But recently, I found myself looking at an old photo of me (and my stepdaughter, if one can spot her) taken in the Magickal Childe perhaps some twentysomething years ago, and the vast array of jars and vessels behind me caught my attention. It had me remembering when, in my youth, as I waited for my covenmates to arrive at the store for our weekly Pagan Way rites, going to one particular jar on one particular dusty, musty shelf had become part of my personal routine.
Removing the lid, I would breathe the heady vapours from the jar, filling my lungs, and somehow, synapses in head, heart, and spirit conjoined to tell me that everything was all right with the world. For me, the scent in this vessel bespoke of Home like none other.
It was Herman Slater's Cernunnos blend, and along with recipes such as High Church, Kyphi, and straight frankincense, was among the first and most impression-making incenses to arouse my spirit. I loved our group's censer, which dangled from a long length of thin iron chain from a tall, iron rod, and how this incense would dance in thick, white ropes through the candlelight like pipe smoke from a fantasy wizard's mouth.
I remarked on how I missed this scent on my Facebook profile this morning, and a few friends who had also been to the Childe back in the day commented warmly. One asked me what the incense was like, and so I've decided to share it.
Herman would eventually publish these recipes in his Magickal Formulary Spellbook, which contains a host of incenses and powders that he and his staff at the store would use. I love the stuff, and regard it as classic material.
He never really detailed proportions for this incense, but with the way the recipes are written, I'm inclined to believe that they're either listed in descending volume order, or as equal parts. Experimentation required, season "to taste." I'm also fairly certain that it was recipe #1 I experienced most often, although I have vague memories of juniper berries and a tiny hint of camphor sometimes being in the mix. Let the pine needles be long. It's also completely possible that the store staff wasn't always particular about mixing batches of both versions, but I have nothing to support that with. Take it as art, not science.
But the resulting incense should be heady, feral, rich, and with an almost soil-like texture. Ground around the bases of a boreal wood at dusk, following a spring rain, near a cluster of mead-drinking dancers. For me, that was part of its charm, and the resulting burn should be sweet and dense, thick and smoky, like an incense equivalent to a deep Italian red wine loaded with body and nose.
For me, it was the essence of The God.