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Clove

(Carophyllus aramaticus)

Whole clove buds    Powdered Clove   

Description: Cloves are the unopened buds of a tropical evergreen tree.  Although it is too tender for growth in most of America, it thrives in the tropics reaching heights of 30 feet or more.  The tree blossoms twice a year and the red or pink buds turn a rusty brown when dried.  It has a rich, deep spicy aroma that is at once refreshing and familiar.

Use: Clove, although aromatic, is often employed for its ability to improve the burning properties of incense.  It is one natural alternative to using saltpeter (potassium nitrate) because it tends to make incense burn hotter.  This can also result in incense that burns too fast, so take care when using it as an aromatic.  Clove obviously burns very well and is used by incense makers around the world for both its burning properties and its scent.

Clove is not terribly difficult to powder, but grinding with a mortar and pestle can be a bit tedious.  Drier cloves are far easier to powder, so make sure they are well-dried before you try and powder them by hand.  Cloves powder easily in a coffee or herb grinder, blender or food processor.  As with all ingredients, take care to sift the powder before use to remove any large particles.

General Information: Believed to have originated in Indonesia, clove is now cultivated in many tropical locations including Madagascar, the Philippines and the West Indies.  Clove is a well-known and loved culinary spice, so it is easy to locate and available in a wide range of freshness and quality.  It has long been traded and revered by incense makers and cooks alike.  

Noted aromatherapist and author, Chrissie Wildwood, suggests that clove oil can be irritating to mucus membranes, so you might want to limit yourself to using clove in its herb form only.  Clove oil can be used in blends where you desire the scent of clove without causing your blend to burn faster.  Otherwise, using the natural herb is the best choice for incense.

Perhaps no culture has used clove in incense to greater effect than the Japanese.  Many incense companies in Japan add a signature blend of spices to a variety of their products.  That signature blend of spices and herbs can make it easy distinguish those various brands.  Clove is often a component in these signature blends and in some Japanese incense it can be smelled quite clearly.  Clove is often considered a key component in incense blends.  It is definitely an ingredient that all incense makers should have on hand.  

Magickally speaking, Scott Cunningham lists clove as a masculine herb associated with the sign of Fire (not surprising considering its use as a 'burning agent') and associated with the planet Jupiter.  It is interesting to note that Cunningham also says, when burned as incense, clove is used to "produce spiritual vibrations".  That's a potential boon to any incense, so never fear using clove in your ritual incense.

References used and recommended reading (click title for more information):

The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood (ISBN 0747550557)

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham (ISBN 0875421229)

The Complete Book of Herbs: A practical guide to growing & using herbs by Lesley Bremness (ISBN 0670854506)

Copyright 2004 Carl Neal. Used by Mother's Hearth with permission.

All information and text on these pages is copyright Little Pagans 2004, except where otherwise stated.
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