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Charcoal discs


Xaviera

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What the blue blazes is one expected to do with a charcoal disc?

However, a well-meaning friend bought me a 'witchy goody bag' for Christmas and among the goodies was a charcoal disc. In all my years of magical workings and spell casting I've never used one - but having a working to do that means an awful lot to me, I thought I'd throw everything at it and tried to burn some incense across the smouldering disc.

I wrote my 'desire' on a piece of paper, did the preparatory mental stuff and tried to light the disc. About ten matches later I realized that it doesn't flare up like a lighter but just sends little red sparks through itself. I found out by picking it up (OUCH!) that it gets very hot. I sprinkled my incense on and laid my bit of paper on top.

Cue: smoke alarms. Stinging eyes. Room full of smoke. I carried the whole thing outside and let it finish off in the garden. A few hours later, I put what I thought was the cold ashes in a paper CD envelope which instantly scorched and started to smoke. I hope the 'powers that be' weren't awarding points for elegance in spell-casting or that one's right out the window!

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Sorry, I cannot help. I had a similar scary experience with a charcoal disc. There were toxic fumes and a burnt rug involved. I'm still traumatized. Will be curious to find out how others use them.

 

Jevne

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What the blue blazes is one expected to do with a charcoal disc?

However, a well-meaning friend bought me a 'witchy goody bag' for Christmas and among the goodies was a charcoal disc. In all my years of magical workings and spell casting I've never used one - but having a working to do that means an awful lot to me, I thought I'd throw everything at it and tried to burn some incense across the smouldering disc.

I wrote my 'desire' on a piece of paper, did the preparatory mental stuff and tried to light the disc. About ten matches later I realized that it doesn't flare up like a lighter but just sends little red sparks through itself. I found out by picking it up (OUCH!) that it gets very hot. I sprinkled my incense on and laid my bit of paper on top.

Cue: smoke alarms. Stinging eyes. Room full of smoke. I carried the whole thing outside and let it finish off in the garden. A few hours later, I put what I thought was the cold ashes in a paper CD envelope which instantly scorched and started to smoke. I hope the 'powers that be' weren't awarding points for elegance in spell-casting or that one's right out the window!

 

Was it a large charcoal disc? I use the ones meant for being burnt in hookahs. Get it started in a metal bowl and then sprinkle herbs and what not on them to let them burn. Never had the big smoke and alarms issue. The best way to know if it's actually lit it to blow on them, they tend to show if they got any heat to them when air is added.

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Charcoal discs are generally used to burn incense that cannot ignite on its own. Picture a Catholic priest strolling down the church aisle, swinging a censer with all sorts of smoke coming out of it. There's a charcoal disc in the bottom of that censer. And yes, they are meant to be long-lasting. One disc will generally last an entire Mass. They are also used in temples in the Middle East for the same reason. Anywhere you want something to burn a long time and have the capability of putting out lots of smoke.

 

The incense sticks & cones you buy already have an 'igniter' as one of the ingredients. It can be a wood of some sort but is more often saltpeter.

 

If you burn incense this way, you need to put only a tiny bit of incense on the tablet at a time. Otherwise yes, you'll not only fumigate the entire house but set off smoke alarms as well. Resin-based incenses are really bad about putting out lots of smoke.

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You can also break the charcoal disk into smaller pieces when you don't need it to last a long time. I have used them when burning incense that I have made myself and, like Aloe mentioned, I put sand underneath to avoid heating the container bottom too much. Absinthe's story reminds me of the first batch that I made.......too much oil=lots of smoke! :blobfire:

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Another way to use a charcoal disc is in conjunction with a mica plate and white chaff ash. This doesn't really produce a lot of smoke, but instead heats up the loose incense to release it's fragrance. This is a good method for those who may be sensitive to the usual amount of smoke produce by placing loose incense directly on a burning disc and for those prone to setting off the smoke alarm. ;)

 

To Start, fill your incense container with ash. Next, in a separate heat-proof container, light the charcoal disc and let it heat up until it turns grayish-white on the outside. Once the disc is ready, using tweezers so you don't burn your fingers, transfer the disc to your incense container and push it about half way down inside the ash. Next, cover the charcoal disc with ash, slightly tamping it down on top of the disc. Then using a chopstick or something similar, poke a vent hole to the charcoal and put a mica plate on top of the hole. Finally, place your incense on top of the mica plate and enjoy.

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Guest willynilly

I like using the discs. They do smoke but I like the effect. I use a cast iron plate with unscented cat litter in it. The plate still get warm but not enough for a fire. I am able to carry the plate around the room to clean the space. I have put all kinds of herbs on them for smell and since i have no fire place in doors. I was also told I could put foil on the disc then add oil for smell with no smoke.

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Thank you all for your wonderful advice and information. As I said, I've never used charcoal discs before but armed with this new knowledge I may well stock up and try out my less flammable incense.

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Obviously for me, this charcoal disk thing didn't work out well. The one and only time I did the damn thing flared up as I stupidly added and oil and went to blow on it. Lost my eyebrow in the mix. I won't go there anymore. Did not have a good experiance with it. I just stick to the cones with self ignitors, like M.Witch said.

 

Regards,

Gypsy

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They always smoke horribly and smell when they first heat up after you've lit them so i always take to an open window until it's heated up fully. I dont add too much incense at one time, ive worked that one out already lol

 

 

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As Mountain Witch said, the trick with using Charcoal discs is using tiny amounts of incense. Some people don't like using Charcoal with saltpetre (it can add an annoying smell to the incense). One alternative is to use Bamboo Charcoal if you can find it! It's more difficult to get smouldering as it doesn't have saltpetre in it.

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I love burning incense this way. Only true way for me.

However, the burner does get really hot, that's way I have it on a plate on my altar where it is safe and I don't have to touch it anymore. I leave it there until the next morning to make sure the ash is cool.

Maybe I should try using it with sand if it helps to keep the burner itself cool....

 

Anyway, it's definitely something one should be careful with, burned by carpet once. And even though I love a smoky room for my workings it's in general better to use small amounts like Mountan Witch said. I would also suggest that one places a tiny bit of resin on the burner if you use the particular resin for the first time. Some resin produce more smoke than others, like pine which smokes like hell. :)

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I go through TONS of charcoal disks. I have no access to a fireplace or out-door fire to burn things. I use it to burn incense in ritual, incense when I am writing or studying or thinking, smudging or cleaning a house, as a coal to heat up iron/steel, to give smoke offerings to the garden or to the dead - heck I use them so much that the very smell of the charcoal starts dropping me down into that "heavier, deeper" feeling. I can't imagine not using them, lol. The only time I don't consistently use them is for spell-craft.

 

M

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Never used them indoors... mmm hookah... I can't wait for summer!!!

 

Hookah...lol...you're bringing back memories, there, Blue! :teehee:

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As Mountain Witch said, the trick with using Charcoal discs is using tiny amounts of incense. Some people don't like using Charcoal with saltpetre (it can add an annoying smell to the incense). One alternative is to use Bamboo Charcoal if you can find it! It's more difficult to get smouldering as it doesn't have saltpetre in it.

 

The bamboo charcoal is brilliant although it does take more time to ignite. It is normally sold in little boxes and they are thin and square and smooth. My box says "Incense Charcoal:Miyakozumi" and it is produced by the Shoyeido Incense Co, Kyoto Japan. My local witchy store sells it. It costs significantly more than the self-igniting stuff, but does not smoke when it lights and it burns longer. I make pottery incense burners which I fill with pickling or sea salt. I like it better than sand. After the charcoal has cooled, the salt immediately around it has melted together somewhat, so I can use a soup spoon to pluck the whole piece out and throw it away without a mess.

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  • 4 months later...

I only use resin incense in my rituals. Common resins include frankincense, myrrh, dragon's blood, gold/white/black copal, and others. Some botanicas and witch shoppes will sell mixes, there is a hindu line that has blends of resins too. I use mine outside and inside. The trick is to open a window, place a fan, blowing outward, in the window and allow yourself ventilation, just as if you were working with a forge or in any other shop that creates fumes or smoke. A very small amount is all that is needed. Start out very small, like the size of a lady bug or smaller. You can always add more. The resins are pure fossilized tree resins, 100% natural. I see them as the blood of the trees. The Maya use copal as offerings to the spirits instead of animal blood. They call it "itz" (eetz), which is the very similar to the concept of the African diaspora "Ashe" (ah shay). Copal is also used by the Maya to make a cough syrup, but I have never found the recipe. The charcoal disk should be lit and the resin should not be added until the entire disk is glowing red. The disk will burn for quite some time. I place mine in a small iron cauldron which is placed on a female (red) slab of natural iron ore. The cauldron will get hot, but the iron ore does not. Iron ore can be found at stores that specialize in gems, fossils, etc... You can also use a slate tile that you can pick up at Home Depot or some other kind of rock. In my experience with spirit work the spirits are not quite as enthused about sticks and cones, as they are about the resins. I place a lid on my cauldron which snuffs out the coals, but even so I do not throw them in the trash until the next day. If you are uncertain, jab the disk with some kind of poker or knife and see if the middle is cold or not. If you work with the resins enough and then go back to the sticks/cones, it will be like Glade air freshener, nice, but not for ritual use. I am sure many people do use sticks and cones, but I can only speak from my experience.

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I only use resin incense in my rituals. Common resins include frankincense, myrrh, dragon's blood, gold/white/black copal, and others. Some botanicas and witch shoppes will sell mixes, there is a hindu line that has blends of resins too. I use mine outside and inside. The trick is to open a window, place a fan, blowing outward, in the window and allow yourself ventilation, just as if you were working with a forge or in any other shop that creates fumes or smoke. A very small amount is all that is needed. Start out very small, like the size of a lady bug or smaller. You can always add more. The resins are pure fossilized tree resins, 100% natural. I see them as the blood of the trees. The Maya use copal as offerings to the spirits instead of animal blood. They call it "itz" (eetz), which is the very similar to the concept of the African diaspora "Ashe" (ah shay). Copal is also used by the Maya to make a cough syrup, but I have never found the recipe. The charcoal disk should be lit and the resin should not be added until the entire disk is glowing red. The disk will burn for quite some time. I place mine in a small iron cauldron which is placed on a female (red) slab of natural iron ore. The cauldron will get hot, but the iron ore does not. Iron ore can be found at stores that specialize in gems, fossils, etc... You can also use a slate tile that you can pick up at Home Depot or some other kind of rock. In my experience with spirit work the spirits are not quite as enthused about sticks and cones, as they are about the resins. I place a lid on my cauldron which snuffs out the coals, but even so I do not throw them in the trash until the next day. If you are uncertain, jab the disk with some kind of poker or knife and see if the middle is cold or not. If you work with the resins enough and then go back to the sticks/cones, it will be like Glade air freshener, nice, but not for ritual use. I am sure many people do use sticks and cones, but I can only speak from my experience.

 

 

This is how I find them. Incense sticks and cones, especially bought from a department store, have a chemical smell to them that I can not stand. It gives me a massive headache. I tried the charcoal method one time and set off the fire alarm lol. It was a few years ago and my sister and I were in our bedroom choking and coughing opening widows and such. Lmao, its like lighting a grill in the house, bad idea. I'm pretty sure it creates carbon monoxide as well, so definatley have good venilation before you burn anything on a charcoal disk. I tend to not use smoke incense at the moment because of the highcrime area I live in and I can not open my windows for long. I use water and a drop or two of EO or put the EO on a candle. When I move in a few weeks I will be able to use it again and open the windows.

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  • 1 year later...

Any thoughts on charcoal brands? I just got Three Kings charcoals, and I find them lackluster. They light up completely, but they seem to go out really quick. I like smoke, and I don't expect to see a TON of smoke coming from the censer, but there should be some!! These charcoals suck.... evillaugh.gif

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I've used natural coconut husk coals (Cocobuzz is a good brand), as well as self-lighters and primarily use the natural kind now. They take longer to light (I put them on an electric burner), but they don't have any unpleasant smell and last a rather long time. I set mine on river stones and/or marble-sized balls of ceramic which allows a little more airflow.

 

Then again, I also enjoy pulling coals from a sabbat fire, which sort of removes all the need for prep. ;)

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Go to a church supplier and get their brands of charcoal if you can, Baldwins in London sell them as they are good quality, light well and burn slow. Quite often ones sold in pagan shops are just poor quality, badly packaged so they get damp from absorbing moisture from the air.

 

The block should light with a thin red line of the saltpetre burning though the block then usually I gently blow on the block to get it to cherry red, after a short while the block looks ashy coloured with very little smoke and that's when the incense goes on. The block has to be lit and hot all the way though and that means the incense will burn at a good rate.

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I've had a lot of issues with the cheap brands of charcoal in the past. I'd light them and then they'd go out. I use them so much that I can't really afford to buy the better brands though. What eventually worked for me was lighting the coal on a stove-top coil burner. The burner will light the coal thoroughly and then the coal won't go out. About 30 seconds on each side (flip the coal once) on high heat and it's thoroughly lit. It works wonders. I eventually bought a small plug-in burner (ten bucks) for my ritual room. It has helped me save some money in coal costs over the last several years because I can still use the cheapest coals. I hope this tip can help out someone else!

 

 

 

 

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Thank you Lucea's Child. Never thought of putting it on the burner. I use the cheap ones as well and always had a hard time lighting them.

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