Incense Ash Meaning: Hanging, Curling, and Falling Incense Ash Explained

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Whenever you burn incense, you may have noticed that the ash sometimes falls in different ways. Sometimes it may simply fall in a straight line onto the tray. While at other times, you might notice that the leftover ash curls. 

You may even find that you need to rearrange the burner holding the incense, because the ash is falling outside of the holder, which to some people can indicate a bad sign. Just like anything, there are many interpretations as to why your incense ash falls differently.

That’s why in this blog post, I’m going to take a look at incense ash meaning. You can decide what you want to take from these signs and whether or not you need to do something about them.

Incense Ash Meaning

incense stick

Many people love burning incense — not only because it smells nice, but also because they find a sense of peace and calm for their spiritual, meditative, or yogic practices. Or perhaps they’re looking to cleanse themselves, or their space. Or maybe even cleanse crystals.

You might have noticed that sometimes the incense ash will simply fall down as it burns, while at other times it will curl as it falls, even creating little balls of ash like an armadillo. Other times it will hang for long periods of time before finally falling down.

Of course, as with anything, incense ash and how it is structured takes on different meanings, depending on the culture or tradition of those who are burning it.

For example, in some traditions, the structure of incense ash has a spiritual meaning, with some seeing it as a sign from the gods, or other higher powers, that they have been praying to. 

Others see curling incense ash as a positive sign, meaning that they are to be rewarded with good luck or fortune. And then there are others who believe that curling incense ash is a sign that there is a possible danger on the horizon that you should be aware of.

There is no univerally-agreed upon spiritual meaning connected to incense ash, whether it hangs, curls, falls, or flies up into the air in the form of a smoke dragon. So to at least some degree, it’s up to your interpretation. Well, if it forms a smoke dragon, that’s probably a powerful sign!

There is no univerally-agreed upon spiritual meaning connected to incense ash, whether it hangs, curls, falls, or flies up into the air in the form of a smoke dragon.

Incense Ash Spiritual Meaning

Because incense has been used in spiritual and religious practices for centuries, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the ash leftover from burning it is also used for certain things. 

Many people believe that the meditation or prayer said before lighting an incense stick helps to bring the intention into existence. 

When the incense is burning, they believe that the smoke rising from the stick represents their prayers rising up the divine presence. And when the smoke ends up curling into patterns, they interpret this either as a sign from above or as a message from passed loved ones. 

That’s why many choose to believe that curling ash from burnt incense means that their deities are happy with their offerings and prayers, which will help to ward off any threat of evil spirits.

Many people also use leftover incense ash to perform rituals, and ceremonies, such as by consecrating certain people, objects or spaces, similar to receiving ashes at church on Ash Wednesday. Some also use it to smudge away negative energy from the environment and banish negative emotions.

If you meditate, you may want to spend some time in reflection to see if the curling incense ash has a message for you. Perhaps it holds a sign from the divine that will bring you increased feelings of joy and happiness.

What Does It Mean When Incense Curls?

Sometimes you may notice that the smoke that comes off of the incense while it is burning does weird things, like curling, and then the ash falls down into a spiral pattern. 

In many cultures, curling incense ash takes on different spiritual meanings, which vary from an increased connection to the divine, manifesting good luck, or even extra protection to ward off any evil spirits.

Although there’s no real evidence to suggest that curling incense ash does any of these things, there’s no harm in you wanting to believe that this is why your incense has done this! You can even meditate or say a prayer to the curled ash, if you want to connect to it spiritually. 

Why Is My Incense Ash Curling? – The Science

The incense ingredients are bound by resin to a piece of bamboo, called a culm (the bamboo core), which sits at the core of your incense stick. Sometimes the bamboo culm may still contain a substance called lignin, which is a natural chemical that makes a plant rigid. 


If the lignin is still present when the incense is burned, it releases gas that may cause the incense ash to simply fall as it burns, which is usually the case whenever you light up a stick. However, if there is no lignin left, then the incense ash will curl as the stick burns out. 


But there are other reasons why your incense ash might be curling. For example, if the incense burns too hot from not being extinguished sooner, the bamboo can become more brittle, which can make the ash curl as it falls.


If you have a window open while you’re burning incense (and you definitely should do!), then any wind that is blowing into the room could be the culprit of causing your incense ash to curl.


One final reason is that your environment may have lots of humidity and moisture in the air, which will cause the incense to become damp and curl the ash when it is burning. 

But regardless of whatever way your incense ash has fallen, did you know that there are things you can do with it, besides just throwing it in the trash (after it has long been extinguished, obvs)?

Incense Ash Purposes

Burning Incense sticks

There’s no reason to throw away your incense ashes, especially if you’ve found a hidden message or meaning in the wood ash, whether it is curled and coiled or not.

Besides the spiritual ways in which people use incense ashes, which we mentioned above, some also use it around the home for different purposes.

For example, incense ash can be mixed with water to create a spritz-style air freshener.

And if you are a keen gardener, then you can add incense ash to your plant’s soil, because it makes an excellent fertilizer, especially if it’s something like sandalwood or palo Santo. Be careful though, because the ash is high in potassium, and using too much can be more damaging to your plants than helpful.

If the incense is made from a coniferous plant like rosemary, pine, or balsam fir, then it can help to eliminate pests on your plants, because this ash can act like insecticide.

Finally, if you’re a creative type, you can use incense ash like a powdered herb to add to natural herbal creations like soaps, and oils, while you can even use the ash to mix with paint to create unique art projects.

Final Thoughts

So, the next time you’re about to burn some incense, remember to be aware of how the ashes are falling. Tune in to what your intuition is telling you, and what the ashes are trying to interpret for you.

You never know, because you may find that the incense ash meaning will bring you unexpected protection, purification, prosperity or good luck. Just remember to dispose of it properly when you’re finished and insure that it is exinguished so that you don’t end up having to call the fire department!