Suffumigation – A Brief Guide

The following is wholly extracted from Abwatt’s Tumblr blog.

Suffumigation is the practice of bathing an object in incense smoke in order to purify and consecrate it to some purpose.  The word comes from the Latin verb suffumigare, meaning “to bathe in incense smoke” (as opposed to fumare, which simply means ‘to smoke’ like a fire).  The practice of suffumigation is similar to the practice of smudging, which as Tumblr magic-side people have been told ad-infinitum is a closed-tradition practice of some Native American cultures; and we’ve been told repeatedly that we should call incense-bathing “smoke cleansing” rather than smudging.

Suffumigation is a form of smoke-cleansing attested to in H.C. Agrippa and other European magical sources.  In Hermetic magical practice, this usually is the name given to the practice of burning different incense types on different days of the week, in order to honor and praise the Seven Wanderers, also called planets or deities or archangels (depending on whether one is practicing Hellenic reconstructionist or Hellenic revival Hermeticism, or Renaissance reconstructionist or revivalist Hermeticism).

The incenses which are usually used are the following (again, attested to in magical sources like Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy [I particularly recommend the first one in each list]:

  • Monday: Jasmine, Lily, Rosemary
  • Tuesday: Dragon’s Blood, Basil or Cherry, Pine, Tobacco
  • Wednesday: Lavender, mace
  • Thursday: Cedar, Nutmeg
  • Friday: Rose, Vanilla (or more recently ylang-ylang)
  • Saturday: Myrrh or Sandalwood
  • Sunday: Frankincense (or more recently copal), cloves, cinnamon

When these incense scents are combined in the same enclosed place over a long period of time, the combined scents fill the space with Temple Aroma.  This temple aroma is not, to my knowledge, attested to in European literature.  But it is one of the obvious side-effects of working magic in honor of the seven planetary powers — it’s virtually impossible to miss, actually, if you step into a space that’s been used for magical work in this way.  This scent overpowers the smell of sweaty socks and laundry baskets.  It overpowers gym clothes if the incenses are burned daily for long enough (although you should wash those gym clothes, really).  It will even replace the smell of cat pee if the magic of the incenses is burned long enough.

And it has a really cool effect on your magical work, as well.  You see, if you have a space that you can set aside for regular magical work (I have a closet that used to house the cat box, so I know that this works to dispel cat-pee scent), merely entering a room that has been consistently suffumigated puts you in the right mindset for magical work.  Scent is one of the most powerful tools for connecting both with deep memory and deep imagination — the olfactory nerve is hardwired into parts of the brain dealing with both memory and imagination. Remember that scene in Ratatouille, where Anton Ego is instantly transported back to his mother’s kitchen when he tastes that perfect, astounding dish?

Imagine what it’s like when you have a room that transports you into communion with the gods or the archangels like that.

Additionally, suffumigation is a simple and easy way to consecrate and purify objects such as talismans; waving an object in a column of smoke arising from an incense stick or from loose incense while intoning, say Thomas Taylor’s translations of the Orphic Hymns to the seven planets (or my Neo-Orphic Hymns, though I won’t insist) is hugely powerful.  Suffumigating yourself is equally powerful.

And perhaps most critically, this practice of suffumigation is open to all, and it helps you cultivate a daily practice of smoke cleansing as part of daily ritual work that joins you to the work of the Seven Wanderers — regardless of whether you think of them as Planetary Powers, or as associated with Archangels, or as Hellenic deities.

You can also use the planetary kamea, which I linked to above, as part of your altar work for each day of the week — these images, which are partly mathematical and partly encoded sigils and partly astrological, can serve as elements in shrines or as portable altars.

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