Incense Smoke Meaning: How To Read Incense Smoke Patterns

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People use incense for a variety of reasons. Some use it simply because it smells great, but others use it for concentration, purification, as part of rituals, and more. Some people stare at incense smoke as it wafts away as a form of meditation or divination. 

There are many who believe that you can tell a lot by the way incense smoke patterns flow and whorl. In this article, I will look at incense smoke meaning and pattern understanding

Interpreting the patterns of incense smoke and ash is called libanomancy, and dates back at least 4,000 years to Babylon.

Let’s get to know more about it below. 

Reading Incense Smoke Patterns

The burning of incense has been done for many centuries and dates back to truly ancient times. It’s been done in a variety of ways, primarily a process known as libanomancy. 

Libanomancy is a form of divination that involves the observation and interpretation of the smoke from burning incense and the ash that forms after burning it. There are libanomic texts that date back to the ancient Babylonian period that discuss the spiritual meaning of incense smoke. 

As time passed, this divination practice declined.

However, the knowledge about reading incense smoke is still preserved. In the past, this practice was used for various reasons like predicting outcomes of battles or the weather, and reaching spiritual realms.

To perform this process, you will need your incense stick or censer, a container for the incense, and a piece of paper.

On that piece of paper, you’ll be writing down your question. Ignite your incense and hold the paper over the incense holder and wait for the smoke to rise.

As the smoke rises, the appearance of the smoke can tell you different things. But you need to understand how to read the smoke patterns to interpret them fully.

Generally, when the smoke curls or goes upward, that is taken as a good sign. However, if the smoke only goes outward, it is a possible sign of something bad that could happen. 

As the smoke rises, the appearance of the smoke can tell you different things. But you need to understand how to read the smoke patterns to interpret them fully.

Incense Smoke Meaning – Libanomancy

When interpreting the meaning of the shapes and patterns of smoke from the incense you are burning, there are a few things that most people look into. These include the following: 

1. The Color of Incense Smoke

One of the first things that is checked when it comes to determining the incense smoke meaning is the color of the smoke. In general, whitish smoke is related to purity and is a good sign. 

Light color smoke typically signifies a positive sign that your prayers are answered and that you are aligned with the intention while burning the incense. 

Thick, black smoke is usually a sign of negativity, evil, or sometimes a misalignment in the intention. 

A gray color is somewhat in the middle and can be considered neutral. However, it could also mean that there is a lack of clear direction. 

2. Thickness of the Smoke

The thickness of the smoke that the incense produces could signify various things. A thick cloud of smoke indicates a stronger or more intense emotion. On the other hand, thinner smoke could convey a subtle feeling. 

Apart from the thickness, the size of the smoke could give clues too. When the smoke is small, it could mean that the event is only minor. However, a large smoke could signify a major event could happen. 

3. Direction Incense Burns

Another thing that’s considered is the direction of the smoke. Usually, if the smoke comes from the top of the incense stick, it’s a sign that your prayers are being sent to the heavens.

When the smoke comes to you, it could mean that what you are praying for is already on its way to you. 

4. Speed Of Burning

The speed at which the incense burns could be interpreted. Those sticks that are slow burning give off peaceful or calm energy. On the other hand, fast-burning, billowing incense smoke is considered more energizing. 

Meaning Of Incense Smoke Patterns

To decipher the meaning of incense smoke and for fortune-telling, you will usually have to take note of the patterns that it forms and the way the smoke behaves. When looking at the pattern, take note of the movement and shape of the smoke to understand its meaning.

The different smoke patterns can help you divine things about the future, your current situation, or the answer to your question. Here are a few patterns and their meanings: 

1. Incense Smoke Goes Straight Up Or Down

To determine the incense pattern, you should take a look at the direction where the smoke goes. If the smoke goes straight up, then it could signify that there is something good that’s to happen. Apart from that, it could mean that you are spiritually strong or focused. 

On the other hand, if the smoke goes straight down, you may need to ground yourself because it could signify that you are losing spiritual ground. Additionally, it could mean that something bad could happen.

I don’t know if that means that backflow incense burners produce bad vibes — but regardless, they are certainly cool to me!

2. Incense Smoke Goes Towards The Left Or Right

Usually, the incense smoke will typically go to one side more than the other. If it happens to be the right side where the smoke goes, then it could mean positive things or that your wish will come true. 

On the contrary, if the smoke is leaning towards the left side, it could mean that what you wish isn’t coming true. Your energy could be imbalanced if this is the case. 

3. Incense Smoke Towards Or Away From You

If the smoke that’s coming from the incense is going toward you, it could mean that you are in someone’s thoughts. However, if the smoke is moving away from you, it could mean people are ignoring you. 

4. Incense Smoke Forms A Circular Pattern

Another pattern that might form from the smoke is a circle. A tight circle that forms could mean that you have focused on your intention and that it would quickly manifest. 

On the other hand, if you see that the smoke doesn’t form a circular pattern and the smoke dissipates quickly, then it could mean that your intention is still not that strong. 

5. Incense Smoke Forms A Spiral

Another pattern that could form is a spiral or swirling pattern. This could indicate that there is spiritual insight or new beginnings. Sometimes, the smoke could bend in a particular direction, which further means that there is someone nearby affecting the intention. 

In case the smoke suddenly stops moving in a specific direction or any direction, it could mean that there is something important that could happen in the near future. 

If it diffuses and there is no definitive shape formed, it could mean that there is chaos or confusion.  

6. Incense Smoke Split

When the incense smoke splits into two, it means that you have to make a decision because there is a crossroad in your life that will affect your future.

Use your intuition to choose a path that would be best for you. 

7. Incense Smoke Forming A Ladder

A ladder shape could form out of the smoke, and it is considered to be a good sign. It means that the energy where you are burning the incense is enough for you to continue with the spiritual activity. 

With that, the prayer or ritual process that you are about to do would be successful. 

8. Incense Smoke Forms An Infinity Symbol

If an infinity symbol appears in the smoke, you should take that as a good sign. Typically, seeing that would mean good fortune or good luck. 

Aside from seeing the infinity symbol, other shapes could symbolize positive meanings in case you see them. Among those are stars, moon, and heart. 

Other symbols could symbolize negative results or negative energy. Such would include crosses and skulls. 

9. Thick And Dense Smoke

Smoke that is dense and thick, smoke that fills the entire room, is considered a sign of negativity. Just like the thick and dense smoke that could block the view, negativity could also be surrounding you so you don’t really see the picture. 

Another alternate meaning to the thick and dense smoke is holding onto things from the past. Although it is good to learn from the past, if you don’t let go or learn from it, you’ll just be weighed down by memories if you don’t learn to let go. 

With this thick and dense smoke, you need to cleanse your space so that you could remove the negative energy that’s currently in your present life.

10. Incense Smoke Moving In Every Direction 

The smoke from the incense may seem like it isn’t producing any pattern because it is moving in all directions. That means that the situation that you are going to get into is neither going to move you forward nor backward. 

If the smoke clusters together, it could mean that there will be a future success in life. However, if it quickly dissipates into the air, it could mean that there would be a failure or downfall. 

Tips On Reading Incense Smoke

Reading the incense smoke can help you with what you are dealing with. It can give you information on what is currently at hand or what is about to happen. To have an accurate reading, here are some things that you should be reminded of. 

1. Make Sure There’s No Wind In The Room

Wind can certainly dictate the direction or even the shape of the incense smoke. When it does, you could be falsely interpreting the smoke. It is crucial that you make sure that the smoke isn’t affected by any external factors such as the wind. 

Switch off the fan so that the smoke naturally goes where it is supposed to. Additionally, you’d be more able to see the shape formed if there isn’t any wind blowing the incense smoke. 

That said, make sure there is adequate ventilation when you’re burning incense, so that you don’t harm your health.

2. Have An Open Mind And Be Calm

Often you have an answer that you’re looking for in your head that you hope to find support for. But you should try to avoid this when using incense for spirituality. It is best to keep an open mind. 

You shouldn’t be forcing yourself into reading what you want the outcome to be. Being calm and just letting whatever results come out is best practice. Understand the meaning of incense, don’t try to force your own desires onto the smoke.

You can do this by going into your meditation space where you allow yourself to relax and be calm. 

3. Consider The Energy of the Space

When you burn incense and the smoke goes into a straight and thin line upwards, it could mean that the energy in the room is quite heavy. Before you can continue, you should first cleanse the energy of the room so that the smoke can move freely and you can interpret it correctly. 

4. Make Sure Your Question Is Clear

When asking your question, you should write it down clearly. Take your time to think about the question so it is clear and concise. 

Clear questions are easier to answer. Writing it on a piece of paper is best because you won’t have to rethink or rephrase the question in your head. 

5. It Pays To Be Patient

It is nice to get answers through the smoke of your incense, but you should be patient in doing so. Don’t rush into things because doing so might make you interpret the smoke incorrectly. 

This is also why you need to calm yourself down so you don’t rush into interpreting things and end up with the wrong one. 

6. There Is A Learning Curve In Incense Smoke Interpretation

Knowing that you could interpret incense smoke and that it could be used to guide you can be exciting to do. However, like other processes and activities, there is also a learning curve to incense smoke reading. 

Remember that it can be challenging for those who are new to libanomancy to spot the patterns or shapes that the smoke forms. Don’t get frustrated and just take your time. 

Remain calm and listen to your intuition. It takes a little practice so that you can comfortably read and interpret incense smoke. 

7. Carefully Choose The Incense To Use, and Determine the Purity

There are lots of incense brands and types available in the market today but it is best to choose those that are natural and of high quality. Avoid using incense that’s old and moldy, because it could affect the smoke produced and could lead you to interpret it incorrectly.

Cleansing The Room Or Purifying The Space

Heavy energy in the room can affect your incense smoke reading. It is best to cleanse the room to get rid of the negative or heavy energy. Here are a few things that you can use to do that: 

Palo Santo

The palo santo has been used for centuries for cleansing purposes. To use this, you light the palo santo stick and let the flame burn for a minute before blowing it out.

Then walk around the room or the areas that you want to cleanse. Blowing out the flame should produce the smoke that you let dissipate into the room. 

With gratitude and intention, ask the smoke to cleanse, protect and bless the area. 


Salt can be used to help protect the area or room against negative energy. To do this, place a small bowl with some salt on your door or front door. 

As for cleansing, sprinkle a pinch of salt in the corners of the room. Make sure that the salt is kept clean even if it is on the ground. It would be best to clean the ground and remove any dust, dirt, or objects in the corner of the room before sprinkling the salt. 

After a day, sweep off or vacuum up the salt. 

Essential Oils

Another way to help cleanse the room is to use essential oils. The best way to do this is to with a diffuser so that the essential oils diffuse into the air and cleanse it. 

With your diffuser, add water to the reservoir and put a few drops of essential oil. You just need a few drops of essential oil. Turn on your diffuser and let the aroma fill the room.

Fresh Air

One of the simplest things you can do to cleanse the area and purify it is to let fresh air inside the room. This is done by opening your windows. Preferably do this in the morning so you can give the room new energy at the start of the day. 

Tuning Fork

Sound waves can be used to cleanse the room as well. The frequencies that are produced by the tuning fork can help get rid of the negative energy in the room. 

To do this, just lightly tap the tuning fork on a solid object. As it vibrates and produces a sound, close your eyes and set your intention to cleanse the room.

Repeat tapping the tuning fork as you go through the different areas of the room. 


Although you can use the incense to ask questions and interpret the smoke, you can also use the incense to cleanse the area to help remove negative energies. 

To do this, you simply have to light up incense and then blow out the flame. Let the incense burn off completely.‌