One of the things that is highly important for many witches and shamans is the use of sacred smoke. This can be smoke from sage, cedar, sandalwood, pine, sweet grass, and any number of incenses. Smoke represents the element of Air, and that is the element that not only prepares one for the encounter with the Divine, but also takes our prayers and spells to the ears of the Divine. But in order to burn these sacred plants and incenses safely one needs a fire safe vessel in which to do so. That vessel is called a censer.
In ancient times and even today a censer was and is made from a variety of materials such as shell, clay, metal and so on. Some are made of wood (such as an incense burner), some are designed from blown glass, some are shaped out of metal. One word of caution is that if you are using sage or some form of high heat substance, then it is much better to go with metal than anything else that could either catch fire or blow up with intense heat. If you don’t have a metal censer, then perhaps consider either a less intense heat by switching to a different sacred herb, or add sand to the inside of the container to act as a buffer for the heat. From ancient Egypt where lamps were used to burn oil and incense, to the smudge stick of the Celts and North American Indigenous people, censers of one form or another have been used world-wide.
The smoke from sacred woods and incenses creates negative ions, which purifies the energy, the body, the mind, and the heart of the individuals using it. This prepares them for their encounter with the Divine, and it also enables them to receive messages from Spirit. On top of that it tends to make one feel at peace, much like the negative ions from the lapping water at the edge of a river, lake or ocean will do.
I put my censer to use on a daily basis. Whenever I am smudging my home, whenever I am working at my healing altar, whenever I am communing with Spirit or with Ancestors, whenever I am about to do a card layout and so on. It is one of those most basic essentials that anyone who uses prayer, meditation, healing or magic needs to have. However, if one is allergic to smoke, incense, scents and so on, there is always a work-around that is possible. You can also use blessed water in a spritzer bottle. However, if this is not an issue at all, then definitely go for the censer and the sacred smoke.
There is something that I learned a number of years ago regarding sacred smoke. At that time I was seeing an average of seven clients a day (before I slowed down in my old age!) and I was using sage as a smudge every day. My sister at this time was going through heart surgery and in preparation for this she was given a video to watch. In the video it talked about how bad cigarette smoking is, not just for the lungs but also for the heart. After the video she asked me what I was going to do to prevent myself from ever having this kind of surgery. I said to her, “I should be okay because I don’t smoke.” The next morning I was hacking up what seemed like my left lung over the bathroom sink. I thought to myself, “But I don’t smoke, so what the heck is this?” and Spirit said to me in a rather deep, resonating voice, “You may not be smoking cigarettes, but you are definitely SMOKING.” That is when I realized that I had to switch from sage in sacred incenses. That way I would not be inhaling thick smoke seven times a day. Once I made this switch I reserved sage smoke for larger areas indoors, smudging my home, or (mostly) outdoor ceremonies. It was a valuable lesson in how even a very positive thing can have a negative effect if we get too much of it.
I wish you, my readers, all the best in your exploration of censer use and the use of sacred smoke. And I hope that you balance it well with what your personal health needs may be.