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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Basic Guide For Beginners, 7 May 2013
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This review is from: Incense: Crafting & Use of Magickal Scents: Crafting & Use of Magical Scents (Paperback)
I make my own incense to use in Buddhist rituals. I am always looking for ways to improve - better techniques, recipes, ingredients. I bought four books on incense, two about Japanese incense and two about Western incense. The two Western books take a "Magick" approach. I had never heard of it before. I did not know what to expect. Scott Cunningham's book, 'The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews', was the first to arrive. It was very poor quality - suggesting the routine use of toxic substances. (See my review for details.) My heart sank - are all Magick books this bad? I was aware I had bought a second Magick book and awaited its arrival with trepidation. Well, it arrived today, second of the four, and I am very pleased to report that it is miles better than Cunningham's book and gives me some respect for Magick.

Thinking only in terms of technicalities, Carl Neal pays due attention to health and safety, explains basic techniques, gives non-harmful recipes, offers contact information for suppliers of ingredients. I would have thought this a good starter book for anyone beginning to make incense. I picked up a couple of useful tips too, mainly about suppliers of ethically sourced third world materials but I would have liked a lot more on this aspect of incense making.

We have to also consider the spirituality of Magick in reviewing this book since it is interwoven with the technical discussion of incense-making and use. I have asked friends about Magick and now realise it is part of the New Age, Wiccan, Pagan family of spiritualities. As a Buddhist I have no objection to spiritualities which promote wisdom and compassion. I found Cunningham's Magick superficial, self-indulgent, foolish, amateurish in the bad sense, and potentially harmful. By contrast, I found Neal's Magick well-intentioned, compassionate, and ethical - an amateur leaning towards professional standards. I could not recommend Cunningham's book but I can recommend Neal's book - even to my Christian friends (who might be a bit wary of anything labelled "Magick").

If you are considering a book on incense but a bit put off by the "Magick" theme, don't be. Considered objectively, there is little about Neal's version of it that could offend anyone and much to commend. In any case, when I was reading his book, every time he mentioned adding a Magick ritual I thought to myself that if it was me I'd make a Buddhist ritual. I guess you could do your own religious rituals, say your own prayers, or skip all religious content and make 'secular incense'. In other words, the Magick does not get in the way of this being a useful book for anyone interested in making incense. That was not true of Cunningham's book.
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Location: England

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