Preface: Magic has been described as both an art and a science, as such practitioners have found that there is often more than one way in which a goal can be accomplished. This series of blog posts is intended to be a basic guide and not a comprehensive study in the practice of candle-burning. This series will be given in five parts, they are:
Part One: A Basic Guide
Part Two: Various Types of Candles and their Uses
Part Three: Tips & Tricks
Part Four: About Signs
Part Five: Disposing of Magickal Remains
Part One: A Basic Guide
Candle burning is an ancient spiritual practice that has evolved into a complex magickal art and science without losing its simplicity and capacity for creating powerful change. To practice successful candle magick, you must understand the principles behind this application. They are:
Size and Shape
Marking and Dressing
Lighting and Extinguishing
Color has a profound effect on human behavior, feelings, and emotional outlook. The impact that color has on the human psyche did not escape the attention of the ancient maters, who assigned specific correspondences to each color.
The color of the candle should always, if possible, match your goal. People’s perception of, and reaction to, colors can be highly individual experience, therefore, the list below should act only as a guide and not a definitive source. When in doubt, trust your intuition.
- White- Protection, healing, cleansing, blessing, all purpose.
- Yellow- Creativity, communication, compelling.
- Pink- Romance, friendship, happiness.
- Orange- Employment, activation, stimulation.
- Red- Health, passion, lust, strength, love.
- Purple- Power, success, independence, spirits.
- Brown- Friendship, law, stability, order.
- Blue- Truth, justice, mental health, wisdom, wishes.
- Green- Abundance, physical health, luck, prosperity
- Black- Banishing, binding, protection, cursing.
Size and Shape
Candles come in an array of shapes and sizes, which I will divide into three categories, votive, household, and pillar. Votive candles are not used to cast spells per se, although they can be utilized to cast spells. They are often used for extra illumination, to light other candles and incense, as well as being burned to honor a Deity, an Ancestor, or the Ancestors.
Most, in not all, candle spells, are worked using tapers. These candles can range anywhere from 6 to 12 inches or longer and come in every color of the rainbow. The thickness of household tapers will also vary.
Pillar Candles resemble a large pillar and are the largest type of candle in length and circumference. Pillar Candles may be loaded with herbs, oils, personal concerns, etc… by boring a hole in the bottom of the candle inserting the items and then sealing the whole with wax. The candle can then be burned on an overturned saucer either continuously or in intervals.
For long term goals, a pillar candle can be prepared in this manner on the day that corresponds to your goal which falls closest to the Full Moon. The candle is then burned on the same day of the week every week until your goal is manifest. If your candle is spent and your goal has yet to manifest, prepare a new one, lighting it from the flame of the old one, before it is spent.
Vigil Lights are pillar candles which are encased in glass and set to burn continually for 7 to 9 nine days to achieve a goal. They often have a photograph or symbol glued to the glass which represents the condition that the candle is believed to address. Since these candles are encased in glass, they are prepared in a different manner than regular candles. Holes are often bored into Vigil Lights to allow for the insertion of herbs, roots, small curios, personal concerns, condition oils, etc. Once prepared, they may be placed on an overturned saucer under which one’s petition has been placed. The candle is then allowed to burn continuously until it is spent.
Candle Flipping, or butting, is a very old practice, which some say originated with the Gypsies, who were said to burn candles ‘upside down’ to ensure they would not be (justly or unjustly) incarcerated.
To flip a candle means to cut off a portion of a candle where the exposed wick is, called the head; and then cut away the wax on the opposite end, called the foot, to expose the wick on that end. As a general rule, candles prepared to pull things towards you are burned upright, those designed to move things away from you are flipped and burned upside down.
Marking and Dressing
To mark a candle means to inscribe something in its wax. Candles are often marked with two pieces of information, they are
1. Who the candle spell is to affect.
2. The goal of the spell.
The name of the individual can be written in your native language or in a magickal alphabet. Your goal may be written in the form of a keyword or phrase, or a magick symbol such as a Rune, Astrological Sign, or even a magickal symbol of your own making. Some teachers direct the student or worker to carve the name nine times around and around the candle in a spiral. However, in my personal practices I mark the candle vertically from the top of the candle to the bottom, with the name of the individual on its ‘face’ and the goal on the reverse.
Dressing a candle refers to the act of anointing the candle with oil. Candles are anointed with oil to spiritually cleanse them and seal the magick inside until releasing it through the act of burning the candle. Candles are anointed in two ways, either to draw things towards yourself, or drive them away.
Several methods of anointing a candle have been passed down from teacher to student though the centuries. One common method of anointing a candle to draw something towards you included dipping your finger in oil and running it along the candle towards the center, that is from tip to center and then from bottom to center. If you are moving something away from yourself, it is said that you anoint the candle away from the center.
To anoint a candle, I often hold its base against my abdomen (as if to insert it in my belly button). To draw something to me, I dip my finger in the oil and stroke the candle from the tip to base three times and call the essence of my desire, using a keyword of phrase. To drive something away, anoint the candle from base to tip.
Herbs represent another aspect of dressing candles, which brings an added dimension to the process. After dressing the candle with oil, it may be rolled in a combination of an odd number of herbs from 1 to 13, although I usually use just one herb or three herbs. Herbs chosen for dressing the candle should match your goal.
To do this, I often grind my herbs into a coarse powder in a mortar and pestle. I then lay the herbs out on a candle-board (a chopping board) and then roll the oiled up candle through the herbs allowing the herbs to adhere to the candle. If I am trying to draw something towards myself, I will roll the candle towards myself through the herbs and call the goal to me. If I am trying to move something away from myself, I will roll the candle away from myself.
To get the herbs to adhere to the candle, it will take more than the small amount of oil used to anoint the candle as described above. If you plan to roll your oiled candle in herbs, pour some of the oil in your palm then rub both your palms together. Next, grasp your candle with both fist and the knuckles of both thumbs touching each other. Now twist your fists in opposite directions (up and down) at the same time.
In most spells, a candle will be allowed to burn until it burns all the way down and finally extinguishes itself. However, some spells require a candle to be burned in intervals at specific times. The method of dividing a candle to accommodate these intervals is called measuring.
Candles are measured in two main ways, they are timing, and pinning. In timing, a candle is allowed to burn for a certain number of minutes per day over a certain number of days (typically nine days, but also sometimes 7) and then allowed to burn out on the last day.
In pinning, a candle is divided into a certain number of sections by sticking a needle or pin through the candle. The candle is then burned at the same time every day for as many days as required until the needle drops, at which time it is then extinguished.
In the case of a candle that is measured with needles or pins to burn for nine days the candle is divided into nine equal sections with eight pins, and a ninth pin going through the wick.
If a written petition has been placed under the candle, the pins will be placed in the petition until the spell is complete and then ritually disposed. If not petition has been written, the pins will either be saved for re-use or ritually disposed of with any left over wax.
Now that your candle is prepared, it must then be charged. To ‘charge’ a candle means to fill it with energy, much like charging a battery. Charging a candle fills it with power that it will release into the universe as it burns in order to accomplish your goal.
To charge your candle, hold your hands over it and form a triangle with your forefinger and thumbs. Position the candle in the center of your triangle. Visualize that which you desire as your make your fervent prayer or petition. When you are done, gently tap the candle on the table three times to signal that your intention is sealed.
Lighting and Extinguishing
Many individuals light their candles with ordinary matches, while others feel that the sulfur with which matches are tipped, disturb the nature of the work. These people light a small candle in another room, which they use to light their spell candles with, at the appropriate time.
Extinguishing candles is another issue where magickal practitioners are divided. Methods of extinguishing candle include
- Pinching out the flame, but some say you pinch out your wish.
- Blowing out the flame, but some say you blow away your wish.
- Snuffing out the flame, but some say you snuff out your wish.
Just like lighting your candles, you will either have to experiment or trust your instincts when choosing how to extinguish your candles. Whichever methods you choose, it is important that you remain consistent.
- Hoodoo Rootwork Correespondence Course, Cat Yronwode © 2006
- Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland © 1986
- To Ride a Sacred Broomstick, Silver Ravenwolf © 1993