Incense is a traditional, primordial component of spirit veneration. It is believed that ascending smoke carries prayers and petitions with it, magically delivering it to the correct recipient, like the owls who know just where to deliver mail in the Harry Potter books. Specific fragrances are used to signal to specific spirits. Candles, especially scented ones, may be used in addition to or instead of incense. Wax candles were once prohibitively expensive and so incense, which may be made of any fragrant botanical material, was more popular.
Incense is typically available in three forms:
* Loose botanical material intended to be sprinkled over charcoal and then burned
The term incense now refers to any material used to produce a fragrant aroma when burned, but it originally referred specifically to gum resins exuded by Boswellia trees. As the word began to be used more generally, these gum resins became known as frankincense, meaning true (frank) incense.
Much commercially manufactured incense is now synthetic, particularly very inexpensive brands of cones and sticks. (High-quality stick and cone incense does exist but is not cheap.) Loose incense tends to be real, as it is less labor intensive to create and, by its very nature, less easy to fake. One botanical may be substituted for another, but it is unlikely to be synthetic.
Read the ingredients on incense purchased. It is best to always be aware of exactly what you are burning because that way you know exactly who you are attracting. Incense is very easy to handcraft, even sticks and cones. Instructions are readily available online and in books.