Incense Smoke Meanings & Patterns: The Complete Guide

Incense smoke beginning to make a pattern

Interpreting the meaning of incense smoke and the various patterns it produces isn’t easy. It requires patience, experience, and an open mind.

But if you’re willing to do the work, it can lead to profound insights. This guide will teach you everything you need to know!

What Reading Incense Smoke Can Tell You

Divination can make you privy to all kinds of hidden knowledge. While most people recognize divination using tarot cards or crystal balls, you can also use incense smoke. This is called libanomancy, which refers specifically to understanding the meanings of incense smoke and its patterns, but it may also be called capnomancy, which is smoke divination in general.

Incense smoke is commonly used to gain information about the energy in a room or the future outcome of a prayer or magical working. This isn’t all it can do, either. The meaning of incense smoke can even give you an idea of what the future holds in all sorts of contexts.

Understanding Incense Smoke Meanings

Not every waft and billow of incense smoke is significant. When you light up a stick, cone, or charcoal block, it’s important to make sure that the area is free of drafts or other factors that will alter how the smoke moves.

Incense being burned with the goal of interpreting its meaning

Once you’ve eliminated all of the mundane reasons for your incense smoke to change shape or direction, you can work on interpreting the meaning behind it. Here are some things to pay attention to.

1. Smoke Patterns

Incense smoke can form different shapes as it rises, and these shapes can be read similarly to tea leaves. Each incense smoke pattern has a particular meaning attached to it, and you’ll need to use your intuition to determine how these symbols apply to you.

Swirling Incense Smoke Meaning

When incense smoke begins to swirl, it may mean that something is blocking your energy. There could be spiritual defenses or other obstacles in the way of your spell or prayer, so the incense smoke doesn’t rise properly. In general, it represents energy that’s blocked or restrained in some way.

This incense smoke pattern can also represent tranquility. If you’re burning incense for calming or meditation, a flattened swirl can be a good sign. If you’re trying to raise your power to achieve a goal, then this tranquility might be counterproductive.

Spiral Incense Smoke Meaning

Spiraling incense smoke patterns means positive energy and good luck are coming. You may want to pay attention to the direction of the spiral (clockwise or counterclockwise) for more information.

If you’re performing a purification or cleansing rite, then incense smoke that suddenly begins to spiral can indicate that the rite concluded successfully. If you see a spiral during prayer or spell work, it can represent a successful outcome.

Incense Smoke Making The Infinity Symbol

If your incense smoke forms an infinity symbol, akin to a sideways figure eight, it can represent upcoming changes in your life. This is a neutral omen — you should look at the speed and color of the smoke to help you determine if those changes will be positive or negative.

For example, dark smoke that forms a thick, billowy infinity symbol warns you about intense negative emotions or challenges. Light smoke that rises quickly and forms a thinner infinity symbol can represent subtle, positive emotions or fortunate circumstances.

Smoke Separating Into Two Columns

An incense smoke pattern that looks like a split column indicates uncertainty or a lack of focus. Your intention may not be specific enough, or you may be working toward something that will cause more harm than good.

If this meaning applies to you, it’s a good time to pause, regroup, and clear your mind. Distractions and intense emotions can cloud your judgment and damage your ability to focus. It might also be a good idea to stop the ritual and try again another day.

For “yes/no” readings, a split column generally means “No.”

The meaning of split column incense smoke patterns can also represent people. This can occur as two, three, or even more separate trails of smoke. If this happens, make a careful note of how these columns appear — thin, even ones indicate harmony. Broken or unequal ones represent conflicts and strife.

Incense Smoke In The Shape Of A Circle

Incense smoke that forms a circle represents a kind of spiritual portal. If this happens during a ritual, it’s a sign that the real work is about to begin. Your intentions, requests, and any power you raise or direct can pass through freely.

This can be a challenging time. Your intention is the most important part of the process and can make or break the outcome. Once a portal is opened, you have to be careful to remain focused.

For “yes/no” readings, a circle incense pattern generally means “yes, but not the way you’d expect.”

Incense Smoke In The Shape Of A Ladder

Ladder-shaped incense smoke pattern means a spiritual connection exists for you. Think of it as the symbol of ascension, like a literal ladder to the upper world.

This is a good sign for prayer or work with benevolent spirits.

2. Direction & Speed

Normally, incense smoke will rise straight up at a moderate pace. This doesn’t always happen, so it’s helpful to know the meaning behind other behaviors.

Smoke Moving Vertically Faster Than Normal

The meaning of incense smoke that rises quickly upward is all about high levels of energy. It’s a good sign for prayers or spells, but not for meditation.

In general, a rapid vertical movement means that your intentions and energy are working to get things done. This is the kind of incense smoke you’d see with practices tied to goals in the physical world, like more wealth. It typically doesn’t represent spiritual pursuits.

Pay careful attention when your incense smoke moves quickly and note any changes that you see. Large amounts of fast-moving energy can be chaotic, and you’re likely to receive multiple omens during a single session.

Smoke Moving Left

The meaning of incense smoke that drifts to the left is usually considered a negative sign. Prayers and spell work are likely to be unsuccessful. For “yes/no” readings, the answer is probably “no.”

This motion can also indicate that your energy is low at this point in time. There might be something draining you, or you may be too exhausted for this particular practice. If it isn’t an emergency, it’s a good idea to step away, perform some self-care, and revisit your prayer, spell, or ritual.

This isn’t always the case. If you’re using incense for divination, you may want to specify exactly what you want each change in the smoke to mean. For example, you could say, “Drift left for ‘yes,’ and right for ‘no.'” In that situation, follow the interpretation that you’ve given to the incense.

Smoke Moving Right

Incense smoke that drifts to the right is typically a positive sign. You’re likely to be successful in whatever you’re working toward right now. For “yes/no” readings, the answer is most likely “yes.”

This can also mean good fortune, spiritual connections, and enlightenment.

As mentioned above, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. If you tell your incense smoke to move left for “yes” and right for “no,” go with whatever direction and meaning you’ve chosen.

Smoke Spreading Out Evenly

Smoke that disperses evenly is a great sign for purification rites, but generally not as positive for other workings. The meaning of this incense smoke is that it’s spreading out to cleanse you and your environment. However, it doesn’t indicate a lot of rapidly moving energy or focus on your goals.

Your endeavors may be successful, but dispersed smoke warns that the outcome will be heavily influenced by your environment.

If you see this happen during a prayer, ritual, or spell, you might want to perform a purification and try again.

3. Thickness

The thickness of your incense smoke can tell you if your space is in need of an energetic cleansing. Long, thin smoke that rises evenly is an indicator of clear, unobstructed energy. Thick smoke that billows like a cloud or stays close to the ground can point to heavy, stuck, stagnant energy.

When it comes to divination, the meaning of thin incense smoke is usually tied to subtle feelings and minor events. Thick billows of smoke generally point to more intense emotions and major events.

These are neutral omens, so look at the color and direction of the smoke to tell you whether they’re positive or negative. The speed at which the smoke rises can tell you whether these events will happen soon or in the distant future.

4. Color

The color of your incense smoke can also influence the meaning behind it. Be careful, since this may be heavily impacted by the ingredients in your incense. Some herbs and resins naturally produce darker smoke than others, so especially dark or light smoke may not always be a sign.

With that said, if your usual incense produces differently colored smoke than it normally does or your incense smoke changes mid-burn, here’s what it may mean:

Black incense smoke can mean there’s a presence of negative energy. In general, the darker the smoke, the more malicious or negative vibes are present. This isn’t because black automatically equates to negativity — black is the color of banishing and neutralizing evil. The incense is trying to do this, hence the dark smoke.

The same can be said of candles. If a candle burns and leaves a lot of dark soot behind, it represents forces working against you.

White incense smoke represents an absence of negative energy. If your incense smoke is very light in color (usually a silver or bluish color rather than a true white), there are fewer energetic obstacles in your path. The outcome of your working is more likely to be successful, and any omens you see are positive.

Gray smoke is considered neutral. It’s neither a good nor bad omen. Some negative energy is present, but not a lot. Gray smoke can also represent a lack of focus or direction. If you’re seeing gray smoke during spell work or prayer, it may be a warning that your intention isn’t specific enough to get the results that you want.

According to some practitioners, the meaning of gray incense smoke can actually tell you when a portal has been opened. This is especially true if the gray smoke begins to form a circular pattern. This is the point when it’s extra important to stay focused and attentive, since your thoughts and energy have a direct line to your goal.

What Does It Mean When Incense Smoke Blows Toward You?

There’s no breeze or draft, but your incense seems to insist on blowing toward you no matter where you go. Why?

For the most part, incense smoke that blows toward you means that you’re attracting spirits and energy. According to some interpretations, your incense has actually attracted the forces that can help you achieve your goals. This is a good omen for most workings, since it represents a pretty high likelihood of success.

Following some interpretations, smoke that moves toward you can also point to a spiritual need that’s being unmet. Look at the context, color, and speed of the smoke for more information.

For “yes/no” readings, smoke moving toward you generally represents a “yes.” Smoke that moves away from you is a “no.”

What Does It Mean When Incense Smoke Burns Straight Up?

Incense smoke that rises straight up, with no billowing, shapes, or fuss, is generally a positive omen. The smoke is said to carry prayers to the heavens, and yours are rising right to where they need to go. You’re not surrounded by stagnant energy, there are no energetic or spiritual blockages, and everything is going well at the moment.

This means that your prayer or spell work is likely to be successful. Keep an eye out for any changes in the speed, shape, or color of the smoke, since these can indicate challenges to your success. If the smoke forms a circular pattern, for example, you may achieve your goal in a way that you don’t expect.             

Closing Thoughts

There are a number of incense smoke meanings you need to know if you want to interpret these signs correctly. But as long as you’re willing to pay attention, be patient, and watch the patterns, you’ll be just fine!

If you have any other questions about this process, send us a message. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can with our advice!

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