I mentioned in my post about making an Anglo Saxon Rune Set that I am also making incense. I did look up to see what Rune Incense was available to purchase online and found very little. So, as usual, when I can’t find a tool I need, I make it instead.
When I set out on connecting with the Rune spirits, there was an emphasis on giving offerings to open that channel of communication and in exchange for information. Offerings range from person to person – blood, alcohol, deeds, etc. For Berkana, I gave some of my own breastmilk, just to give you an idea of how varied they can get.
I knew that when making this set I’d want to give an offering to each rune. I also knew I wanted an incense offering for when I do rune readings. This all led to the decision to make an incense blend that contained an herb for each rune. Somewhere from the dusty corners of the back of my mind, a memory bubbled up of a video I watched years ago of a witch making Kyphi. All this formed into a plan.
Runes Incense and Kyphi
Kyphi is a Greek work for Kapet, an Egyptian word meaning incense or, perhaps, specifically ritual or temple incense. What we have from history is a variety of recipes likely inspired by the Kapet used in the temple of Ra. From what I understand about the history of Kyphi, is the priests that made this incense didn’t write down the recipe. Instead, it was part of their training.
Today, Kyphi is a term generally referring to pellet incense that has a base of fruit and honey and is heavy on the resins. Some recipes use only resins while others use herbs. Some use raisins, dates, or figs in the base while others rely mostly on honey.
Kyphi was an offertory incense to the Gods as well as a fumigation formula for healing and a luxury buried with Pharaohs. The resins and herbs used were the most luxurious that could be obtained, usually through importations – frankincense, myrrh, cedar, etc.
Now, some Norse lore hounds will be rolling their eyes and asking what does this have to do with Heathenry, Runes, Northern Tradition, etc. Well, mostly nothing.
MAJOR UPG DISCLAIMER for the most part.
That being said, our ancestors did trade with Egypt and, being human, were fond of nice things. Luxury items like beads, silk, gold, etc were all valued. Being one of the most luxurious items shared among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, one could say that if the Northern European ancestors ever did come into contact with Kyphi, they’d be into it.
Also, the ancient north people did use fumigation for spiritual, healing, and mundane use. We have bundles of herbs in tombs, neighboring peoples using herbs in ritual, etc. Incense would not have been too foreign a concept to them.
Lastly, we are modern peoples with access to the trade of ideas as part of our living religion and spiritual traditions. Many rune readers and Northern tradition spirit workers use incense and fumigation in their practice, making their own blends with what they have.
Making Kyphi is a long process full of intention and uses luxurious items. I think this sounds like a great offering to the Rune spirits.
Making Runic Kyphi
The base of this pellet incense is made of 3 ingredients – fruit, honey, and wine. For mine I am using local honey, mead that I made and dedicated to Odin (with permission from Him), and I chose to use a blend of cherries, cranberries, and prunes rather than raisins.
Chop or mince the fruit, mix with honey, and cover with wine. The amount varies depending on how much dry ingredient you have or plan to have. This will be a large batch so I’m making about 3 cups of fruit, mixing a cup of honey, and eyeballing the amount of wine. Have some honey for the end process as well just in case the batch is too dry as you can always add honey to make it stickier.
Let the wet mix set at cool room temp or in the fridge while you process your dry ingredients (this could be a few weeks so I will be making my wet blend when I get to the run Mannaz). Check it periodically and if it starts getting dry from the fruit soaking up with wine, top it off.
For the dry ingredients – process one herb a night into a fine powder. If you have the time and ability, do this in a mortar and pestle while galdring or singing the rune poem associated with that rune herb. I neither have the time nor the hand strength for some of these herbs. So, I will be breaking some down in a herb grinder and then processing in my mortar and pestle while galdring/singing.
That’s one rune/herb a night. Once the herb is a fine powder, give a pinch or so as an offering to that rune – burning it on some charcoal and galdr or sing again as well as requesting that rune bless your working and give you insight as to its nature in your work/readings. Sit with it and let that rune teach you with visions, omens, dreams, etc. Add the powdered herb into a jar and mix them together.
Repeat for each rune. Once all the 33 ingredients are processed and blended, on the last night you will blend the dry and wet ingredients, galdring the runes in a row. Also galdr and praise Odin for His trials upon the Hanga-Tree to snatch up the runes and share them with the worlds He created all with blood and passion.
Form the mix into pellets no bigger than the tip of your thumb – there will be many. If you are doing outdoors readings and rituals you can make some larger pellets about the size of a walnut. Heads up this is a rich, fragrant, and smokey incense so a little goes a long way.
Cure the pellets until dry. I plan to do this in the dehydrator. Others leave them out for 2 weeks or so. Roll in benzoin or remaining powder OR roll individually in parchment paper to prevent sticking. Store in an air tight container for future use.
Kyphi can mold – there’s a lot of honey and wine and plant material in there. So keep in a cool, dry place OR refrigerate/freeze OR put in a vacuum seal bag.
Runes and Herbs
The following list of Runes and Herbal associations was developed using intuition and some research regarding the energetics of each rune and the plants. If you feel a plant doesn’t relate to a rune listed and prefer a different plant, go for it. Follow what the Gods, Spirits, and Your Intuition tells you.
Fehu – Frankincense
Ur – Red Clover
Thurisaz – Thistle
Alternative: Thorned plants like Blackthorn/Sloe tree, Honey Locust, etc.
Aesc/Ansuz – Ash
Raidho – Plantain
Kenaz – Tobacco
Gebo – Holly
Wunjo – Lavender
Hagal – Hellebore
Nauthiz – Pine Pitch
Isa – Reindeer Lichen
Jera – Straw
Alternative: Sweet Grass
Eoh – Sumbul aka Musk Root
Peorth – Mugwort
Algiz – Rosemary
Sowilu – Copal
Alternative: Daffodils, Saffron
Tiewaz – Cloves
Alternative: Wood Avens, Solomons Seal
Berkana – Oats
Ehwaz – Nettles
Mannaz – Rose and Hathorn
Laguz – Catnip
Ing – Patchouli
Daeg – Bay
Othala – Cedar
Ear – St Johns Wort
Ac – Oak
Ior – Water Vine
Alternative: Snake skin, Willow
Os – Mint
Yr – Sage
Cweorth – Marigold/Calendula
Chalc – Peony Root
Alternative: Lily, Lotus
Stan – Comfrey
Gar – Garlic