, but gently warms the incense to release the essential oils. My incense does not contain any saltpeter, so is designed to be burned on charcoal or used in a warmer.
Many people find they like the scent of certain resins better if they aren't directly burned on charcoal. You can make a little cup or tent out of aluminum foil and place that on the hot charcoal, which allows the incense to be heated slowly. Many people comment that they don’t like myrrh and Siam benzoin, because they often smell like burning plastic. This can be avoided with the foil tent method which heats the resins gently and results in more pleasant, true to form aromas.
What do you do when you're not making incense?
I am a busy guy. I have a house in Rochester NY that I share with my partner and our three cats. I work as a cancer researcher by day, and teach biology and microbiology during the evenings at the local community college. Because my life isn’t crazy enough, I have recently decided to pursue my PhD in Education. For relaxation, I grow orchids; about 200 cold growing orchids (Masdevallia and Dracula species) from the mountains of South America.
I love going to shows and festivals to sell Phytognosis products. This allows me a chance to meet and talk with people who actually use my products. I give talks and workshops locally involving spiritual botany and making incense. I love it all!